Carrying on: Mothering Land Justice

Authors: Rachael Baker*, York University
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: Land Justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon D2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Today Detroit, MI is home to some 680,000 people, approximately 90,000 properties and 30,000 buildings- residential, commercial and industrial- are vacant in the city. Green infrastructure is being explored as a state-led redevelopment strategy for 30 square miles of land, though repurposing property for ‘green’ projects, including urban farms has been taking place in Detroit since the 1970’s; defying the boundaries of property lines and communing parcels of land for community use. As Detroit emerges from bankruptcy, urban farmers are faced with a new redevelopment agenda that shifts the city’s previous strategy of decreasing vacancy through voluntary stewardship by residents, to a property ownership model. Detroit’s post-bankruptcy property governance regime challenges farmer’s claims to property and effectively revokes rights of adverse possession, while pricing farmers out of ownership through development-led reassessments, despite the contributions urban farms and gardens have made to neighborhoods as providers of resources including food, “eyes on the streets” surveying, expressions of cultural food ways, community space and anti-racist educational opportunities. This paper, written collaboratively with woman farmers, examines three distinct approaches to land struggle being cultivated in Detroit that are not incidentally informed by black and African land justice frameworks. These approaches, examined in relation to what geographers have framed social or activist mothering, challenge recent discussions among the city’s farming community of the potential for an “urban commons”, and situates “an ethic of the commons” within a larger post-colonial framework.

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