Urban agriculture has enjoyed a near meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. Projects began mostly through the grassroots efforts of non-profit organizations, but now urban planners and many city officials are also very interested in its interlinked economic, social, health and environmental benefits. Many of these officials and planners see urban agriculture’s greatest potential in low-income and communities of color where fresh food and employment opportunities can be scant, even though such desires may or may not have been articulated by community members. The official assumption seems to be that the benefits of urban agriculture are so compelling that everyone will want it. Period.
In my April 2012 blog post Cities of (in)Difference, I quoted Bloomfield and Bianchini (2002) and Sandercock (2003) on their visionary and transformative thoughts about the shift towards interculturalism. Like Amin (2002), Tully (1995) argues that our societies are intercultural rather than multicultural because of the cross-cultural overlap, interaction, and negotiation — the “politics of recognition” — that occurs out of necessity in the formation of our society. This is what Amin (2002 p 960) calls the “negotiation of difference within local micropublics of everyday interaction.” An acknowledgement of this dynamic cultural nature of society — both the “politics of recognition” and “negotiation of difference” — is a key distinction between intercultural versus multicultural theory and demands a culturally competent approach to both professional planning and urban design, and planning and urban design education.
Cities of difference (Fincher and Jacobs 1998) are places where we are “in the presence of otherness” (Sennett 1990 p123) — namely, our increasingly different, diverse, and culturally heterogeneous urban areas. Yet as I travel around the world I see token, or very little recognition, understanding of, and engagement with this difference, diversity, and cultural heterogeneity in creative and productive ways. Moreover, I’ve seen no examples which could be said to be capable of fundamentally transforming civic institutions, the public realm, its discourses and city management practices.