A BOTANY OF VIOLENCE
Across 529 Years of Resistance & Resurgence
After 5 years of collaborative research and working through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re proud to share our new publication with GOFF Books, A Botany of Violence. A small but dense format with over 300 original archival images spread across a visual timeline of five centuries, ending with two essays, the book weaves a revisionist history of the cinchona plant, global pharma, colonial extraction, labor exploitation, and resistance movements in the Central Andes.
From germ theory to plantation logic, this book tracks 529 years of global, colonial powers in the violent search for the elusive Cinchona plant of South America. Smuggled and stolen by the Jesuits and the Spanish Monarchy in the 17th century, transplanted by Britain and Holland in India and Indonesia during the 18th century, mapped by German explorer Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century, weaponized by the U.S. in the 20th century, and monopolized by global pharma in the 21st century, the story of the Cinchona plant—the tree called ‘fever’—literally lies at the base of modern civilization. The quest to find the cure for malaria and to control the production of quinine as seen in the corporate monopoly in Africa today also traces deep roots of territorial dispossession and labor exploitation that lie between the Amazon and the Andes.
Behind the mask of heritage preservation and resource conservation, five centuries of graphic evidence put into sharp relief the uneven scales of racialized, gendered violence that are rooted in territorial injustices and underpinned by state nationalism. Bringing the map and the territory closer together, state-sanctioned policies of resource extraction and environmental destruction are interwoven with contemporary narratives of sovereignty and self-determination. Like a geopolitical treatise, the archival activism of this book rebuilds relations with the Cinchona plant, by reclaiming territorial histories of its peoples and its ancestral lands to confront the oppressive structures of the settler-state. Overlooked, suppressed, and marginalized, the long history of resistance movements and rebellions led by Indigenous and Afro-Latina women not only reveals the settler-colonial force of the nation-state. Their contemporary resurgence in the 21st century proposes a counter-map: a way challenge to the plague of violence and weaponization of resources of the past five centuries and its transformation into a regenerative flora of the future.
“From fact to fiction to fable, the scientific and taxonomic epistemologies of the Cinchona plant are rooted in longstanding forms of imperial conquest and economic appropriation, as well as cultural construction and scientific misinterpretation. And to be sure, the dehumanizing holism of German explorer Alexander von Humboldt’s hegemonic universalism, his trite naturalism, performative humanism, regional romance, equatorial fetish, and missionary lust lie at its very core.”
A Botany of Violence is available from the publisher, GOFF Books (an
imprint of ORO Editions), independent design bookstores worldwide, and all
major booksellers online. The book was reviewed by landscape scholar Rod
Barnett (Māori) in Places Journal (March 2023), “The Dog
A pre-launch of A Botany of Violence was accompanied by the exhibition and symposium Towards a Flora of the Future: An Initiative on Forensic Botany, Climate Activism, Territorial Justice, and Liberatory Feminism at University of Virginia School of Architecture in early 2022, following the launch of an online multimedia platform for the book & exhibition archive: floradelfutu.ro.
THE WRITING ON THE WALL
An Open Letter to Rem Koolhaas & the Guggenheim Museum
Initiated by a coalition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars from the Global South, this Open Letter confronts the curatorial team of Countryside, The Future to issue a public apology for the ignorant and racist claims to self-indigenization exhibited on the walls at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum between February 20, 2020 and February 15, 2021.
“Widespread throughout the exhibition and accompanying publication are several strategies of dispossession premised on extraction, erasure, and race-shifting. Not only are they the result of cultural extraction of traditional Indigenous knowledge, but their content is premised on the systemic erasure and evacuation of Indigenous Peoples, and the myth of white supremacy that presumes everyone at some point in time and place was Native. This is settler-colonial tradecraft.”
As a call to stop cultural appropriation, race-shifting, & self-indigenization, t
he contents of the letter
(including the online public petition)
released on January 17th, 2022 can be found online in English & Spanish: whiteskinwhitewallswhiteli.es
Pretexts, Subtexts, Contexts in Struggles for Environmental Justice
In collaboration with students at Cornell University for the 2021 Landscape Conference, we brought
together writings from the past 25 years by authors, artists, and activists whose
work is dedicated to environmental justice. Retroactively challenging the focus
of design disciplines on the future, these essential readings (organized around the year 1993) focus on grounding design in
“this work of repatriation in the academy, is not about victimization or blame games. It’s about the acknowledgement and resolution of real and tangible crimes so that a future truly is worth living.”
From Kofi Boone’s “Black Landscapes Matter” (2020) and Rod
Barnett’s “Designing Indian Country” (2016), to Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s “Land
as Pedagogy” (2004) and Deborah Miranda’s “Teaching on Stolen Ground” (2007),
as well as Austin Allen’s “Claiming Open Spaces” (1994) and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Mapping
the Margins” (1993), the compilation of multimedia texts challenge
the current historiographies, methodologies, narratives, and rhetorical devices of landscape architecture (and its allied disiciplines) as they have been taught since its foundation in the mid-19th century in
America and 16-18th centuries in Europe. The compilation purposefully confronts disicplinary histories that deny, erase, and actively suppress the
violence of settler-colonialism at the moment that lands & labor were being (and continue to be) stolen from nations and communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Confronting struggles for environmental justice that
crystallized in the mid 1980s from the fallout of Anglo-American environmentalism in the 1970s,
the readings expose the complicity of settler-colonial heteropatriarchy intrinsic to and denied
the professions, disciplines, and institutions of design in preserving histories and maintaining structures of white supremacy.
