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.
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.
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.
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.
Escape is an enticing idea in contemporary cities across the world. Austerity, climate breakdown and spatial stigma have led to retreatist behaviours such as gated communities, enclave urbanism and white flight. By contrast, urban community growing projects are often considered by practitioners and commentators as communal havens in a stressful cityscape.
Drawing on ethnographic research in urban growing projects in Glasgow, this book explores the spatial politics and dynamics of community, asking who benefits from such projects and how they relate to the wider city. A timely consideration of localism and community empowerment, the book sheds light on key issues of urban land use, the right to the city and the value of social connection.
Drawing on the work of Henri Lefebvre on rhythms, this chapter outlines the escape created within communal growing projects. Drawing from participant observation and interview data, this chapter explores the practices that distinguish the case studies from the rest of the city. Tracing the way that value emerges, it argues that communal growing projects reimagine what work comes to mean and what can be deemed socially valuable. The chapter moves between narratives from the field and theoretical questions around the affective nature of the time-space of the city to recognize the experience of escape as one of temporal sovereignty. It also introduces a key theme of the book in the politics of this escape, which rests on the ability to imagine a different way of being within practices of collective escape.
Chapter 2 positions the field sites in the broader context of Glasgow’s urban growing scene and its specificities. Putting communal growing projects in the context of Glasgow’s history of urban regeneration contextualizes attempts to build something different. It sketches a history of top-down urban regeneration in which local people have had little say, against which the reimagination of the two growing sites sits. Connecting the swathes of derelict land and urban wilderness in the city to blight narratives and creative destruction allows for the context of Glasgow to be counterposed against other cities in which work has been done on communal growing. The community growing literature has been heavily dominated by work coming out the US that differ in important ways from the context here. In outlining this history and context, this chapter sets up many of the concrete and theoretical concerns developed later: questions about how derelict land is used, and what it could or should be used for.