Redundancy and Resilience: Alternative economies of urban framing in the Detroit Regional Food System

Lead Research Organisation: Aberystwyth University
Department Name: Inst of Geography and Earth Sciences


One distinctive aspect of the urban farming system in Detroit is its
inherent inefficiency. Most farms in the city are high labour, low
yield and lacking in logistical coordination. Yet, farmers argue that
it is precisely these characteristics that lead them to produce their
distinctive economic outputs. This project explores urban farming
as an alternative economy that yields a range of positive
economic, social and political outcomes, such as sustainability,
community food security and a resilient food system. The project
is particularly interested in the organisational mechanisms (the
distinctive forms of economic organisation) that produce such
surpluses. One example is the claim by farmers that inefficient
production enhances (rather than undermines) regional food
security. Drawing upon the literature on ecological resilience,
farmers argue that while efficient systems reduce costs, they are
fragile: when one piece fails the system as a whole can collapse.
Redundant systems, they argue, anticipate failure. When one
piece crashes, others (doing similar or the same work) keep the
system going. In this sense, one could argue that redundancy and
inefficiency constitute a distinctive mode of economic
organisation 'producing' a unique economic output (a resilient
food system).

This project focuses on the alternative
economies of urban farming in Detroit including projects on
community food security, urban transformation, food justice and
regional resilience. The student will be based in DGES at Aberystwyth
University and will have 9 months of fieldwork in Detroit working
directly with local urban farming organisations with added support
from the University of Michigan. The project intersects with a
number interests and themes among staff in DGES including
cultural geography, urban geography, community and regional
food security, creative geographies, cultural and political theory
and questions about sustainability, urban transformation and


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1955029 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 25/09/2017 18/11/2025 Rachel Solnick
Description (1) That the Diverse Economies literature has exhibited white blindness and as such has unwittingly but inevitably contributed toa a continued reification of structural racism within geographic research
(2) A focus black political-economic literature reveals the holes of racialised consideration that have been overlooked in the Diverse Economies literature, and simultaneously uncovers ways in which critical theory should be nourished by the knowledge of these historic and inspiring autonomous economies.
(3) The diveristy of economic discourse that spreads across race, and that capitalocentric discourse is more prevalent within white economic discourse.
Exploitation Route (1) This is relevant to Diverse Economy theorist and scholars of critical political economic theory.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice