How the Nonhuman World Influences Homeowner Yard Management in the American Residential Macrosystem

Jesse M. Engebretson, Kristen C. Nelson, Laura A. Ogden, Kelli L. Larson, J. Morgan Grove, Sharon J. Hall, Dexter H. Locke, Diane E. Pataki, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Tara L.E. Trammell, Peter M. Groffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Although the yard is a hybrid social and material landscape, much social science research emphasizes the socio-cultural factors and has mostly neglected the potentially important influence of plants, animals, and the nonliving material world on homeowners’ decision-making. Using interviews across six metropolitan areas in the United States, we investigated the ways residential yards’ nonhuman context is perceived to influence homeowners’ relationships with and planning for their yards. We found that nonhuman dynamics establish boundaries of yard-related decision-making, and that homeowners described their relations with the nonhuman context of the yard as cooperative, oppositional, and negotiable. We call for social science in urban spaces to be more explicitly informed by a consideration of nonhuman agency, and offer an ethical reflection of who or what is considered to have a right to cohabitate in homeowners’ yards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-356
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Actor-network theory United States
  • Interspecies cosmopolitanism
  • Nonhuman agency
  • Residential yards
  • Urban greening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Anthropology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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