Interspecies Ethnography

The SeedsValue draws on ethnographic fieldwork to document seeds practices in three agrobiodiversity hotspots. In each site, a duo of researchers will participate in the agricultural life in highland and lowland fields to document processes of value creation in plant human encounters. Our ethnographic inquiry takes inspiration from interspecies scholarship studying “the host of organisms whose lives and deaths are linked to human social worlds” ( Kirksey and Helmreich 2010, 545). Famously introduced by Donna Haraway, the notion of companion species powerfully encapsulates such heterogenous sociability. Haraway invokes etymology to help us grasp the stake of her concept: cum panis are those who share bread, and work together (2008). Our companions feature multiple organisms of all sizes and shapes whose lives are entangled with our composite self, both inside and outside our body. Cum panis par excellence, the SeedsValues argues that food crops offer a particularly revealing field to explore the complex interactions through which relatedness across species is enacted. With this notion Haraway unsettled Western perceptions of subjectivity as she insisted that such companionship shapes the partners’ existence in the world, telling us that “becoming is always becoming with—in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake” (2008, 244). Our ethnographic enquiry sets out to explore seed human co-becoming in agrodiversity hotspots. Ethnographic accounts of potato, maize and rice in the field sites at stake have suggested that these crops are treated as organisms imbued with a subjectivity of their own, sometimes acknowledged as an ancestor or a child to the people who grow them. However, there has been no sustained study into these embodied modes of transspecies companionship. The SeedsValues explores the texture of human-seed relatedness so as to enlighten processes of intersubjective creation across species, as well as the modalities of their participation to the capitalist world.

This will be achieved by experimenting with botanical drawing, plant thinking and subversive cataloguing.