Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall

This chapter focuses on building an analytical framework for understanding reliance systems and spatial contracts. It is based on the argument that we must begin with the system, and understand the politics from the system up, rather than from the politics down. The framework draws on systems thinking to establish how we can differentiate between different systems. It then uses this systems perspective to repurpose ideas from economics which are useful if focused on systems instead of commodities.

in The spatial contract
A new politics of provision for an urbanized planet

This book examines how material systems such as transportation, energy and housing form the basis of human freedom. It begins by explaining this linkage by defining reliance systems, the basic way in which we become free to act not only as a result of our bodily capabilities or the absence of barriers but because of collectively produced systems. As virtually all of us rely on such systems – water, food, energy, healthcare, etc. – for freedom, the book argues that they must form the centre of a twenty-first-century politics. Rather than envisioning a healthier politics of reliance systems exclusively through rights or justice or deliberative democracy, we argue that they must become the centre of a new social contract. More specifically, we discuss the politics of reliance systems as a set of spatial contracts. Spatial contracts are the full set of politics governing any given system, and as such they are historically, geographically and system specific. In order to fully understand spatial contracts, we develop an analytical framework focused on three areas. Seeing like a system shows how systems thinking can enable us to avoid ideological approaches to understanding given spatial contracts, repurposing key ideas from mainstream and heterodox economics. Seeing like a settlement shows how systems come together in space to form human settlements, and exposes key political divides between urban and rural, and formal and informal. Adapting Iris Marion Young’s five faces of oppression enables an understanding of the specific ways in which reliance systems can be exploitative.

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Creating places of vernacular democracy
Beata J. Gawryszewska, Maciej Łepkowski and Anna Wilczyńska

Based on eighteen case studies the chapter discusses social values of urban wasteland areas. Therefore, it presents contemporary, post-human theories of vernacular models of democracy. Based on non-participatory observation, inventory of territorial markers and free-form interviews, processes, functions, users and possible development of urban wastelands are shown. The role of these places is perceived in two aspects, either as a substitute for the deficit of green areas or as their necessary functional complementation. Consequently, the main functions of these areas are informal activities, community gardening, extreme sports, and a place to live for homeless people, etc.

Concluding, the authors state that in a development of urban wastelands, a new and open design approach is required. Future development of these spaces should preserve their values, such as: inclusiveness, freedom of creation, creative attitudes and social participation processes.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
Securing or denying minorities’ right to the city?
Parama Roy

This chapter presents a case study from Copenhagen on a community-based, but state-initiated, urban gardening effort to examine what such efforts mean for the minorities’ (the homeless and the ethnic minorities’) right to the city (Purcell, 2002; 2013), especially within the context of a traditionally welfare-driven, but increasingly neoliberalised urban context. David Harvey has described the right to the city as ‘not merely a right of access to what already exists, but a right to change it after our heart’s desire’ (Harvey, 2003). As such, in this chapter the concept of the ‘right to the city’ is operationalised as a measure or proxy for social and spatial justice to explore how the state-initiated community gardening effort in the Sundholm District shapes/secures/denies the homeless and the ethnic minorities’ ability to: (a) use and just be in the physical space of the garden (a public space); and (b) to translate this into access to the political space of urban governance (and governance of the garden space) where they can voice their needs/concerns.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
Concepts and practice
Lucy Rose Wright and Ross Fraser Young

This chapter is an introduction to the concept of political gardening; it aims to inform the reader of the political turn in the urban gardening movement. It begins by contextualising the re-evaluation of ‘everyday space’ through the neoliberal processes of privatisation, devolution and entrepreneurialism. It then marries together these processes with the rise of academic interest in urban gardening and more recently the political aspect of this movement. The chapter then conflates the ideas of political gardening with injustice based on Rawls’ theory of social justice. Case study examples are then used to unpack the process of political gardening – in six iterative stages – in dealing with these injustices, arriving at a working definition of what political gardening is and that it is not just a term but also a process which participants undergo towards becoming engaged ‘democratised’ citizens.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
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Critically evaluating the role of the Incredible Edible movement in the UK
Michael Hardman, Mags Adams, Melissa Barker and Luke Beesley

