I 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 doctoral dissertation, “Indexing the Indigenous: Plants, Peoples and Empire in the Long Nineteenth Century” (University of British Columbia, 2018), analyzes the shifting understandings of indigenous knowledge from 1750 to 1910, with particular reference to Māori and Pacific plant names. As a long-established means of garnering indigenous assistance in botanical fieldwork, by the 1850s native plant names would also become caught up in anthropological projects concerned with ranking Pacific peoples in relation to a European cultural standard. My analysis reveals an ongoing attention to indigenous knowledge that cuts across racial stereotypes, highlights the contingent and contested nature of boundaries between indigenous knowledge, medicine and science, and pinpoints the source of ethnological generalizations in knowledge-making spheres geographically and culturally removed from the field.
My current project, “Fields of Empire: Science, Ethnoscience and the Making of the American Century,” examines American ethnobotany and ethnoecology in 20th-century Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.