The Happy Heterotopia: Science and Leisure in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The botanic garden is a space of leisure, scientific endeavour, passive recreation, education and conservation. These roles are contradictory, yet coexist 'happily' in a single space. The central aim of this thesis is to investigate the diversity of spaces and meanings in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens from the perspectives of both users and producers of this space. The fieldwork component involves interviews with staff members of the Botanical Services Team at the Gardens, and selected people at the Christchurch City Council offices who were connected with the Gardens in various ways. Additionally, I use the data gathered during my participation in tours of the Gardens. This thesis is both an historical and contemporary analysis of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. In a general history of the Western botanic garden, I show how colonialism, the Garden City movement and science shaped how botanic gardens functioned in society. This discussion contextualises the history of Christchurch's Botanic Gardens, which I compiled using archival material based on site, and the social practices that take place in this space. Using Foucault's concept of the heterotopia, I analyse the multiple and seemingly conflicting sites that exist inside the boundaries of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. I explain how these sites are able to coexist inside what Foucault terms a 'happy, universalizing' heterotopic space. I conclude that conflicts between science and leisure, and colonial spaces are not experienced inside the Gardens by visitors. In reality, for visitors to the Gardens, the paradoxical nature of the space and the resulting tension deriving from its multi-faceted role in society continue to exist in harmony. However, conflict between science and leisure is claimed by those who produce the Gardens. This is because the producers are conscious of the competing roles of the Gardens yet are involved in creating a space that caters for a diverse group of visitors.