Unruly Taranaki. Sites of More-than-Human Entanglements, Berlin 2022.

TITLE: Exploring Unruly Sites of More-than-Human Entanglements

AUTHORS: Katherine G. Sammler, Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity

ABSTRACT: While the term orogenesis emerged from geology, a mountain landscape has social, political, and economic origins as well. Meaning-making practices of naming, measuring, and enclosing all contribute to the defining of a mountain figure. However, contested mountain landscapes have multiple orogeneses that shift and change, often in alignment with dominant power structures. Epistemological disputes about where a mountain ends, or ontological struggles over what a mountain is, have important implications for land rights and resource access. This paper analyzes settler colonial logics that have expropriated the living mountain landscape of Taranaki in Aotearoa New Zealand. The categorical boundings of Taranaki – spatially within the demarcations of property and territory, but also culturally within a Western conceptual mountain-ness, enfolded in ideologies of wilderness and national identity – are visibly engraved into the physical landscape. Recognizing what Yusoff calls a “semiotics of White Geology,” a striking concentric settler geometry divides Taranaki—allowing protection within an encircling park boundary, intensive agricultural extraction in its ringplain, and experimental mining extraction off the region’s curvilinear coast. Engaging historical and contemporary relations with Taranaki, from ancestor to national park, to living person, through new materialism, granular geography, and anti-colonial literatures, this paper develops a critical oropolitical approach to deconstruct mountainess as a tool of settler territorial appropriation. Furthermore, tracing the granular connections between Taranaki and its downstream seafloor, this paper demonstrates how a landscape’s excesses or porosities can be used to challenge boundary drawing and resources claims, as shown in relation to proposed ironsand mining off Taranaki’s shores. Empirical evidence shows how different groups have invoked the fuzzy boundaries and permeability of the mountain figure, its connection to broader patterns of entangled life and non/life, towards challenging current seabed mining projects.

Workshop: Exploring Unruly Sites of More-than-Human Entanglements (19/20 May 2022, Berlin)