How do your gardens grow? Unearthing meanings in African American church gardens

Prof Doc Thesis

Lamptey, I. (2020). How do your gardens grow? Unearthing meanings in African American church gardens. Prof Doc Thesis London South Bank University School of Law and Social Sciences
AuthorsLamptey, I.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This research sought to discover the kinds of meanings that were attributed to two rural African American church gardens, which were created through a university-community educational outreach project. Using Lefebvre’s (1991) spatial triad, the study first acknowledged that community gardens, like the ones of the study, can be regarded as sites with multiple and often contested meanings. Then drawing on a phenomenological perspective, the purpose was to find the lived meanings of the gardens for the individuals at the churches.
Data was collected through the use of mobile interviewing methods. The adults at the sites took part in walking interviews, and the children carried out garden-themed activity focus groups. All participants were given the use of a digital camera, and photography-elicitation occurred during this time. Garden notes, which recorded specific details and significant observations, were also kept. As the gardens were rich in sensory experiences, ranging from animal sightings to expressions of spiritual wonder, opportunities for different kinds of meaning to arise were rife. Data was analyzed using Vagle’s (2018) wholeparts-whole approach, and themes were also explored to see what the two church gardens had in common and how they differed.
Three key findings emerged about the lived nature of these church gardens. The first theme examined the genius loci, or spirit, of each site. Each garden had its own unique personality in relation to the natural setting, the material structures, and the human needs of those at the churches. Next, two shared themes were also discovered. One was regarding the way in which different garden skill-sets had evolved differently across three generations. The other joint theme concerned issues of garden sustainability. Both churches had reached a turning point where they were seeking to define a clearer role for their gardens. Participants explained some of their concerns regarding people, plants, and structures and shared how possible solutions to sustain the gardens might come about. While many studies have been conducted inside African American churches, few have explored gardens at such settings. This study contributes to the literature around rurally situated African American church gardens.

PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Publication dates
Print26 Jul 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Jun 2023
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Author's note: In order to maintain the authenticity of the participants’ voices of this study, I have chosen to write this in American English. Some quotes have been cited from a British source, and I have kept them in the original. I trust this will not be too distracting for the reader.

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