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Chapter 12 - Plants

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2021

Jeffrey Cohen
Affiliation:
Arizona State University
Stephanie Foote
Affiliation:
West Virginia University
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Summary

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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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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References

Further Reading

Aloi, G. (ed.), Why Look at Plants? The Botanical Emergence in Contemporary Art (Brill Rodopi, 2018).
Cielemęcka, O. and Szczygielska, M. (eds.), Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, Special Section, Plantarium: Human-Vegetal Ecologies, 5.2 (2019).
Gagliano, M., Ryan, J.C., and Viera, Patricia (eds.), The Language of Plants: Science, Philosophy, Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2017).
Geniusz, W. M., Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive: Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings (Syracuse University Press, 2009).
Head, L., Atchison, J., Phillips, C., and Buckingham, K. (eds.), Social and Cultural Geography, Special Issue, Vegetal Politics: Belonging, Practices and Places, 15.8 (2014).
Irigaray, L. and Marder, M., Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives (Columbia University Press, 2016).
Kimmerer, R. W., Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (Oregon State University Press, 2003).
Kohn, E., How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human (University of California Press, 2013).
Mabey, R., Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants (Harper Collins, 2010).
Miller, E., The Vegetative Soul: From Philosophy of Nature to Subjectivity in the Feminine (State University of New York Press, 2002).

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  • Plants
  • Edited by Jeffrey Cohen, Arizona State University, Stephanie Foote, West Virginia University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Environmental Humanities
  • Online publication: 12 August 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009039369.013
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  • Plants
  • Edited by Jeffrey Cohen, Arizona State University, Stephanie Foote, West Virginia University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Environmental Humanities
  • Online publication: 12 August 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009039369.013
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Plants
  • Edited by Jeffrey Cohen, Arizona State University, Stephanie Foote, West Virginia University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Environmental Humanities
  • Online publication: 12 August 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009039369.013
Available formats
×