Theorizing urban agriculture: north–south convergence

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Springer Nature


Few topics have been addressed through as large a range of perspectives and interests as urban agriculture (UA), yet the literature has been loosely characterized by a divergence and disconnect between research conducted in the global north (GN), and that in the global south (GS). In cities of the global south, UA is widely analyzed through a productivist lens, focusing on food production and individual or household-level contributions of urban farming to food security, household income, and livelihoods. Meanwhile, in cities of the global north, engagement with UA also speaks to food production and food security but is just as often focused on environmental and social movements, civic engagement and justice, and more recently urban sustainability and resiliency. We argue that productivist and post-productivist dichotomies are somewhat displaced as differences between the GN/GS are becoming less pronounced. Furthermore, such a dichotomy reinforces assumptions about the nature of urbanization itself, eliding both the commonalities among urban spaces and specificities that come from each place. By examining how UA is approached and written about in different contexts, we hope to highlight the gaps, but also to illustrate convergent themes, particularly those that increasingly characterize contemporary UA research. After elaborating on these tensions, we will build on the increasing relevance of the convergences by suggesting some potentially fruitful future directions for UA research. We conclude with ideas about how novel theoretical concepts might be used to identify overlapping themes in useful and insightful ways, and to increase the significance and reach of UA research.