Human-landscape relations and the occupation of space: experiencing and expressing domestic gardens

Stenner, Paul; Church, Andrew and Bhatti, Mark (2012). Human-landscape relations and the occupation of space: experiencing and expressing domestic gardens. Environment and Planning A, 44(7) pp. 1712–1727.



A consideration of occupation and space is outlined to advance non-representational thinking about human-landscape relations. Empirical findings are presented from a research project based on data from the Mass Observation Archive relevant to gardens and gardening. The data is analysed to explore how 'ordinary' people (who have contributed to this archive) express and experience issues concerning their home gardens. Our analysis suggests for distinct modes of occupation relevant to the ways these lay writers describe their garden and gardening experiences and activities. The naturalistic mode is occupied with the garden as expressive of 'nature'; the nostalgic mode is occupied with memory and self-reflection; the pragmatic mode concerns tasks/activities that constitute the routine practices of gardening; and the mimetic mode is occupied with the interpersonal dynamics and processes of human social activity. The analysis is situated in the theoretical context of some recent developments in non-representational theory. We suggest that our approach and data are compatible with the process-orientation of non-representational thinkers, and that – contrary to certain objectivist tendencies within non-representational theorizing - this approach need not neglect the importance of issues of subjectivity and experience, and the relevance of textual data. We aim to lend empirical substance to recent theoretical and philosophical discussions on space, and speculations about why the home garden appears to be so important to many people.

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