This article argues that the physical structure of the front garden and its ecosystem is determined by an ensemble of diverse social and natural processes. The essential social form is that of visuality, an abstract compositional force that provides conventions for assessing objects as well as for reshaping their surface countenance and establishing their location within the garden. Accordingly, the social processes of visuality are materially realized in the labor processes of gardening, while their consumption is mediated through the concrete process of gazing. The identified social processes include the prospect, aesthetic, and panoptic dimensions of visuality. Labor conceives and creates them, while the physical structures and the natural processes reproduce and maintain them beyond the production time attributed to gardening. But they are increasingly undermined by the natural tendency of the plant ecosystem to grow. Consequently, the essential contradiction of the front garden is how the laws and tendencies of the plant ecosystem act as a countertendency to the social forms of visuality. This article demonstrates that beneath the surface appearance, there exists complex relationships between nature and society in this space we call the front garden.
Eamonn Slater and Michel Peillon
Mary P. Corcoran, Jane Gray, and Michel Peillon
This article aims to demonstrate the significant role children play in new suburban communities, and in particular, the extent to which their circuits of sociability contribute to social cohesion in the suburbs. The discussion is located within the field of sociology of childhood, which argues that children are active agents who help to create and sustain social bonds within their neighborhoods. Drawing on focus group discussions and short essays by children on “The place where I live,” we paint a picture of how suburban life is interpreted and experienced from a child's perspective. We argue that children develop a particular suburban sensibility that structures their view of their estate, the wider neighborhood, and the metropolitan core. Although children express considerable degrees of satisfaction with suburban life, they are critical of the forces that increasingly limit their access to suburban public space.