Forage! is the Society of Ethnobiology’s newest venue for gathering ideas and knowledge, fostering the ethnobiological community and movements. We encourage members to submit content from all expressive dimensions including intellectual, creative, and activist ones (e.g., art, stories, literature, poetry, pictures). Board members from the Society moderate the blog. We invite all SOE members and the general public to submit blog posts here: firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome comments from members and the general public.
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In January I posted about Landscape for Life, a curriculum to increase awareness among homeowners about how their landscaping practices impact the environment. This post is about my efforts to reduce our own environmental impact by converting our three acres from mostly lawn to mostly woods. This is a chronicle of what went well and what I wish I’d done differently along with some musings about the project.
Photography byCharlotte Logan, Jessica Dolan, and Rich Holschuh
Sharing stories with one another is a way of making home; learning and sharing plant practices can connect us within one another, and can also help each person come home to oneself, grounding each of us within the landscapes where we live. My name is Jessica Dolan, and I’m an ethnobotanist and environmental anthropologist who has been working with North American Indigenous communities since 2007. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a dream of being in the ground looking up at carrots and turnips growing in a garden above me. I took that as a message that it was time to write to my daughter about the very first plants that I learned as a child. While pregnant, I daydreamed of teaching her about plants, visiting them in their homes, and exploring the gifts and contours of land and water in Vermont together. So, I wrote out my memories of the first plants I learned as a girl in Vermont. Ethnobiologists have studied children’s acquisition of plant knowledge across cultures (see, for example, Hunn 2002). In this piece, I share some of the very first plants I learned as a child, and how and where I learned them; my acquisition of plant knowledge growing up in Vermont is reflective of and was situated within an outdoors and landscape-based, rural culture of Vermont children in the 1980s.
As an amateur ethnobotanist I’m always looking for ways to live out my values and spur incremental change in behavior. I live in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C., in Loudoun County, which has been rapidly undergoing suburbanization for decades. I grew up on a farm here, so this change is hard to watch, but my family is also a part of the process; we just moved here a little earlier than most.
The discipline of ethnobiology, as it pertains to the relationships held between people, their environments, and the biota within, has ties to a wide variety of media, both modern and traditional, including music, art, textiles, and film, among many others. However, ethnobiology through video games is perhaps a lesser known outlet through which to explore the field. As video games have increased in complexity, accessibility, and gained a greater breadth of narrative, ethnobiological themes have become more apparent in recent years.
By Andrew Flachs, Assistant Professor of Anthropology (Purdue University)
As more than 1 billion people around the world gather to celebrate Diwali, cotton is nearly ready to pick in Telangana, India. A few years ago, Telangana cotton farmer Shiva and I travelled to the city to buy name-brand cottonseeds from a shop with a reputation for selling high-quality agricultural inputs like seeds and pesticides. The seeds Shiva sowed in June brought forth a terrific harvest that year, withstanding pest attacks, and redoubling investments in pesticide sprays, fertilizers, labor, and plowing. Ripe bolls, having withstood the vagaries of an increasingly unpredictable monsoon and new insect pest cycles, bring the promise of fireworks, new clothes, presents, and parties when sold in time for the late autumn festivities. Farmers like Shiva can breathe sighs of relief, content that, this year, their gambles have paid off.
Whether you are entering the world of academia or a well-seasoned navigator of the chaos, publishing can be a headache. Where do you begin? Which journal is most suited for your topic? How long does it take?
Dana Lepofsky, editor and chief of The Journal of Ethnobiology and Professor of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University, sat down to answer some of our most pressing questions.
My ancestral name is Styawat and I am from the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) First Nation. As an ethnobotanist, researcher and community activist, my aim is to contribute to cultural knowledge renewal in connection to Indigenous plant foods and medicines. Wherever possible I draw on teachings learned from family and community members that are connected to Indigenous plants and the land.
By: Andrew Gillreath-Brown, a current PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University. Twitter: @andrewwbrown; Instagram: @computational_archaeologist and Aaron Deter-Wolf, the Prehistoric Archaeologist for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, and runs the tattoo archaeology Instagram: @archaeologyink
Ethnographic literature from the southwestern United States provides us with early descriptions of Native American tattooing practices and tools including hafted, bundled, and individual cactus spines.
It’s a tale of an avocado pitting gone wrong. One minute, Kathy was stabbing avocado pits[i], the next, the knife had slipped and cut deeply into the ring finger of her left hand. She was doing fieldwork in Quito, Ecuador, and she was too far away from a doctor or hospital to get stitches.
By Kathleen Forste, PhD Candidate Boston University
The major challenge faced by archaeologists is translating past artifacts, features, and architecture into behaviors and activities of the people who made and used them. A similar challenge faced by archaeologists who study ancient plants is translating the preserved plant remains into larger-scale agricultural practices, and into smaller-scale meals and foodways—the everyday stuff. Did they grow cereals and forage for fruit, or did they grow fruit and forage for wild cereals? Did they experiment with recipes, or were there strict rules for combining ingredients? Did they have a similar palate to ours today and did they seek the same flavors and textures? How did their food choices and palates change over time?