About Me

IMG_4930I am a historian of science and Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the New York Botanical Garden, specializing in the history of 19th- and 20th-century botany, anthropology, empire, indigenous history and environmental history.

My first book, Indexing the Indigenous: Plants, Peoples and Empire (under contract, Johns Hopkins University Press), examines the history of Western engagements with indigenous knowledge, with particular emphasis on the varied ways that indigenous plant names have figured in metropolitan botany and anthropology. Previous histories have tended to focus on the erasure of indigenous knowledges following the emergence of Linnaean nomenclature and classification. This book takes a different approach. Drawing on science studies approaches alongside indigenous critical theory, and using examples drawn from Tahiti, the Himalayas, and epsecially Aotearoa New Zealand, from the Enlightenment to the early twentieth century and beyond, Indexing the Indigenous examines the contingent, contested and ambivalent means by which European ways of naming and knowing plants achieved precedence. More importantly, through close analysis of field notebooks, private letters, botanical flora and other sources, it evidences contexts in which indigenous botanical vocabularies continued to serve as currency both of colonial scientific fieldwork and indigenous cultural perseverance. This project derives from research undertaken for my Ph.D in History at the University of British Columbia, completed in 2018.

My second book project, Fields of Empire: Science, Ethnoscience and the Making of the American Century, tracks Western engagements with indigenous knowledge under the emerging rubrics of ethnobotany and ethnoecology. Ranging from frontier anthropology, through iterations in the Philippines, Sumatra and Central America, Fields of Empire investigates the varied ways that indigenous and Western ethnoscientists contributed and contravened twentieth-century American colonizing interests. In so doing, it aims to elucidate the complex histories underlying a science vital to the comprehension of biocultural diversity today.

My work has been supported by numerous organizations, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, British Society for the History of Science, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, History of Science Society, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, Newberry Library, New York Botanical Garden, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Stout Centre for New Zealand Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, the University of British Columbia’s Department of History, the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, and the University of Sussex’s Department of History.