The Departmental Seminar Series features Ursula Münster! (09/06/21 – 16:00)

Title of seminar: Ursula Münster: «Weedy Belongings: Living with Postcolonial Species (invasive lantana, teak, and elephants) in South India»


This paper explores the co-constituted histories of Lantana camara, colonial teak and disturbed elephants in South India. I argue that in the disturbed landscapes of the Anthropocene, questions of belonging are replaced by questions of survival: how to live together (well) with “postcolonial species”, such as invasive weeds, teak monocultures, or traumatized elephants?

Conservationists consider Lantana camara as one of the most invasive species on this planet. Its seeds have travelled with colonialists from the Americas, and then spread from British botanical gardens all across South Asia. Colonialism facilitated lantana’s dispersal: Logging for railways and shipbuilding, and the planting of teak plantations enabled its success. Today, lantana is an integral part of South India’s protected landscapes. Pesticides, fires, chemicals and weeding could not eradicate it. Toxic to herbivores, the plant reproduces rapidly, overgrowing a diversity of grasses. Foresters hold lantana responsible for fatal elephant attacks: its thickets rise high and elephants unexpectedly encounter humans, and kill them. This paper argues that in times of the Anthropocene, questions about rightful belonging don’t help. Rather, lantana’s multispecies relationships point towards questions about the mutual co-constitution of people, plants, and wild elephants. What can we learn from connectivity across time, space and species boundaries? If weeds are here to stay, how can we learn «to live and die well with each other in a thick present» (Haraway)?

We wish you welcome and hope you will attend the seminar!!! 😀

Additional information

The Department of Social Anthropology runs a number of seminar series and lectures throughout the academic year.

«Instituttseminaret SAI» or «The Departmental Seminar Series» is a departmental seminar series at which invited speakers  present findings of their Research. The aim of these seminars is to share insight, exchange perspectives and discuss topics that are of relevance for academic research of the discipline social anthropology. The series gather graduate students and anthropologist from the various research institutions in the Oslo region. Guests are welcome and encouraged!