Land, Access, and Power: Tensions around Land Ownership in Urban Community Gardens

Authors: Mauricio Estrada*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Ecology, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Urban Gardens, Land Ownership, Neoliberalism, Social inclusion
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban community gardens are often outcomes of periods of socio-economic crisis (Pudup, 2008). Vacant plots resulting from these periods may thus be used by marginalized urban residents to garden either with or without state approval. However, vacant does not mean public, and (the) public does not involve everybody. So, what are the implications of land ownership in collective and participatory projects of community gardening and how are tensions around land, access, and power negotiated? Space is constitutive of power (Low, 2006), thus questioning its ownership means questioning power webs (Ribot & Peluso, 2003) reflected in the way(s) citizenship rights are claimed (Staeheli, 1999; Isin, 2000) and exclusion is normalized through politico-economic agendas.

Based on case study research conducted in Europe and beyond as part of the Horizon2020-funded project NATURVATION (Grant Agreement 730243), we will explore the simultaneous promotion and restriction of community gardens by city authorities, the practices through which gardeners can claim citizenship rights, and the neoliberal marketization of land and urban nature (Kaika & Swyngedouw, 2011), to ask how (the) public can be defined and to whom it belongs? What are the governing systems through which access and autonomy of people in community gardens are controlled? Are there less circumscribed forms of ownership that allow greater inclusion for marginalized urban residents? By outlining key features of the gardening projects we will conceptualize different forms of ownership in terms of rights and control of vacant land in order to conclude how it raises tensions between land, access, and power.

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