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Workshop "Plant intimacies" 20-21 Oct. 2022

Plant Intimacies Program

Plant Intimacies Program

Plant intimacies: Proximity, Care and Violence.

Recent social science literature on plants has emphasized the love, care, feelings, and emotions that arise between plants and their human caretakers. While this sometimes sounds like a love story, much has also been written about the violence and killing associated with such intimate relationships. A related strand of research emphasizes that many plants today are extremely vulnerable and threatened with extinction not only by overbreeding and monocultures, but also by roaming pests, pathogens, and fungi, and could not survive without constant human care and labor. All of this arguably boils down to a simple but provocative point: rather than understanding human-plant relationships in terms of evolution, we are actually seeing an "involution" or increasing convergence through intimate activities that shape how humans and plants grow together (Hustak & Myers 2012).

By foregrounding human intimacy with plants, most of which are rooted in the soil, we also draw attention to proximity and to the specific places where plants grow and are cultivated. These can be fields, plots, pots, windowsills, roadsides, but also laboratories and greenhouses. The specific affective relationships that develop between plants and people, and the spatial constellations of their relationships, are often linked to historical justifications, cultural ties, aesthetic ideals, and narratives of belonging and origin. Such affective relationships also inform reinventions of home, citizenship, and mobility. Thinking about plants, their places, and their intimacies, whether desired or undesired, helps to foreground well-worn but largely unrecognized connections and relationships. And that, in turn, might allow us to think, plant, and tell less predictable and less human-centered stories.

From this fertile foundation, this workshop aims to critique the idea of plant intimacy and explore forms of more-than-human labor and care in the places where they occur. It asks: where and what exactly are these intimacies with plants? What does the choice of such affectively charged language mean for our theory of humble, everyday, often barely noticed, and generally earthbound more-than-human relationships? Is it possible to examine attachment, co-dependence, discipline, and relational becoming from such vantage points? And what lessons can be drawn from such perspectives for addressing our planetary environmental crisis?

More information and a link to the program can be found here and here.