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Entangled recovery: refugee encounters in community gardens

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Community gardens are often considered to be therapeutic landscapes capable of supporting wellbeing and recovery particularly for members of vulnerable or disadvantaged groups such as refugees. This is regularly identified as resulting from the capacity for communal garden activities to enable realisation of self-efficacy, the formation of social connections and the assumed benefits of “being” in nature. These approaches tend to privilege anthropocentric perspectives that perpetuate conceptions of a human/nature binary. As such, existing literature has paid little attention to the role in refugee recovery of the visceral, affective force of matter encountered in the embodied act of gardening. By adopting such an approach, this paper aims to tease out the particularities of how bodies in these places engage with the ecological experiences of their new homes. Such encounters are never simply harmonious. They can reinforce dislocation while concurrently providing sites where gardeners are able to strengthen their adaptive capabilities via experimentation. To understand the utility of community gardening to support refugee recovery we argue it is necessary to not only attend to human participants and issues of design, infrastructure, and garden management, but also to the impact of particular forms of human and more-than-human entanglements that emerge in these spaces. In so doing we suggest that the notion of community and belonging in these settings should be broadened to more deeply engage with the more-than-human. To explore this, we focus on a small-scale, in-depth case study of a food-producing garden established for Burmese refugees in Canberra, Australia.




Abramovic, J., Turner, B., & Hope, C. (2019). Entangled recovery: refugee encounters in community gardens. Local Environment, 24(8), 696–711.

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