Illustration of a Cuban landscape

Botany, Race, and Power: The History of Expeditions to Cuba

Friday, March 5, 2021

11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The Humanities Institute’s Andrew W. Mellon Fellows give a Research Report each year showing how they use the historical collections of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and William and Lynda Steere Herbarium to further their interdisciplinary studies. Their presentations stimulate critical thinking at the intersection of science and the humanities and invite meaningful public discourse about society’s relationship with the natural environment.

Botanical expeditions have often served not just to create new scientific knowledge, but to consolidate political power. This talk will examine this process in the history of botanical expeditions to Cuba, beginning with the Spanish Imperial expeditions of the 1790s and ending with the first New York Botanical Garden expeditions to the island in the first decades of the 20th century. The paintings, photographs, and texts produced as part of these scientific explorations reveal how these expeditions drove and were driven by geopolitical and racial struggles of their time.