Plants are a vital material substrate for scientific investigation. This panel gathers scholarly and artistic engagements with plants to consider experimentation as a lens onto plants, and to think plants as central subjects in STS, examining their adaptability, rootedness, and synthesizing powers.
Plants have served as a vital material substrate for scientific investigation, from seventeenth century plant taxonomy, to natural philosophical exploration, to agricultural extension, to contemporary botanical and biomedical sciences. They have played central roles in influencing the movement and transformation of people and landscapes through their ability to grow, change, nourish, heal, intoxicate, overtake, destroy, generate, and regenerate. And scientific experimentation with plants provides insight into changing conceptions and alterations of organisms, ecosystems, and human potential. Plants in scientific practice can be both model organisms and experimental systems themselves, enabling the conversion of life forms, livelihoods, and landscapes.
Science studies scholars have long looked to the implications that field and laboratory practices with plants have had on social categories and material realities. This panel gathers scholarly and artistic engagements with plants to consider experimentation as a lens onto plants: as politically desirable or contentious organisms, as synecdochic for "nature" and ecological relations, and as sensitive, active posthuman subjects. Plant-centric themes include but are not limited to field-, laboratory-, or community-based scientific practices that engage plants as agents in agriculture, urban farming, food autonomy movements, GM controversies, environmental remediation, indigenous resource use, pharmaceuticals and bioprospecting, bioenergy systems, commodity exchange, biotechnology, or experimental botany. The panel aims to think plants as central subjects in STS, considering their adaptability, sessility/rootedness, and synthesizing powers.