Like land and water, plants lie at the intersection of climate change, food security, ecological risk, geopolitical conflict, and cultural self-determination. Yet, they remain largely overlooked and marginalized as a practical body of knowledge by the alarming illiteracy of the botanical world across different fields of knowledge and practices. Obscured by the environmental fragmentation of contemporary urban landscapes or by the logistical industrialization of food chains or by the soft effeminate portrayal of living systems, the epistemological and cultural damage of settler colonialism (inherent to conservation policies) and racial capitalism (inherent to development projects) are undeniably at the root of environmental violence and territorial injustices.

Today, an increasingly resistant and resurgent culture of activist scholars and territorial defenders are pushing back and confronting these environmental and cultural aggressions, by reconnecting contemporary urban life with living systems not only through advocacy but through relation building with live media of fauna, flora, and biota in a radical transformation of the conventional and largely heteropatriarchal practices and extractive processes of urbanism that are located in spatial, ideological abstractions physically manifested in site development, land use mapping, regulatory zoning, master planning, infrastructure engineering, metropolitan densities, state borders, and foreign policies.

Through plant-based systems of knowledge and cultural practices, this initiative brings together Afro-Indigenous, Black & Brown Women of Color, knowledge keepers, and feminist practitioners whose work—spatial, cultural, political—confronts and challenges the dangerous paper world of design by focusing on cultural, regenerative power of plants and territorial self-determination whose legacies of displacement, histories of dispossession, and cultures of resistance are grounded in botanical traditions, medicinal practices, and ecological care in support of contemporary rematriation, territorial reparations, land back movements, and restorative justice.

This initiative involves the threefold launch of a book and exhibition at UVA, accompanied by a gathering of guest speakers and scholars from across the Americas. The event marks two key occasions focusing on the violent legacies of settler-colonialism and the role of Indigenous women’s resistance movements: the international release of a new book on the Cinchona plant, A BOTANY OF VIOLENCE: Across 529 Years of Resistance & Resurgence, co-authored by Ghazal Jafari, Pierre Bélanger, and Pablo Escudero and published by GOFF Books (an imprint of ORO Editions), as well as the U.S. opening of a traveling global exhibition, TOWARDS A FLORA OF THE FUTURE, at the School of Architecture’s Elmaleh Gallery featured last year at the 17th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy.

Ana María Durán Calisto, Estudio A0 & Yale University School of Architecture
Roxana Escobar, University of Toronto Department of Geography & Planning
Mariaelena Huambachano, Syracuse University School of Art & Sciences
Pedro Aparicio Llorente, APLO & Universidad de los Andes
With contributions from Mayra and José Shiguango, Upper Napo region of Ecuadorian Amazonia

Ghazal Jafari, University of Virginia School of Architecture


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