From seeds to us – a new way of looking at nature

Published 14 January 2014

Dr Tom BristowThe question of examining exactly how connected humans are with seeds – the flora building blocks of new life – is just one of the big issues Dr Tom Bristow from the University of New England’s School of Arts will be investigating after winning an internationally coveted fellowship to continue his research into the ways in which humans relate with nature.

Dr Bristow’s project, ‘The Ontological Status of Seeds,’ caught the attention of the Australian National University’s Humanities Research Centre (HRC), where he was awarded the fellowship to continue his research, which compares environmental human cultural studies alongside innovations in the digital humanities.

Dr Bristow says seeds can actually reveal a little more of the answer to that age old question, what does it mean to be human?

“This is one of two projects I’m hoping to develop within our School’s ‘Posthuman Research Cluster,’ which considers ways of decentering and deconstructing our sense of what is human.”

“We can look back in time to consider how humans previously related to seeds by critically evaluating historical manuscript records, which will possibly give us some clues about our future seed relationships in the digital age.”

Dr Bristow will also investigate how seeds have been recorded and represented in our literary and film archives as well as considering the postcolonial and climate change contexts.

“Seeds have always been vital to Australia’s natural diversity, and part of my work will be looking at our seed banks compared to other countries to make sure we can be confident of protecting and preserving both our unique flora record along with the potential to save endangered varieties.”

During his fellowship, Dr Bristow will convene a major conference which will consider a range of topics including the privatising of environmental morality, emotional communities and interdependent planetary life.