Charis Boke

Visiting Scholar, Dartmouth College

2021 to 2022
Keith S. Thomson Research Fellow

A Dose of Herbalism: Evidence and Efficacy in North American Medical History

Broadly, my research engages with how to live a good life on a politically and ecologically troubled planet. My scholarly work is situated at the intersection of medical anthropology, political ecology, and science and technology studies in the context of the United States, entwined with my work as a social justice activist. In each of my ongoing projects, I consider the intersections of climate change, critical race and settler-colonial studies, environmental justice, and multispecies relations in the United States.
As a Research Fellow with the Consortium, I am at work on a book project based on my longest-term fieldwork to date, with herbal medicine practitioners in the Northeast of the United States. Poison, Power and Possibility: Building Relations with Plants in North American Herbalism is a monograph that draws on my ethnographic work with herbalists and those seeking herbal remedies for ailments, linking conversations with chronic illness sufferers to larger historical and social processes. In it, I think about sensory practices of relationship with plants and ecologies; the rhetoric and practice around substances called poisons; and the ways that some herbalisms in North America are both conditioned by, and seek to resist, ‘settler common sense’ (Rifkin).
In addition to my role as a Research Fellow at the Consortium on the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, I currently serve as a Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College's Department of Anthropology in Hanover, New Hampshire, and as Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Anthropology at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. I serve my communities as an organizer and facilitator when asked, and run community-education workshops that draw on my deep ethnographic and historical research to offer tools for dismantling systems of oppression. I write for a wide array of audiences, and keep an occasional blog on my personal website. My scholarly work has been published in An Ecotopian Lexicon; The Routledge Handbook of International Resilience; Anthropology Today; Cultural Anthropology’s scholarly blog Fieldsights; and Resilience.