“Almost alone among the key players of this century’s history, the landscape remains silent. But in truth it may be the most expert witness of all. In its broadest sense, ‘landscape’ is a stage on which struggles occur—where humans extract resources from the earth, suburbs drain people and wealth from cities, and territory is contested between warring groups. Landscape is also a kind of slate upon which the evidence of culture, habitation, and labor is written and may be read.”
If the fields of design are wholly and utterly unprepared for
the massive political change and demographic shift that is underway in this
generation, the lens of these authors offer up a core, spatial question for designers:
how can you change, shape or influence the future if you consistently
misunderstand and misread the present?
For an introduction by the curators of the c.1993 compilation, see “LANDSCAPE AS RESISTANCE: Pretexts,
Subtexts, Contexts in Struggles for Environmental Justice.” As bibliography, pedagogy, and curricula for this next generation of landscape architects, the entire compilation of downloadable texts and archive of viewwable media can be accessed through linktr.ee/c1993
EL TRATADO DEL QUINO
with the Quino Tree
at the Center of the World
by Decolonizing Quinine
& the Global Discourse
From germ theory to plantation
logic, this exhibition charts the 497-year legacy of global, colonial powers in the
violent search for the elusive Cinchona plant of South America in the cure for
malaria. Stolen by the Jesuits in the 17th century, smuggled abroad by Britain
and Holland during the 18th century, mapped by German explorer Alexander von
Humboldt in the 19th century, and exploited by global pharma in the 20th
century, the story of the Cinchona plant—and of its powerful quinine extract—not only lies at the base of modern civilization but traces the deep roots of
Indigenous, territorial resistance back to the Amazon and the Andes. Composed
as a geopolitical treatise, this initiative proposes a countermap to rebuild
relations with the Cinchona plant—originally known to its peoples as the “Quino
tree”—and to challenge territorial destruction and gendered violence that continue to increase
amidst state-sanctioned resource extraction, economic inequality, and benevolent conservation.
“Since the beginning of our life as a people, this territory has been our supermarket, our pharmacy, our hardware store. Our ancestors were born and buried here. Our connection to this place is deeper than the state’s. We should be managing it and protecting it.”
Produced by LA MINGA Collaborative, NOT YOUR AMAZON, and OPSYS Media, this initiative involves a program of events coming in 2021 and 2022 including an exhibition, publication, and conference that coincide with the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy (2021) and the Quito Pan-American Architecture Biennial (2022) in Ecuador.
The Weaponization of Urban Space & Racialization of the Public Sphere in Boston
In a period of less than six months in 1979 at the height of federally-mandated school desegregation in Boston, a public park originally designed as a children’s playground and built with the intention of reducing social and economic inequalities, nearly three decades in the making between 1949 and 1976—with more than $60 million in federal and municipal funds notwithstanding the involvement of hundreds of people and diverse communities to open access to the water—was coopted by a small committee of private interests whose corrupt efforts resulted in the deceitful renaming of the park to edify a violent, genocidal killer and unsanctioned placement of a statue of that, since then, has fueled 40 years of racial division, historical deception, and socio-political confrontation.
See the Open Letter to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to learn more about the lies and deception that took place in the hot summer of 1979. Launching a multi-year initiative The 1492 Project after more than 5 years of research, this letter comes with a 22-page Archival Resource Guide that comprehensively documents corruption of public process in the renaming of Waterfront Park and placement of the Christopher Columbus statue on October 23rd, 1979. An earlier story and tweet thread, “Confronting Columbus,” was posted online on June 12th, 2020 following the beheading of the Columbus statue on the night of June 10th, 2020, and its subsequent removal from the park, two days later on Friday, June 12th, to Shaughnessy & Ahern’s Warehouse in South Boston. A series of public hearings were subsequently planned over the next few months by the Boston Art Commission to assess what the Mayor of Boston has argued as the ‘historical meaning’ of the statue and park.
NO DESIGN ON STOLEN LAND
Dismantling Design’s Dehumanizing
Every single building site – from a house to a highway – benefits from the exploitation of a capitalist property regime built on the back of broken treaties. These sites are not only taken from stolen lands and unceded territories, they are the spatial products of a violent structure and system of settler-colonialism that displaced and continue to dispossess indigenous peoples through more than 500 years of territorial injustices. Mundus Novus. Terra Nullius. Doctrine of Discovery. Manifest Destiny.
“...the oppressive system of settler colonialism is now normalised through contemporary urbanism, precisely because of the ‘denigration of Indigenous culture. Basically, it’s racism … systemic, institutional, individual, interpersonal racism.’ As Deborah A Miranda writes in Teaching on Stolen Ground (2007), ‘genocide depends upon the appropriation of the identity of the colonized by the colonizer.’”
This special edition booklet features a longform essay originally published in a January 2020 issue of Architectural Design (AD) Magazine titled “The Landscapists.”