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Doctoral Dissertation Research: Urban Homesteading: Changing Social And Economic Relations And The Practice Of Self-Provisioning In The City.


<p>This doctoral dissertation project examines the social and economic relations that develop around urban self-provisioning practices. In recent year self-provisioning practices such as home-based small-scale agriculture have exhibited visible growth in U.S cities. Local municipal governments across the country have been refashioning land-use, zoning, and food safety policies accordingly, as a means of encouraging urban sustainability. Self-provisioning is especially prevalent among urban homesteaders who are reclaiming domestic agrarian skills such as food-oriented gardening, food preservation, and the keeping of poultry, to foster household and community resilience. Despite the current rise of self-provisioning practices in the U.S. and the popularity of urban homesteading, little research has sought to fully explain why these practices are on the rise, who is practicing them, and how they affect dynamics of gender, race, and class in social and economic relations within urban environments, including the home and household. Through an integration of participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and surveys of urban homesteaders in the Boston area, this doctoral dissertation research project aims to answer the following questions: (1) What is the nature of self-provisioning among urban homesteaders in the Boston area? (2) What kinds of social and economic relations are self-provisioning practices embedded in and enabled by? (3) What are the impacts of self-provisioning on social and economic relations across various urban scales? Working with the urban homesteaders' league and other community organizations committed to urban sustainability and food justice, this project samples a wide range of individuals and self-provisioning practices occurring in different kinds of spaces (homes, community gardens, places of worship), each with particular legal, social, economic, and environmental constraints, including property values, industrial toxins, zoning, and food safety laws. The research contributes to human-environment geography by asking what new relationships with nature self-provisioning creates, and contributes to economic geography by considering how these activities contribute to the diversification of local economies. It also makes more specific contributions to feminist geographic research on domestic labor and social reproduction by examining the ways in which urban homesteading expands and reworks the gender relations of work in the home. Findings from this research will be of interest to policy makers as they consider the quality of life, economic resilience, gender equity, and social justice dimensions of urban agriculture and sustainability. The research will produce an everyday account of what urban sustainability means in practice, in terms of urban homesteaders? lived experiences, spatial practices, and attitudes. Research findings will be shared with participants and local policy makers through public talks, community forums, and an interactive website. The research will also identify possible policy changes in land use, zoning, and food safety laws that will benefit urban residents engaged in a variety of urban homesteading practices. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this project will provide support that will enable a promising graduate student to establish an independent research career.</p>

Martin, Deborah G
Clarkson University
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