Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Kate G. Willink


Food, Politics, Urban studies


This dissertation examines how residents in an urban food desert negotiate the promises of alternative food against the lived experience of trauma. By focusing on the particularities of this site, my research offers a deep cultural reading on the meaning, memory, and movement of food in a space where it is most abundant and scarce: the urban food desert. Specifically, I examine foodstuff as a context for understanding eco-trauma (e.g., environmental racism and grocery gaps) and cultural healing (e.g., reclaiming cultural knowledge lost under legacies of slavery and colonization). This study critiques whiteness as a normative logic that operates in the politics of food. Additionally, it explores the implications for food deserts as a particular manifestation of environmental racism—an extension of the legacy of eco-trauma.

Throughout my dissertation, I employ critical ethnographic tools such as interviews, field notes, targeted in-depth interviews, archival research and narrative analysis. These tellings offer insights on the politics of food, between what is at stake in the complex politics of food beyond access into the spaces between cultural reclamation and re-creation, trauma and healing, sovereignty and desire. These tellings reveal how discourses of whiteness evoke particular cultural meanings that inform the practice, purpose, and potential of alternative food and urban farming specifically. They also raise important questions about resistance, community cultural wealth, and cultural healing in and through the research process.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. This work may only be accessed by members of the University of Denver community. The work is provided by permission of the author for individual research purposes only and may not be further copied or distributed. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Tiffany D. Banks


Received from author

File Format




File Size

220 pgs