Opening the curiosity box : botanical images as sites of transformation for the scientific practices of annotation and display in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Stewart, Karen (2007-03)

Thesis (MPhil) -- University of Stellenbosch, 2007.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis investigates the hidden narratives of South African botanical images made in the late seventeenth to eighteenth century. Plant collecting and image making was part of early modernist scientific practice of collection and display. These images are examined from postmodern perspectives that treat them as "texts" that validated colonial botanical agendas. Botanical art objectified "nature" enforcing it into a textual code that sanitised it and made it suitable for study by Eurocentric natural philosophers. The impact of particular scientific agendas about "nature" can be linked to the stereotyping and subjugation of both indigenous knowledge systems and women. This thesis considers the impact that the complex historical and socio-political situations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had to bear on the discursive formations associated with the botanical sciences, of which botanical art forms an integral part. The process whereby indigenous knowledge was effectively written out of acceptable botanical practice (a trend that persists today) is evaluated. I determine what the current negative stigmas associated with the art form are and conclude that artists and botanists working within the discipline do not acknowledge the limitations of the art form in reflecting empirical "truths" and this leads to the creation of images that rely on tradition rather than innovation. I discuss my practical work in relation to the ideas presented in this thesis.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die versteekte narratiewe in Suid-Afrikaanse botaniese tekeninge wat uit die laat sewentiende tot agtiende eeu dateer. ·Die versameling van plante en maak van gepaardgaande tekeninge val onder die vroee modernistiese wetenskaplike praktyke van versameling en tentoonstelling. Bogenoemde tekeninge word vanuit 'n postmodernistiese oogpunt ondersoek as "tekste" wat gebruik is om koloniale botaniese agendas te staaf. Botaniese kuns het die "natuur" geobjektiveer en dit binne 'n tekstuele kode geplaas wat dit gesuiwer het en daarvan 'n toepaslike onderwerp vir studie deur Eurosentriese natuurfilosowe gemaak het. Die impak van spesifieke wetenskaplike agendas aangaande die "natuur" hou verband met die stereotipering en die onderdrukking van beide inheemse sisteme van kennis en vroue. Hierdie thesis ondersoek die impak wat die komplekse historiese en sosiopolitese toestande gedurende die sewentiende en agtiende eeue op die beredenering rondom botaniese wetenskappe, waarvan botaniese kuns 'n integrale deel uitmaak, gehad het. Die proses waarvolgens inheemse kennis uit botaniese praktyk "uitgeskryf' is ('n tendens wat vandag voortleef), word beoordeel. Ek bepaal wat die huidige negatiewe stigmas is wat geassoseer word met die kunsvorm en kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat kunstenaars en botaniste wat binne hierdie vakgebied werk nie die beperkinge van hierdie kunsvorm erken insoseer dit empiriese "waarhede" weerkaats nie en dat dit lei tot tekeninge wat staatmak op tradisie eerdeer as innovasie. Ek bespreek ook my eie praktiese werk in verhouding tot die idees wat in hierdie tesis geopper word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/50735
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