Learning from and with Invasive Species: pluralities, refractions, futures!

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This post introduces Learning from and with Invasive Species: pluralities, refractions, futures, a 4 part series of pieces edited by Estraven Lupino-Smith concerned with how humans choose to relate to species perceived to be “out-of-place” as shaped by ontologies, socioeconomic context, place-based histories, and desires of knowing and belonging to the world. By drawing attention to invasivity as historical production and the fickleness of its adoption, the series takes up discussions around invasion ecology and its relationship to the politics of land, labor, resources, selfhood, and place-making.

The very definition of a of an invasive plant as a foreign, unruly species that exceeds the interspecies dependency of anthropogenic cultivation – that is, it has naturalized and continues to thrive and expand without human assistance – makes it clear that the concept of invasiveness is as much about control as anything.

Cate Sandilands, Loving the Difficult: Scotch Broom, in KIN: Thinking with Deborah Bird Rose

By Estraven Lupino-Smith

In March 2022, Ceall Quinn and Chris Reimer, PhD students at the University of British Columbia, coordinated a series of panel presentations for the Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference held annually by the University of Kentucky. Quinn and Reimer proposed that presentations take on the invasive/native binary, considering settler conservation practices and discourses. The panel included presentations on the the racial discourses of invasion in relation to introduced species and Indigenous resurgence, arts based methods to English Ivy removal and restoration, and a queered analysis of the Bartlett Pear Tree, a common ornamental planting in several cities across North America.

Quinn and Reimer proposed that this panel be a way to think about relations to invasive species and to invasivity itself. Inspired by Zoe Todd’s (2014; 2017; 2018) fishy stories, they prompted panelists to respond to the pluralities of relations, inside and outside of colonial framings: 

What refractive stories can these relations tell, or how do these relations distort/reimagine/refuse colonial orders?

How might hopeful futures built on good relations (rather than outdated labels) look and feel?

English Ivy climbing up several trees in a North American forest. Washington State Invasive Species Council.

While reading the series, you might reflect on this provocation by Sandilands:

What difference might it make to think about scotch broom as a species with which we are – like it or not – rather literally entangled with, rather than as a plant whose primary cultural existence is an enemy to be eradicated as effectively as possible?

Sandilands, Loving the Difficult: Scotch Broom, in KIN: Thinking with Deborah Bird Rose

This series will be published in August, with plans to continue the conversation throughout the year. The posts reflect on border politics and invasive buffelgrass, public discourse on urban coyotes, and the invoking of private property logics to label invasive plants as trespassers. I hope you’ll be intrigued by what you read, and that you might look slightly differently at the weeds growing outside your window.

Feature Image: A tangle of removed English Ivy. From Common Threads: Weaving Community through Collaborative Eco-Art.
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Estraven Lupino-Smith

Estraven Lupino-Smith is an artist, researcher, and educator living on unceded Lkwungen and and W̱SÁNEĆ territories. Their work is informed by their curiosity and critical engagements with various environments: natural, cultural, and constructed. They are interested in the interactions of human and non-human animals and interrupting dominant narratives about nature and ecologies.

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