Toronto Metropolitan University
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Growing Methods Developing a Methodology for Identifying Plant Agency and Vegetal Politics in the City

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-09, 15:27 authored by Sarah EltonSarah Elton

A methodology for plant qualitative research is at an early stage of development. While conducting a multispecies ethnography of gardeners and the plants they grow for food in a neighborhood in transition from social housing to a mixed-income community in Toronto, the author wondered, How to account for plants and their agency? What is evidence of vegetal politics? What is a multispecies ethnographer doing when decentering the human in relation to garden plants, beyond what isun-done ontologically? This article situates itself in the plant turn and proposes a methodology to account for plant agency in gardens and to identify vegetal politics. The author builds on the methodological work of other scholars of human-plant relations and posthumanist notions of relational agency to develop a three-step method: (1) recognize plant time, (2) participate with plants, and (3) scale up. Central to the methodology—and a key contribution the author puts forward—is a shift away from the researcher considering plants as individuals and instead understanding plant communities as the unit of analysis. This shift in scale, while recognizing plant time and the relational agency of plants, permits the identification of vegetal politics and has allowed the author to theorize plants as political actors in cities that support health.




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