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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.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social Dynamics on March 14, 2018, available online:



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