Ecologies of Justice Initiative: Catriona Sandilands
“Loving the Difficult: Scotch Broom, Botanical Colonialism, and the Politics of Cohabitation”
Wednesday, March 16, 2022, 6 – 7:30pm EST
Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is currently one of the most loathed exotic invasive plants on the west coast of North America. This talk explores the ways broom’s history in the region is inseparable from ongoing British and Canadian colonialism, including both the infrastructural and industrial development that facilitated broom’s spread, and the more recent settler-colonial institutional and aesthetic preference for indigenous plants.
Broom bashing is not only part of a settler colonial “move to innocence” that attempts botanical erasure of ongoing histories of colonialism, but also that it often ignores Indigenous philosophies that may not be as focused on exotic invasive species as they are on the settler capitalist relations in which plants and people are jointly embedded.
Inspired by the work of the late philosopher Deborah Bird Rose, this presentation ends by asking what non-innocent settler responsibilities might be in, with, and to Scotch broom as part of a more life-affirming, attentive practice of decolonization, one that foregrounds relations with Indigenous peoples more than it does the eradication of non-indigenous plants.
Catriona (Cate) Sandilands is Professor of Environmental Studies at York University where she teaches and writes about environmental humanities, environmental public cultures and biopolitics, queer, trans* and feminist ecologies, critical plant studies, and biocultural diversity and multispecies cohabitation.