Events PhD

13 Mar 2024
16:15  - 18:00

Institute of Social Anthropology, M├╝nsterplatz 19, 4051 Basel

Institute of Social Anthropology


Sandra Calkins: "On Parts and Wholes: Plant Agency in Ugandan Genomic Research" (University of Twente)

Anthropological Crossroads Colloquium, Institute of Social Anthropology

Uganda is likely the country with the highest per capita consumption of bananas in the world. It has also become a global center of increasingly high-tech banana research. Many Ugandans take pride in their relationship to bananas, plants that there are the epitome of fertility and growth. There is a rich tradition of thinking and living in relation to banana plants in Uganda. Many iconic accounts and representations however focus on whole plants and their fruit. Building on recent fieldwork in Uganda and Australia with a project developing genetically modified bananas, this lecture discusses how plant agency becomes visible during lab work, when Ugandan biologists are dealing with partitioned plants, that is, molecular plant extracts. I draw attention to mundane lab routines and how biologists make sense of the vegetal at the molecular level. Biologists think of reproductive and other largely inscrutable vegetal capacities in genomic research as being collective and distributed across a variety. Thinking alongside the propositions of these biologists, the lecture explores if and how conceiving ofvegetal agency in such non-individuated ways allows envisioning forms of participation in collective life that decenter North Atlantic emphases on heterosexual reproduction, autonomy/individuality and all too rigid distinctions between life and death.

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