Pine-ing for a Voice: Vegetal agencies, New Materialism and State Control through the Wollemi Pine
Attending to Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi Pine), we read this plant as ensconced and mobilised by political and politicised forces, towards distinct colonial and imperial ends. Seeking to work beyond a language of flowers, we attune to the appropriation and weaponisation of plants; a language beyond the merely decorative or affective, towards understandings of plants performing agency and political power.
Our reading of the Wollemi pine emerges from the scorched summer of 2019/2020, in which much of Australia caught alight, and during which the Wollemi was placed in danger of disappearing for a second, and perhaps final, time. A prehistoric tree, long thought extinct, before its rediscovery in 1994, the Wollemi holds special significance, but further, value within an Australian cultural context. In light of this significance, the Wollemi is apprehended and manipulated towards political ends. Within the frame of this text, we consider not only the contemporary diplomacy and governance within which the Wollemi is ensnared, but too, the legacies of Invasion and colonisation which support the mobilisation of the Wollemi in this manner.
Framing our approach within the broader context of contemporary ecological theory and in a manner attentive to frames of New Materialism, we engage with the entanglements of plant language, agency and being — as a means through which we can attune to our shared mattering and ongoing struggles for sovereignty amidst a rapidly changing natural world.
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