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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  History of Science & Nature

Botany of Empire Plant Worlds and the Scientific Legacies of Colonialism

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By: Banu Subramaniam(Author)
288 pages
Botany of Empire
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  • Botany of Empire ISBN: 9780295752457 Hardback no dustjacket Jun 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Botany of Empire ISBN: 9780295752464 Paperback Jul 2024 In stock
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About this book

Colonial ambitions spawned imperial attitudes, theories, and practices that remain entrenched within botany and across the life sciences. Banu Subramaniam draws on fields as disparate as queer studies, Indigenous studies, and the biological sciences to explore the labyrinthine history of how colonialism transformed rich and complex plant worlds into biological knowledge. Botany of Empire demonstrates how botany's foundational theories and practices were shaped and fortified in the aid of colonial rule and its extractive ambitions. We see how colonizers obliterated plant time's deep history to create a reductionist system that imposed a Latin-based naming system, drew on the imagined sex lives of European elites to explain plant sexuality, and discussed foreign plants like foreign humans. Subramanian then pivots to imagining a more inclusive and capacious field of botany untethered and decentered from its origins in histories of racism, slavery, and colonialism. This vision harnesses the power of feminist and scientific thought to chart a course for more socially just practices of experimental biology.

A reckoning and a manifesto, Botany of Empire provides experts and general readers alike with a roadmap for transforming the colonial foundations of plant science.

Customer Reviews


Banu Subramaniam is professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of Holy Science and Ghost Stories for Darwin.

Coming Soon
By: Banu Subramaniam(Author)
288 pages
Media reviews

"Written by a leading scholar in the field of anticolonial feminist STS, Botany of Empire offers a beautiful guide for readers that teaches them the layers of anticolonial feminist approaches to science through the specificities of plants and botany. Combining a breadth of ambition with accessible, gorgeous writing, this book invites us to imagine a more just science in thought and feeling."
– Michelle Murphy, author of The Economization of Life

"Banu Subramaniam leads the reader on a lively trek across a historical landscape of colonial botany, narrating the 'great men of science' as not only relentlessly curious but conditioned by violent expansionism and misogyny. Botany of Empire is a compelling read for this Indigenous science studies scholar who stands on Linnaeus's grave every time I am in Uppsala. My aim, like Subramaniam's, is not to 'cancel' a revered European scientist who regretfully broke relations into taxa, but to stand against colonial ideas of universal knowledge and progressivism co-constituted with the elimination of diverse peoples, knowledges, and moral orders."
– Kim TallBear, Professor, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta

"Dwelling on the expansive field of botany, Banu Subramaniam imagines ecologies, biodiversity, and extra-human taxonomies as tethered to empire and open to decolonial revision. Botany of Empire is an exciting text that draws on and entwines feminist studies, science studies, queer studies, disability studies, and studies of colonialism in order to imagine both plant life and our collective livingness anew."
– Katherine McKittrick, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Black Studies, Queen's University

"Botany of Empire is an absorbing account of the many ways in which race, class, gender, and colonialism have shaped, and continue to influence, the plant sciences. This book will change the way you think about plants."
– Amitav Ghosh, author of The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis

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