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The Two ‘Ages’ of Modernisation of Allotments: Changing Moral and Aesthetic Models

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Abstract

This chapter sheds light on the principle transformations to allotments taking place in Western Switzerland since the middle of the twentieth century. Based on a methodology combining an analysis of both written and spoken sources, it focuses on two periods (1950–1960 and 2000–2010) characterised by notable regulatory changes, demonstrating the extent to which the action taken by ‘reformers’ of these green spaces is grounded in different moral and aesthetic models, the nature of which mutates over time. Firstly, faced with the spectre of the rural wasteland in an urban setting, this chapter documents the transition, in the mid-twentieth century, of the traditional allotment into a clean, tidy familial pleasure garden. Secondly, we see how, throughout the 2000s, these reforms are undertaken with a view to rethinking the spectacle of the formal garden (in favour of a much more fluid style), and its use (‘less privatised’) in a context where new forms of urban gardening (community gardens), ‘taking up less space’ and ‘more integrated into the urban fabric’, continue to thrive. Finally, the chapter seeks to understand how the social history of these two ‘ages’ of modernisation of allotments can be interpreted as a long process of dual construction based, on the one hand, on a succession of off-putting images produced by the ideological and moral configuration dominant from one historic context to another and, on the other hand, on a process of social regulation and normalisation applied to communities perceived as marginal to or unaffected by mainstream concerns.

Keywords

  • Historical sociology
  • Allotment
  • Social regulation
  • Metamorphoses
  • Moral and aesthetic categories
  • Urbanism
  • Western Switzerland

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This ‘plan’ was approved by the Federal Council (the executive body of the Swiss Confederation) on 29 April 2015.

  2. 2.

    These institutional actors are not always known as reformers, even though they spontaneously agree with the notion of garden reform and the ‘urgency’ of it.

  3. 3.

    Federation of Community Gardens of Geneva.

  4. 4.

    The expressions of which are sometimes quite concrete, as at the beginning of the twenty-first century: revisions to the space allotted to the vegetables plot/sheds, revised layouts and access to the plots and a rethinking of the links between them and their immediate surroundings.

  5. 5.

    Between 1950 and 1970, Switzerland went through a phase of impressive economic expansion: its gross national product grew four times as quickly as it did before World War II (an average of 4.5% per year). The population grew from 4.7 million inhabitants to 6.3 million by 1970 thanks, in part, to international migration. In 1950, 62.2% of the population lived in communes of more than 2000 inhabitants (compared to 52.1% in 1900). By 1970, the rate of urbanisation reached 77.7% (Thomas 2013: 107).

  6. 6.

    A grouping is a body of the FGJF or Federation of Community Gardens of Geneva. Each grouping consists of a committee ensuring the proper management of the plots (location and granting of plots, admission of new members, exclusion, etc.) within the statutory limits of the FGJF. The terms of the lease determine the length of time for which an allotment is granted or how long the land is available. Each person renting a plot becomes a member of the grouping, membership which ceases when he or she no longer rents the plot. Each member renting a plot also becomes the owner of a garden shed.

  7. 7.

    More generally, the changes which took place during this period were innumerable. Without going into detail, we can mention ‘the historically exceptional increase in income; the unprecedented educational development; the setting up of a welfare state with its extended coverage of health and housing needs, protection of the family and, little by little, drop-outs from society as a whole; the disappearance of urban slums […]; the start of mass consumption and access for ever-expanding segments of society to household appliances, television, telephone, holidays, etc. The list is never-ending, but the crucial point to mention is the context of full employment’ (Chauvel 2010: 65).

  8. 8.

    Report of the Cantonal Federation of Allotments, 17 July 1954, in the archives of the Genevan Federation of Home Gardens’.

  9. 9.

    To respect the anonymity of the three sites under investigation, we are obliged to use pseudonyms. Thus, ‘Le Temple’, ‘Le Grand-Chêne’ and, later, La Plaine-des-Renards’ are completely fictitious names. Note that, just as the work was published in 2015, two of the afore-mentioned groups (‘Le Temple’ and ‘La Plaine-des-Renards’) were moved to new emplacements.

  10. 10.

