Coat of Many Colors: The More-than-Green in Green

Why is “green” considered a single color and not a coming together of many colors?  Consider trees, a quintessential site for the imagination of green.  There are multiple colors in a tree—especially when considered seasonally or underground.  Furthermore, the colors expand exponentially once one considers trees as holobionts, that is, within the mutualistic life forms, from fungi to birds, involved in making trees possible.  As a singular color contrasting with all other colors, “green” might not do its best work for thinking about trees.  In this talk, field-based observations echo back and forth with the inspiration of cultural parables, from the Bible to anime, that urge us to see the multiplicity in green.  There is something here to celebrate, even in the terrors of our times. 

There is also something to think about involving the work of scholars.  How can we as scholars notice the green world ourselves—even as we take into account the perspectives and politics of others? The stories in this talk include both mine and others’.  This technique expands the repertoire of cultural studies beyond its still most commonly practiced genre, critique.  Instead of provoking scholarly position statements, popular culture and political mobilizations can inspire the curiosity for research as we reconnect with observation as a technique.

During my fieldwork with Meratus Dayaks in Indonesian Borneo, I learned that “green” might not be the most useful way to describe the leaves of trees.  How might others too observe the many colors in green? 

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