Immigrant home gardens and socialising future generations

As an English immigrant to this Mediterranean metropolis, whose “garden” consists of a few plastic and earthenware pots on a small balcony in view of a dozen similar balconies, I found myself relating to this research article whilst at the same time envying its subjects, i.e. immigrants who have private gardens in which to develop a sense of place that blends “the old place back home” with their new environment.

It’s not that I haven’t had space to enact similar practices to those described by the researcher.  Last summer a heavily-scented pink rose bloomed for a few days on this humble balcony, and in a private moment I dedicated it to my late grandmother–she would call me wherever I was living in the world, and this was my way of imaginatively, perhaps even spiritually, reviving that connection.

In contrast, going into my parent’s garden and checking on the state of the apple tree is also a way for me to reattach myself with my “other home”.  (Thanks to cheapish kerosene, negative externalities, and modern transport infrastructure, I get to live a multi-centred life).

Returning to Mazumdar and Mazumdar’s paper…  It’s just I got to the end of it and wondered what immigrants without private gardens do to “engage with, personalize, and experience their new environment in deeply meaningful ways”.  Another issue for another paper, perhaps.

But what it did crystallise for me was an essential place principle: when it comes to thinking about places and how we allow them to change and take on new signs, shapes and surfaces, we should never lose sight of the fact that places play a hugely important role in socialising the young, as well as visitors and incomers.  This is especially relevant to public and shared places.  Hence, our concerns when (re)development plans look set to change a place that really matters to us.  What kind of place will be bequeathed to those yet to come?  How will this place socialise future generations?  What will it say to visitors?  On what terms will this place welcome newcomers?  What kind of relationships will future generations form with this place?  Will it nurture them?  

2 Comments on “Immigrant home gardens and socialising future generations”

  1. Reading this blog it strikes me that a thorough analysis of the concept of ‘sense of place’ is needed more than ever in this fast, interconnected, mobile and increasingly populous world.

    As an old Englishman I can still remember that 50 years ago a trip to France from my home was considered a distant step into an exotic world. My identity was clearly defined by my place of birth, and the limited ‘boundaries’ [by today’s view] of my experience. My sense of belonging wasn’t even in question, nor was my cultural identity; no multi-centred realities for me!

    Why do i think this thorough analysis is important? Put simply, I feel stakeholders in changes, powerful [very wealthy?] developers, as well as politicians are not sensitive to this concept and therefore are simply unable to conceive of the damage they do to both urban and rural environments.
    The negative impacts of their decisions on various localities and communities are of little consideration, and are sacrifices worth making on the alter of ‘growth’.

    More integrity and understanding is urgently needed more than ever as well as the WILL to be sensitive to the consequences of what we do, and what we leave to the next generations. If that understanding develops there will still be the task of teasing out what is worth preserving, defending, or promoting in this highly ‘fluid’ world in which we live.

    Any reader will see from below that I am related to the Sense of Place blogger. I can verify that the apple tree is still here and waiting for the attentions of my son. He, like many of his generation, have a harder [but interesting] time exploring their identity than I did when I was their age!

  2. xplorer says:

    Fascinating and stimulating. Reading the father’s comments I can see how son developed such a sensitivity to his world and we are the richer for that.

    One story I heard about Maria Montessri (I can’t verify all of it) was that she practiced as a community doctor (general practitioner) in Naples and would often treat patients who had moved to the city from rural parts of the country often less than 100 miles away. They would complain of several maladies (headaches, nausea, listlessness, sleeplessness) of which there was no apparent physical cause. Dr Montessori identified it as “Homesickness”. These men and women were out of touch with the environment that had shaped them and issed all the sensory cues used to maintain health and vitality. She prescribed a week’s holiday in their home environment and nearly always this cure worked.

    Sadly I think in this modern plasticised, homogenised world we’ve numbed ourselves completely to such subtle clues. It shows just how much we are “sleep walking” through life.

    Conscious Travel is all about developing “awake, aware and alert” hosts who can help their visitors develop a sensitivity to their surroundings.

    Perhaps one indicator of whether a “Conscious Host” has re-gained a deep sense of place would be whether Homesickness occurs when they leave it!

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