Plants in Africa and the Global South: Multi-Species Materialities, Ecologies, and Aesthetics (MMEA)

This working  group brings together researchers, artists and practitioners interested in plants in Africa and the Global South to discuss methodological questions concerning plant research in the humanities and social sciences on and beyond the African continent. Mmea is the Kiswahili word for "plant." What methods are promising for studying plant epistemologies in Africa? What methods are suitable for working across disciplines, such as the  natural sciences and the humanities and social sciences, but also with disciplines outside of the academy, including Indigenous knowledge systems? What are the methodological specificities of doing plant research in the Global South? Which methods are useful for research practices that are attentive to the practices of plant practitioners and research that is committed to social justice and climate justice? What methodological innovations come out of plant research concerning interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, as well as approaches that incorporate artistic research? What specific forms for documenting, presenting and communicating plant research evolve in these activities? The working group is concerned with plants in diverse contexts and disciplines, including but not limited to Indigenous knowledge systems, botany and plant sciences, food, medicine, horticulture, plant collecting institutions like herbaria and botanical gardens, literature, and the arts.

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Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to

Upcoming Meetings

  • Thursday, October 12, 2023 10:00 am to 11:30 am EDT

    Ali Gholamifard (Lorestan University): Flagship Species of Lizards and Plants of Iran: A Measure for Indicating Biodiversity

  • Thursday, November 9, 2023 10:00 am to 11:30 am EST

    James Wachira (University of Nairobi): NarRating Plants in Kenyan Verbal Arts

  • Thursday, December 14, 2023 10:00 am to 11:30 am EST

    Elena Agudio (Villa Romana) and Marleen Boschen (Goldsmiths, University of London / Tate): Testing Grounds / Seeding Worlds: Intersections of Art and Ecology in the Garden of Villa Romana, Florence

  • Thursday, January 11, 2024 10:00 am to 11:30 am EST

    Sumana Roy (Ashoka University): The Quest for the Plant Script

  • Thursday, February 8, 2024 10:00 am to 11:30 am EST

    Semih Celik (University of Exeter): 'A Museum in the Cradle of Civilization': The Imperial Natural History Museum in Istanbul and its Aftermath (1836-1870)

  • Thursday, March 14, 2024 10:00 am to 11:30 am EDT


  • Thursday, April 11, 2024 10:00 am to 11:30 am EDT

    Chanelle Adams (University of Lausanne): Volatile Oils: 'Wellness', Political Power, and the Market for Ravintsara Essential Oil in Madagascar

  • Thursday, May 9, 2024 10:00 am to 11:30 am EDT

    Neda Saeedi (Tehran / Berlin): "Swear by the Fig, Swear by the Olive"
    "Swear by the Fig, Swear by the Olive" explores urban and territorial landscapes and their flora, used to justify land ownership and deprivation in conflict zones.

  • Thursday, June 13, 2024 10:00 am to 11:30 am EDT

    Sahar Bazzaz (College of the Holy Cross): Plants of the Red Sea Littoral: PE Botta's Expedition to Yemen, 1836

  • Thursday, July 11, 2024 10:00 am to 11:30 am EDT

    Maxmillian J Chuhila (University of Dar es Salaam): Green Imperialism and Biomedical Campaigns in Colonial Tanganyika

Past Meetings

  • September 14, 2023

    Maura Flannery (St. John's University, NY / A.C. Moore Herbarium, University of South Carolina, Columbia): Plants That Aren't There: The Paucity of the Botanical Record for Many Parts of Africa

  • August 10, 2023

    Mohammed Nasreldein (University of Gezira / University of Tübingen): Economic Plants and Agricultural Practices in Post-Medieval Nubia: Insights from Old Dongola, Northern Sudan

  • June 8, 2023

    Lindsay Wells (The Getty Research Institute): From Passionflowers to Pelargoniums: South American and African Plants in Victorian Art 

  • May 11, 2023

    Janet Marion Purdy (Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago): Jackfruit, Jani, Teak, and Tamarind: Botanical Imagery, Wood Types, and the Significance of Wood in Carved Zanzibar Doors

  • July 14, 2022

    Maxmillian J Chuhila (University of Dar es Salaam): Green Imperialism and Biomedical Campaigns in Colonial Tanganyika
    postponed to autumn 2022!

  • June 9, 2022

    Melanie Boehi (University of the Witwatersrand), Phakamani m’Africa Xaba (Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden), and Luciano Concheiro San Vicente (The National Autonomous University of Mexico): Reimagining Botanical Gardens and Urban Parks in a Time of Crisis

  • May 12, 2022

    Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Princeton University) in conversation with Annalee Davis: Sites of Healing: Plantation Histories and Histories of Care in the Work of Annalee Davis

  • April 14, 2022

    Cecylia Mgombele (University of Dar es Salaam), Sinyati Robinson Mark (University of Dar es Salaam) and Sarah Walshaw (Simon Fraser University): Human-Plant Relationships in Tanzania's Past: Changes, Choices, Challenges - and Specifically the Changes Brought with the Caravan Trade

  • March 10, 2022

    Aqsa Mengal (Lahore University), Dania Nasir (Lahore University), Kulsoom Din Malik (Lahore University) and Moiz Abdul Majid (Tufts University UEP): Nature in the City: Memory, Scandal and Leisure in Lahore's Urban Parks

  • February 10, 2022

    Sarah Longair (University of Lincoln): The Coco-de-Mer in the 19th-Century Indian Ocean World: Connections, Conservation and Colonialism

Group Conveners

  • Abidemi.Babatunde's picture

    Abidemi Babatunde Babalola

    Abidemi Babatunde Babalola is Smuts Research Fellow in African Studies at the University of Cambridge and an expert in cultural heritage, West African archaeology, early glass production, innovation practices, early technologies, early urbanism and complex societies with a particular focus on Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He received his BA and MA in archaeology from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and holds a PhD in Anthropology from Rice University, Houston, with a specialization in African Archaeology. He was the McMillian Steward Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African & American Research and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Anthropology Harvard University and his research has furthermore been supported by the University College London in Qatar (UCLQ), the Corning Museum, and the Archaeology and Heritage Centre of the Cyprus Institute, among other institutions. His research includes human-environment interaction in terms of the exploitation of vegetation/plant resources for fuel in pyrotechnological activities, and his research on the archaeology of glass in Sub-Saharan African received the Discovery Award of Shanghai Archaeological Forum in 2019.


  • vera-simone.schulz's picture

    Vera-Simone Schulz

    Vera-Simone Schulz is an art historian working at the crossroads of African, Islamic and European art histories and postdoctoral research associate at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz–Max-Planck-Institut in Florence, Italy. She holds a Ph.D. in art history from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and her research has been supported by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation, the German Research Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and the Bard Graduate Center in New York City, among others. While her first book on Florence and Tuscany in their Mediterranean and global entanglements (in preparation for publication) already went beyond the common geographical frameworks of art historical studies concerned with Italy and the Islamic world by bringing also material from Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Kongo and coastal East Africa into this discussion, her habilitation and second book project moves from Florence as one of the traditional centers of art history to Eastern Africa, thus contributing to the overcoming of traditional notions of periphery and center in the discipline of art history. She was the 2022 CIRN Sanpaolo Visiting Fellow at CRASSH at the University of Cambridge where she was also a postdoctoral fellow at Wolfson College, and she is currently a MuseumsLab fellow and visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.


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