“You are what you eat”: Plant-Human Relations in Home Gardens

Lauren Culverwell


Gardening has been conceptualized as a practice that blurs nature-human binaries and connects humans to nature in rapidly urbanising worlds. Based on fieldwork on the Cape Flats, this article explores human interpretations of beyond-human experiences that are engendered in home gardens. It interweaves ethnographic data and theoretical frameworks like posthumanism, multispecies ethnography and actor-network theory to analyse these relationships. I collaborated with six interlocutors and their gardens to reveal how companionships with plants complicate, contest or conform to nature-human binaries. Through gardening, interlocutors recognize otherwise ‘invisible’ elements in the natural world as valued companions that co-produce healthy vegetables and co-create identities, emotions, practices, and justices. I also trace exchanges within the garden, contending that the gardening agents that are perceived capable of maintaining beneficial reciprocities are coded as companions, whilst others that become pests or nuisances. Through these insights, I aim to add nuances to the claims that gardening dissolves human-nature dichotomies.


multispecies; plant-human relations; garden ethnography

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v13i2.11807


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