Creating Community in the City: Cooperatives and Community Gardens in Washington, D.C

Creating Community in the City: Cooperatives and Community Gardens in Washington, D.C

Creating Community in the City: Cooperatives and Community Gardens in Washington, D.C

Creating Community in the City: Cooperatives and Community Gardens in Washington, D.C

Synopsis

Landman studies four communally-oriented settings in Washington's urban environment. Through ethnographic field work she learned that cooperation, sociability, and self management overcame the common urban challenges posed by isolation and largely impersonal, single purpose contact with others. The settings were a cooperative food store, a cooperative bakery, community gardens, and a cooperatively owned low-cost housing project. Landman shows how the participants in these economically related activities are socially bound together in a web of relations considered unusual in large American cities, and how these exceptionally connected urban lives prove very satisfactory.

Excerpt

Creating Community in the City is an ethnographic account set in the Washington, D.C., area. Ethnography is the major research tool of cultural and social anthropologists. Increasingly, it has been used to learn more about our own society, applying as a mirror the rich knowledge gained from thousands of studies in other cultures and societies. When used, as in this instance, for the study of small groups, the research is essentially qualitative. Although anthropologists strive to talk with and to note the full range of actors, and to choose settings with appropriate criteria, there is no attempt made to use sophisticated sampling techniques or to construct survey instruments for purely numerical analysis when working in settings with few participants. Instead, reliance is placed on the ability of the researcher to work with participants to learn as richly as possible about the workings and ideas of those who are part of the groups. That is the field work procedure used here.

The research was carried out among community gardeners, at a cooperatively owned housing development, at a cooperative wholesale bakery, and at a cooperative food market. Without the willing and helpful participation and agreement of each of the many actors in these arenas, this study would have been totally impossible. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity they gave me to carry out what anthropologists call participant-observation. To gather data I did a lot of structured "hanging out," and, where this was appropriate, I participated. This was more in character at the bakery and the food store, where volunteer labor fit the mold easily, and . . .

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