The Substance of Memory: Plants, Objects, and Affect

John Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this article is to develop the concept “botanical memory” through an analysis of interviews conducted with indigenous plant enthusiasts in the biodiverse Southwest corner of Western Australia. The topic of this article can be described as memory-based studies of plant diversity or botanically-focused oral histories; and the method is ethnographic. Attending to the everyday practices constituting botanical memory, the article posits a material-affective framework to foreground the dynamics between plants, people, objects, and remembrance. The writings of Henry David Thoreau and C. Nadia Seremetakis, in conjunction with affect and materiality theory, offer conceptual anchor points for this exploration of human recollection and flora. The interviews indicate that plant-based objects and living plants deepen human memory, particularly through their appeal to touch, taste, smell, and sensation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-99
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Literature and Art Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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