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Preparing the grounds for emancipation. Explaining commoning as an emancipatory mechanism through dialectical social theory
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Strategic Sustainability Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9338-360X
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Strategic Sustainability Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6452-5696
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Strategic Sustainability Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8626-7288
2022 (English)In: Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, ISSN 2514-8486, E-ISSN 2514-8494 , p. 1-20Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

While there is evidence that commons have the potential to counteract socio-spatial injustices unleashed by neoliberal and capitalist forms of urbanisation, less is known about how commons lead to emancipatory change. Anchored in dialectical social theory, this article explains commoning as a mechanism through which people reproduce/transform their structural context and agency, arguing that the potential for emancipation through commoning lies in the commoners’ ability to induce processes of structural/agential transformation. Empirically grounded in interviews with urban community gardeners in the City of Stockholm, Sweden, we show that collective gardening conceptualised as practice of commoning contributes to structural change in that female volunteer labour collectivises the mandate over municipally managed public space, transforming socio-spatial relations. Yet, garden commoning proves to reproduce structural whiteness and middle-class agency in public space, fails to establish autonomy from waged-labour relations, and is unable to abolish the separation from the sources of reproduction and subsistence.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
SAGE Publications , 2022. p. 1-20
National Category
Human Geography Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-311359DOI: 10.1177/25148486221092717ISI: 000849094000001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85138286471OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-311359DiVA, id: diva2:1653780
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2016-00331
Note

QC 20220425

Available from: 2022-04-25 Created: 2022-04-25 Last updated: 2023-10-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. More than flowers!: On the transformative practice of commoning urban gardens
Open this publication in new window or tab >>More than flowers!: On the transformative practice of commoning urban gardens
2023 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Urban gardening is a burgeoning practice that increasingly takes place in urban centres of the world. In this thesis, I define urban gardens as socially mediated yet materially rooted phenomenon through which social and material relations are elaborated in common through time and space. And, I understand the garden not as an object, but as an entity that emerges out of the relationships between gardeners and non-human nature. I draw on the recent turn in commons’ theory shifting the focus on commoning, and not, as in earlier commons research, on the commons as structure. Grounded in the case of a new wave of urban gardening initiatives in the City of Stockholm, Sweden, I examine how commoning urban gardens transforms the people doing the gardening, the commoners, including their agency, subjectivity, and identity. But also how the commoners shape their structural environment.

Ontologically, I deploy a critical realist social theory perspective which means that I acknowledge the a priori existence of structures and agency and their conditioning by each other relationally. This means that I (i) look at how spatial, societal and temporal structures affect the agency of gardeners (ii) how those gardeners are affecting their structural environment through the practice of urban gardening, as (iii) well as how their agency is conditioned by the practice.

I deploy a qualitative mixed methods approach, comprising of interviews, a questionnaire, observations, participatory dissemination and poetic inquiry and find that high green public space availability in the City of Stockholm, municipal policies in favour of urban gardening, and a rich historic culture of associational life in Sweden provide a supportive context for urban gardening. I find that commoning gardens in public spaces bring together people and build collective relations despite a context of neoliberal individualisation. It emancipates individuals by reorganising the management of urban space, and changes how the City of Stockholm is urbanising towards more collective organising. Among those that partake in urban gardening, some remain grounded in a need-fulfilment (“I want to garden to be more in nature”), whereas others change through the commitment of being part of an urban garden, become political and collective subjectivities with a social identity that overlaps with their personal identity. This shows that structures condition people differently, and do not deterministically affect agency in the same way for everyone. Yet many remain entirely excluded from the new urban garden commons, such as people of colour, indicating that urban gardening, while it can be transformative for those that partake, is reproductive of structures of whiteness in urban public space. At the same time, historical structures of patriarchy in public spaces are being transformed. At the expense of the unpaid social reproductive labour of female gardeners, who make out the majority of urban gardeners, public green space is being transformed into spaces of care and community.

I conclude that urban gardening deserves a critical analysis of its immanent contradictions to safeguard against unwanted and unintentional reproduction of injustices and for the promotion of practices that emancipate and empower people.

