20 Oct. 2023 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100

Atar David (UT)

“Transplanting Middle Eastern Date Palms and the Question of Scale, 1860–1914”

By the late 19th century, cultivators in Southern Iraq, India, and the American Southwest expanded their date palm (Phoenix Dactylifera L.) groves to supply the growing demand among Western consumers. But to cultivate dates, cultivators had to successfully transplant date palm seeds and offshoots from the Middle East to their plots. My talk focuses on these transplantation attempts and the material and intellectual infrastructure that supported them. I show that transplantation is more than the physical relocation of plants; it is a biopolitical process that involves regimenting plants into crops. Furthermore, adopting transplantation as our main perspective provides a unique opportunity to consider the various economic, geographical, technological, and ecological scales that shape and are being shaped by the regimentation of plants.


Atar David is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Texas History Department. His dissertation project, “Chaos and Creation in Imperial Backyards: Date Palm Monoculture Between the Middle East and the American Southwest, 1860–1940,” explores the circulation of date palm (Phoenix Dactylifera L.) commodities and related agronomic knowledge between the Middle East and the American Southwest from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.