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2020 Plant Humanities Summer Program

June 29–August 7, 2020, hosted virtually | Three-weeks of virtual instruction in plant humanities, followed by three weeks of team digital projects for the Plant Humanities Workbench.

Course Leader: Dr. Yota Batsaki

Course Team: Dr. Anatole Tchikine, Dr. Ashley Buchanan, Taylor Johnson, Courtney Randolph

The second year of the Plant Humanities summer program will be fully digital. This new, experimental course will introduce students to a variety of approaches within the emerging field of plant humanities, drawing on botany, history, art history, the history of science, literature, and critical theory. An ongoing training component will offer instruction in digital tools that enhance interdisciplinary research and communication, including the use of rare materials and digitized resources. Finally, students will integrate and apply these two approaches by working in teams to create interactive plant narratives for the Plant Humanities Workbench that we are co-developing with JSTOR Labs.

In the first three weeks, students will participate in morning seminars on key aspects of plant humanities from the Renaissance to the present. The first week will focus on the roots of botany in Renaissance natural history, including new practices of observation and collecting and the rise of institutions such as the botanical garden, the museum, and the herbarium. In the second week we will explore botany as a colonial enterprise, alongside developments in taxonomy, theories of evolution, and environmental thought. In the third week we will turn our attention to plant-human interactions in the Anthropocene, ranging from invasive species and climate change to contemporary artists’ engagement with plants in their interrogation of race, gender, ethnicity, and violence. Several afternoons will be devoted to workshops on digital tools that employ textual, visual, spatial, and network analyses such as text mining through Voyant, image comparison with Mirador, mapping overlays and plugins through Geojson and Leaflet, and network visualizations with Gephi.

Guest lecturers include Janet BrowneJessie Wei-Hsuan Chen, Sir Peter Crane, Rosetta Elkin, Erle Ellis, Martin Kalfatovic, Amy Meyers, and Therese O’Malley.

During the following three weeks students will work in teams, supported by the instructors and our partners at JSTOR Labs, to develop interactive essays for the Plant Humanities Workbench. Students will draw on digitized rare and unique materials from the Dumbarton Oaks collection, BHL, Global Plants, and other digital databases to craft engaging narratives and visualizations about the fundamental influence of plants on human cultures. In the process, we will test the digital workbench’s potential as a research, publishing, and teaching tool. All participant work will be credited, and students will receive a stipend of $1,500.