Science, sentiment and territorial chauvinism in the acacia name change debate

Hot off the press:  a paper that Priya Rangan and I wrote on the acrimonious battle over which continent’s trees should keep the latin name “Acacia“.  It is a topic on which we wrote several blogs last year in the run-up to the Melbourne IBC conference (1, 2, 3).  We review the acacia battles as a manifestation of long-standing struggles in science between between folk- or place-based classification systems and universal, scientific approaches.  As a bonus, the paper quotes both Shakespeare (on names) and a rather politically incorrect Monty Python episode (on wattles as an Australian emblem)…

Kull, C.A. & H. Rangan (2012)  Science, sentiment and territorial chauvinism in the acacia name change debate. 197-219 in S.G. Haberle & B.David (eds), Peopled Landscapes. Terra Australis 34.  Canberra: ANU E-Press. pdf

4 Responses to Science, sentiment and territorial chauvinism in the acacia name change debate

  1. Paul van Rijckevorsel says:

    This is a moderately interesting paper. Its good point is that it tries to look at the issue dispassionately. Its bad point is that it rather lacks focus. The writers cannot be blamed for not closely understanding botanical nomenclature (it is a pretty technical matter), but did not really need to go on at some length to display this lack of understanding: this rather detracts from the rest of the paper. Also disappointing is the absence of anything like firm numbers of the people who are affected; it all remains rather anecdotal.There are people who are angry about what happened, and some who are very angry (no surprise), but how many are they? And how many are happy? How many do not care, one way or the other?

  2. […] on whether Africa or Australia would keep the botanic name Acacia for its native trees (see several earlier blogs, and Kull & Rangan […]

  3. Alan Short says:

    I’ve just edited a paper referring to historical data on Acacias, which created some interesting syntax problems: how to write a sentence that reads something like “Smith’s (1984) study showed that a number of Acacia species (e.g. Vachellia nilotica, Senegalia erubescens…)”

    The paper that I edited prompted me to do some searching which led me to your paper, which helped me to clear the matter up in my head and stop worrying, so thanks. It’s a great paper and the most balanced account of the whole issue I’ve read so far.

    I’ve decided, thanks to your paper, to forget about the word war, accept the new specific combinations (I’m South African) and just call the whole complex Acacia when referring to them generically (unless, of course, I am referring to only one of the new generic groups).

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