The University of Arizona

Cultivating urban conviviality: urban farming in the shadows of Copenhagen's neoliberalisms

Rebecca L Rutt


In this article I explore how the possibilities for commoning and conviviality through small-scale urban farming initiatives intertwine with neoliberal trends. I do this by recounting the trajectory of a small rooftop garden in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. Drawing on ethnographic research in and around this garden, I show how such communal, anti-capitalist, eco-social endeavors are thoroughly entangled in the city's neoliberal turn over recent decades. Various manifestations of neoliberalism, ranging from formalization processes to austerity pressures, articulate with convivial urban farming initiatives in contradictory and recursive relationships that both nurture and endanger these local initiatives. I describe for example how formalization engenders legitimacy but also homogenization and how green initiatives are celebrated while undermined by austerity measures. This happens within a broader context of neoliberal labor, food systems, and housing policies and politics that subvert convivial urban farming efforts in multiple and often unacknowledged ways. Finally, I forward the view that attending to such contradictory and complex realities of and surrounding urban farming is essential to illuminating the iterative relations between context and practice, and the actions required at multiple scales to nurture and expand the possibilities for urban commoning and conviviality, including through farming.

Key words: the commons, urban farming, neoliberalism, Copenhagen

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