Date of Award

2012

Advisor(s)

Julie Kim

Second Advisor

Oneka LaBennett

Abstract

Residents of New York City public housing developments (NYCHA) who wish to garden may do so by planting their gardens on the community grounds of their housing development. This put them in a unique position. Though their gardens are on public grounds, their gardens cannot be considered to be “community gardens” in the common sense of the term, because their gardens are maintained by individuals with their own personal goals; yet, they are more than private home gardens, as the gardens are (and can only be) on community grounds. In order to find out why NYCHA residents garden, and how the public location of their gardens affects their gardening, I spent the summer of 2011 conducting ethnographic research among 5 NYCHA resident gardeners at 3 NYCHA housing developments. All the gardeners were women, ranging in age from 30 to 90 years old. Drawing from my ethnographic fieldwork and scholarly literature regarding class, gender, age, and cultural factors influential to gardening, as well as literature regarding the public/private dichotomy, I found that despite the public location of their gardens, NYCHA resident gardeners are able to use their gardens as personal places for self-expression and enjoyment unique to their personal backgrounds and how they respond to societal expectations, and that because of their public locations the gardens are also valuable to the gardeners by providing an outlet from which to practice the responsibility the gardeners feel they have for the improvement of their community.