Urban SocioNatures

Our research analyzes the transformations of the representations of nature and the city that accompany the development of new understandings of the city as a living space for species and creatures other than human.

Drawing upon social and political theory, it further analyzes the evolutions of the production and governance of urban green spaces, and the usages of nature as a governing tool


Living cemeteries? The vegetal politics of Swiss graveyards

The architecture and landscape of cemeteries in Protestant Switzerland reflect a secularized approach to death. Gravel dominates the visual landscape, and suggests a will both to attenuate passions and to contain social practices.  Recent years, however, have witnessed the development of livelier cemetery landscapes. 

Weeds have come not only to be increasingly tolerated, but willingly mobilized to produce dynamic green landscapes. This emerging graveyard ecology raises questions as to the transformation of the meanings attached to the place of death, the usages of nature to signify it, and the social practices that develop alongside this changing landscape. This research is currently being undertaken by Marion Ernwein, with fieldwork in the canton of Geneva.

Contact: Marion.Ernwein(at)unifr.ch

Neoliberal urban natures

This research draws upon Marion Ernwein’s PhD on the transformations undergone by urban nature within processes of neoliberal restructuration. It explores the implementation of governance beyond the state and the changing roles of citizens, civil organizations and enterprises in the production of urban nature.

It analyses the adoption of managerial governmental tools and their effects on the work of caring for parks. Focusing on the usages made of nature within an economy of events, it explores the development of an environmental governmentality. It further sheds light on the representations and materialities of nature that are produced by, and productive of, urban neoliberal reforms.

Contact: Marion.Ernwein(at)unifr.ch


  • Ernwein, M. (2015) Jardiner la ville néolibérale: la fabrique urbaine de la nature. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Geneva.

Urban gardening and agriculture in the neoliberal city

This research builds upon Marion Ernwein’s PhD work to explore the paradoxical place of urban agriculture in neoliberal cities. While early research on urban agriculture dominantly depicted it as an emancipatory grassroots practice disrupting neoliberal urbanism, recent research has called for a more critical engagement with its various forms and the manifold actors engaged in its development.

This research places its focus on the rationales developed by municipalities to justify their (non-)involvement in urban agriculture development. It explores the embeddedness of such discourses within wider political-economic problematics.

Contact: Marion.Ernwein(at)unifr.ch


  • Ernwein, M. (2014) “Framing urban gardening and agriculture: On space, scale and the public”. Geoforum, vol. 56, pp. 77-86.
  • Ernwein, M. & Salomon Cavin, J. (2014) « Au-delà de l’agrarisation de la ville : l’agriculture peut-elle être un outil d’aménagement urbain ? Discussion à partir de l’exemple genevois ». Géocarrefour, vol. 88, n° 1-2, pp. 31-40.

Unit of Geography - Chemin du Musée 4 - 1700 Fribourg - Tel +41 26 / 300 90 10 - Fax +41 26 / 300 9746
nicole.equey [at] unifr.ch - Swiss University