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Right to the City/Right to Landscape

From an Elitist to a More Just Urban Landscape in California's East Bay Area

Toronto — 9 July 2015.

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Moderated by Laam Hae. Presentation by Don Mitchell, Professor of Geography, Syracuse University.

Both political ecology, especially as it has sought to come to terms with the politics of environmental racism, and critical landscape studies have shown that any landscape is situated within structures operating at other scales. Sometimes the key determinant of a process, outcome, or landscape morphology localist in one locale takes place somewhere far removed from where its effects are felt. Yet movements for both the right to the city and the right to landscape tend to adopt an overly localist approach to the production of space. In this paper, I will draw on an unlikely example – the evolution of the Town of Moraga, a nearly all-white, upper class “bedroom community” in the San Francisco East Bay Area – to examine how highly exclusionary landscape development and politics can be reformulated through a critique of the uneven possibilities for social and racial justice in other political parts of the region, particularly the historically black city of Oakland. Since Moraga’s elite landscape relies on the possibility of ghettoization in cities like Oakland, I will argue that a truly political ecology – and economy – would be one that understands the struggle for the right to landscape always to be conjoined with the struggle for a right to the city.

Hosted by the Department of Political Science, the Department of Geography and the Department of Environmental Studies at York University, and Co-sponsored by the Department of Geography and Program in Planning at the University of Toronto.

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