The concluding chapter weaves together the key themes of the book, to reflect on the interconnection of community, politics and justice in communal growing projects, in the way they claim spaces in the city and their articulation of alternative and autonomous ways of living. It highlights the productive ambivalence of the spaces, particularly knitting together inclusionary and radical reimaginations of the city with boundary work and strategic neutrality that effectively positions the sites beyond politics. It argues that attending to the afterlives of growing, how it moves and changes, is critical both for assessing the politics of growing projects and for attending to their purported place in sustainable cities. The chapter offers reflections on what might be taken forward in such sustainable work and the enduring attraction of communal growing as a research space, as well as the shifting opportunity structure within Scotland’s policy landscape that might facilitate a greater value being placed on communal growing projects as a critical part of the city’s social infrastructure.
Drawing on Morgan’s (2011) conceptualization of family as entailing a sense of the active, and seeking to highlight the (continuing) significance of birth families in care-experienced lives, Chapter 3 addresses the significance of the ‘ordinary’. Undeniably, care-experienced people have often faced significant challenges within their family lives. But focusing only on documenting those adversities runs the risk of engaging in a dividing practice (see Foucault, 1983), whereby care-experienced people – and care-experienced families – are reduced to the problems they have faced. Accordingly, this chapter draws attention to ‘ordinary’ memories within extraordinary childhoods, encompassing narratives of regular, ritual and habitual family practices and the importance of these within participants’ accounts.
What continues and what changes over time in communal growing? Research on communal growing tends to take a snapshot in time, focusing on the phenomenon at a moment rather than considering them over longer durations in more longitudinal research. This chapter unpacks some of the changes over time within the garden, addressing later evolutions in inclusion and transformative projects. Understanding projects as fluid and reactive to the environment, this argues for a longer period of study to think through reactions to the broader urban environment and social milieu. Reflecting on crises faced by the sites in the early 2020s – both the COVID-19 pandemic and a local murder – allows too for the strength and resilience of the sites, their use as social infrastructure, to emerge.
The practices of care that form the bedrock of communality are here viewed from the perspective of escape; and the idea of escaping into responsibility is explored, with reference to community theory and especially Esposito’s work on the munis. This connects ethnographic material on social connection and rhythms of knowing to a discussion of positive freedom as developed in the work of Isaiah Berlin (1969). Instead of a more common notion of negative freedom, this chapter uses Berlin’s delineation of a positive freedom to recognize the liberatory capacity in the obligations and caring that come with social connection. The limits of this are also explored – in particular, the way that the closure within Berlin’s concept of positive freedom mirrors boundary work in communal practice.
Drawing on a concept of a field in which communal growing projects are embedded, this chapter develops an understanding of the ways projects are limited by the conditions of the field. Through developing an understanding of funding and organizational dynamics and the contrast between the two sites, this draws out the implications and meanings of politics in the field. It draws on ideas from social movement theory to understand the implications of these organizational dynamics, especially pressures against social transformation and radical agendas. This is to argue that organizations are pushed towards a stance of strategic neutrality, despite their autonomous and collective internal practices, in part as a way of attracting charity funding and being therefore legible as non-profits within the landscape of third sector funding.
The title of Chapter 5 is taken from a song chosen by someone who took part in Against All Odds?, discussing his relationship with his siblings. The chapter builds on the material discussed previously to consider care and connectedness, and the challenges, responsibilities and resources that are part of those linked lives. In line with previous research concerned with young adults who had been in care, participants in both studies had contact with their birth families and gave accounts of practices of care within and across generations. This chapter draws on these accounts to think about the sharpened significance of family connections for care-experienced young adults living in a historical moment of heightened precarity and political austerity.
While introducing the case studies and the broad argument of the book, this chapter situates the intervention of the book in the international communal growing literature, explaining the approach to community, politics and justice as empirical phenomena. The introduction introduces the concept of escape as a useful way to think about a series of important questions about how the city is lived. Collective escape centres the relationship between communal growing’s urban intervention and its politics, providing insight into the way people within the urban community projects understand their action. The chapter fleshes out how thinking through escape as an ambivalent practice can move us beyond some of the arguments around politics and subject formation to appreciate communal growing as social action. It also sets out the ethnographic research that forms the methodological basis for the book’s argument.
Chapter 2 begins with an overview of key policy and legislative contexts for young people in and after care, reflecting on how key family-related features of children’s lives and care experiences (including the presence of siblings, recurrent removal of children into care from the same parent/s and so on) are recognized within policy and published data. The chapter then goes on to discuss ethical and methodological debates in researching vulnerability. It sets out the argument for taking a narrative approach to thinking through family in care-experienced lives, challenging the tendency for categorizations of ‘vulnerability’ to disempower, silencing narratives of resistance and obscuring complexity. This discussion links to a detailed overview of the two studies, addressing methods, study contexts and sample recruitment and characteristics, and documenting the analytic approach to linking the two datasets.
This chapter explores the critical interventions of communal growing projects in the city, particularly around how they articulate patterns of collective ownership and the capacity of people to engage in autonomous action. In seeing the projects as places of commoning – rather than as a static commons – this situates the DIY culture of growing as the co-production of a collective escape, reflected in the direct intervention of projects in storying and making the space of the city. In so doing, they stake a right to the city – and a right to change the city. Within this emerge some key tensions around how the aesthetics of the spaces can be exclusionary, raising critical questions around who shapes the city. This sets up the critical and progressive core of growing as a space for autonomous action and collectively imagined ownership, however imperfectly it emerges.
If urban growing is political, why is it not always seen this way in the field? This chapter extends the political analysis of communal growing projects through an engagement with lay imaginaries of politics within growing and their diversity. It does so to offer a different perspective on communal growing’s politics, and to explain why politics as a frame doesn’t work in the field. It explores subjective experiences of politicization and some of the resonances of the idea of politics within the context of Glasgow, within Scotland and the UK at this political moment. This is to unpack some of the ambivalence of escape as a political terrain, and does so with an eye to how time and a preference for a common justice framing shape the interpretative understanding of communal growing projects, complicating narratives around the politics of such projects.