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The Production, Practice and Potential of ‘Community’ in Edinburgh’s Transition Town Network

AIKEN, GERALD (2014) The Production, Practice and Potential of ‘Community’ in Edinburgh’s Transition Town Network. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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‘Community’ is increasingly seen as a solution to the environmental challenge faced in the UK. This original work critically evaluates schemes utilising ‘community’, focusing on those adopting the Transition Town Network (TTN) name, and those funded through the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF). It is based on qualitative, participative, empirical research with three of Edinburgh’s Transition Town Network groups and eighteen of their initiatives. This thesis charts the production of ‘community’ within these groups, set against the background of ‘community’ rhetoric both within TTN in general, and increasingly UK environmental policy more widely, specifically in the CCF. It then assesses what ‘community’ means – and has come to mean – in this context. ‘Community’ as a term for government capture of innovative political collectives, or as a progressive mobilising force, uniting diverse actors through small-scale belonging, are critically assessed in turn. The thesis argues that the concept of zuhanden – ‘ready-to-hand’, drawn from phenomenology – offers a fruitful way to understand ‘community’. Doing so emphasises and captures the hitherto neglected way in which ‘community’ is acquired, rather than sought. Building on this analysis the thesis then interrogates how ‘community’ as acquired rather than sought is envisioned and enacted in three of Edinburgh’s TTN groups. The thesis argues that this is closely intertwined with the way in which time is understood by such groups; the notion of ‘possible futures’ which are posited by ‘transition’. This is inherently connected to the groups’ view of space, and has implications for how they view and achieve success, and the tensions this creates with surrounding actors. It concludes with an assessment of the barriers or opportunities remaining for such ‘community’ initiatives. Through these issues, the thesis addresses the potentially irreconcilable tensions that exist between the CCF and TTN, and offers valuable lessons for ‘community’ groups in future.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Feb 2014 09:54

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