Speaker: Kate Brown, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Five-thousand Parisian farmers grew vegetables for two million Parisians at the turn of the 19th century. German citizens won the right to garden in the midst of famines in 1919-1920. Black residents of Washington, DC paid down on their homes during the Great Depression by maintaining vegetable gardens on their urban lots. While Soviet collective farms failed, Soviets city dwellers farmed urban peripheries to produce most of the food people ate. These stories have been missed in plain sight because they do not coincide with ideas of progress or neat categorizations dividing urban from rural, nature from culture. Yet these histories reveal how a vegetable-powered wealth underwrote urbanization and industrialization, and offer an alternative vision of urbanization for cities of the future.
This lecture is being co-sponsored by the Department of History.
Kate Brown is the Thomas M. Siebel Distinguished Professor in the History of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of several prize-winning histories, including Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford 2013). Her latest book, Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future (Norton 2019), translated into six languages, won the Marshall Shulman and Reginald Zelnik Prizes for the best book in East European History, plus the Silver Medal for Laura Shannon Book Prize. Manual for Survival was also a finalist for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pushkin House Award and the Ryszard Kapuściński Award for Literary Reportage. She is working on a history of urban self-provisioning called “Tiny Gardens Everywhere: A Kaleidoscopic History of the Food Sovereignty Frontier.”