Passive Flora? Reconsidering Nature’s Agency through Human-Plant Studies (HPS)
Plants have been—and, for reasons of human sustenance and creative inspiration, will continue to be—centrally important to societies globally. Yet, plants—including herbs, shrubs, and trees—are commonly characterized in Western thought as passive, sessile, and silent automatons lacking a brain, as accessories or backdrops to human affairs. Paradoxically, the qualities considered absent in plants are those employed by biologists to argue for intelligence in animals. Yet an emerging body of research in the sciences and humanities challenges animal-centred biases in determining consciousness, intelligence, volition, and complex communication capacities amongst living beings. In light of recent theoretical developments in our understandings of plants, this article proposes an interdisciplinary framework for researching flora: human-plant studies (HPS). Building upon the conceptual formations of the humanities, social sciences, and plant sciences as advanced by Val Plumwood, Deborah Bird Rose, Libby Robin, and most importantly Matthew Hall and Anthony Trewavas, as well as precedents in the emerging areas of human-animal studies (HAS), I will sketch the conceptual basis for the further consideration and exploration of this interdisciplinary framework.
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