Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Kristin V. Monroe

Second Advisor

Dr. Hsain Ilahiane


In this dissertation I investigate how gardeners and beekeepers in a small, deindustrial city in Michigan used their activities to produce their environments. Drawing on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, I consider what kind of labor gardening is. For residents of Elmwood, gardening was a way to care for households, communities, and ecosystems. Furthermore, this care was performed through a type of creative, material labor that served to address forms of alienation experienced by these individuals. While all sorts of Elmwoodites gardened, they did so in ways that were specific to their experiences of race and class. These experiences, in turn, were directly shaped by Elmwood’s particular history. Legacies of racial tolerance and discrimination, industrialization and the resulting in-migration of rural Southerners, and the differentiated impacts of deindustrialization have all contributed to the production of social and spatial inequalities based on differences of class and race. I thus examine the ways race- and class-based inequalities shape the kinds of environments gardeners produced through their caring, creative labor. Employing the lenses of social reproduction and environmental gentrification, I discuss the ways gardeners worked to address sociospatial inequalities, as well as they ways their practices maintained them. I conclude that while ongoing racial inequalities and processes of class formation present challenges to gardeners’ desires to produce nurturing multispecies environments, these desires also motivated gardeners to engage with the ways they were entangled with other human and nonhuman beings, engagements that present possibilities for producing more socially equitable and ecologically urban environments.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)