Carla Hustak and Natasha Myers

“Involutionary Momentum: Affective Ecologies and the Sciences of Plant/Insect Encounters” 

in differences: a journal of feminist cultural studies 23(3): 74-117. Special Issue on “Feminist Theory Out of Science”

The Collaboratory’s first publication explores how the concept of evolution can be supplemented by rethinking time and responsivity among species. It takes up the question of the co-evolution of plants and insects by taking a look at the kinds of stories that get told about how these organisms get involved in one another’s lives. The paper offers a glimpse into two aspects of plant/insect relationships: pollination and plant-herbivore interactions. It homes on two seemingly discordant moments in the history of the sciences of plant/insect relations: 1) Darwin’s studies of orchid pollination, 2) and contemporary research on the volatile compounds that are used as signals and cues in plant/insect communication. One aim of the paper is to challenge standard neo-Darwinian accounts of the evolutionary imperatives of distinct species. We look at ways that Darwin’s experimental practice defies the reductive logics that characterize more recent accounts of plant/insect interactions. The paper  restages plant/insect ecologies in an involutionary mode, and so draws attention to the “momentum” that propels these organisms to get involved one another’s lives and worlds. The effect is to tune in to the affective ecologies that bind plants and insects together in such intimate processes as sex and digestion.

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