Rejuvenation, cultivation and nourishment: the regenerative potential of migrating plants in the lives of displaced Chagossians in Mauritius, Seychelles and the UK
(University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the regenerative roles of plants in the lives of migratory people – rejuvenation of the body, cultivation of an idealised past place, and nourishment of relationships – in the context of transplantation, use, and transmission of plant knowledge amongst dispersed Chagossians.
Paper long abstract:
What regenerative roles might plants play in the lives of migratory people, and what are the constraints on plant migration? Forcibly displaced Chagos islanders and their descendants are now dispersed between Mauritius, Seychelles, and the UK. Many Chagossians have extensive botanical knowledge and expertise in the use of a wide range of medicinal plants from the Indian Ocean, usually learned from female experts, and which community elders seek to transmit to the younger generations born in exile. They have also transported plants, medicinal plant extracts, and plant-derived foodstuffs from Chagos and between Mauritius, Seychelles, and the UK - on behalf of themselves or others - for transplantation, treatment, or consumption. This paper explores three interconnected roles played by botanical knowledge and medicinal plant use in the lives of these migratory people: the rejuvenation of bodies (nutrition and wellbeing), the cultivation of (links to) an idealised past place, and the nourishment of relationships (with family and/or healers). It also examines the environmental constraints on plant migration that challenge the capacity for plants to fulfil these roles. Our argument is that for the community in question, plants are a form of living heritage which possess a regenerative potential in the context of loss and suffering in exile, and ongoing geographical dispersal.