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PSCI / ENV / GEOG 380: The Politics of Urban Agriculture - From Victory Gardens to Neoliberalism: Seminar and Practicum

Course Description
What do gardens in cities do for people? What are the political structures at the global, national, and local levels that promote urban gardens? Urban gardening is a favored solution to society’s ills to theorists across the political spectrum from neoliberals to radicals—but is it all it’s meant to be? 

Urban agriculture is a catch-all term that covers community gardens, vegetable plots at prisons, didactically-minded gardens in schoolyards, gardens planted illegally on vacant lots, high-tech hydroponic companies, and farmers’ markets. Students will learn about how these different spaces differ across variables like legality, goals, and actors. If urban space is inherently limited and if politics is a way to decide the use of limited resources, then urban gardens are deeply political. We will debate whether urban agriculture is an excellent way for citydwellers to reduce hunger, improve public health, and assert their control over urban space, or whether it’s just another subtle manifestation of neoliberalism. A core goal of this course, above and beyond the content, is to develop research skills useful for other courses: how to read an article in 20 minutes, how to plan research, etc. The course meets once a week for the classroom portion of the class; students will spend three hours a week in The Umbra Institute’s campus garden, Orto Sole, or in another urban garden in the city center. 

Note: Students are strongly advised to take ENV 355 – Green Cities: A Sustainable Future as an accompanying course with this one.

Course Objectives
By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Define what constitutes urban agriculture;
  • Articulate the key debates in the literature about urban agriculture projects;
  • Identify measurable collective and individual actions in urban agriculture and their possible beneficial health effects;
  • Engage in experiential learning activities and practice systematic research and ethical scholarship;
  • Communicate their learning with and to others using 21st-century tools.

Course Materials
Mandatory course reader; available in digital format

Course Fee
$ 90