In the Shadow of a Willow Tree: A Community Garden Experiment in Decolonising, Multispecies Research

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Kate Wright


In 2014 I commenced a postdoctoral project that involved collaboratively planting and maintaining a community garden on a block of land that was once part of the East Armidale Aboriginal Reserve in the so-called New England Tableland region of New South Wales, Australia. At the edge of this block of land is an introduced, invasive willow tree. In this article I write with and alongside the willow tree to interrogate the potential and limitations of anticolonial projects undertaken from colonial subject positions predicated on relations of social and environmental privilege.

Anticolonial scholarly activism demands a critique of individual and institutional complicity with ongoing colonial power structures. The following analysis offers a personal narrative of what it has been like to be involved in an anticolonial multispecies research project while working within the confines of the neoliberal university. Exploring the intersection of academic, social and environmental ecologies, I position the community garden as an alternative pedagogical and public environmental humanities research site that interrupts the reproduction of settler colonial power relations by cultivating tactics of collective resistance in alliance with the nonhuman world.

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Author Biography

Kate Wright, Postdoctoral Research Fellow School of Arts University of New England

Kate Wright is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of New England, Armidale, where her research focuses on the role played by more-than-human communities in working toward social and environmental justice, with a particular emphasis on decolonisation in Australia. Her current project is a collaboration with Armidale’s Aboriginal community to develop and maintain a community garden at the old East Armidale Aboriginal Reserve site as an activist platform for Aboriginal reclamation and cultural revival. Her publications include 'Transdisciplinary Journeys in the Anthropocene: More-than-human Encounters' (2017) and she is co-editor of the Living Lexicon section of 'Environmental Humanities'.