Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 August 2021
Despite the critical role of plants in enabling all life on Earth, many people fail to recognize the importance of vegetal life ("plant blindness"). Further, most modern Eurowestern knowledges of plants tend to instrumentalize them, focusing on how plants are useful rather than on how they live their lives. The field of Critical Plant Studies (CPS) has recently emerged in the Humanities to challenge this situation; this chapter explores some of the central preoccupations of this body of work. Broadly speaking, CPS considers the histories and power dynamics involved in Eurowestern utilitarian relations with the vegetal world. In addition, borrowing from insights in the Natural Sciences and also from much older forms of plant knowledge, it considers plants as living organisms with their own forms of agency, being, and desire. These two threads are woven throughout the chapter, with the aim to demonstrate that plants are sophisticated and influential agents caught up in historical and ongoing forms of biopolitics, and that overcoming plant blindness means noticing not only what the plants are doing for us, but also how we are implicated in their unfolding lifeworlds.
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