Modes of urban greening? Civic urban natures in-between familiar engagement and green critique
(University of Copenhagen)
Jakob Laage-Thomsen (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
Based on a mapping of 'urban green communities' (like community gardens), we deploy Laurent Thé-venot's notion of plural engagements to expand the STS frame on the socio-material politics of urban green futures, in ways that tie familiar attachments to green critiques of urban political economies.
Paper long abstract:
Science and technology studies (STS) increasingly participates in cross-cutting conversations on urban sustainability, low-carbon transition and overall 'greening' of cities, by paying attention to how urban practices, institutions, infrastructures and environments come to be relationally reassembled. However, while front-staging socio-material politics, it remains an open-ended question whether established STS resources will be sufficient to analyze the wide variations in modes of political engagement with urban sustainability. In this paper, we deploy the loosely bounded phenomenon of 'urban green communities' - in the shape of urban gardening, tree planting, beekeeping, food collectives, biodiversity enhancement, river restoration and kindred civic group practices towards urban greening - in order to probe the conceptual gaps opened up in-between everyday lifestyle politics, green social movements and critiques of hegemonic urban political economies. Building on a comprehensive digital mapping exercise set in Denmark, we trace differences in modes of urban-green politics at the level of everyday citizen practices and group interaction styles across a diversity of urban green communities, paying attention to dynamic shifts and relational contexts shaping such socio-material, lay-expert interactions. In doing so, we conclude, STS concepts profit from being put into conversation with wider developments in political sociology and green political theory, including not least the pragmatic-sociological work of Laurent Thévenot on 'regimes of engagement' and 'commonality in the plural'. Thévenot's concepts, we suggest, allow us to trace translations in-between familiar attachments and public critiques in ways that expand the frame on socio-material politics relative to current STS conversations on urban green futures.
Uncertain futures: green alternatives and STS interventions