School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Ethnobotany Lecture

The Annual Ethnobotany Lecture was founded in 2000 and is a highlight of the academic year for the postgraduate programme. It is sponsored jointly by the Centre for Biocultural Diversity at Kent and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The lectureship is awarded to ethnobotanists who have made a significant impact on the subject, and who have established a reputation in the public understanding of science. Recent lecturers have included Gary Martin, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Will McClatchey and Nancy Turner.

Georg RumphiusAnnual Kent-Kew Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2017

In the footsteps of Rumphius: history and ethnobotanical entanglements in the spice islands
Emeritus Professor Roy Ellen, FBA
University of Kent

17.00 - Tuesday 10 October, 2017

Professor Roy EllenAnyone embarking on the ethnobotanical study of the Moluccan islands (the spice islands) of eastern Indonesia will encounter the names and reputations of three naturalists: Alfred Russell Wallace, Henry Forbes and Georg Rumphius. The third of these, Rumphius, has been a kind of intellectual partner in my own research over a period of almost 50 years. In this lecture, I wanted to show how Rumphius was not only an important figure in the history of botany - a precursor to Linnaeus -, but also how an examination of his work sheds light on both the historical ethnobotany of the seventeenth century Ambonese people he lived and worked with, and how Rumphius himself makes an intriguing subject for a study of European natural history at a crucial moment in its transition from a kind of ethnobotany to what we would today understand as biological science. Rumphius' insights have impacted my own investigation of the plant knowledge practices of the Nuaulu people of Seram in numerous and sometimes surprising ways. The lecture discussed some examples of the productive engagement between puzzles in Nuaulu ethnobotany, my own attempts to interpret them, and the observations of Rumphius.

Previous Lectures

  • 2016
    Local names reveal how enslaved Africans recognised substantial parts of the New World flora
    Tinde van Andel
  • 2015
    Why ritual and incense plants are important
    Caroline Weckerle
  • 2014
    Evolutionary Ecology as a Driver of New Questions in Ethnobotany
    Doyle B. McKey
  • 2013
    The Ethnobiology of Crop Domestication and Evolution: Fostering resilience of social ecological systems in the Anthropocene
    Pablo B. Eyzaguirre, Senior Scientist, Bioversity International
  • 2012
    Medicinal plant trade, conservation and local livelihoods in southern Morocco
    Gary Martin
  • 2011
    Ethnobotany of the Home and Hearth
    Will McClatchey
  • 2010
    The dynamics of ethnobotanical knowledge in a globalized world: examples from the Tsimane indigenous people (Bolivian Amazon)
    Victoria Reyes-García
  • 2009
    Bringing the food back home indigenous foodways, nutrition and biodiversity indigenous foodways, nutrition and biodiversity in western Canada.
    Nancy Turner
  • 2008
    Austrian alpine ethnobotany: examples and trends for the use and management of plant species in the Austrian Alps
    Christian Vögl
  • 2007
    Local perceptions and forest policy: conservation and logging in Papua New Guinea
    Paul Sillitoe
  • 2006
    Taking stock of nature? Ethnobotany and action in participatory ecological governance
    Anna Lawrence
  • 2005
    Ancient trees and what people do to them
    Oliver Rackham
  • 2004
    Gender bias in ethnobotany: propositions and evidence of a distorted science, and promises of a brighter future
    Patricia Howard
  • 2003
    The origins and spread of agriculture: a comparative world view.
    David Harris
  • 2002
    Globalization of traditional knowledge systems: implications for innovation, flow and appropriation of knowledge
    Miguel Alexiades
  • 2001
    Plants and people in Amazonian Peru
    Oliver Philipps
  • 2000
    The light at the edge of the world: vanishing cultures, enduring lives; an ethnobotanist’s view
    Wade Davis


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Last Updated: 18/10/2017