The prefigurative power of urban political agroecology: rethinking the urbanisms of agroecological transitions for food system transformation

Chiara Tornaghi, Michiel Dehaene

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    31 Citations (Scopus)
    50 Downloads (Pure)


    In recent years, urban contexts and urban-rural linkages have become central for scholars and activists engaged in agrarian questions, agroecological transitions and food system transformation. Grassroots experimentations in urban agroecology and farmers’ engagement with urban policies have marked the rise of a new agenda aiming to bridge urban and agrarian movements. Departing from Holt-Gimenez & Shattuck (2011), this paper argues that the way urban-rural links have been conceptualised is occasionally progressive, and that an agroecology-informed food system transformation needs radical approaches. Acknowledging that processes of urbanisation are dynamic, driven by specific lifestyles, consumption patterns, and value orientations –producing ongoing suburbanisation, land enclosures, farmers displacement and food-knowledge loss – the paper argues that thinking transitions through new rural-urban links is unfit to tackle the evolving nature of these geographies, and reproduces the distinction between consumers and producers, illustrated by Schneider and McMichael (2010) as epistemic and ecological rift. Building on insights from four case-studies across global north and south, the paper reframes agroecological transitions as a paradigmatic change in biopolitical spatial relations, economic values and planning agency –what we call an ‘agroecological urbanism’. The paper articulates a transformation agenda addressing urban nutrients, peri-urban landuse, community food pedagogies and farmers' infrastructure.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)594-610
    Number of pages17
    JournalAgroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
    Issue number5
    Early online date19 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2020


    The empirical data for this publication was gathered through research funded under the JPI Urban-Europe SUGI-NEXUS Programme titled ‘Urbanising in Place’ (Project number: 11326801) which includes research funding from the following institutions and related grant numbers: FWO (G0H5817N), ESRC (ES/S002251/1), Innovate UK & ERA-NET (620145 & 11326801), NWO (438-17-406), VIAA (ES RTD/2018/15 and ES RTD/2018/16), Innoviris (RBC/2018-ENSUGI-1), and MINCYT(CONVE-2019-16850590-APN-DDYGD#MECCYT).The underlying data and methodological details for this study can be accessed on the project website: (full data will only be available once the project will be concluded).

    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • Agroecology
    • agroecological urbanism
    • agroecology transitions,
    • urban political agroecology
    • urbanism
    • agroecological transitions

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Development
    • Agronomy and Crop Science
    • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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