The Clearing: Heidegger’s Lichtung and The Big Scrub

Rob Garbutt


Abstract

Clearings make settlement possible. Whether on a small scale using an axe and other hand implements to make way for a dwelling and a garden, or on a large scale with a chain strung between two D9 bulldozers in preparation for a major agribusiness development, the process of clearing creates spaces for installing something new. This paper uses the idea of (the) clearing, as practice, process, outcome and metaphor, to examine the installation of the locals in a settler society. Using Lismore on the far-north coast of New South Wales, Australia, as a case example, the particular work of clearing that is discussed here is a practice that enables a form of colonisation and settlement that distances itself from its history of migration. This is a history of settler locals who were 'always here', and a colonial form of clearing clears the land and the mind of troubling pasts and of troubling presences. For the locals within a place, then, clearing manages and simplifies a complex set of social and material relations, histories and identities.

Using Anthony Appiah's concept the 'space clearing gesture', the paper concludes with a reflection on the space in which the idea of "the clearing" and this paper appears. Do places, in this instance rural places, provide a type of clearing in which certain ideas might appear that may not appear elsewhere? If situatedness matters then the diversity of places where thinking is done is important for our ecology of thought, and in connection with this, perhaps what 'rural cultural studies' does is clear a particular type of space for thinking.

Keywords

clearing; Heidegger; Lismore, NSW; settler colonialism

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