Entrepreneurship as activism? Resisting gentrification in Oakland, California

Main Article Content

Alison Hope Alkon


This article investigates the cultural politics of entrepreneurship as a form of opposition to gentrification in Oakland, California. Building on Watkins and Caldwell’s (2004) foundational work, I examine the relationship between political projects–– resisting gentrification, racial and economic disparities––and the cultural work of signifying a community’s continued presence amidst displacement and glorification of newcomers. Based on 30 interviews with employees of food justice non-profit organizations, social enterprises, and government agencies, I argue that activists promote food-based entrepreneurship to create employment and business opportunities for long- term residents that enables them to stay in their hometown. In doing so, the contri­butions of long-standing communities to Oakland’s diverse food cultures are highlighted. However, property values are rising rapidly that even these opportunities cannot ensure that long-term communities remain. For this reason, I conclude by offering examples of direct action and policy advocacy that can supplement these entrepreneurial approaches.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

How to Cite
ALKON, A. H. Entrepreneurship as activism? Resisting gentrification in Oakland, California. RAE - Revista de Administracao de Empresas , [S. l.], v. 58, n. 3, p. 279–290, 2018. DOI: 10.1590/S0034-759020180308. Disponível em: https://periodicos.fgv.br/rae/article/view/74970. Acesso em: 14 jun. 2024.


Abarca, M. (2006). Voices in the kitchen: Views of food and the world from working-class Mexican and Mexican-American women. College Station, USA: Texas A&M Press.

Alkon, A. (2012). Black, white and green: Farmers markets, race and the green economy. Athens, GA: UGA Press.

Alkon, A., & Agyeman, J. (2011). Cultivating food justice: Race, class, and sustainability. Cambridge, USA: MIT Press.

Alkon, A., & Cadji, J. (2015). One day, the white people are going to want these houses again: Understanding gentrification through the North Oakland farmers market. In S. Zavetoski, & J. Agyeman (Eds.), Incomplete streets. New York, USA: Routledge.

Alkon, A., & Guthman, J. (2017). The new food activism: Opposition, cooperation, and collective action. Berkeley, USA: UC Press.

Allen, P. (1999). Reweaving the food security safety net: Mediating entitlement and entrepreneurship. Agriculture and Human Values, 16(2), 117-129. doi:10.1023/A:1007593210496

Allen, P. (2008). Mining for justice in the food system: Perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values, 25(2), 157-161. doi:10.1007/s10460-008-9120-6

Allen, P., Fitzsimmons, M., Goodman, M. K., & Warner, K. (2003). Shifting plates in the agrifood landscape: The tectonics of alternative agrifood initiatives in California. Journal of Rural Studies, 19(1), 61-75. doi:10.1016/S0743-0167(02)00047-5

Applied Survey Research. (2015). San Francisco homeless point-in-time count and survey. Recuperado de http://www.appliedsurveyresearch.org/homelessness-reports/2014/8/13/san-francisco-homelesshomeless-point-in-time-count-and-survey

Belasco, W. (1989). Appetite for change: How the counterculture took on the food industry. Ithaca, USA: Cornell University Press.

Bondi, L., & Laurie, N. (2005). Introduction. Antipode, 37(3), 393-401. doi:10.1111/j.0066-4812.2005.00503.x

Brown, S., & Getz, C. (2008). Privatizing farm worker justice: Regulating labor through voluntary certification and labeling. Geoforum, 39(3), 1184-1196. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2007.01.002

Buck, D., Getz, C., & Guthman, J. (1997). From farm to table: The organic vegetable commodity chain of Northern California. Sociologia Ruralis, 37(1), 3-20. doi:10.1111/1467-9523.00033

Burnett, K. (2014). Commodifying poverty: Gentrification and consumption in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Urban Geography, 35(2), 157-176. doi:10.1080/02723638.2013.867669

Clarke, K. (2014). Brokers give gentrification a push by opening coffee shops in Harlem. Daily News. Recuperado de http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/real-estate/latte-change-harlemarticle-1.1903758

Cohen, N., & Reynolds, K. (2016). Beyond the kale. Athens, GA: UGA Press.

Crouch, P. (2012). Evolution or gentrification: Do urban farms lead to higher rents? Grist. Recuperado de http://grist.org/food/evolutionor-gentrification-do-urban-farms-lead-to-higher-rents/

Dean, A. B. (2014). Michael Pollan: Our food is dishonestly priced. Moyers and Company. Recuperado de http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/03/michael-pollan-our-food-is-dishonestly-priced/

Dimitri, C., & Oberholtzer, L. (2009). Marketing US organic foods: Recent trends from farms to consumers. Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-58). Recuperado de http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/58615/2/eib58.pdf

Fairlie, R. W., & Robb, A. M. (2008). Race and entrepreneurial success. Cambridge, USA: MIT Press.

Gilbert, J., Sharp, G., & Felin, S. (2002). The loss and persistence of black-owned farms and farmland: A review of the research literature and its implications. Southern Rural Sociology, 18(2), 1-30.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1999). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York, USA: Routledge.

Guthman, J. (2008). Bringing good food to others: Investigating the subjects of alternative food practice. Cultural Geographies, 15(4), 431-447. doi:10.1177/1474474008094315

Hackworth, J., & Smith, N. (2001). The changing state of gentrification. Journal of Economic and Social Geography, 92(4), 464-477. doi:10.1111/1467-9663.00172

Harrison, J. L. (2008). Lessons learned from pesticide drift: A call to bring production agriculture, farm labor, and social justice back into agrifood research and activism. Agriculture and Human Values, 25(2), 163-167. doi:10.1007/s10460-008-9121-5

Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford, UK. Oxford University Press.

