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‘The impact of deforestation on Irish culture: a sylva sylvarum for treeless places’ by Paul Carter (Visiting Fellow from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
May 17, 2018 @ 11:00 am
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The key practical question buried in the title of my Moore Fellowship project is: reafforestation. An explanation of the context of this study is necessary. The challenge, though, is methodological. Managerialist initiatives to arrest deforestation use cost-benefit arguments that ignore the affective and symbolic role woodlands occupy in the collective psyche. But, if we say that creativity must play a primary role in a ‘reafforestation’ that is psycho-socially as well as ecologically recuperative, we are under pressure to spell out how this will manifest itself. Apropos of the psychic as well as environmental deforestation experienced under colonisation, ‘There was a proverb in the sixteenth century that the Irish could never be tamed while the leaves were on the trees.’ But the concrete front yard apron, the design default position of residential occupancy in Ireland, hardly suggests the postcolonial recuperation of a despoiled collective identity. A first step, creatively, as well as silviculturally, is a qualified detachment from the ‘wild wood’ myth: reafforestation is coeval with the cultivation of trees and, poetically speaking, may precede any thought of Arden or even Raftery’s Killeaden. Yeats’s symbolic landscape owes at least as much to Lady Gregory’s planting program as to her folklore studies – a point I shall bring out. My topic is decidedly unruly; it ignores national and nationalist boundaries; its geography follows the Irish colonial diaspora; or it invites European comparativism. Managing the potential of this enquiry is a sign of its importance; the conversation emerging from this seminar will be, I hope, an important part of its development.
Paul Carter is a writer and artist. His forthcoming books are Decolonisjng Governance: Archipelagic Thinking (Routledge) and Amplifications: poetic migration, auditory memory (Bloomsbury). He is Professor of Design (Urbanism), School of Architecture and Urban Design, RMIT University, Melbourne and in May 208 is a Visiting Fellow at the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, NUI Galway.