Touching Soil, Smelling Flowers: Endangered Sensescapes of Urban Nature

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Petr GIBAS, Sociological Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
This paper considers the sensory aspects of urban nature and their role in establishing the spaces of belonging in a post-socialist metropolis. In particular, it concentrates on spaces of urban gardening in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Based on semi-structured interviews, go-along research strategies and (participant) observation in allotments and community gardens, it explores the sensescape of this type of urban nature and traces the links between sensory experience, bodily activities and emerging sense of attachment and belonging of the gardeners to their gardens. The sensescape of the spaces of urban gardening is profoundly different from the purified sensescape of the common spaces of the neoliberal city where the gardens are located and which exerts pressure on urban gardens for their displacement to free the land for redevelopment. The sensescapes of urban gardening are endangered; nevertheless, they have a potential to become a locus of critical re-assessment of contemporary neoliberal modes of governance and their outcomes. This paper argues that taking the sensescape of urban nature in general and spaces of urban gardening in particular seriously can help us to vividly capture the struggles which form and inform contemporary cities and thereby enhance our understanding of the impact of neoliberal urban developments on urban sensescape.