Hyde, Z. (2014). Omnivorous gentrification: Restaurant reviews and neighborhood change in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. City & Community, 13(4), 341-359. doi:10.1111/cico.12088

Jefferies. (2012). Industry update: Trouble in Aisle 5. Recuperado de http://www.jefferies.com/CMSFiles/Jefferies.com/files/PressReleases/2012/TroubleinAisle5_062712.pdf

Jones, V. (2008). The green collar economy: How one solution can fix our two biggest problems. New York, USA: Harper One.

Kohli, S. (2015). Developers have found the secret sauce for gentrifying. Quartz. Recuperado de https://qz.com/408986/developers-havefigured-out-the-secret-sauce-to-gentrification/

Larner, W., & Craig, D. (2005). After neoliberalism? Community action and local partnerships in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Antipode, 37(3), 402-424. doi:10.1111/j.0066-4812.2005.00504.x

Lees, L., Slater, T., & Wyly, E. (2007). Gentrification. New York, USA: Routledge. Markham, L. (2014). Gentrification and the urban garden. The New Yorker. Recuperado de http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/gentrification-and-the-urban-garden

Massey, B. (2017). DC’s urban farms wrestle with gentrification and displacement. Civil Eats. Recuperado de http://civileats.com/2017/02/27/d-c-s-urban-farms-wrestle-with-gentrificationand-displacement/

McClintock, N. (2011). From industrial garden to food desert: Demarcated devaluation in the flatlands of Oakland, California. In A. Alkon, & J. Agyeman (Eds.), Cultivating food justice: Race, class and sustainability (pp. 89-120). Cambridge, USA: The MIT Press.

McNeil, M. (2016). US organic sales post new record of $43.3 Billion in 2015. Organic Trade Association. Recuperado de https://www.ota.com/news/press-releases/19031

Meyers, J., & Sbicca, J. (2015). Bridging good food and good jobs: From secession to confrontation within alternative food movement politics. Geoforum, 61, 17-26. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.02.003

Meyers, J. S. M. (2005). Workplace democracy comes of age: Economic stability, growth, and workforce diversity. In V. Smith (Ed.), Worker participation: Current research and future trends (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 16, pp. 205- 237). Bradford, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Minkoff-Zern, L., Peluso, N., Sowerwine, J., & Getz, C. (2011). Race and regulation: Asian immigrants in California agriculture. In A. Alkon, & J. Agyeman (Eds.), Cultivating food justice: Race, class, and sustainability (pp. 65-86). Cambridge, USA: MIT Press.

Minkoff-Zern, L., & Sloat, S. (2016). A new era of civil rights? Latino immigrant farmers and exclusion at the United States Department of Agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values, 34(3), 631-643. doi:10.1007/s10460-016-9756-6

Nelson, R. (n. d.). 35 reasons you need to move to Oakland. Movoto. Recuperado de http://www.movoto.com/guide/oakland-ca/movingto-oakland/

Ospina, T. (2015). Racially profiled, drummers make noise about gentrification in Oakland. Recuperado de http://blog.oaklandxings.com/2015/10/racially-profiled-drummers-make-noise-aboutgentrification-in-oakland/

Polanyi, K. (2001). The great transformation. New York, USA: Beacon. Policy Link. (2016). Oakland’s Displacement Crisis as Told by the Numbers. Recuperado de http://www.policylink.org/sites/default/files/PolicyLink%20Oakland's%20Displacement%20Crisis%20by%20the%20numbers.pdf

Quastel, N. (2009). Political ecologies of gentrification. Urban Geography, 30(7), 694-725. doi:10.2747/0272-3638.30.7.694

Ray, K. (2016). The ethnic restauranteur. New York, USA: Bloomsbury. Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Shaw, A. R. (2015). Whites who gentrified Oakland are calling the police on innocent Black residents. Rolling Out. Recuperado de http://rollingout.com/2015/10/16/whites-gentrified-oakland-callingpolice-innocent-black-residents/

Shaw, W. S. (2007). Cities of Whiteness. Malden, USA: Blackwell. Slater, T. (2006). The eviction of critical perspectives from gentrification research. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 30(4), 737-757. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2006.00689.x

Smith, N. (2008). Uneven development: Nature, capital and the production of space. Athens, GA: UGA Press.

Statista. (2015). Total retail and food services sales in the United States from 1992 to 2015. Recuperado de https://www.statista.com/statistics/197569/annual-retail-and-food-services-sales-in-the-ussince-1992/

Strom, S. (2015, August 24). Small food brands, big successes. New York Times. Recuperado de https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/dining/start-up-food-business-changing-appetites.html

Sullivan, D. M., & Shaw, S. C. (2011). Retail gentrification and race: The case of Alberta Street in Portland, Oregon. Urban Affairs Review, 47(3), 413-432. doi:10.1177/1078087410393472

Trotter, G. (2016). As tastes shift, Big Food devours smaller, healthfocused companies to survive. Chicago Tribune. Recuperado de lhttp://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-big-food-gobblessmall-companies-0515-biz-20160514-story.html

United States Department of Agriculture. (2014). New data reflects the continued demand for farmers markets. Recuperado de https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/08/04/new-data-reflectscontinued-demand-farmers-markets

Watkins, J., & Caldwell, M. (2004). The cultural politics of food and eating. New York, USA: Wiley.

Williams-Forson, P. (2006). Building houses out of chicken legs. Chapel Hill, USA: UNC Press.

Zukin, S. (1995). The culture of cities. New York, USA: Blackwell.