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The Promise of Solutions from Increasing Diversity in Ways of Knowing

Educational Lessons from Meteorology, Ethnobotany, and Systems Ecology

Amy Freitag

The number of terms used for historically unrepresented types of knowledge in environmental management is large and growing. The emphasis on these “new” perspectives reflects a shift in how society values different ways of knowing. A primary reason behind this recognition of value is that fresh perspectives offer new problem framings, approaches to solutions, and linkages to other issues. Successes in collaborating across multiple knowledge domains have yielded new medicines, culturally appropriate regulations, and a better understanding of ecological dynamics, among others. These examples show the search for creative solutions cuts across disciplines, each of which has its own priorities, values, ethical practices, and approaches to knowledge creation. This review demonstrates how systems ecology, ethnobotany, and meteorology increase problem solving by legitimizing different ways of knowing. Pioneers in valuing nonscientific ways of knowing, they set the path forward for methods and theory used to inform research questions.

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Michael Sheridan

Boundary plants lie at the intersections of landscape ecology, social structure, and cultural meaning-making. They typically relate resource rights to social groups and cultural identities, and make these connections meaningful and legitimate. Landscape boundaries such as hedges and fence lines are often repositories for social identities and cultural meanings, and tools for the negotiations and struggles that comprise them. This article surveys botanical boundaries in classic ethnography, outlines social science approaches to boundary objects, and describes new theoretical work on space, place, and agency. It also introduces the concepts of monomarcation and polymarcation to delineate the contrast between technologically simple and socially complex forms of marking land. Three case studies, concerning the social lives of Dracaena in sub- Saharan Africa and Cordyline in the Caribbean, illustrate how boundary plants have a particular sort of vegetative agency to turn space into place in culture-specific ways.

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John C. Ryan

Since the eighteenth century, the study of plants has reflected an increasingly mechanized and technological view of the natural world that divides the humanities and the natual sciences. In broad terms, this article proposes a context for research into flora through an interrogation of existing literature addressing a rapprochement between ways to knowledge. The natureculture dichotomy, and more specifically the plant-to-human sensory disjunction, follows a parallel course of resolution to the schism between objective (technical, scientific, reductionistic, visual) and subjective (emotive, artistic, relational, multi-sensory) forms of knowledge. The foundations of taxonomic botany, as well as the allied fields of environmental studies, ethnobotany and economic botany, are undergirded by universalizing, sensorylimited visual structuring of the natural world. As the study of everyday embodied interactions of humans with flora, expanding upon the lens of cultural ecology, "cultural botany" provides a transdisciplinary research approach. Alternate embodied cultural engagements with flora emerge through a syncretic fusion of diverse methodologies.