AGHS National Conference 2021 Presentation

The Pleasures and Politics of Gardening in NSW

Presenter: Professor Grace Karskens

Running time: 49 mins
File download format: M4V (MPEG-4)

Keynote: The pleasures and politics of gardening in the colony of New South Wales
Gardens and gardening are key expressions of culture and the way people see their worlds: how they conceive of land, space, and the more-than-human world of plants, animals and insects. So gardens can be read ethnographically, as complex and intricate archives of world-views, ambitions, morality and character, but also simple tastes and pleasures.

In this presentation Grace explores the fundamental relationship between geology, soils and gardening in the early colony of New South Wales, the surprisingly global tastes of the gardening colonists and the way gardens and cultivation were powerfully linked to colonisation through the idea of ‘civilisation’. But what if we rethink what gardening actually is and who does it? How might this transform the familiar dichotomies of nature and culture, the bush and the garden, coloniser and colonised?

Professor Grace Karskens
Grace Karskens is Professor of History and Public Humanities at the University of New South Wales. She is a leading authority on early colonial Australia, cross-cultural history, and environmental history. Her research and writing have transformed and changed the way we understand Australian colonial and cross-cultural history and reached national and international audiences. Her books have won prestigious prizes, including the 2010 Prime Minister’s Award for Non-Fiction for The Colony: A History of Early Sydney. Her next book People of the River: Lost Worlds of Early Australia was published by Allen & Unwin in September 2020.

Grace began her career as a freelance historian and has a lifelong commitment to bringing good history to wide audiences through writing, speaking and teaching. She is an active contributor to several major cultural and government organisations, including Sydney Living Museums, the State Library of New South Wales and the online Dictionary of Sydney. Her work has informed films, television and radio programs, museum exhibitions and has inspired public art. Grace was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy for the Humanities in 2010. She is a keen gardener.

Photograph by Joy Lai

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