This essay puts forth a theory of “affective ecologies” encompassing plant, animal, and human interactions. The authors’ formulation of “involution” favors a coevolution of organisms that act not on competitive pressures but on affective relations. Drawing in particular from—and challenging—Darwinian and neo-Darwinian accounts of orchid-insect contact and controversial research on plant communication, Hustak and Myers demonstrate the interdependence of seemingly unrelated life forms. The evolving entity within this framework is not an individual organism but a community of organisms in communication with one another, exemplified by the transmission of information through chemical signaling among plants, which forces readers to question what it means to communicate. This relationality also begs a reconsideration of the dynamic between a human subject who conducts an experiment and an animal or plant object of study, which the essay approaches by showing how Darwin became a participant in his own orchid experiments. Taken together, these feminist readings of ecological and evolutionary phenomena result in the dissolution of species and even kingdom boundaries.
Research Article|December 01 2012
Involutionary Momentum: Affective Ecologies and the Sciences of Plant/Insect Encounters
differences (2012) 23 (3): 74-118.