University Of Tasmania
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Uprooting Melbourne : a story of a city as revealed by trees

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posted on 2023-05-27, 12:11 authored by Wilson, A
Uprooting Melbourne' is a story of a city as revealed by trees. Trees have been important actors in the city-making process, yet their important role is often overlooked. This thesis takes a post-humanist approach in order to purposefully challenge the traditional placement of the environment in social histories, in which non-human entities simply become the backdrop upon which people play out their lives. Instead, this urban history of Melbourne has been formed through placing trees in the spotlight, and taking their rich social lives seriously. Many modern stories of cities are defined by a dualistic world view in which a narrative of technological progress is pitted against a narrative of the death of nature. This way of writing histories or describing the world obscures the realities of life in the actual places we have created through the union of society and nature. Using trees to tell the story of a city intrinsically challenges this dualism. Trees provide a site through which I describe how a city comprises an ongoing negotiation between people and place, between nature and culture. Their stories offer a material example of the ways that human history and natural history are intrinsically entwined, and demonstrate that it is in the relationships between these two concepts that modern urban life can be more fully described. Using trees as the key figures, this thesis re-tells the story of the growth of Melbourne from its origins in 1835 to now. This story of urban growth is one of ebbs and flows. As ontologies of nature/culture shift, so to do conceptions of the human body and the materials comprising the urban form. Trees reveal untold relationships between these elements of city-making, which are important not only for those managing urban trees today, but also for everyone interested in living well in an increasingly urban world.


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