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Reclaiming Freak Soils Reclaiming Freak Soils: From Conquering to Journeying with Urban Soils

Abstract : Many contemporary analyses of soil-humans relations seem to imply that once soil is understood as a living compound rather than an inert substrate, more ethical and careful relations with them ensue. This chapter challenges this assumption by comparing two sets of practices that self-define as soil reclaiming practices in an urban context. I first briefly introduce the work of soil scientists who attempt to construct soils from scratch to re-green wastelands in France and show how these projects link to narratives of conquest or control over ruderal land. I then more thoroughly examine a group of urban gardeners’ techniques of making ‘Soiling mounds’ and ‘Dry-stone soils’ to build soil on the abandoned Petite Ceinture railway in Paris. I show how these reclaiming practices link to a power struggle for re-animating soils, skills, and communities. Even though both approaches rely on a perception of soils as alive, important, and complex, they differ by framing their practices either as the fixing of a problem or as an empowering journey. The chapter describes the conjoint production of soils, knowledge, and sociality in both these approaches and draws links with the more general field of care studies.
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Germain Meulemans. Reclaiming Freak Soils Reclaiming Freak Soils: From Conquering to Journeying with Urban Soils. Juan Francisco Salazar; Céline Granjou; Matthew Kearnes; Anna Krzywoszynska; Manuel Tironi. Thinking with Soils. Material Politics and Social Theory, Bloomsbury, pp.157-174, 2020, 9781350109599. ⟨hal-02882904⟩

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