DOI: 10.1177/00420980231208830 ISSN: 0042-0980

Fences, seeds and bees: The more-than-human politics of community gardening in Rotterdam

Shivant Jhagroe
  • Urban Studies
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

This paper explores the more-than-human politics of a community garden in Rotterdam, as an expression of sustainable and resilient city making. Challenging the anthropocentrism underlying most research on the politics of urban sustainability/resilience and urban gardening, the paper proposes a more-than-human assemblage approach to urban gardening politics. I argue that urban gardens can be understood as more-than-human configurations and conceptualised as urban garden assemblages. Such assemblages are processes with different temporalities and types of agencies (insects, plants, soil and fences) and can be analytically understood as more-than-human: (1) relations and performances; (2) power hierarchies/resistances; and (3) ethical co-becomings. Building on participatory ethnography, interviews and (online) documents, the paper then presents an empirical account of the Gandhi-garden, a community garden in Rotterdam, embedded in the global Transition Towns movement. The empirical case shows how mundane acts of pulling weeds and using permacultural planting methods are more-than-human place-making practices. It also highlights how, for example, human–soil, human–seed and human–bee entanglements challenge urban neoliberalism while gardeners experiment with sustainable food and a non-violent economy. The paper illustrates the ethico-political expressions of more-than-human community gardening through solidarity bonds with Palestine via olive trees and non-violence thinking, as well as some human/non-human ambivalences when dealing with dog waste and potentially harvest-stealing birds. Finally, the paper presents some reflections and contributions regarding scholarship in the fields of urban gardening, and sustainable/resilient city making.

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