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On showing and being shown plants - a guide to methods for more-than-human geography

Pitt, Hannah 2015. On showing and being shown plants - a guide to methods for more-than-human geography. Area 47 (1) , pp. 48-55. 10.1111/area.12145

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More-than-human geography challenges researchers to attend to all kinds of beings, including the unique facets and actions of plants. Attention to plants' agency is in its infancy and I argue that understanding plants as agents requires methodologies that allow ethnographic techniques to engage more directly with plants and what they do. To provide some guidance, I develop Tim Ingold's work on how novices learn into a methodology centred on showing and being shown. Researcher as novice is inducted into knowledge by expert guides who show them around their worlds, an approach well suited to attending to nonhumans. Drawing on ethnographic research of community gardens, I demonstrate how this can be applied through techniques of walking, talking, doing and picturing, which encourage guides – human and nonhuman – to share their expertise. Guidance from experts in plants and plants as experts fine-tunes the researcher's perception to attend more closely to nonhumans. By looking to flora as guides, human-plant geographers can learn what it is to be a plant and recognise their particular agency. But I identify limits to understanding plants in the absence of specialist training or assistance from botanists. Ingold suggests that knowledge acquired through showing takes the form of skills that enable future engagements with nonhumans, which is shared in stories. The aim of such research is not to represent nonhumans – with the incumbent challenge of speaking for very other others – but to provide guidance for future explorations. Hence knowing through showing prompts researchers to reconsider the purpose and products of any research that seeks to understand those other than ourselves.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: methodology; Ingold; more-than-human; plants; ethnography; community gardens
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0004-0894
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 09:03

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