Dissertation title: Words from the Ground Indirect Interactions in Community Gardens in Philadelphia
Committee: Andrew Abbott (chair), Omar McRoberts, Susan Gal (Anthropology)
My dissertation explores various forms of social interaction that take place in community gardens, and the role they play in shaping the social dynamics and the sense of community among garden members. Traditionally, linguistic sociology has focused on verbal and direct social interactions. However, these theoretical frameworks have largely overlooked the grammar, structure and characteristics of various forms of indirect interactions – a commonsensical term that often encompasses social interactions that do not require verbal speech and/or physical copresence of the participants. Interactions like these have an important role in our modern social lives. The community garden gives us a unique opportunity to study indirect interaction in great detail, because such interaction often unfolds at a much slower pace. My dissertation focuses on the social dynamics in a selection of community gardens in Philadelphia of different sizes, history, membership demographics and organization structures using a mixed method of surveys, interviews, and participant observation. Through these case studies, I try to develop a definition of indirect interaction. I also explore the mechanism and characteristics of slow indirect interaction in these gardens, how the contextual ideology of these interactions is shaped and negotiated, the relationship and interaction between indirect and direct interaction, and the impact of both these interactions on the sense of community among garden members.