With the concept of Urban Agriculture (UA) growing in popularity, more cities and towns are exploring opportunities to enable the practice and transform neglected spaces into havens for produce. This chapter provides an insight into one such town, Todmorden, and its Incredible Edible movement, located in the heart of England. This chapter adopts a qualitative approach to critically exploring the IET movement and to understand its impact on Todmorden. We engaged with key actors and the public in order to ascertain views towards the schemes, analysing the positives and negatives of the model. Findings revealed that the scheme has an overwhelmingly positive impact on the town, with social, environmental and economic benefits. Furthermore, it was made clear that IET is helping to create a more just food movement in Todmorden, particularly through its free for all philosophy. However, some negatives were also highlighted during the course of the research, predominately around maintenance issues and a lack of perceived inclusivity in parts. Overall, the scheme was highly valued and seen as a powerful method for growing the wider UA movement; recommendations centred on further replicating the model and helping local food to prosper in similar locations globally.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
Efrat Eizenberg

This concluding chapter briefly reviews the different, sometime diametric, ways in which the literature conceptualises urban gardening. It brings together enthusiastic approaches that understand urban gardening for its transformative potential to materialise new ideas of cooperation-based relations and sustainable urbanism, and critical approaches that analyse it as another form of greenwash and as another strategy of neoliberal development. The chapter then discusses how the different chapters in the book have come to terms with this gap of understanding urban gardening and the resolutions and new directions for understanding they offer. The chapter concludes with outlining the main contribution of the book to current and future understanding of urban gardening.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
A Capability Approach based analysis from the UK and Ireland
Alma Clavin

The production of urban space and associated neoliberalisation of urban governance limits opportunities for individual and collective freedoms. Such a socio-spatial approach to uneven urban development has influenced a number of authors in their examination of urban community gardens. The research has shown both positive agency and wellbeing benefits of these spaces and also more critical accounts of how the spaces are limited in their ability to truly enhance political freedoms, overcoming asymmetric power relations. In addition to ongoing issues of insecurity of tenure, such well-intentioned community garden initiatives may be seen as light green, weak approaches to urban sustainability rather than a true oppositional discourse of practice, therefore seen to continue neoliberal forms of both unsustainable and uneven development.

Using qualitative, visual methods, the chapter focuses on the potential of community gardens to enhance both human agency and ecological sustainability of passive adult users, and active youth and child users in urban areas. The sites chosen are specifically designed with ecological principles and associated features. In order to examine the freedoms valued within these sites, Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach (CA) is operationalised in five such sites in the UK and Ireland. Various critiques of the CA are addressed, and a particular approach to evaluating human wellbeing, linking the sustainable and just use of urban resources is developed. Such a re-conceptualisation of the CA is significant in realising the potential role of the sites in enhancing a more expressive mode of being for individuals, along with the enhancement of participative and critical capacity in urban areas.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
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Why gardening has limited success growing inclusive communities
Hannah Pitt

Community has been presented as central to urban gardens’ practices and outcomes. This chapter considers what kind of communities result and whether they can tackle inequality, questioning their potential as an inclusive basis for challenging injustice. Answering these questions requires attention to activities forming garden communities and their spatiality. Informed by relational geography, the chapter challenges simplistic treatments of links between garden, community and place. Case studies from the UK demonstrate how facets enabling gardens to form communities result in exclusivity, unintentionally limiting who can access their benefits. Communities formed through collective place-making are found to struggle to extend across space and time, limiting their potential to reduce social inequalities. Achieving wider change requires work to push spatial relations across time to imagine a better future, and across space towards neighbours, social justice movements and structural causes of injustice.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
Re-inventing open space in Greece and Switzerland
Sofia Nikolaidou

New forms of urban gardening are gaining momentum in cities, transforming the conventional use and functions of open, green and public space. They often take place through informal and temporary (re)use of vacant land, as part of greening strategies or social inclusion policy through new modes of land use management, green space governance and collaborative practices. Particular emphasis is placed on shifted meanings of the notion of open public space by referring to its openness to a diversity of uses and users that claim it and relates to the questions of access rights, power relations among actors, negotiations and the so-called right to use and re-appropriate land. By using examples drawn from the Greek and Swiss cases, this chapter underlines differences and similarities in urban gardening practices, social and institutional contexts, collaborative governance patterns, motivations, levels of institutionalisation, openness and inclusiveness of space. More specifically it calls attention to the critical role of the temporary nature of these initiatives in relation to their multifunctional, spatial and socio-political aspects that affect new configurations of urban green areas and public space as well as related planning practices.

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice