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Micro-utopias of ageing: the practice of collective gardening in Wales

Authors: Owain Hanmer*, Cardiff University
Topics: Social Geography
Keywords: aging, retirement, community gardening, anarchism.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Virtual Track 2
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With retirement recently becoming an unexpected pawn on the political battlefield (in the UK,
proposed retirement age increases and several pension strikes), there is an urgency to recognise and reconsider the socio-political significance of this ruptured and transitional stage in people’s life course, particularly in relation to the growing interest in the post-work/anti-work agenda (Weeks 2011; Frayne 2015) . Using this position as a theoretical springboard, this paper reflects on ongoing multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the city of Cardiff (Wales, UK). Here, the activity of collective gardening (allotments and community gardens) is utilised as a lens to consider the everyday acts of resistance and agency. Adopting Scott’s (2012) notion of infrapolitics in addition to Graeber’s (2012) theory of everyday communism—recognising the so-called apolitical moments in everyday life as political activity, through mundane and unexpected forms of cooperation, mutual
aid and solidarity—this paper proposes that this theoretical approach offers unique opportunities
for interpreting experiences of retirement. In this instance, agency emerges through the creative and caring pursuits of common interest, where these particular spaces often come into existence through a dynamic of destruction/creation (destruction referring to loss of social relations and work structure, broader societal neglect, and derelict land) which produces a sense of bewilderment but also immanent hope. In doing so, the process of collective gardening amongst retired people can be a transformative practice cultivated in what is done in the present (a micro-utopia (Graeber 2004) ) rather than desired in the future (a fantasy).

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