In the face of global ecological challenges such as climate change and mass extinction of species, preservation of plant genetic resources through ex-situ seed banking has become central to contemporary conservation efforts during the last decade. Operating at the intersections of environmental anthropology, science and technology studies, and environmental humanities, my research focuses on projects and institutions of ex-situ plant conservation, and analyzes the scientific, cultural and historical tenets of conservation in the Anthropocene.
My dissertation, “The Natural Nation: Seed Banking and Plant Politics in Turkey,” builds on a year of ethnographic fieldwork at the Turkish Seed-Gene Bank and a year of archival research across Turkish, Ottoman and European archives, and it analyzes everyday practices of seed banking in Turkey that unfold amidst anxieties regarding extinction, biopiracy, and loss of national biowealth and sovereignty. Underlining the lingering effects of colonial and postcolonial networks of science and bioprospecting that give shape to conservation policies in the Global South, I explore in my dissertation what the universalist promise of conservation means today, when it hinges on the sharing and research of latent potentialities that lay dormant in the seed banks of biodiversity-rich countries.
- Can Dalyan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Cornell University. An Istanbul native, he received his B.A. in Political Science from Istanbul University and his M.A. in History from Koç University before joining Cornell. Can is an environmental anthropologist and an ethnographer of science and knowledge, and his research focuses on networks of conservation governance, histories of bioprospecting, regulation of plant life in seed banks, and human-plant relationships in the Anthropocene. He is the recipient of dissertation research grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and his dissertation, “The Natural Nation: Seed Banking and Plant Politics in Turkey,” analyzes the co-constitution of Nature and nation in conservation work. He teaches on the topics of conservation, postcolonial science studies, and the Anthropocene.