The Consciousness of Trees

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    The legal protection of significant urban trees operates in between heritage law and the imagined wild of native vegetation law, constructing a human-nature continuum in a culturally inflected urban ecology. Such laws implicitly recognize trees as habitat for humans as well as for birds, mammals, reptiles, and microbes, and also explicitly value trees as common rather than simply private resources. Protective tree laws to some degree also respond to the symbolic over-determination of trees in the human imaginary. This paper will consider trees as part of the legal and cultural imaginaries of urban life and then raise the question of the ontological status of trees as actors and agents that engage materially in political and legal contests. A tree, I argue, is not simply a passive juridified object, but one that addresses or interpellates human beings: it relates and constructs, and sometimes it actively resists our interventions. This view raises a number of provocative questions: Can we think of trees as agents? Can we therefore regard trees as engaged in law-creation? And what becomes of our concepts of law and property when a tree is understood as being a subject, rather than as an object?

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)217-235
    Number of pages19
    JournalLaw and Literature
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Materiality
    • Networks
    • Property
    • Subject-object
    • Trees


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