Occupied Orchards and Public Plant Rituals in Barcelona: An Ethnography of Shifting Relations to the Natural World and Spatial Re-Appropriations of the City
Since the early 2000s, Barcelona has experienced a rapid growth in public green space. Congested roads and abandoned factories have become filled with trees and subterranean fungal networks, while neighbours gather around communal composts. My project focuses on individuals across the city whose shifting relations to the natural world have led them to expand and engage with green space in the city, whether through spatial re-appropriations or more fleeting rituals. More broadly, my research aims to shine light on shifting modes of personhood, public spatial politics and forms of inter-species sociality underway in Barcelona’s public and hidden green zones. The often illegal creation of green space echoes municipal projects radically transforming the city along more ecological lines.
While the green spaces spreading through Barcelona are driven by individuals who are motivated by an array of historical and contemporary sociocultural factors, shared discourses weave their way through these sites. Through my current fieldwork in three grassroots urban gardens, and tracing land-based rituals through the Barcelona cityscape, I explore overarching themes including eco-socialist concepts which critique the industrial agricultural industry’s negative effects on human and climate health and a sense that everyday relations to the global ecosystem must be re-materialised through direct action. My research aims to delve into a series of issues with resonance across contemporary anthropological scholarship: The increasing focus of governmental and grassroots heritage discourses towards natural landscapes and agricultural traditions; how interactions between humans and plants shift in relation to conceptions of the local and global ecosystem; the increase of sharing economies in European cities and the role of collective organic waste management within this; values from peasant and ‘common’ land practises brought to cities through rural-urban migration and lastly, how religious (and primarily, Jewish) groups ritually engage in urban heritage sites through emergent ethical considerations of the natural world.
After my BA in English Literature (UCL) and a year spent as a freelance photojournalist in Barcelona, I completed an MSc in Anthropology (UCL) in 2018. Following ethnographic research in one of Cordoba’s most historic mosques, I explored Spanish Moroccan Muslims’ historical consciousness of Spain’s Islamic past and this related to public and private modes of religiosity. My MRes in anthropology (SOAS) focused on the relation between public displays of Jewishness in Barcelona and the global growth of minority groups who display their cultural or ethnic traditions through the heritage industry since the 1980s. This research culminated in my co-organisation of a three-day workshop exploring public Jewish identity, while I also co-ordinated the Jewish-Muslim Research Network and continue to write journalistic articles. My PhD, in the anthropology department of SOAS, University of London, is ESRC funded.
For any interest in or questions about my research, or journalistic commissions, email me at: email@example.com