Bengt G. Karlsson, Professor and Annika Rabo, Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Seedways. The anthropology of seeds and plants in a warming world

Human history is fundamentally a multispecies story and through seeds we seek to trace such relations and inter-dependencies between humans and plants. Seeds are being dispersed in various ways, here we look especially on how humans consciously engage with seeds; selecting, breeding, exchanging and storing seeds, and how seeds are brought along when people travel or migrate. Through seeds we hope to explore the cultural and sensorial or affective connections between people, plants, and places. Seeds are often also used as metaphors or tropes of possibilities, hope and aspirations that are inherent, yet not fully realized, in the present. Seeds also brings us to critical political questions about control over the material basis of our existence, that is, the main food crops.

In this seminar we will report from a recent symposium on human-seed relationships that we are organizing and through which we seek to develop a larger environmental anthropology/multispecies research project at the department.

Bengt G. Karlsson’s main research interest relate to the larger issue of society-environment interface, with particular focus on the politics of ethnicity and environment in India. Most recently he has completed a project with Dr. Dolly Kikon (Melbourne University) on indigenous migration in Northeast India (funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond). The main publication of the project is the book Leaving the land: Indigenous Migration and Affective Labor in India (forthcoming Cambridge University Press). Most recently Karlsson is leading a project entitled “Assam Tea, Kenya: The Travel of Seeds, Clones and Science Between India and Kenya” (funded by The Seed Box: A Mistra-Formas Environmental Humanities Collaboratory); with British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA), Nairobi, and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Guwahati.

Annika Rabo has carried out fieldwork and participated in, or has been responsible for, research projects in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia focusing on development and development projects, water resource use, state and citizen relations, education and education systems, family law, migration and relations between ‘majority’ and minority. Between 2016-2018, Rabo is project leader for the Formas funded multidisciplinary project “Time and development in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia”. The aim of the project is to augment our knowledge of longitudinal development processes through studying traces and memories of a land conservation project in Tunisia twenty years after its termination. The concept time geography is an important theoretical glue in the project and will be used as an overarching concept to unite together the methods and theories of social and natural sciences which will be used in the research project.

All seminars in the series.