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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Food sovereignty and the city : urban agrarianism and agroecology in Canada and Brazil Bowness, Evan


Given the confluence of accelerating urbanization and social and ecological crises that pose profound global sustainability challenges, the “urban” has attracted attention from food systems scholars and social movement actors, including those engaged with the global food sovereignty movement. This dissertation examines the role of urban agriculture and urban agroecology in the food sovereignty movement through fieldwork in Canada and Brazil. Drawing on interdisciplinary literature on food systems sustainability, relational sociology, and urban political ecology, and using community-based and visual ethnography methodologies, the dissertation contributes three substantive chapters to food sovereignty studies. First, I develop a “sites, stakes, and scales” framework for analyzing urban food sovereignty social movement politics. Using a radical relational approach, this framing moves beyond locating the urban as a geographic “site” where food sovereignty struggles happen by also asking: What is “at stake” for both urban and rural people? And, how does connecting stakes and sites expand or constrain the possibilities for rescaling social mobilization, networks and collective action frames to pursue change at other socio-spatial “scales”? Next, I introduce the concept of urban agrarianism, defined as an urban ethic of care for foodlands and, by extension, a relational responsibility to exercise solidarity with those who cultivate and harvest food. Urban agrarians in Metro Vancouver mobilize at different scales: Within the city, on the periphery of the city, beyond the city, and against the very concept of property upon which the city is founded. Finally, through a community-based visual ethnography in southern Brazil, I explore how mobilization strategies and collective action frames in the urban agroecology movement span the urban/rural divide. The overall dissertation findings suggest that urban people involved in urban agriculture and urban agroecology can contribute to realizing goals advanced by the food sovereignty movement, such as defending food lands and provider livelihoods through social movement relations across different scales. The findings challenge common understandings of urban people as passive food consumers, depicting them instead as potential agrarian citizens, and present a path forward for research that situates urban agriculture and urban agroecology in the context of wider social and political relations.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International