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Title: The social world of allotment gardens : an ethnographic account of formations of social cooperation
Authors: Burn, Deborah Janet
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis provides an ethnographic account of the social world of allotment gardens in the north east of England. The specific focus is upon the enduring everyday formation and enactment of informal voluntary social cooperation amongst allotment gardeners. This form of cooperation occurs without incentives and external to the formal organization of allotment gardening coordinated by public officials and allotment committees. Informal cooperation between allotment gardeners provides sociologists with an opportunity to analyse a ubiquitous social process. Gardening is often thought of as an individualized activity but, actually, allotment gardening is undertaken in a collective setting. This is a skilled practice, with gardeners working in (and with) the natural world via periods of intensely physical activity. I argue that an interweaving of the social processes of skill, valuation, and social cooperation, are pivotal to the reproduction of the social world of allotment gardens. This finding hinges upon social interactions, relations, and networks, in this distinct social world in which people from a variety of social backgrounds and gardening experiences are present. However, many new arrivals have little or no gardening skill, and enskillment in allotment gardening differs significantly to descriptions in socially situated learning literature. Central to this argument is the most valued social characteristic in allotment gardening practice: having sufficient skill, time, physical ability, and access to social cooperation, to produce the sensuous taste of allotment-grown-food via the presentation of the highly distinct aesthetic of a cultivated (weed-free) allotment garden. As such, allotment gardening in these locales is a highly distinct set of skilled practices requiring not only time and a strong healthy body, but also social skill and access to forms of social cooperation. These requirements course with intersections of the social processes of skill, valuation, and social cooperation, which bring both challenges (and delights) to allotment gardeners.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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