Author: Olivia Angé
Dates: Forthcoming
Venue: Environnemental Humanities
Link to the publication:


The history of capitalism features a number of glorified characters, such as Frederick the Great or Antoine Parmentier, lauded for contributing to national prosperity by purportedly introducing the prolific potato to the masses. This article furthers the historical examination of these human heroes by directing attention toward vaunted varieties in the tuber population itself, which I call tuberous heroes. While popularly dismissed as a humble crop, the potato has also been acknowledged as having changed world history for both the better and the worse. An analysis of these antagonistic evaluations reveals how struggles for the advent of tuberous heroism were also political campaigns for worlds to come. The concept of a partial example is introduced to account for the fragmented and situated tuber appreciation found at the center of potato domestication in Peru and is held in contrast to the agroindustrial search for supercrops. This exploration of shifting vegetal virtuosity advances recent scholarship in the anthropology of ethics by highlighting the ecological attunement of partial exemplarity when compared with the expected ubiquity of heroic and villainous crops. This, in turn, explains how a plant become an ethical companion offering propositions for entangled flourishing.