The Nature of Society: Enmapping Nature, Space and Society into a Town-green Hybrid


  • Louis Rice University of England, Bristol, UK



Hybrid, actor-network, space, power, informal, urban


The paper describes the transformation of derelict land into a ‘town-green’ and the role legislation played in transforming social and natural relationships. Town-green denotes a legal status under the Great Britain Commons Act (2006) that protects certain open spaces from building development; the status requires that a space must simultaneously have a specific social quality (i.e. ‘town-ness’) and a specific natural quality (i.e. ‘green-ness‘). This hybrid condition requires an alliance between society and nature in a certain configuration (referred to here as nature2 and society2). In this empirical study it involved the participation and consensus of local residents, volunteer gardeners as well as nature itself; flowers needed to bloom and grass had to grow in order for the hybrid town-green status to be conferred. There are two distinct phases of this transformation; the first is the change in identities and configuration of the constituents of town and green. This involved the production of a modified ‘real’ world with: different plants and flowers; reconfigured spatial arrangements; as well as different social actors. The second phase is a shift from changes in the ‘real’ world towards an ‘enmap’ – a displacement of myriad actors into documentation. This transfer from a complex messy reality into an enmap permitted the legitimation of the new network to be accepted as a ‘town-green’. What the research reveals, other than hints for gardeners and community activists, is how material and non-material; social and natural; spatial, discursive and temporal worlds are hybridised.


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