Publication by Jennifer Blecha and 2011 DPDF Provincializing Global Urbanism Research Director Helga Leitner.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, poultry and livestock animals have increasingly been seen as out of place in, and excluded from, modern United States cities. Yet, since 2000, increasing numbers of urban residents have begun keeping chickens and other small livestock in backyards. Through an analysis of the re-emergence of this practice in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, we show that chicken-keepers are not raising chickens simply to save money or to pursue an eccentric hobby, but rather as an explicit effort to promote and enact alternative urban imaginaries. Such imaginaries make possible alternative practices, and in turn, the performance of everyday practices reshapes urban imaginaries. In interviews, participants critique the industrial food system, urban economies and social life, and “think differently” about human-animal relations and productive animals in cities. Through chicken-keeping practices, they establish sustainable backyard agro-ecosystems, build sociability, resist consumerism, and work simultaneously to improve the life and health of animals, humans, and the urban environment.