Affective atmosphere of Mandela Garden



Mandela community garden on 267 West 126th Street embodies Jane Bennett’s term “vibrant matter” or “thing-power” (Bennett, 20). Bennett argues that nonhuman matters that we usually perceive as lifeless and inactive are in fact alive and exert power to create impact. Mandela garden, currently imperiled by New York City’s “affordable” housing project, is a public space that serves as an important social infrastructure to the Harlem neighborhood. With a paucity of green-space and open space in the area, the community garden is powerful in connecting Harlem residents, facilitating community activities, and providing a scarce space for the neighborhood to have direct interactions with nature. Mandela garden influences the experience of residents in the community and the formation of perceptions on the neighborhood. The affective role of Mandela garden develops from its vibrant greenery that exudes a sense of warmth and liveliness despite the surrounding graffiti walls and rundown houses that seem lackluster.

mandelaGarden copy.jpg


However, the current situation of Mandela garden against the development of ridiculously expensive housing units for the neighborhood places a complex layer on top of such affective role. The poster up on the garden fence that reads “#savemandelagarden” in bold letters seems to scream for help to pedestrians who pass by the garden. The garden with the poster suddenly creates an “affective atmosphere,” as Teresa Brennan explains, that alters the impression of the garden as well as its surrounding (Brennan, 1). The warm greenery of the garden with the protest sign on the fence induces an affect of vulnerability, danger, and fury. Brennan mentions “transmission of affect,” which means that “we are not self-contained in terms of our energies.. and there is no secure distinction between the ‘individual’ and the ‘environment” (Brennan, 6). Due to the combination of affects I perceive from Mandela garden, my impression of the garden and the neighborhood alter as I feel tension and great conflict in the atmosphere of the surrounding environment. 

-Sumin Choi

Jane Bennett, Preface, Chapters 1 & 2 in Vibrant Matter, 2010 

Theresa Brennan, from The Transmission of Affect, 2004 

~ by suminchoi2015 on September 23, 2018.

4 Responses to “Affective atmosphere of Mandela Garden”

  1. Best style, voice, affect

    • Even though it’s a short blog post, I like the way you tactically apply concepts including “vibrant matter”, “thing-power” “affective atmosphere” and “transmission of affect” into your exploration of the affective atmosphere of Mandela Garden. The images are bright and informative about the current circumstances of your ecology site.


    Not only can I see the percarity with Mandel Gardens, I can feel it with your writing. The situation with Mandel Gardens was explain very well to me. I was able to be moved and feel the pain of the people there by the possible replacement of it for an expensive high rise apartments. For what cost? At the cost of the community centralize locations where they have gather to bond. This blog shows the injustices that are effective the community and how the community seem to be voice less due it being low income…

  3. When I first heard about this ecology idea, I didn’t really understand the percarity until now, reading this blog post. It was 1. most informative learning it, because I now understand how important it is to the community. The images posted shows that there is an affect, because of the energy the community is putting towards fighting to #savemandelagarden. You communicate that there is and would be a conflict in the community if the garden is taken away.

Comments are closed.