Urban Foraging and the Relational Ecologies of Belonging

LECOMPTE, Joyce - University of Washington Department of Anthropology
Melissa R. POE - NOAA & University of Washington, Washington SeaGrant
Rebecca MCLAIN - Portland State University
Patrick HURLEY - Ursinus College

Through a discussion of urban foraging in Seattle, Washington, USA, we examine how people’s plant and mushroom harvesting practices in cities are linked to relationships with species, spaces, and ecologies. Bringing a relational approach to political ecology, we discuss the ways that these particular nature–society relationships are formed, legitimated, and mobilized in discursive and material ways in urban ecosystems. Engaging closely with, and as foragers, we develop an ethnographically grounded ‘relational ecologies of belonging’ framework to conceptualize and examine three constituent themes: cultural belonging and identity, belonging and place, and belonging and more-than-human agency. Through this case study, we show the complex ways that urban foraging is underpinned by interconnected and multiple notions of identity, place, mobility, and agency for both humans and more-than-human interlocutors. The focus on relational ecologies of belonging illuminates important challenges for environmental management and public space planning in socioecologically diverse areas. Ultimately, these challenges reflect negotiated visions about how we organize ourselves and live together in cosmopolitan spaces such as cities.