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Lecture | Leiden University Environmental Humanities Series

Tiny Gardens Everywhere

Tuesday 7 March 2023
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

Five-thousand Parisian farmers grew vegetables for two million Parisians at the turn of the 19th century. Black residents of Washington, DC paid down on their homes during the Great Depression by maintaining vegetable gardens on their urban lots. Soviet citizens won the right to garden in the midst of the great famine of 1933. Soviets farmed urban peripheries to produce most of the food people ate while Soviet collective farms failed. These stories have been missed in plain sight because they do not coincide with ideas of progress or neat categorizations dividing urban from rural. Cities ran and working classes got paid by means of a vegetable-powered wealth.  The history of self-provisioning cities points to stories of urban commons and mutual aid societies that undermine narratives of global capitalism.

Kate Brown is the Thomas M. Siebel Distinguished Professor in History of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her books include A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland (2004), Plutopia: Nuclear Familities in Atomic Cities and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (2013), Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten (2015), and Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future (2019). She is currently exploring the history of what she calls “plant people:” indigenes, peasants and maverick scientists who understood long before others that plants communicate, have sensory capacities, and possess the capacity for memory and intelligence.

Co-hosted by the Institute for History & Environmental Humanities LU.

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