Seed Banks & Seed Networks: Narratives, Images, Infrastructure

Presented by Allison Carruth, Department of English

Thursday, May 23, 2013
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
La Kretz Hall, Suite 300
Large conference room


This talk pertains to a new book-length research project that examines contemporary sustainable food movements by zeroing in on the rhetoric of seeds. In particular, the talk compares practices of and stories about “seed saving” and “seed banks” that have taken shape since the emergence of transgenic seeds in the early 1990s. Preliminary primary research –– of manifestos, memoirs, novels, films, and multimedia projects about seeds in the GMO era –– calls into question the dominant account of anti-­‐GMO rhetoric as simply nostalgic. The writers, artists, activists, and practitioners who articulate the perceived risks of GMOs and promises of heirloom seeds prove to be tech-­‐savvy and digitally networked. Focusing on seed saver networks (particularly those that Slow Food International and NATIVE / Seed Search in Tucson promote) and guerilla gardeners (such as Fallen Fruit and Five Borough Farm in New York City), the talk explores how movements for food system change promote “agricultural amateurism” by leveraging social networks and digital media.


Allison Carruth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at UCLA, where she is also an affiliated faculty member in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the Institute for Society and Genetics, and the Center for the Study of Women. Prior to UCLA, she served as Associate Director of Science, Technology and Society at Stanford University and as a professor at the University of Oregon. Her interests include American literature, contemporary fiction, food studies, science and technology studies, and the environmental humanities. Her first book is Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature of Food (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Her current book projects include “Literature and Food Studies” (with Amy L. Tigner), “Seeds: A Literary and Cultural History,” and “Wired City/Green City: Urban Ecology in Contemporary American Culture.” Professor Carruth is Media Editor of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities and is involved with Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. She has published articles in Modern Drama, Modern Fiction Studies, Modernism/Modernity, Parallax, and elsewhere.