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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Farming after Occupy : institutional politics, activism, and the future of agricultural science Pinkard, Michael


This Master's thesis examines political activism centered at the Gill Tract Community Farm (GTCF) in Berkeley, California. The Gill Tract is roughly 14-acres of University of California, Berkeley (UCB) research land at the boundary of Berkeley and Albany, in the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA). The GTCF is a community-led agro-ecological farm which emerged out of a protracted land occupation in 2012, and situates itself as a site of opposition to capitalism and colonialism. In 2020, I conducted 17 semi-structured interviews with community farmers and university administrators about the relationship between UCB and the GTCF. Drawing on the interviews, written media, and auto-ethnographic reflections of my own time living in the SFBA and volunteering at the GTCF, I examine three distinct questions. 1) I discuss how the theory of boundary objects helps to understand why the Gill Tract was a site of contestation in 2012, and how the theory of boundary objects can be deepened by viewing them not only as sites of cross-disciplinary collaboration, but also dispute. 2) I explore the uneven ways in which the university and the community farm are legible to each other and are changing each other, read through social scientists engaging with activist movements. 3) I engage in a partially auto-ethnographic reflection on the political potential of the GTCF, using anthropological work on narrative and the alter-globalization movement to frame activism at the community farm. This thesis contributes to a deeper understanding of boundary objects, as well as understandings of the potential for local activist movements to effect political change, both locally and within global activist networks.

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