Cultivating Care: Community Gardens, Complicity, and Coalition-Building

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  • Community gardens are often credited with offering many positive benefits, such as improving food security, encouraging volunteerism, and building community (Lanier et al., 2015, Lardy et al., 2013). As community gardens require a fair degree of communal organizing and reciprocity, they may also be an excellent space to theorize coalition-building. Notwithstanding community gardens’ benefits and potentials, there are critical issues that settler scholars and activists have not fully acknowledged and teased out. The community garden literature put forth by settlers in North America has yet to adequately address how community gardens are implicated and entangled in ongoing settler colonialism and interlocking systems of domination. This paper investigates the extent to which settler-led community gardens serve as colonial tools upholding imperial state power through Indigenous land dispossession and how they instead might become coalition-building sites working towards disruptive change. The overarching questions driving this paper are whether community gardens can work against the erasure of land dispossession and, if so, how they can reconceptualize alternative social orders, relations, and ways of being. In exploring these questions, the objective is not to condemn the community garden movement, but rather, help move it forward in a way that more deeply grapples with the cultural politics of food and land (Guthman, 2011). Using community gardens as a case study, this paper will explore the critical first steps in consciousness-raising of the historical and contemporary injustices upheld by settlers. Following a pedagogy of discomfort (Kepkiewicz, 2015), this paper will investigate what sort of work goes into acknowledging settler implications and entanglements within interlocking systems of domination while being critical of the ways purity politics encourages settler moves to innocence (Tuck & Yang, 2012). This will be followed by an analysis of what kind of theoretical work a decolonial-intersectional feminist coalition can do (Carastathis, 2016) and how this might facilitate the exploration of coalition-building within community garden spaces.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International