chapter  11
1 Pages

Complex Ecologies and City Spaces: Social–Ecological Networks of Urban Agriculture

ByLaura J. Shillington

Urban agriculture is about more than just growing food in cities; it has to do fundamentally with human-environment interactions and relations in urban areas. How urban residents relate to and interact with the natural environment in cities shapes how UA materializes, and these relations differ between cities and between residents of the same city. Yet this aspect of UA has rarely been explored despite the fact that agriculture in cities presents an excellent situation for examining human-environment relations. The broader issue of urban human-environment relations has received little attention primarily due to the way in which the urban and rural are generally understood: as separate spaces at opposite sides of the social (human)/nature divide. This separation arises out of dominant Western conceptualizations that have structured the world around binaries (Demerrit, 2002). Accordingly, the urban is considered a predominantly human (social) space outside of nature, whereas the rural is the space of ‘nature’ (Wolch et al, 2001; Braun, 2005; Swyngedouw, 2005). While there is ample research on human-environment relations in rural areas, especially in political, ecological and earlier peasant studies literature, there is a lack of similar analyses on human-environment relations in cities. Urban agricultural research has, for the most part, continued to maintain the binary of urban and rural. For instance, a main concern has been to ask what is urban about urban agriculture, thus equating agriculture as a fundamentally rural activity. Yet such a question is rooted in the binary of urban-rural and in a lack of understanding about human-‘natural’ environment relations in cities. Indeed, this is visible in many urban agricultural studies which link agriculture taking place in cities to that in rural areas, and suggests that this link to rural ‘natural’ areas is