Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Marcella Polain

Second Advisor

Dr Rod Giblett

Abstract

This project is comprised of a creative work and accompanying exegesis. The creative work is a collection of poetry which examines the history and ecology of the wetlands and river systems of the Swan Coastal Plain, and which utilises the practice of walking as a research methodology. For the creative practitioner walking reintroduces the body as a fundamental definer of experience, placing the investigation centrally in the corporeal self, using the physical senses as investigative tools of enquiry. As Rebecca Solnit comments in her history of walking, ‘exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains’ (Solnit, 2000, p. 13).

The context for my poetic walking project Swamp, is a local and global environment undergoing an unprecedented loss of biodiversity, mainly due to the destruction of habitat and changes in climatic conditions (Reid, Partha Dasgupta, Robert M. May, A.H. Zakri, & Henk Simons, 2005, pp. 438-442). The loss of species and ecosystems that have been a part of our earth home results in the human experience of ‘homesickness’ — a longing for the home places that we have known and which have diminished or disappeared.

Before the arrival of the British colonists in 1829, the Swan River and adjacent wetlands were an integral part of the seasonal food source for the original inhabitants, the Noongar (Bekle, 1981). In addition wetland places were, and are, deeply embedded in the spiritual and cultural life of the Noongar people of the Swan Coastal Plain (O'Connor, Quartermaine, & Bodney, 1989).

In less than two hundred years since the establishment of the Swan River Colony (Western Australia), the lakes and rivers of the Swan Coastal Plain have undergone extreme changes, often resulting in complete draining and in-filling of wetland areas as the city and its suburbs spread beyond the original town limits. This re–engineering of the landscape has had a dramatic and detrimental impact upon biodiversity, water quality and the sense of place experienced by residents.

Swamp is a project that has three main facets:

a) a body of original poetry which interprets the historical relationship between the British, European, and Chinese newcomers to Noongar country, and the wetlands lakes of the Swan Coastal Plain. The poetry contained in this thesis is copyright to the author, Anandashila Saraswati (Nandi Chinna).

b)An essay which contextualises the project within the sphere of walking art, psychogeography, and the philosophical idea of ‘Homesickness’.

c) A website, www.swampwalking.com.au, which displays photographs documenting the walks I have carried out over the three year period of the project from February 2009 to February 2012.

The exegetical part of this project looks at the notion of ‘homesickness’ as a philosophical condition that can be seen as a motivating force in the practice of writing on walking. I use Debord’s theory of the dérive as a starting point for my walking methodology and examine nostalgia within the Situationist International (Debord, 1958) and subsequent psychogeographical movements. I also investigate the role of homesickness in the work of other writers who walk and who write about their walking practice.

Finally I discuss homesickness in the epoch of the Anthropocene (Crutzen & Schwägerl, 2011), the era in which the earth’s biosphere is characterised by human interventions which have changed the meteorological, geological and biological elements of our earth home. In the Anthropocene, the wilderness view of nature needs to be re-evaluated. I posit that walking is a way of reconnecting with the physical landscape and building relationships with small wilds that exist in our home places, and that writing about the walking allows these relationships and encounters to ripple out to readers, contributing to and enabling the development of an ethic of care for ecosystems and beings other than human.

Available for download on Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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