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Social Dynamics

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Gardening in literature, J. M. Coetzee (1940- ), Life and times of Michael K -- Criticism and interpretation, Ecology, Place (Philosophy) -- Social aspects -- South Africa


In this essay, I argue for “fugitive gardening” as a form of “poaching” or “resignifying,” a radical appropriation of hegemonic spaces and practices that both deconstructs the logics of mastery and hygienic possessiveness that underpin colonial culture, and articulates what we might call a fugitive ecology: a dispossession of self in relation to the environment, a refusal to conceive of land, soil or planet in terms of property. Fugitive gardening sets itself in opposition to the prisons, camps and forts that index South African political history, restorying place, environment, and the self as grounds for community formation, dialogue and cooperation. Through readings of Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K and other examples of literary and material gardening, I show how such cultivation represents a gesture of belonging in a context where such claims are revolutionary, even treasonous; but unlike farm, fort or prison, fugitive gardening stakes a claim to belonging without possession, home without property and ecological care without an investment in the future. As such, gardening entails a very different understanding of self in relation to place, to nature and to future generations, and a reconceptualisation of narrative and language as representational modes.


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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Social Dynamics . Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Social Dynamics, 44(1), 128-145.



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