    According to our analysis of FGJF (2010) statistics, of the 1335 gardeners who had indicated their profession at the time of their application for an allotment in Geneva, 78.4% were working class (employees and workers), 17.2% were middle class and 4.4% were categorised as ‘other’ (homemakers, small-business owners and the unemployed). Other surveys came to the similar conclusion that there is an over-representation of the working class in these places. Weber (1998: 70) notes, for example, that, of the two sites visited during her ethnographic survey, three-quarters of the employees were in the public sector: the electricity board, the RATP transport company, the railways, welfare, the police and local authorities. She concluded that ‘[…] thus a portrait is revealed of a respectable working class with stable employment’.

  11. 11.

    Cantonal Federation of Allotments (Genevan section). Le Jardin familial, op. cit., No. 1, March 1950: 1. Similar developments have been noted in France: Although at the turn of the century the rhetoric used by members of the League highlighted social distance (e.g. in the use of the term ‘those good people’), familiarity is today emphasised (e.g. in the term ‘the lads’) (Florence Weber, op. cit.: 100).

  12. 12.

    Philanthropical motivations are behind the upgrading of family values at the heart of the federation’s official designations. For example, in France and Belgium, Ligues du coin de terre et du foyer (Leagues of Earth and Hearth) were set up in 1896.

  13. 13.

    ‘Genevan Federation of Allotments, 75 years’, op.cit.: 5.

  14. 14.

    With their increased public visibility at the turn of the twenty-first century, these environmental and managerial concerns promote the urban trend towards ‘sustainable development’, a concept which received a great deal of publicity after the Rio Summit of 1992 (Dubost 2010) and which plays an important role in the structuring and legitimation of public action at the level of urban planning (Lafaye and Thévenot 1993; Lascoumes 1994; Ollitrault 2001).

  15. 15.

    The next section draws on Frauenfelder et al. (2014).

  16. 16.

    From 2003, the coverage in the media of certain studies supports the ‘academic’ legitimisation of the negative image of the ‘polluting gardener’ (see ‘Des jardins familiaux pas très bio’—‘The not-so-bio allotments’—http://www.rts.ch/video/emissions/abe/396748-des-jardins-familiaux-pas-tres-bio.html.

  17. 17.

    This party’s influence on the promotion of this type of allotment would seem to originate in a grass-roots movement. Dubost (1994: 1) highlights that the fashion nowadays for gardens and horticulture is ‘in line with the ecological movement’.

  18. 18.

    A situation which will only get worse with the outward spread of towns and cities and the relocalisation and resettlement of many groupings.

  19. 19.

    This is why, in France, the idea of the ‘shared garden’ is preferred over that of the ‘community garden’, a term which could cause some confusion: a garden that is ‘communal or of the community’ could wrongly be perceived as belonging to a single community, which is in complete contrast to the spirit of this type of collective garden.

  20. 20.

    ‘Unlike the dream of taming nature, which we find in French-style gardens, in squares laid out by Haussmann and even in the green spaces of the 1970s, shared gardens offer an abundant, freer and wilder vegetation […]. The hand of the gardener is there, but the imprint is more gentle (Baudelet et al. 2008: 16). In other words, the landscape is the result of a cultural vision and of a certain ‘artialisation’ of nature (Paquot 2016) rather than a constant presence in all cultures.

  21. 21.

    From a legal point of view, the state guarantees the existence of allotments and takes responsibility for managing their construction or demolition, as well as for collecting rents. The state remains the true owner. For those families who have been granted an allotment, this creates a somewhat ambiguous situation: lessee of their plot, but owner of their shed, given that they bought it when they took over the allotment or will pass it on to the next lessee when they give up the plot (on the basis of an FGJF estimation).

  22. 22.

    Holding the monopoly as far as legitimate symbolic violence is concerned, it embodies in our highly differentiated societies a moment of recognition of ‘public interest’ via a formalisation and dramatisation blessed with a non-negligible symbolic efficacy (Bourdieu 2012).

  23. 23.

    Together, in the early 2000s, the FGJF and the FSJF (Swiss Federation of Allotments) edited a brochure designed to make gardeners aware of the damage caused by the use of fertilisers and pesticides (FSJF 2001). About ten years later, the FSJF once again published a brochure on the same topic entitled ‘Allotments in harmony with nature’ (Müller et al. 2010), which was intended to support its members ‘in making their allotments more eco-friendly’.

  24. 24.

    See Le Caro et al. (2016).

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Correspondence to Arnaud Frauenfelder .

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Frauenfelder, A. (2018). The Two ‘Ages’ of Modernisation of Allotments: Changing Moral and Aesthetic Models. In: Glatron, S., Granchamp, L. (eds) The Urban Garden City . Cities and Nature. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72733-2_4

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