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Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Botanic Sociality: People, Plants, & Words

01:090:296:01 Index# 13384
Professor Becky Schulthies, SAS - Anthropology
T 02:15P - 03:35P
TH 02:15P - 03:35P
Hickman Hall, Rm 218
Douglass/Cook Campus

 


Course WILL count for major and minor credit in Anthropology

How do humans and plants communicate? What kinds of social lives do plants lead in relation to humans, and humans in relation to plants? This course brings anthropological perspectives to these questions, and considers how language mediates plants-people relationality. Throughout the course, we will focus on the sometimes hidden, sometimes explicit role of language in shaping relations between people and plants – shaping them in concrete, material ways that alter how plants and people coexist on the same planet. The course will involve a mix of readings, such as “ethnobotanical ethnographies” discussing how plants and people interact in particular cultural contexts, and popular journalism, literary texts, documentary and popular films, scientific articles, and various kinds of Internet sites and postings. In addition, we will take field trips to experientially analyze contexts of plant-human sociality: visiting botanical gardens, herbaria, a cannabis dispensary, farms and restaurants linked to the locavore movement in New Jersey.  One of the key goals of this course is to encourage you to consider, on specific terms, through concrete cases, how language is used all around you in ways that shape material realities. This means, for example, that language in use affects the kinds of relations that are possible, in certain circumstances, between people and plants – privileging some, prohibiting others, rendering some visible, erasing others -- but also, by extrapolation, all relations between human beings and the world we live in. To this end, you will be responsible, throughout the semester, for helping me make the course relevant to your everyday lives by bringing in materials and issues from beyond the course and examining their connection to course ideas and sources. This will culminate in a final research project, in which you will conduct research into a current issue of your choosing – one in which you consider how language shapes relations between people and plants. The course is organized around key themes: topics or methods that have structured histories of plant-people relations and yet are also of particular salience now, to current political debates about plants and the uses people make of them. Such themes include: * discourses about diversity (bio-, cultural, and linguistic); * ethnobiology and regimes of naming; * “multispecies ethnographies” and the perspectives they offer on environmental crises; * colonialism and the history of botanical transplantations and migrations; * “biopiracy” and conflicts over indigenous environmental knowledge; * controversies over plants and their use in medicinal settings; * the politics of legal and illegal “drugs” and the “wars” against them; * and, finally, the “locavore movement,” opposition to genetically modified foods ,and other critiques of modern food production.

BECKY SCHULTHIES is a linguistic and cultural anthropologist working on Moroccan semiotic ideologies. Her first project explores the intersection of language and media ideologies in urban Fez, Morocco. Her main contribution to previous research on media reception in the Arab world has been an ethnographically grounded perspective on the role of language ideologies (expectations about what forms of language are, do, and should do) and media ideologies (understandings of what media is, does, and should do) in processes of authority construction, message delivery, social movements, and personhood.  She tied transnational and local production of public culture (through interviews and observations of Moroccan and Lebanese media professionals) to urban family interpretive micro-analysis (via observations, interviews, recordings, and transcription of domestic viewing practices in Fez). She continues to be interested in mediation of collectives through communicative media. Her current project is an exploration of semiotic ideologies informing plant-human relationality in Morocco. She's exploring the communicability assumptions underlying plant publics, the comntested linking of specific plants (argan, cannabis, and wild herbs) with Morrocan identity and value.

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P 848-932-7964
F 732-932-2957
E honors@sas.rutgers.edu