Ms Kathleen Gutierrez1
1University Of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, United States
At the start of the U.S. colonial period in the Philippines (1898), U.S. botanists grappled with the diversity of un-described plant life. A dearth of trained botanists in the colony necessitated the hiring of independent plant specialists, who could work contractually on behalf of the colonial government. A native of New York, Mary Strong Clemens took her amateur botanizing career to Manila in 1902. Spanning over six decades, Clemens’s career was defined by her expertise in Malesian flora and by her specimen collections from the Philippines, British North Borneo, Indo-China, and New Guinea.
This presentation examines Clemens’s inter-colonial collecting career. I argue that she, along with other contractual plant specialists, became a “collector-emissary” for U.S. colonial botany. During what historian Charles Schmidt-Nowara (2006) calls the “second wave” of imperial expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, botany was part of the intellectual consolidation of old and emerging empires. Publishing U.S. colonial botanists relied on collections made by collector-emissaries to advance intellectual claims inter-colonially: revisions to the flora of French Indo-China and of the Dutch East Indies could flex U.S. intellectual might in the region. I contend that colonial botanists’ success hinged on scientific collaboration with collector-emissaries like Clemens.
Kathleen Gutierrez is a doctoral candidate in the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research and teaching interests include the history of botany, the environmental humanities, and modern Southeast Asian studies. Her dissertation is a history of colonial botany in the Philippines.