Weed or Not Weed: Gardening As Anthropology by Alma Gottlieb

Weed or Not Weed?
How do we know what’s a weed?
The great French anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, organized his 80-year career around one foundational principle: “culture” basically comes down to classification. If something is “this” (whatever “this” is), then it’s not “that.” Reciprocally,  if something is “that,” then it’s not “this.”
If that observation seems banal, we rarely dwell on it precisely because it seems so obvious that it becomes invisible, like the air we breathe. Nevertheless, it’s a powerful lesson that summarizes quite a lot about the human condition. Our relentless urge to classify the world is what distinguishes us from other intelligent species.
Perhaps nowhere is this species marker more sensorily evident than in an ordinary space that seems far from deep philosophical tenets — a garden.
True, what we choose to plant depends a great deal on soil composition and rainfall patterns. But it also reveals our values, as well as the power structures buttressing those values.
Planting a flower garden? That requires the rare privilege of enough leisure time to value labor expended for no economically worthy payoff, just sensory and aesthetic pleasure.


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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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