Geoff Bil

Ph.D. New York Botanical Gardens

2018 to 2019
Research Fellow

Fields of Empire: Science, Ethnoscience and the Making of the American Century

Ethnobotanists and ethnoecologists, who study human interactions with plants and the environment, play an invaluable role as champions of biological, linguistic and cultural diversity. This role has frequently been compromised, however, by the discipline’s close association with powerful colonial and imperial entities operating at cross purposes. My project analyzes this relationship from the late-nineteenth-century western American frontier to twentieth-century Central and South America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. By investigating the varied ways ethnoscience has contributed to, capitalized on, and occasionally contravened American geopolitical and corporate interests, this book project will fill a crucial gap in the history of twentieth-century science. Additionally, by focusing on comparatively overlooked fields of study that encompass humanities, social science, and biological approaches, this work promises to add nuance to prevailing views on twentieth-century disciplinarity. It also aspires to contribute to a growing corpus of works that integrate science studies and indigenous critical approaches.