This glossary collects existing plant-related arguments to clarify how plant humanities has gradually emerged from the discourse of environmental humanities as a burgeoning independent field in recent years. This glossary also reinterprets selected discursive keywords from environmental humanities with a new focus on the plant humanities. In addition to foundational environmental humanities vocabularies, this alphabetical glossary suggests two trajectories that worth further exploring in the plant humanities study, neo-materialism and the theory/history of modern landscape architecture.
Neo-materialism cares about something more than humans, emphasizing the role of plant species as a crucial agency in transforming human cultures. This idea resonates with Jane Bennett’s concern that “strange and incomplete commonality with the out-side may induce vital materialists to treat nonhumans–animals, plants, earth, even artifacts and commodities–more carefully, more strategically, more ecologically” (Bennett, 18), advocating a kinship relation between human and plant species.
The theory/history of modern landscape architecture in this Glossary mainly refers to the site-based theories and the process theories from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Site-based theory suggests how plant species can reveal the unseen thickness of a cultural landscape, while the process theory illuminates ways that specific plant species—through their material properties and living systems–spatialize places. Moreover, living, growing, changing plants challenge static conceptions of architectural space. Plants articulate space over time. Several site and process theorists/historians of modern landscape architecture apply hybrid landscape vocabularies in their studies to challenge the historical binary thinking. These hybrid conditions afford new insights into human and other than human relationships. They bring plants into the discourse of architectural history as actors, living matter, space articulators, cultural symbols and bearers of power.
This project explores the pineapple plant as a colonial enterprise, alongside material exchange, scientific development, knowledge distribution, and visual representation. This project attempts to delineate the cultural landscape of the pineapple around the world, to articulate how this exotic species has reshaped human cultures since its first appearance as a symbol of nobility and artistry. From then on, this tiny plant has permeated into every aspect of society, drawing together an integrated network. Accordingly, the symbolic meaning of the pineapple is becoming broader and denser.
This project attempts to tell the history of the forgotten Pelargonium, a plant that is a familiar cultural fixture for the public – but one that so few people know by its true identity. Accordingly, this project puts the Geranium (scarlet or otherwise) to one side, and to narrate the lesser-known story of the Pelargonium, from its impact in the industrial, cultural, and social sphere, to the particular morphological make-up that caused all this nomenclature trouble in the first place. This final output is realized the Plant Humanities Workbench, a particular coding platform developed by the JSTOR Labs’ team.