The settler garden: A. L. Constantine-Rogers, Space to Grow: ‘the Garden’ as a Place of Colonial and Capitalist Displacement, Control, and Social Transformation, MA dissertation, Utrecht University, 2021


Abstract: ‘The garden’ as both a conceptual framework and a material locality acts as a lush site of cultural analysis that helps investigate multiple phenomena, including climate change, colonialism, capitalism, and social transformation. This thesis analyzes these multiple interlocking systems of oppression through using ‘the garden’ as both a lens to help reveal these power structures, as well as an avenue to view how power operates within them. By analyzing the Anthropocene, including its universalizing language that does not consider the unequal causes and effects of climate change, ‘the garden’ is located within a temporal spatiality. Moreover, implicating colonialism and capitalism in the deleterious effects of climate change through Heather Davis and Zoe Todd’s critique of the Anthropocene, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s critique of capitalist systems, Sara Ahmed’s discourse on ‘anxiety,’ and José Esteban Muñoz’s ‘queerness as horizon,’ the universalizing narratives of ‘the end’ due to climate disaster are challenged. As new diverse and subversive ways of countering capitalism, colonialism, and environmental degradation are emerging, they frequently do not critically examine how those systems of oppression are intricately related to each other. Given this gap in research, this thesis discusses how the garden operates in settler colonial, capitalist societies as well as how it operates outside or in opposition to these frameworks. Grounding the analysis in settler colonial studies, gender studies, anti-capitalist and anti-colonial, and anti-racist frameworks, this thesis investigates power structures that hinder the necessary deconstruction of oppressive systems. Only through active subversion of hierarchies of oppression can ‘the garden’ become a means of challenging hegemony. When these systems are challenged, the ways in which it created splintered versions of ‘futurity’ emerges, allowing us to imagine how the garden can be utopic, dystopic, and transformative, and thus a location of social transformation.

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