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Pop-Up Ecologies: Urban Gardens in Chicago

Authors: Molly Doane*, University of Illinois - Chicago
Topics: Urban Geography, Environment, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: community gardens, ephemeral ecologies, gentrification
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Gardens pop-up like mushrooms on Chicago’s vacant lots. This paper explores the ephemeral social and natural ecologies created by the human and the non-human beings who create and visit these places. In Chicago, an estimated 900 community gardens constitute a shifting archipelago of hand-made and lived in places. Some of these become permanent if protected, for example, by a non-profit organization or a land trust like NeighborSpace in Chicago. In neighborhoods where gentrification is occurring, gardens may be sacrificed to development. Drawing from Stillwagon and Gahziani’s (2019) notion that ephemerality is connected to both creativity and oppositional cultural and political expression, as well as the “Just Green enough” (Curran and Hamilton 2018) hypothesis that seeks to root green space development within community-based initiatives for social and environmental justice, this paper looks at gardens as a form of oppositional expression centering ecology and climate. It follows the rise and fall of three community gardens in Chicago with special attention to how gardeners talk about their connections to community, place, and non-human beings in the city.

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