Aesthetics Politics in Urban Agriculture

Free Public Lecture

Aesthetics Politics in Urban Agriculture

Theatre 2, Basement Level
221 Bouverie Street, Theatre 2
221 Bouverie Street


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T: 8344 9395

In this study, Marvin Montefrio builds on the critical geography of urban agriculture by examining the case of community gardens entangled in “green” urbanism. He explores the politics of aesthetics and how community gardens are governed on the basis of visual appearance. Drawing from two years of ethnography in Singapore, he examines the articulations of community gardens in the context of a city-state preoccupied with the aesthetic sensibilities of urban greening, and interrogates how aesthetic governmentality unfolds and is negotiated on the ground. His findings suggest that farmer-gardeners in Singapore attend to aesthetics—in particular the order and beauty of production spaces—in response to expectations and pressures anchored to the realities of a manicured “green” cityscape. These pressures are enforced not only by the juridical and executive powers of governmental and institutional authorities, but also through the diffused power of the ‘aesthetic gaze’—a set of aesthetic expectations that emanate from multiple actors across hierarchies to discipline farmer-gardeners. Aesthetic governmentality results in complicated—often contradictory—imaginaries and practices that deviate from the community building and food security ideals of urban agriculture. However, rather than just merely support and comply, farmer-gardeners negotiate these powers with some degree of agency and strategy.


  • Dr Marvin Montefrio
    Dr Marvin Montefrio, Assistant Professor of Social Science (Environmental Studies)