Ecological restoration in post-settler landscapes: rewilding, decolonization or place-making practice?
(University of Western Australia)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines moral discourses surrounding attempts to restore former farmland in Western Australia. What constitutes ‘good’ ecological restoration, for whom are such activities good, and how do such activities relate to broader concerns regarding decolonization and place-making?
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines moral discourses surrounding attempts to restore former farmland in the south of Western Australia. Given the extent to which the ecology and hydrology of the region has been transformed, what constitutes 'good' ecological restoration and who decides this within a landscape experiencing rapid demographic change? Given contested histories of land occupation, for whom are such activities good, and how do such activities relate to broader concerns regarding decolonization and place-making in post settler societies? For many Australians, growing sympathy towards Indigenous Australians' prior claims to 'country' finds expression in what anthropologist Deborah Bird Rose has termed 'decolonisation'; a process of historical re-examination and social, cultural, political and ecological regeneration. Sensitive engagement with decolonisation may offer non-Indigenous Australians the opportunity to atone for environmental damage and Indigenous dispossession.. Yet such activities which may allow landholders to realize - or assert - a form of 'custodial belonging' akin to that of the Indigenous traditional owners of the land may also risk reproducing historical processes of appropriation and dispossession. Moreover, for many newcomers engaged in ecological restoration activities, their 'naturework' is deemed commensurate with the 'good life', yet how do such values sit alongside other narratives of land, identity and productive labour? In examining these questions this paper combines ethnographic research and textual evidence and interprets it through recent theoretical perspectives on place-based identity and the politics of dwelling.
Moral horizons of land and place