Accepted Papers:

Escaping the accelerating environment of the city in urban gardens  


Vincent Walstra (Leiden University)

Paper Short Abstract:

Through sensorial experiences, urban gardens raise awareness for the qualitative values in everyday life, opposing the quantified landscape of the city. As a response to the accelerating urban environment, these green 'oases' share a sense of community, socio-ecological solidarity and mindfulness.

Paper long abstract:

Worldwide small groups of people living in cities gather to practice gardening together. Being the product of field research amongst urban gardeners in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands, this paper explores the motives of people in this specific urban area to engage with gardening practices. In Utrecht, urban agriculture appears as a social phenomenon opposing the ongoing acceleration of everyday life, by encouraging qualitative experiences instead. The urban gardens do not build on a purpose of production or efficiency. Rather, they are green 'oases' in landscapes of concrete, conveying a sense of tranquility, solidarity and gratefulness through mindful practices and a communal environment. Through practices like planting, spading, cooking, tasting, talking and being people not only share and communicate with themselves and the community, but with the natural environment as well.

Urban agriculture contrasts both urban space and agriculture industry, which are characterized by capitalist ideologies of efficiency, productivity and accumulation. Urban agriculture instead delivers sensorial experiences of gardening in a social setting. Connecting people to practices like farming, cross-cultural collaboration and meditative spading of fields, raises awareness of ecological, social and mental relativity. As a result, the gardens foster association with the nature, society and self at the same time. It is a sign of resilience from a society suffering under the hegemonic notion of quantitative valuation of practices. The education of the senses creates awareness of opportunities to escape this dominant obsession with efficiency, and instead experience and reproduce solidarity to society and ecology.

Panel P032
New urban food practices and the senses in the city [Anthropology of Food]