Based on fieldwork in Lisbon, Portugal, in collaboration with Eduardo Ascensao, and funded by the Carnegie Trust (2012-14), this project explored the legacies of post-colonialism and the impact of urban austerity on public gardening cultures, and compared top-down state-sanctioned improvement projects with bottom-up claims to urban space for subsistence.
“Collective gardening spaces have existed across Lisbon, Portugal, for decades. This article attends to the makeshift natures made by black migrants from Portugal’s former colonies, and the racial urban geography thrown into relief by the differing fortunes of white Portuguese community gardening spaces. Conceptualizing urban gardens as commons-in-the-making, we explore subaltern urbanism and the emergence of autonomous gardening commons on the one hand, and the state erasure, overwriting or construction of top-down commons on the other. While showing that urban gardening forges commons of varying persistence, we also demonstrate the ways through which the commons are always closely entwined with processes of enclosure. We further argue that urban gardening commons are divergent and cannot be judged against any abstract ideal of the commons. In conclusion, we suggest that urban gardening commons do not have a ‘common’ in common.”