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Participation and wellbeing in urban greenspace : 'curating sociability' for refugees and asylum seekers.

Rishbeth, Clare and Blachnicka-Ciacek, Dominika and Darling, Jonathan (2019) 'Participation and wellbeing in urban greenspace : 'curating sociability' for refugees and asylum seekers.', Geoforum., 106 . pp. 125-134.


This paper examines how asylum seekers and refugees experience urban greenspaces. Whilst often overlooked in a focus on support services and integration, we argue that critically exploring the importance of urban greenspaces has wider implications for understanding how asylum seekers and refugees navigate experiences of displacement and resettlement. Drawing on empirical work foregrounding refugee experiences in Berlin, London, and Sheffield, we found that spending time outdoors in local recreational spaces such as parks, can have positive outcomes for wellbeing and inclusion, with the potential to support respite and the beginnings of belonging. However, though there were multiple positive accounts, especially of busier parks and of appreciating nature, many participants were uncertain or anxious about using parks. The interviews highlight the multiple barriers faced by asylum seekers and refugees, regarding information, legibility and in gaining the cultural capital and confidence needed venture out. The varied experiences reflect the diversity of greenspace typologies in Northern European cities, and also how individuals weight up public perceptions and, for some, the insecurity of their legal status. In unpacking the interaction between these barriers, we define and propose ‘curated sociability’ approaches as possible frameworks for supporting egalitarian participation and offering pathways to greater engagement. We conclude by highlighting a range of interventions that offer situated opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees to engage with urban greenspaces, and which provide insights into how the expectations and rules of urban greenspace are actively negotiated and may be rewritten.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Date accepted:19 July 2019
Date deposited:27 August 2019
Date of first online publication:19 August 2019
Date first made open access:27 August 2019

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