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Ritual Communication and Use Value: The South Central Farm and the Political Economy of Place


Corresponding author: Garrett M. Broad; e-mail:


This article examines factors that led to the destruction of the South Central Farm, a 14-acre urban garden that was bulldozed after a lengthy property rights battle. The analysis is guided by 2 theoretical frameworks—J. Carey's (1989) conception of the ritual and transmission views of communication, as well as J. R. Logan and H. L. Molotch's (1987) treatment of use and exchange value in the urban development “growth machine.” Although farm supporters blamed political corruption, this work argues that their defeat was consistent with the market-based logic of the contemporary city. While farmers demonstrated significant use value through ritual communication, their efforts were deemed illegitimate in a political economic landscape that prioritized exchange value and was dominated by a transmission view of communication.

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