Cultivating Good Workers: Youth Gardening, Non-Profits and Neoliberalization
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In cities across the United States, nonprofit programs have stepped in to fill gaps in social service provisioning left after decades of neoliberalization. Needing to appeal to donors and foundations, many organizations adopt vague language of "empowerment". This project presents a qualitative case study of one youth gardening empowerment program in Seattle, Washington. I explore how the organization conceptualizes its work in relation to city-wide efforts at community building, how this work is conveyed to donors, and how it is actually experienced by the youth. In addition to teaching gardening skills, I argue that the organization influences the formation of youth subjectivities. The program encourages youth to become "good workers", strive towards middle class aspirations, and reifies discourses of the undeserving poor along axes of age. This project contributes to an understanding of relational and contingent neoliberalisms as well as subjectivity formation from a critical youth geography perspective.
- Geography