Oak Thorn Kin: embodied practices of reciprocal restoration

Clarkson, Amy (2023) Oak Thorn Kin: embodied practices of reciprocal restoration. DFA thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This narrative nonfiction enacts and troubles the writing of wild places, as I move between an 'uninhabited’ landscape in the Scottish Highlands and urban parks, community gardens and nature reserves of Glasgow. Weaving a creativecritical path through environmental literature, feminist materialisms, and woodland ecology, it questions what ecological restoration means within the messiness of the Anthropocene, and how this implicates cultural, societal, and personal change. In this UN declared decade of ecological restoration, large scale conservation efforts, and in particular tree planting schemes, risk negating sensitivity to places and peoples through the urgency to sequester carbon, while biodiversity loss is treated separately from matters of social justice. The scientific discipline of ecological restoration is a process enacted on habitats and ecosystems, yet it holds potential to be collaborative and reciprocal.

Using a practice-as-research approach, the event of becoming the resident of Airigh Drishaig— a woodland and cottage four miles from the nearest settlement or road— becomes an experiential study of reciprocal restoration. Bringing situated knowledge and feminist materialisms into relation with restoration epistemologies, the emphasis on more-than-human perspectives, lively matter and multi-agential movements allows for embodied practices to evolve in relationship with place. Walking, foraging, salvaging, coppicing, seed collection, seed dispersal and mapping become ways of connecting this fragment of ancient woodland to the larger story of how our ecological selves-in-relation (Plumwood) might respond to climate and biodiversity breakdown.

The writing follows an arboreal rhythm of growth and decomposition over a three-year period of fieldwork, enfolding multiple temporalities of the landscape into the text. As a former shieling site, Airigh Drishaig is shaped by patterns of transhumance, while the undercurrents of petrochemical industries and intensive aquaculture force confrontation with extractivism. Reciprocal restoration relates to former land practices, while enfolding the embodied experience and reimagining ecological futures. Rather than a human imposed solutionism, it emerges through processes of entanglement, including loss as well as regeneration, and which crucially, allows for creative learning and coliving within the multi-agential re-storying of landscapes.

Item Type: Thesis (DFA)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Borthwick, Dr. David
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-84018
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2024 09:50
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2024 09:51
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84018
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84018

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