Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Ann Kingsolver


In this dissertation, I explore ‘green’ urban development and urban agriculture projects from the perspective of residents of an African American majority neighborhood in Kansas City—who reside in an area referred to as a ‘blighted food desert’ by local policy makers. In Kansas City, extensive city government support exists for urban agricultural projects, which are touted not just as a solution to poverty associated issues such food insecurity and obesity, but also as a remedy for ‘blight,’ violence and crime, and vacant urban land. Specific narratives of Kansas City’s past are used to prop up and legitimate these future visions for, and development projects in, the city. This dissertation lays out an argument for how, in Kansas City, the dominant narrative surrounding urban sustainability, agriculture, and history came to be constructed and informed by white voices, and documents how these narratives, primarily constructed by upper-middle class white local ‘foodies’, are harnessed to support green development projects that marginalize and displace people of color and the poor. Specifically, I draw on 26 months of ethnographic fieldwork to explore how this narrative was constructed and elevated in local policy circles, document the lived consequences of this whitened narrative from the perspective of residents of “food deserts,” and describe historical and current minority-led agricultural projects—which aren’t included in dominant accountings of Kansas City’s development. I also explore agentive actions of racialized groups in opposition to this dominant whitened discourse, documenting how one neighborhood council in Kansas City strategically utilizes urban food project funding to acquire other, more urgently needed, community resources. I bring light to important acts of resistance by some black and brown urban farmers, who explicitly work to shape city space by reinscribing spatialized histories of displacement and racism in Kansas City. In this project I understand racialization and representation as active, not passive, processes, that have the power to determine whose voices are heard, and who has power to shape city space and its use. By untangling the racialized construction of history and space, and drawing on narratives shared by oft-silenced groups, this dissertation project contributes to scholarly work committed to disrupting hegemonic spatialized whiteness (McKittrick 2011).

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)