This master thesis aims to contribute to the broader study of ecological initiatives that need to play by the rules of media and markets due to the neoliberal context. Their status of ‘social enterprise’ thus seems to be the mode to address ecological issues. The latter appellation is an ambiguous one that suffers from a gap in empirical qualitative research because of its relatively recent emergence and complexity. The aim of this thesis is therefore to disentangle the paradoxical concept of ‘social enterprise’ and reveal what it entails. In order to do so, this research focuses on the case study of Rotterdamse Munt, a four-year old urban herb garden that has grown from a local community initiative into what its urban farmers define as a ‘social enterprise’. Using previous research on neoliberalism, promotional culture and mediatization of society, this thesis argues that the status of social enterprise means that initiatives strongly rely on communicative practices, not just to communicate about who they are, but also to constitute their very essence. Accordingly, efforts in marketing through self-promotion and branding become constitutive of the existence of the social enterprise, following the neoliberal business culture. Through combining ethnographic fieldwork with a semiotic approach, this thesis tried to understand how urban farmers of Rotterdamse Munt discursively negotiate their status of a ‘social enterprise’. In that respect, the ethnographic research was strongly focused on the similarities but also the differences between how they present themselves and how they reflect on those presentations. The research finds that Rotterdamse Munt has not fully transformed yet into a sustainable ecological social enterprise. Instead, urban farmers were constantly negotiating between the altruistic approach and the commercial approach, resulting in not managing to fully do both. It obliged urban farmers to come up with the combination of two contrasting identities, through the duality of visual identity, services and products, to reach two different types of population. Through adopting a media sociological approach to the study of social enterprise and, more specifically, of the phenomenon of urban farming, this thesis provides new insights into the neoliberal societal context where ecological initiatives and campaigns need to negotiate between altruistic and commercial approaches. The thesis, thereby, contributes to understanding the conditions of sustainable transitions in our contemporary, neoliberal societies.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, culture, society
Thesis Advisor J. Engelbert
Persistent URL
Series Media, Culture & Society
S. Parsisson. (2018, July 9). The creation of a sustainable urban “green oasis” A qualitative study of the discursive making of an ecological social enterprise. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from