Material and Visual Culture Seminar Series Fostering interdisciplinary discussion on approaches to material and visual culture, every wednesday, Semester 1, 17:00-18:00 BST. 28 OCTOBER: Scientific Knowledge
Session Chair: Peter Davidson
Tassanee Alleau (Université François Rabelais, Tours)
‘At the root’ of practices and knowledge : natural histories of the underground plant-object in a visual iconographic database
During my research I came across a variety of sources to explore specific material uses of the plants, how they are drawn and broadcasted, with “Roots” as a primary source : mainly texts, treatises, books of recipes, of secrets, and dictionaries. But what emerges from this research is the importance of a visual iconographic database of my Ph.D. subject: « ‘At the root’ of practices and knowledges: natural histories of the underground plant in early modern times (1530-1735) ». Studying the invisible part of the plant, the « root part of the plant » (tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, roots of trees, root vegetables) in different ways (history, history of sciences and epistemology, horticulture, agriculture, cultural history, history of medicine, histoire des mentalités, environmental history, food history, etc.) can be delicate. Finding images of this underground vegetal world is often full of symbolic meanings, difficult to decipher, reflecting the thoughts and beliefs of the early modern society in Europe and the New World. Visual material of the “souterrain” reveals the underground network of roots, nourishing the world, inspired by biblical meanings and ancient medicinal values, and can help to visualize and investigate a wide range of skills, practices and gestures around the “feet of the plants” used as amulets, material for furniture, remedies, food, etc. This Ph.D. research questions the methodology of how a historian might interrogate images as historical proofs, in the social and historical contexts of medical and botanical knowledge, of trade, consumerism and exchanges, of colonial cultural transfers, and domestic uses as well.
Tassanee Alleau. “‘At the root’ of practices and knowledge: natural histories of the underground plant-object in a visual iconographic database”. Material and Visual Culture Seminar Series: Scientific Knowledge, University of Edinburgh, Oct 2020, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. ffhalshs-02982760