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Is gardening talkback radio inherently racist?



August 10, 2014


Could gardening talkback radio be racist? A British academic says yes, indeed it can.

article-1361668-0D6A6F27000005DC-830_634x308Dr Ben Pitcher, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Westminster says that the terms by which much of gardening is described and discussed are ways of expressing racist and fascist views in a time when people feel they cannot openly express such thoughts.

“The context here is the rise of nationalism. The rise of racist and fascist parties across Europe. Nationalism is about shoring up a fantasy of national integrity. My question is, what feeds nationalism? What makes nationalism powerful?”

stelprdb5117900Dr Pitcher was speaking on Radio 4 program ‘Thinking Allowed‘ and said that descriptions such as ‘non-native species’ or ‘soil purity’ reflect an undercurrent of racist nationalism.

Bob Flowerdew, a regular on BBC’s Gardener’s Question Time described the allegation as “ridiculous” and added:

“People aren’t gardening because they have some narrow nationalist view of the world…….they are gardening because they enjoy it and they like to be outside in nice surroundings.”



While Dr Pitcher has published a rebuttal of this ‘silly season beat up’ of his comments on ‘Thinking Allowed‘, he does contend that:

“….accounts of alien immigrant invasions, weak native hosts bedevilled by larger, more aggressive, rapidly reproducing foreign species, and stable sustainable environments upset and jeopardised by overpopulation, clearly demonstrate a language that is shared in descriptions of human and nonhuman life.

There’s a paradox here that many of us are happier than ever to live in multicultural societies but use a xenophobic language to understand and interpret the natural world. Yet the defence of nature and the defence of the nation can have more in common than we might first acknowledge”.

What do you think?

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Pamela McKimmie
Pamela McKimmie
9 years ago

When I attempted to “continue reading…” about the talk-back radio being racist, I received a warning that I was going to an unsafe site. I have not tried to access others as a result although I have had no problems in the past with your articles.

Catherine Stewart
9 years ago

Hi Pamela – do you mean the link to Dr Pitcher’s rebuttal article in The Guardian? I’m sure that’s safe.

Angus Stewart
Angus Stewart
9 years ago

The problem with exotic plant species is that usually when they are introduced into a country it is done without their natural pests and diseases which allows them to thrive and out compete the native species. It would seem to be drawing a long bow to confuse this issue with the xenophobia surrounding refugees around the world. The language used to express this idea may vary from one commentator to another but I cannot think of an instance in Australia to back up the racist language idea.

9 years ago

I understand a plant import can have unintended consequences like Kudzu in the Southern US but there is a tone of criticism in the “plant natives” mania currently in vogue. My garden is ever so much more beautiful with plants from around the world.