Exploring the Connection between Landscape and Biopolitics: The Story of Freshkills Park

Philip Hutchinson


Constructed on top of what was the world’s largest landfill at Fresh Kills on Staten Island, Freshkills Park is one of the most recent parks in New York, United States of America. The landfill has a history deeply enmeshed with the politics of New York City and this influenced the decision to create Freshkills Park and continues to shape the park itself. Faced with the unenviable task of constructing an enormous park on a landfill site, administrators are raising the profile of the park by linking it to several significant issues that impact the city including climate change, waste management, ecology loss and terrorism. These newer narratives augment traditional narratives of parks and, more importantly, draw into the spotlight the broader political context of parks.
By examining the creation of Freshkills Park through the lens of Michel Foucault’s theories of power, biopolitics and governance, this paper argues that parks are a vehicle for biopolitics in an effort to manage the attitudes and behaviour of individuals for practices of self-discipline. Further, the new narratives associated with Freshkills Park also highlight how the park has become a vehicle to manage attitudes and behaviours relating to the vulnerability of the state. In that sense, parks in cities act as a spatial representation and enabler of biopolitical systems. The biopolitical systems evident in parks both shape and reflect the value that government and the broader population ascribe to parks. Consequently, landscape plays a much more significant role in political aspects of the city than has previously been recognised.

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