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A Deweyan Defense of Guerrilla Gardening

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Shane Ralston
Penn State University Hazleton
United States

Abstract:
In this paper, I formulate a Deweyan argument in support of guerrilla gardening, or the political activity of reclaiming unused urban land, sometimes illicitly, for cultivation and beautification through community gardening. Historically, community gardening in the U.S. has been associated with relief projects during periods of economic downturn and crisis, urban blight and gentrication, as well as nationalism, nativism and racism. Despite these last few unfortunate associations, the American philosopher John Dewey detached school gardening from the nativist’s tool-kit, portraying it as a gateway to more enriching adult experiences, not as a technique for assimilating immigrant children to a distinctly American way of life. One of those experiences that school gardening can prepare children for is political activism, particularly involvement in gardening movements. Dewey did not mention this collateral benefit. Nevertheless, an argument can be made that garden advocacy—or, more specifically, participation in politically-motivated gardening movements such as guerrilla gardening—is an acceptable interpretation, or elaboration, of what Dewey meant by “a civic turn” to school gardening.

 

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