Radical storytelling: multispecies history, interdisciplinarity and artistic research

Many historians in the Global North only take new subjects seriously once they are sanctioned with the publication of special issues in renowned journals, international conferences and the establishment of new societies. Similar to how animals entered into historians’ minds with the «animal turn», a more recent «plant turn» has now shifted historians’ attention to the vegetal world. Research projects that a decade ago were dismissed as «flower stories» are now considered to be cutting edge «multispecies» or «more-than-human» studies. What is forgotten in this celebration of the «plant turn» is that African and Africanist historians, public intellectuals and practitioners have for a long time taken plants seriously as historical actors. Working against a «syndrome of discovery» (Depelchin, Silences in African History, 2005, p. 6), I provide a longer genealogy of vegetal plots in Southern African history. I argue that radical storytelling – a narrative practice that works at the roots of plants and historical genealogies – has existed for a long time. Focusing on recent examples of interdisciplinary and artistic research projects, I want to demonstrate that historians in the Global North have much to learn from their colleagues in the Global South about how to do history in the age of the Anthropocene.