Others without history:

plants as agility-shifting actors in the trajectory of capitalism

Colonial plantations remade human nature, setting in motion the forms of “race” we know today.  Plantations also remade the nature of other organisms, and not just through breeding.  Pests, weeds, and pathogens changed their habits of growth and reproduction in the plantation, and some developed newly virulent trajectories as “creatures of empire.”

Plants, fungi, and bacteria make their own history, but they do not make it as they please…

We are used to imagining other organisms as backgrounds—or resources—for human histories.   What if we were to look again to notice the histories they make?  As the environmental consequences of capitalist industry spiral out of control, reshaping life across the earth, habits of imagining that only humans make history are no longer adequate.

Anna Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz (USA) and the Nils Bohr Professor at Aarhus University (Denmark), where she heads the research project “Living in the Anthropocene”, a transdisciplinary program that encompasses the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts in an exploration of the “Anthropocene” – the geologic epoch defined by human disturbance of the earth’s ecosystems. Anna Tsing is known for her research on global interconnections and the environment. She is the author of, among others, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (2005). Her latest book The Mushroom At the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015) follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times, that of the matsutake mushroom, to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism.

Global Studies Research Day, keynote lecture from 1 to 2 pm at Het Pand, Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent