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Tending the ‘Contested’ Castle Garden: sowing seeds of feminist thought

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Monday 20 January 2020, 12.00PM to 13:00

Speaker(s): Dr Karen Dempsey (NUI Galway/University of Reading)


Medieval women are often portrayed as secluded, passive agents within castle studies. Although the medieval garden is regarded as associated with women there has been little exploration of this space within medieval archaeology. Is this absence owing to the fragmentary archaeological record or tensions among archaeologists in relation to discussions of gender? In this paper, a new methodological framework is used to demonstrate how female agency can be explored in the context of the lived experience of the medieval garden. In particular, this study adopts a novel approach by focussing on relict (surviving) plants at medieval castles in Britain and Ireland. Questions are asked about the curation of these plants and the associated social practices of elite medieval women, including their expressions of material piety.

Dr Karen Dempsey is currently a Government of Ireland, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Archaeology, NUI Galway. Her current project, 'Home is Where the Heart(h) is' investigates medieval houses in Ireland between 1100-1600. Previously she was a Marie Sklodwoska-Curie Fellow at the Department of Archaeology, University of Reading where her project HERSTORY, challenged male-oriented views of the medieval world, which have largely excluded the everyday experiences and lives of women, through reinterpretations of medieval objects and spaces.

Location: King's Manor K/133

Admission: FREE!