The TTRU is thrilled to welcome Carla Hustak as a 2014-15 Research Fellow. Carla is a historian of gender, sex, race, science and environment. She is the author of Radical Intimacies: Affective Potential and the Politics of Love in the Transatlantic Sex Reform Movement, 1900-1930, which is a forthcoming book with Duke University Press. As a Research Fellow, Carla will be organizing a Biopolitics and Ecology Project, so stay tuned!
Carla’s current research is focused on the politics of plants and plant eugenics. In this work, she investigates the entanglement of masculinity, reproduction, science, race, and colonialism at the sites of transnational agricultural experiment stations between 1900 and 1930. This project entitled, Manly Reproductions: The Sexual Politics of Botanists, 1900 to 1930, explores how male scientists configured and performed reproductive roles in relation to plants; thus, forging masculine roles in birthing through heightened attention to plant ‘progeny,’ the ‘placenta’ of the plant, and ‘abortive’ pollen. In their appropriation of a birthing process, male scientists situated the perfectibility of reproduction in terms of capitalist productivity and eugenic mate selection. This project considers how male botanists’ work with plants involved four sites of reconfigured masculinities. First, botanists studying horticultural plants drew on and redefined relations between food and masculinity, specifically in traditional associations of men and meat. Second, by breeding for qualities such as color, height, size, and hardiness, botanists introduced a manly aesthetics in their affinities for creating marketable and eugenically perfect flowers. Third, male botanists’ shifted the dominant model of frontier manliness in the labor of taming ‘wild’ terrain to an attention to creating eugenically disciplined reproductive terrains involving maneuvering competing agencies of insects, plants, animals and atmospheric affects in a vegetable politics of life and death. Fourth, botanists’ new attention to the kinship of plants as studies of plant origins and biogeography led to shaping a botanical family album linked to plant eugenics. Overall, this research is in conversation with new scholarly turns in gender studies, affect theory, environmental history, the history of science, the history of gender and sexuality, and science studies.