You can read about the other two topics HERE and HERE.
Our group (Gwyn, Dirk, and Claire) has chosen to focus on how the image of urban agriculture (UA) has been deployed in Portland and Montreal, and for what purposes. We use Guy Debord’s classic work, The Society of Spectacle (1967), in order to interrogate how UA is increasingly being deployed as a form of ‘spectacle’. For Debord, the concept of the spectacle primarily refers to the intensification of capitalist development. Debord’s spectacle is characterized by the production and dissemination of images, which commodify and colonize spaces and social relations for the advancement of capital accumulation. In recent decades, the ‘spectacle’ has `become a touchstone for urban theorists engaging with the impact of increased cultural production and its urban manifestations. This includes the development of cultural amenities such as festivals, spaces of leisure, and mega-events. Beyond simple representation, Debord’s spectacle embodies the tension between emancipatory practice and the commodification of everyday life.
As cities seek to develop global brands built on sustainability and innovation, “green” practices such as urban agriculture (UA) are increasingly deployed as yet another cultural amenity. Although the literature has extensively examined UA, its spectacular dimensions have yet to be fully explored. Drawing on fieldwork from Montréal, Québec and Portland, Oregon we critically and dialectically analyze UA initiatives in order to understand how these practices reflect the contradictions and conflicts inherent to capitalist urban systems. Our analysis reveals two distinct forms of ‘spectacle’ associated with UA; (1) an abstract and performative spectacle related to the appearance and image of UA, and (2) a concrete, grounded version embodied in material urban space. Ultimately, we hope to reveal how UA is simultaneously subsumed by capitalist accumulation, and deployed as an emancipatory tool - as the two types of spectacle - albeit differently in each city.