Revitalising urban public green space : Exploring lived experiences of teenage girls in socio-economically challenged neighbourhoods in Stockholm,Sweden, using Google Maps
Sammanfattning: Urban public green space is a core contributor to cultural ecosystem services in cities, comprising the non-material benefits that people obtain from contact with nature. Due to the many benefits that have been ascribed to it, green space has become subject to debates on justice about its fair distribution and equal opportunities to use it. Teenage girls living in socio-economically challenged neighbourhoods appear to belong to a societal group that is restricted in accessing green space, as well as having less opportunities to influence the governance of such space. Attempting to bring further light to these issues, this study utilises a phenomenological approach in which intersectionality theory is central. It aims to explore how intersections of identity markers, such as age, gender, and place of residence, interact with girls’ lived experiences of green space. It does so by collecting first-person narratives in eight interactive and online interviews with the support of satellite, aerial and street view imagery provided by Google Maps. The result shows the great complexity of urban public green space as a place with room for both feelings of liberty and feelings of exclusion. The girls’ narratives unveil how urban green is an important source for well-being and quality of life, and how connection with nature enables connection with loved ones, the community, and with oneself. Simultaneously, identity markers, such as age, gender, and place of residence, intersect into a synergy of exclusion for teenage girls to fully encounter urban nature. Feelings of urban public green space as a place occupied by others contribute to experiences of it as inappropriate and unsafe for girls to visit in certain places during certain times. This suggests how green space works as an arena for power relations, where the opportunities for girls to benefit from its free use and from cultural ecosystem services decrease under certain circumstances. Narratives and myths that green space is dangerous for girls paint a geography of fear; in which fear of becoming a victim of crime is expressed as a fear of space. This fear increases with preconceptions and self-images that girls are defenceless and weak. Furthermore, these experiences intersect with feelings that their neighbourhoods, and the green wherein, are framed adversely and neglected by planners, politicians, municipalities and the government. Still, the girls express great appreciation and pride over the voluminous public green areas in their neighbourhoods. Despite experiencing less power to influence, they have strong visions and aspirations to impact the design and function of urban nature, which indicates prospects for empowerment and revitalisation of green space. It is concluded that recognising lived experiences of girls is essential when working towards safe and accessible, but also lively and inviting, green space. Furthermore, it is argued that insights from intersectionality is valuable when researching use of green space, as intersectionality is a profoundly spatial concept; in which social categories articulate in relation to place and time, and where power and identity contribute at shaping experiences of green space.
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