Abstract [sv]

Urban stadsodling är en spirande praxis som i allt större utsträckning äger rum i stadskärnor i världen. I denna avhandling definierar jag urbana trädgårdar som allmänningar som uppstår genom kollektiva sociala praktiker som manifesterar sig rumsligt. Jag bygger på den senaste tidens vändning i commons-teori som flyttar fokus på commons, och inte, som i tidigare commons-forskning, på commons som struktur. Med utgångspunkt i fallet med stadsträdgårdsinitiativ i Stockholms stad, Sverige, undersöker jag hur gemensamma stadsträdgårdar förvandlar commoners (deras handlingskraft, subjektivitet, identitet) och vice versa, deras strukturella miljö. Ontologiskt använder jag ett kritiskt-realistiskt och socialteoretiskt perspektiv som innebär att jag erkänner a priori existensen av strukturer och agency och deras relationella betingning av varandra relationellt. Detta innebär att jag (i) tittar på hur rumsliga, samhälleliga och tidsmässiga strukturer påverkar agenter, såsom invånare som vill ägna sig åt urban trädgård, (ii) hur dessa stadsodlare påverkar sin strukturella miljö genom utövandet av urban stadsodling, (iii) samt hur deras agens är betingad av praktiken.

Jag använder mig av en kvalitativ metod med blandade metoder, bestående av intervjuer, enkät, observationer, deltagande spridning och poetisk undersökning och upptäcker att en hög tillgänglighet till gröna offentliga utrymmen i Stockholms stad, kommunal politik till förmån för urban trädgårdsskötsel och en rik historisk kultur av föreningslivet i Sverige ger ett stödjande sammanhang för urban trädgårdsskötsel. Jag finner att gemensamma trädgårdar i offentliga utrymmen för samman människor och bygger kollektiva relationer trots ett sammanhang av nyliberal individualisering. Den frigör individer genom att omorganisera förvaltningen av stadsrum, och förändrar hur Stockholm city urbaniserar – det vill säga på ett kollektivt och bruksvärdebaserat sätt. Bland dem som deltar i stadsträdgårdsskötsel förblir vissa grundade i ett behovsuppfyllelse ("Jag vill odla för att vara mer i naturen"), medan andra förändras genom engagemanget att vara en del av en stadsträdgård, blir politiska och kollektiva subjektiviteter med en social identitet som överlappar med deras personliga identitet. Detta visar att strukturer betingar människor på olika sätt och inte deterministiskt påverkar agency på samma sätt för alla. Ändå förblir många helt utestängda från urban stadsodling, såsom people of colour, vilket indikerar att urban stadsodling, även om det kan vara transformerande för dem som deltar, är reproduktivt av strukturer av vithet i urbana offentliga rum. Samtidigt förvandlas historiska strukturer för rationell maskulinitet i offentliga rum. På bekostnad av kvinnliga stadsodlares obetalda sociala reproduktiva arbete, som utgör majoriteten av stadsodlarna, förvandlas offentliga grönområden till utrymmen för omsorg och gemenskap.

Jag drar slutsatsen att urban stadsodling förtjänar en kritisk analys av dess immanenta motsägelser för att skydda mot oönskad och oavsiktlig reproduktion av orättvisor och för att främja praktiker som frigör och stärker människor.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2023. p. 48
Series
TRITA-ABE-DLT ; 2338
Keywords
City of Stockholm, transformative practices, emancipatory mechanisms, commoning, structureagency dialectic, urban gardening.
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Human Geography
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis, Strategies for sustainable development
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-338017 (URN)978-91-8040-725-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2023-11-13, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH Campus, public video conference link https://kth-se.zoom.us/j/68724820205, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Note

QC 20231019

Available from: 2023-10-19 Created: 2023-10-12 Last updated: 2023-11-06Bibliographically approved

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Bergame, et. al (2022) Preparing the Grounds(1465 kB)186 downloads
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Bergame, NathalieBorgström, SaraMilestad, Rebecka

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