Sumana Roy

ORA India Fellow / National Capital Region, India

Project: Shaping the discipline of Plant Humanities in India to rekindle the relationships between communities and their botanical worlds

An author and academic, Sumana Roy is building an archive of the literature on plant life in the Indian subcontinent that has existed over the last two millennia. Her book ‘How I Became a Tree’, is recognized as a seminal work in ‘philosophical botany’, across diverse readerships worldwide. She focuses on another unexplored polycrisis stressor – the weakening and disappearance of languages. At the Indian Plant Humanities project, she collaborates with designers, data engineers, librarians, and artists to co-produce ways to make storytelling around plants accessible and wondrous for diverse audiences, especially students, children, and young people. She publishes in the best-regarded literary platforms of the world, but also in little magazines and blogs. Across her work of teaching, writing, and archiving, Sumana is passionately interested in creating a vocabulary of safety, delight, and calm to replace the vocabulary of violence and apocalypse used in everyday life.

Trying to create a discipline such as the Indian Plant Humanities, and resuscitate it not through a narrative of crisis and apocalypse but a philosophy of ananda, to reestablish a vocabulary of intimacy and kinship with the plant world — this is long and invisible labor. To be rewarded for this quiet work by being selected as an inaugural fellow of ORA India is, therefore, both a surprise and support for my work, and I am very grateful for that.