Replanting the Colony: Sustainable Ecology and Nationalist Memory

Friday, July 14, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 132 (University of Glasgow)
Daniel Shea , Mount Saint Mary College
From a postcolonial perspective, ecological sustainability echoes colonialist narratives. From former colonies, sustainability emerges as a form of economic nationalism, simultaneously representing renewable natural resources and expressing an authentic identity, disconnected from the colonizer. In contrast, according to the colonizer, sustainability often relies upon historical and Edenic tropes, creating eco-renaissance that “sells” the former colony as a tourist destination, positing a purified form of Nature to contrast the colonizer’s urban identity. Thus, upon closer examination, sustainable ecology is a nexus of cultural and economic forces. Ireland’s present reforestation project, for instance, seeks to re-create the forests of oak and yew that used to cover the island. Deforested by agricultural pressures as well as the colonizer’s Industrial Revolution needs, such forests now represent a vibrant intersection of science, history, and cultural memory, an ecological linchpin uniquely evolved to support the country’s flora and fauna, yet one that must be re-created from a pre-colonial past. Hence, both a nation-state and its citizens—at home and abroad—negotiate identity through ecological definitions challenged by shifting concepts of and demand for natural resources. This study examines how eco-critical responses to a post-colonial history become a means by which nations address their hybrid status via a conscious engagement with an ecologically sustainable cultural identity.