HumanNature Series: ‘Taupata, taro, roots, earth: the (Indigenous) politics of gardening’

Taro Leaf Photographer: Rictor Norton & David Allen © Creative Commons - Some rights reserved
Thursday 14 June 2018
6.00 - 7.30pm

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Hallstrom Theatre, Australian Museum, 1 William Street, Sydney, NSW, 2010


Join Alice Te Punga Somerville as she explores the histories and possibilities of Indigenous gardens in the Pacific region.

Colonial projects have long been bound up, in a variety of ways, with the movement, growth and exploitation of plants. But these projects have also traded rhetorically on particular understandings of people’s relationships with plants, like the vein of colonial storytelling in which Indigenous people frolic aimlessly in nature while Europeans busily tame the landscape. But, despite these stories, the purposeful movement of plants is also central to many Indigenous histories and practices.

Drawing on scholarship and activism connected to cultivation by Indigenous peoples, this talk examines texts by Indigenous writers alongside historical and contemporary media texts about gardens and gardening to explore the diverse ways in which relationships (human and non-human) are mediated and nurtured through acts of gardening.

Alice Te Punga Somerville (Te Atiawa, Taranaki) is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Waikato, Aotearoa-New Zealand.

About the Series

From climate change and the sixth mass extinction event, to the pronouncement of a new geological epoch—the ‘Anthropocene,’ the age of humanity—we are increasingly being told that our contemporary period is one of incredible environmental change, and at the same time that human activity is playing an increasingly significant role in shaping the earth and its future possibilities.

In addition to being important scientific and technical challenges, these environmental problems are also profoundly and inescapably social: they are about how we organise our societies and our cities, how we approach questions of ethics and justice, how we find meaning and value in the world. In other words, they concern the deepest dimensions of our human nature, and in so doing perhaps call out for a reconsideration of what it might mean to be human in times like these.

Taking up these important themes, this lecture series will offer a series of talks by leading international scholars in the Environmental Humanities. This emerging, interdisciplinary, field of scholarship draws on the insights of history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, and related disciplines to explore the important roles that the humanities might play in addressing some of the most pressing challenges of our day.

The inaugural, 2018, series includes nine esteemed international and domestic speakers. There is one lecture scheduled each month from February through to October. Further information on each of these speakers and their lecture topics is provided below.

Series Partners

This Lecture Series is jointly funded and coordinated by the Australian Museum, the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, Western Sydney University, and the University of Sydney. The organising committee for the series is comprised of Thom van Dooren and Astrida Neimanis (Sydney), Emily O’Gorman (Macquarie), Judy Motion (UNSW), and Juan Francisco Salazar (Western Sydney).


Tickets for lectures in this series are available to staff and students at partner universities at the reduced rate of $8. Tickets must be purchased in advance online. Please click on “Enter Promotional Code” to apply the discount.

Promotional Code: ENVHUM18

More Information. 

6:00 – 6:30 Welcome, drinks and refreshments
6:30 – 7:30 Lecture