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Speaking with Earth Kin: Plant Personhood and Healing in the Anthropocene

Authors: Alice McSherry*, The University of Auckland Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand, Amba J. Sepie, University of Canterbury Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, Aotearoa New Zealand
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: interspecies communication, more-than-human geography, healing, plant medicine
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual Track 4
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The denial of personhood to the plant world, as leveraged by westernised modes of thought and action, has been increasingly linked with the declining health of human bodies and the planetary body of Earth herself. Conversely, we explore the relationship between plants, and the human healers who adopt the notion of a sentient and conscious Earth, taking seriously the experiences of human-plant communication that serves the restoration and healing of relationships with one other and other life forms. Through ethnographic accounts and contemporary oralture gifted by traditional, indigenous, and contemporary Earth oriented wisdom-keepers and healers, this paper addresses the multi-layered communication praxis engaged via cosmology, ritual, intuitive channelling and dreaming. These cases are drawn from a broad range of cultural and geographical contexts, however they converge remarkably in terms of worldview, privileging the ethic of right relationship to Earth-as-mother, regeneration, reciprocity, regeneration, redistribution, and respect for all life. In this sense, these examples complicate long-held assumptions regarding geography, time, epistemologies, and culture. Additionally, we challenge contemporary scholarship in the more-than-human field by subverting the idea that plant beings are merely a ‘lively presence’ rather than expressions of sentient Earth consciousness. By doing so, we support the notion that the healer is someone who embodies an imperative ecological role, and therefore someone who acts as an intermediary between the plant and human worlds, to offer wisdom that informs how we may live well in the contemporary context of the Anthropocene.

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