Gardens are an under-researched, but highly interesting sociological topic since garden spaces represent an immediate intersection of human society and its environing fauna and flora. In gardens people enforce aesthetics, cultural preferences, gender roles, social and political values, or individual tastes through the cultivation of plants, soils, and to a lesser extend pet animals or insects. By so doing, they change ecological relationships between humans and the natural world.
From a sociological perspective gardening activities can be interpreted in different ways, but at the core it seems to mean that both natural (causal) and social attributions can alternate within gardening practices. Gardeners often step back and realize they have been participating in an ecosystem that is at best partially of their own making. They become intimately part of a natural process, a process that cannot be fully controlled and is full of surprises. Gardening thus can be rendered as much a natural as a well as a social process, depending on soil quality, gardening knowledge, weather conditions, the availability of water, or skills to use technical devices.
Despite the centrality and ubiquity of gardening in cultures all over the world, gardens have not attracted much attention from sociologists. This course will scrutinize extant studies on gardening and the importance of everyday interaction with the fauna and flora from sociological points of view. The course focuses on classical roles of gardening as part of food production (including new trends in urban and community gardening), of sites for pleasure and leisure, of plants and animals inside of houses, of places for aesthetes and ecological restorationists or the role of gardens through history (e.g., the Gardens of Versailles or the many Botanical Gardens all over the world).
Guest lectures will accompany readings and discussions in class.
Please note, this is a SOCIOLOGY class. Its discussion style is designed to be open for new ideas, it is about expanding your mind, allowing counter-intuitive insights, and foster critical thinking outside the box. If you think you know everything already or prefer preaching a single doctrine, this course may not be the right one for you.