REES Brown Bag Seminar: Dr. Kevin E. Jones, University of Alberta – Thursday, November 2, 2023

Date(s) - 02/11/2023
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
550 General Services Building, 550 General Services Building University of Alberta , Edmonton Alberta

Title: Exploring sustainability politics within urban gardens: an STS analysis of techniques and boundary objects

Speaker: Dr. Kevin E. Jones, Associate Professor,  Department of REES, University of Alberta

Date: Thursday, November 2, 2023

Time: 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Location: GSB 550


If you have been part of a gardening community, whether as a backyard gardener, part of a collective garden, or involved in a commercial urban agriculture venture, you will find gardeners love to share experience and debate the best ways to organize and nurture a garden into being. While gardening can be a professional vocation, for most learning comes from trial and error, and is passed down through the experience of others. It is an embodied form of knowledge, and one which connects the growing of flowers and vegetables, to a full range of experience and social life. Much of the optimism in academic literature on garden movements has thus focused on knowledge sharing and community building. But alongside such amicability, gardens are also sites of difference, and places where knowledge is struggled over. This includes debates over horticultural techniques, and bound up with them, broader struggles over the authority to speak to appropriate paths to sustainability and food justice. A focal point of our paper is the role of the rototiller, at once a seemingly ubiquitous part of the garden landscape, and the source of a great deal of consternation and disapproval. Revisiting the concept of the ‘boundary object’, we approach the rototiller as a useful technological artefact through which gardeners are able to reflexively and pragmatically consider what a sustainable and just food future could be. We argue that it is through difference that communities are pulled together in the hard work of supporting meaningful change. It is the openness to consider and integrate different approaches to sustainability which we suggest is essential to both the growth of the garden, and the growth of positive environmental citizenships.

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