News | Final CFP: AAG 2019 Vegetal geographies

Vegetal geographies: Advancing the position and politics of plants in more-than-human analyses

Final CFP: AAG 2019 Vegetal geographies: Advancing the position and politics of plants in more-than-human analyses

Session organizers: Megan Betz (Indiana University) & Jared Margulies (University of Sheffield)

Discussant: Juno Salazar Parreñas (Ohio State University)

Co-sponsors: Cultural and Political Ecology, Biogeography, and Animal Geography specialty groups

Multispecies research methodologies continue to gain ground, offering new ways of exploring the relationship between humans and their environment (Bessire & Bond 2014; Collard 2014; Collard & Dempsey 2013; Haraway 2003; Kosek 2006; Ogden, Hall, and Tanita 2013; Parreñas 2015; Tallbear 2011; Tsing 2005; Robbins and Marks 2010). While human-animal relations remain key features in this literature (Kirksey and Helmreich 2010), researchers are also increasingly turning to other taxonomic kingdoms, among them plants (Benson and Fischer 2007; Fleming 2017; Hayden 2003; Jones and Cloke 2002; Kohn 2013; Kloppenburg 2005; Ogden 2011; Power 2005; Robbins 2007). Despite humanity’s complete reliance on plants for survival, vegetation has long been relegated to the background of social processes, especially in Western thought. While geographers are arguably at the fore of engaging with the lively nature of plants in the co-production of the social in academic communities, with few exceptions vegetation continues to be treated as inert material serving as the background of human and animal life. In this session, we aim to continue work to enliven plants, examining how they not only inform our understandings of nature, space, and society, but are engaged in enacting social worlds.

At last year’s annual meeting, Megan Betz and Jake Fleming organized a session on “doing vegetal geography.” In proposing the session, the co-organizers argued that plants are intimate partners in our lives, and their particular ways of being and becoming have much to offer geographers’ analyses. With their presenters and audience, they asked, who was examining the role of plants, and what does it look like to prioritize them in our more-than-human analyses? Important political and ethical questions emerged from this session, including how attention to plants can and should work to focus questions about inequality and justice in geographic scholarship. This year, we aim to continue and advance this discussion, to highlight the place of plants in our multispecies research, and to bring matters of injustice in human-plant relations in from the periphery of multispecies research.

Specifically, the goal of this year’s session is to explore the questions: How does one examine and enliven the role of plants in more-than-human analysis? How does closer attention to plants contribute to more just, inclusive, and nuanced scholarship? What methods are researchers engaging with for carefully drawing out the life-worlds of plants in geographical scholarship? What particular problems-methodological, theoretical, analytical-do plants pose in expanding the remit of more-than-human analyses, and how might these differ from problems or concerns raised by animals? What new political questions emerge from paying closer attention to plants in geographical analyses? With that in mind, papers presented could address questions such as those posed above, or:

  • How are we practicing vegetal geographies?
  • How does an enlivened landscape raise new insight on inequality in our communities?
  • What interventions might vegetal geographies enable in policy, conservation, and climate activism?
  • How useful, applicable, or limiting is the notion of intimacy when examining human-plant relations?
  • What spaces might vegetal geographies open up for rethinking how we ask questions and conduct research?

Please email abstracts of no more than 250 words to Megan Betz (mebetz@indiana.edu) and Jared Margulies (j.margulies@sheffield.ac.uk) by Oct. 19. We hope to finalize our session by Oct. 21.