Social change performed through the practice of allotment gardening

  • Victoria Whittaker

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis asks what the practice of allotment gardening can tell us about social change.Through interviews and participant observation, it explores allotment gardening as a food provisioning practice, and interrogates how it fits with other food-provisioning practices. It also seeks to situate allotment gardening – in which the individual is both producer and consumer –within an alternative food network paradigm, and tease out whether this distinction makes a difference to how individuals approach issues of ethical consumption. I draw on Giddens’s structuration theory and contemporary practice theory to identify the elements of allotment gardening as a practice. Subsequently, I use the data collected from my fieldwork to reflect upon the strengths and limitations of practice theory as an analytical approach to social change.My findings indicate that allotment gardeners did not systematically share the motivations of ethical consumers but that allotment gardening nonetheless achieved some of the aims of ethical consumption. My research also makes a twofold contribution to contemporary practice theory. First, detailed data analysis demonstrates the multi-layered role that social geographic notions of place/space play in the performance of allotment practice; a dimension which could be more fully developed in further research. Second, in support of current thinking that practices must be analysed not in isolation but in combination if we are to account for social change, I argue that a shift in emphasis is necessary to realise the potential of Reckwitz’s notion of the individual as the ‘unique crossing point’ of practices. This involves situating the individual as the determining element within practice, rather than just one element among others. My data further demonstrates how focusing on the individual as a crossing point of social networks reveals the significant impact that relationships have upon practices.
Date of Award20 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPam Lowe (Supervisor)


  • alternative food networks,
  • practice theory
  • ethics of consumption

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