Slow Food at the Speed of Light: The Digital Mediation of Urban Food Activism

Authors: Alexander Tarr*, Worcester State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Geographic Theory
Keywords: digital urban space, urban agriculture, Los Angeles, critical cultural landscapes
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the early 2000s, the anti-industrial, anti-globalization Slow Food movement arrived in the U.S., largely stripped of its roots in Italian communist politics. Its founding manifesto, a denunciation of the destructive speeds of modern life, could be downloaded from the world-wide-web in a few milliseconds. Undaunted by the paradoxes of digitally mediating an agenda to re-localize human systems, Slow Food became just one of a proliferation of food movements in American cities that range in political orientation from radical calls to redistribute land, to policy-focused health-programs, to bourgeois affectations of “the local,” to avowedly “anti-political” groups trying to farm and garden in urban spaces. Throughout these movements, the circulation of images of urban-agrarian landscapes becomes inseparable from the act of imagining green cities. Social media chronicling urban farms and TED talks on “gangsta gardening” are forms through which local food politics are generalized, circulated, and then re-embedded into distant urban places.

Drawing on a study of the real and imagined landscapes of Los Angeles’ food activists, the goal of this paper is not to catalog their hypocrisies, but to ask how the digital mediation of food politics enables particular modes of green urban imaginaries. I argue that digital media and food movements share common liberatory promises to de-alienate labor and creativity, build communities through egalitarian sharing of ideas, and realize social-lives free from the troubles of industrial cities; while at same time rendering more problematic systems of oppression invisible through omission in their fused pre and post industrial imaginary

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