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Community as idea and community practices: tensions and consequences for urban communal growing in Glasgow

Traill, Helen (2018) Community as idea and community practices: tensions and consequences for urban communal growing in Glasgow. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.uuqy1lldasai


In an era of ‘community empowerment’ and the devolution of welfare responsibilities to local groups, it is important to understand what community comes to mean in everyday life. Through two growing projects in Glasgow, this thesis discusses such meanings in local processes of exclusion and urban land development, and uses the sites to explore too the politics of collective growing. To do so, I consider the meanings, tensions and contradictions that emerge between the practices of being communal and the naming of such as community. I draw on a multi-sited ethnography and in depth interviews to elucidate the emergence of that which comes to be called community as a situated, empirical phenomenon. As an overburdened concept, I suggest community is not necessarily the most helpful analytical term to describe the collective activity in both case studies. Instead, I argue for seeing community primarily as a frame that guides and makes sense of communal practices. Whilst some hope has been located in community gardens and similar urban interventions as potential sources of renewal and collective resistance to the harsher vagaries of neoliberal capitalism, this thesis argues that communal growing does not present a systematic alternative, although it does appropriate urban land in occasionally subversive ways. Communal growing does however offer insights into the complexities of creating places for autonomy and survival in austere conditions. I reflect on the selective reproduction of class and social exclusions in growing spaces, and the tentative production of a time and space outwith the logics of the capitalist city, and yet within its bounds. Ultimately this thesis argues that community is not an anodyne or empty concept, but rather a dynamic and symbolically important idea shaping local urban life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Helen Traill
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Madden, David

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