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The stories rocks can tell: Marie Stopes' evolutionary narratives of plant sex in New Brunswick's Fern Ledges

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This article discusses British pioneer in birth control and palaeobotanist Marie Stopes' visit to Saint John New Brunswick's ‘Fern Ledges’ as an important historical episode for feminist geography. By considering the relationship between Stopes' inquiries into plant sex and human sex, this article explores feminist and queer studies' constructions of ‘natural’ bodies alongside environmental constructions of ‘natural’ environments. Stopes' work is useful in showing how early twentieth century plant-breeding and human sexual politics intersected through understanding sex as a perfectible technique for producing better bodies across plant, animal and human boundaries. This argument is developed along three significant sites that show how dynamic relationships between bodies and places are mutually constituted. The first site focuses on early twentieth century evolutionary thought which made it possible to conceive of linkages between plants and humans in their sexual lives. The second site is Stopes' experience of place in the ‘Fern Ledges’ through a palaeobotanical investigation of plants, which were read ‘backwards’ through human social categories of kinship, family, race and nation. The final site is an examination of Stopes' popular sex manuals as ecological texts that give specific attention to plant agency in shaping narratives of human sexual politics.
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Keywords: botany; botánica; ecology; ecología; evolución; evolution; gender; género; ontology; ontología; sexualidad; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Toronto – History, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: August 9, 2014

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