From Private Initiatives to Public Goods: A Comparative Analysis of European Urban Agricultural Practices in the Age of Austerity

Friday, July 18, 2014: 7:10 PM
Room: 311+312
Distributed Paper
Mary P CORCORAN , National University of Ireland, Ireland
Compelling evidence over the last twenty years documents a retreat from the public especially in those societies that wholeheartedly adapted a neo-liberal agenda and promoted the economization of everyday life.  In Ireland and other European countries such as Spain and Portugal, massive speculation in the housing sector brought about near financial ruin in 2008. The ensuing imposition of austerity has forced these countries to come to terms with the stark social costs of the profligacy of the past.  This paper suggests that one unintended (and indirect) consequence of economic retraction and austerity has been the growth of interest in urban agriculture.  As the property market deflated, incomes dwindled, jobs were lost and those in jobs had to work harder than before, a ‘grow it yourself’ movement began to take off in Dublin and other urban centres around Ireland.  Similar initiatives are also underway in countries across Europe, and in particular, in Spain and Portugal.   Drawing on a case study of the city of Dublin, Ireland set against the European context[i], this paper argues that the re-emergence of the urban allotment garden in and around the city after a long period in abeyance represents a reassertion of the public realm, although this reassertion is not without its internal contradictions.  Allotments are perhaps best viewed as liminal spaces or middle landscapes that are mutually constituted through public and private practices which are held in tension with each other.     


[i] The author will draw on data on Urban Agriculture Europe made available through COST ACTION TD1106 of which the author is a member.  More than twenty European countries are linked through the ACTION focusing on a range of issues from governance to public policies to spatial relations in the landscape.