Botanical Ontologies: A Cross-Disciplinary Forum on Human-Plant Relationships

May 16-17 2014, Oxford, UK

Botanical Ontologies

Update 18 May 2014: Thank you to everyone who attended and participated in the conference on 16-17 May 2014 for making it a huge success! -The Organizers

The inaugural ‘Botanical Ontologies’ conference seeks to bring together postgraduate students from across the humanities, social sciences, and biological sciences to critically address, challenge, and rethink the seemingly simple question: How do we know what we know about plants?

The construction of plant knowledge systems is increasingly a matter of interest across a broad range of disciplines, from the ethnosciences to philosophy. By ‘plant knowledge systems’ we refer to the biological, medicinal, social, and cultural information about plants observed, stored, transmitted, and used by humans. Recent questions concerning ‘ontology’ in socio-ecological systems have enlivened these debates. ‘Botanical ontologies’—as we speculatively term them—vary widely, stretching from Linnaean taxonomies to indigenous origin myths, yet regardless of origin they structure the relationships between plants and humans. In this conference we will consider these plant-people interrelationships by bringing into dialogue perspectives and case studies from Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Geography & the Environment, History, and Plant Sciences. Far from an academic exercise, this conference contends that discussion about these plant-human relationships go beyond the ephemeral: they are necessary for the preservation (and protection) of local vegetation diversity and the knowledge systems that go with them.

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