Granular geographies and oroimaginaries of Mt. Taranaki. APCG, virtual CSUSD, 2021

2021 Sammler, K. Granular geographies and oroimaginaries of Mt. Taranaki, Aotearoa New Zealand. Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, virtual San Diego 14-16 Oct.


TITLE: Granular geographies and oroimaginaries of Mt. Taranaki, Aotearoa New Zealand

AUTHOR: Katherine Sammler

ABSTRACT: The term orogenesis – a combination of oro relating to mountains and genesis denoting an origin or development – was coined through geologic discussions of physical mountain formation. However, mountains not only undergo physical orogenesis, but social, political, and economic orogeneses as well. For Taranaki Maunga (Mt. Taranaki), located in Aotearoa New Zealand, its current oropolitical figuring is easier to discern than most. Its contested construction has specific moments of emergence, from tupuna (ancestor), to Crown spoils of war, to national park, and currently to living personhood. As a political and ideological marker, its bounding has manifested visually in stark distinctions on the landscape, between ecotone realities of native bush and English pasture.

The ways we may think about solid ground can be upended at particular scales and within specific practices. Even the stability of something as eminent and colossal as a mountain can have its object-ness brought into question. When material and social constructs intersect in ways that circulate, relocate, or circumnavigate what might normatively be considered stable and bounded figures, excesses or porosity introduce openings for refiguring previous categorizations. This may manifest in challenging the meaning of mountainness, disputing its bounding, or confronting who gets to make such distinctions. Taranaki’s permeability and connectivity is exhibited via granular flows and material excesses that connect summit to seafloor via erosion, suspension, and sedimentation. This paper explores Taranaki’s granular geographies towards disrupting its bounded oroimaginary, following its flows to augment disputes to the Crown sovereignty and corporate extractive claims to downstream seabed materials.