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

May 16-17 2014, Oxford, UK


1. The Formation and Transmission of Plant Knowledge: How is knowledge about plants constructed and transmitted? We invite contributions on what anthropological, archaeological, historical, philosophical, biological, and chemical evidence can bring to the discussion of the origins of people’s botanical knowledge, how this comes to structure their relations with plants, and how these ontologies change over time.

Session Chairs: Dr William Beinart (African Studies Center, Oxford) and Luiseach Nic Eoin (Archaeology, Oxford)

2. Ideas Made Material: Applying Plant Knowledge: What can local plant knowledge contribute to the creation of conservation, biodiversity, and heritage management programs? How can knowledge about useful plants be used while safeguarding plants/plant components from becoming primary targets for biopiracy? Case studies that address the politics and policies surrounding plant knowledge acquisition, application, and loss are welcome.

Session Chairs: Dr Stephen Harris (Plant Sciences, Oxford) and Theresa Miller (Anthropology, Oxford)

3. Ethno-Bio-Chemical Perspectives: Plant-initiated Impacts on Humans: New insights from chemistry, plant sciences, and the social sciences increasingly challenge anthropocentric perspectives on plants and highlight the role of plants and plant communities in structuring plant-human relationships. This panel invites papers that discuss the challenges, possibilities, and radical new ideas brought about by new methodological and theoretical perspectives on human-plant relationships.

Session Chairs: Dr Alison Foster (Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford) and Jade Whitlam (Archaeology, University of Reading)

4. Rethinking plants & people: Towards a new understanding of “botanical ontologies”: Although many preservation programs are aimed at recording and preserving the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of non-Western societies, the loss of plant knowledge is a matter of global concern. What can we do to stem this loss? Can “lost” botanical ontologies be recovered, and if so, how? Should/can we create “new” ontologies for the 21st century, and if so, how would these look? Case studies are invited to explore practical approaches to the preservation of TEK in multiple environments (i.e. primary/secondary schools, botanical gardens, and ethnographic museums) and as well as new methodological and theoretical perspectives on the acquisition, formation, and meaning of plant knowledge.

Session Chairs: Dr Laura Rival (Anthropology, Oxford) and Lewis Daly (Anthropology, Oxford)


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