Reading private green space: Competing geographic identities at the level of the Lawn

Philosophy and Geography 4 (1):79 – 95 (2001)
Abstract
This paper focuses on private residential green space as a site of contested meanings. Recent research points to the emergence of an activism centered on ecological restoration and a shift away from the lawn as the only accepted landscape practice for private green space. However, it is clear that the lawn, a particularly powerful cultural landscape form in residential neighborhoods, still largely dominates this space across North America. This investigation examines the voices of two groups: traditional lawn owners and ecological activists. We observe two sets of discourses centered on private green space. Both groups construct residential green space as a site of identity politics-a site wherein the self is defined as pure and the other excluded as different and necessarily inferior. And both perceive their discourse as ''natural.'' The critical finding is that they are almost entirely oppositional discourses. The contest over what constitutes appropriate landscaping practices for this space provides a locus for bringing to a discursive level, the kinds of socio-cultural perspectives and practices that create and dominate our places in late capitalist society. We suggest that at present the lawn remains a barrier to alternative green space practices.
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