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The Public and the Common: Tensions around Praxes of Urban Community Gardens

Authors: Mauricio Estrada*, Leibniz - Institute for Regional Geography, Kathrin Hörschelmann, Leibniz - Institute for Regional Geography
Topics: Urban Geography, Land Use, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: community gardens, land, access, power, neoliberalism, public, citizenship rights
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban community gardens are often outcomes of periods of socio-economic crisis (Pudup, 2008). Vacant plots resulting from these periods might thus be used by marginalized urban residents to garden regardless of state approval. However, vacant does not mean public, and (the) public does not involve everybody. So, what are the implications of neoliberal subjectification in collective projects of community gardening and how are tensions around land, access, and power negotiated? Space is constitutive of power (Low, 2006), and such is configured on the choices within which people can operate (Ruppert, 2011).

Based on case study research conducted in Europe and beyond as part of the Horizon2020-funded project NATURVATION (Grant Agreement 730243), we will explore the practices through which gardeners can claim for citizenship rights (Staeheli, 1999; Isin, 2000) and the neoliberal marketization of land and urban nature (Kaika & Swyngedouw, 2011), to ask what is (the) public and to whom it belongs? Through which governing systems are gardeners and gardens controlled? How can community gardens allow greater inclusion of marginalized urban residents? By outlining key features of the gardening projects we will conceptualize and conclude different rights, tensions, and potentials in terms of land, access and power in community gardens.

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