Accepted paper:

"We must cultivate our gardens": Urban agriculture, civic ecology, and global crisis in Lisbon, Portugal

Author:

Krista Harper (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Paper short abstract:

This research project explores how people in Lisbon, Portugal, are transforming urban space through gardening, and how gardeners interpret their own practice. I present the history and contemporary terrain of Lisbon's urban gardens and then discuss the cultural values that gardeners attach to the practice of growing food in interstitial urban spaces.

Paper long abstract:

Voltaire's novella Candide begins with the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and ends in a garden, with the protagonist telling his companions, "we must cultivate our gardens." For over 250 years, Candide's words present an enigma--do they represent a retreat into private life, or a call to dig into the work of transforming the world from the ground up? These questions also animate research on urban agriculture in 21st century cities: do gardens represent a political retreat or a new practice of "civic ecology"? This research project explores how people in Lisbon, Portugal, are transforming urban space through gardening, and how gardeners interpret their own practice. I present the history and contemporary terrain of Lisbon's urban gardens and then discuss the cultural values that gardeners attach to the practice of growing food in interstitial urban spaces. Finally, I will address several of the panel's overarching questions, such as: What kinds of urban gardening practices produce "communities of practice" that cross ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational lines? What visions of sustainability and the contemporary city emerge from the practice of urban gardening? How has the global financial crisis affected gardeners' lives and the meaning of urban agriculture? How can anthropological research engagements can go beyond documenting and criticizing citizens' projects for socially just and environmentally sustainable cities?

panel PE08
Communities of practice in global sustainability