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Chiara Certomà, Susan Noori and Martin Sondermann

It is increasingly clear that, alongside the spectacular forms of justice activism, the actually existing just city results from different everyday practices of performative politics that produce transformative trajectories and alternative realities in response to particular injustices in situated contexts. The massive diffusion of urban gardening practices (including allotments, community gardens, guerrilla gardening and the multiple, inventive forms of gardening the city) deserve special attention as experiential learning and in-becoming responses to spatial politics, able to articulate different forms of power and resistance to the current state of unequal distribution of benefits and burdens in the urban space. While advancing their socio-environmental claims, urban gardeners make evident that the physical disposition of living beings and non-living things can both determine and perpetuate injustices or create justice spaces.

In so doing, urban gardeners question the inequality-biased structuring and functioning of social formations (most notably urban deprivation, lack of public decision and engagement, and marginalisation processes); and conversely create (or allow the creation of) spaces of justice in contemporary cities.

This book presents a selection of contributions investigating the possibility and capability of urban gardeners to effectively tackle spatial injustice; and it offers the readers sound, theoretically grounded reflections on the topic. Building upon on-the-field experiences in European cities, it presents a wide range of engaged scholarly researches that investigate whether, how and to what extent urban gardening is able to contrast inequalities and disparities in living conditions.

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Chiara Certomà, Martin Sondermann and Susan Noori

The chapter investigates the relationship between urban gardening – as political gesture – and socio-spatial justice. In search for an actually existing just city, gardeners’ everyday initiatives advance a substantive micropolitics of life that point to less visible and sometimes ignored sides of urban governance and planning; and unveil the articulation of different forms of power, dominance and resistance to the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens in space. The critical analysis proposed specifically revolves around the question of whether (and how) urban gardening practices are able to tackle social and spatial injustices. It outlines the consequences, potentialities and contradictions in the constitution of urban spaces and urbanity; and its capability to mitigate material, political and social exclusions, unfairness and inequalities effects. This is complemented with an overview of the contributions comprised in the book.

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Giuseppe Aliperti and Silvia Sarti

The increasing number of metropolitan areas worldwide suggests the need for a more in-depth investigation of metropolitan neighbourhoods in order to explain the complex social dynamics emerging in these new contexts. As a matter of fact, the majority of the existing studies on spatial justice provided analyses and investigations focused on metropolitan settings. However, the issue of spatial justice also involves smaller urban areas and further research is needed in that sense. Our investigation analyses a case study of urban gardening that has been developed with the aim of valorising the central neighbourhood of an Italian mid-size city through proposing participatory planning interventions and requalification of urban sites. The urban gardening initiative has included several actors within the process of implementation. The investigated group of people potentially subjected to the spatial injustice is formed by the residents and the local retailers. A comparison between different stakeholders’ perspectives is provided in order to measure the positive and negative impacts of the initiative on the local community.

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Temporary urban landscapes and urban gardening

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.

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Limits to growth?

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.

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Is urban gardening a source of wellbeing and just freedom?

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.

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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.

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Food for all?

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.

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Conflation in political gardening

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.

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Community gardening for integrated urban renewal in Copenhagen

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.