Cultivating the Future: Plants and agricultural forms for uncertain times

Welcome to the Research Cluster for Colonial Connections and Comparisons Spring seminar series! This seminar is co-organised with the Global Humanities PhD Seminar.

Bengt G Karlsson

Bengt G. Karlsson is Professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. He is a leading scholar on indigenous people in North East India. His research focuses especially on the society-environment interface and the politics of ethnicity and nature in India. His lecture will discuss results in his ongoing research project 'Practicing Food Sovereignty', which focuses on indigenous communities and agricultural practices in four countries of the Eastern Himalaya region: Bhutan, Chittagong Hill Tracks of Bangladesh, Nepal, and Northeast India.

Among his publications are Contested Belonging: An Indigenous People’s Struggle for Forest and Identity in Sub-Himalayan Bengal (Routledge, 2000), Unruly Hills: A Political Ecology of India’s Northeast (Berghahn Book, 2011), Leaving the Land: Indigenous Migration and Affective Labour in India (Cambridge University Press, 2019, co-authored with Dolly Kikon)

Cultivating the Future: Plants and agricultural forms for uncertain times

In this paper I will use two contrasting forms of cultivation – the monocultural plantation and the indigenous shifting field – to discuss the future of agriculture. I will do that by tracing a number of plants and their respective multispecies histories. The ultimate question asked is what it entails cultivate crops in a sustainable and respectful manner and to “eat well” in the Anthropocene. With warmer temperatures, draughts and storms some agriculture experts speak about the need for a second green revolution, one that is based on millets and other traditional heirloom crops rather than the high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat that came with the development of modern industrial agriculture. The talk is based on two ongoing research projects informed by recent scholarship on people-plant entanglements or what Natasha Myers calls “planthropology”.      

The seminar will be held in English.

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