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Formations: Plants Beyond Empire – Seeds of Time with Claire Reddleman and Sophie Fuggle

For the third and final event from our Plants Beyond Empire series, Claire Reddleman and Sophie Fuggle will explore how plants have become aligned with human ideas about time, seasons and cycles.
Many plants have been co-opted into colonial and capitalist ways of understanding time. Reddleman and Fuggle will begin by taking up the case of the Ginkgo Biloba – often described as a ‘living fossil’ due to the fact it has remained unchanged for over 80 million years.

Drawing on Claire Reddleman’s research, and its arrival in Britain in the 18th Century, they will consider the ways in which the ginkgo has become an important presence in the British landscape. The speakers will then look at the castor bean, a very different plant, which has been used by humans for at least 24,000 years. In the late 19th century, the castor bean’s best-known product, castor oil, started to be used as a lubricant for car and aircraft engines. It enabled greater speed and fluidity, and joined fossil fuels in the service of capitalism’s quest for ever faster, ever more efficient movement. Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing and others call this era the ‘plantationocene‘, to identify how capitalism, colonialism and labour have, often destructively, shaped the natural world.

Free – open to everyone.

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Taking place online via YouTube.

Plants Beyond Empire is a new series of conversations starting in February 2024, as part of our Formations programme, in partnership with the Postcolonial and Global Studies Research Group. The events will explore a range of creative and community interventions aimed at understanding complex human-plant entanglements within postcolonial Britain and beyond.

Photo credit – dendrologista by Claire Reddleman. Map credit – 1725 Kaart van de provincie Utrecht, François Halma, collection of Universiteitsbibliotheek, Utrecht