In Ontologies and Natures, I explore how images register the relation between societies and theirs and others' health epistemic ecosystems. Focus lies on how 20th- and 21st-century visual culture offers insights into how societies perceive the role of nature in their own and others' pursuit to cure and care for the human body. By using a set of visual surfaces and artefacts as entry points, such as vlogs, toys, cosmetics, phytopharmaceuticals, psychotropics and health campaign posters, among others, the book sheds light on the evolution, circulation and rootedness of ideas about nature as a healing source. The first part of the book considers how visual culture operates as a vehicle to diffuse, transmit, mediate and communicate health-related knowledge and imaginaries through films, documentaries, animation, textbooks and stamps. The second part explores the process by which nature becomes a consumable, encapsulated in objects defined by their visual, material and gendered traits, such as labels on packages of plant-derived supplements, cosmetics and infographics about superfoods. In the third part, the main vantage point is the situatedness of health within two physical contexts, a geographical and a mental one (i.e., psychoactive substances). Methodologically, the book is informed by historical sources, visual- virtual ethnography, content analysis and semiotic-linguistic analysis of objects from all corners of the globe, but paying particular attention to indigenous traditional knowledge(s).
"Conceptions and practices of health enact cultural understandings of nature as much as they reflect the state of our knowledges of the natural world and our place within it. By showing how these knowledges are asserted, materialized, and performed through visual representations, Fernando Gonzalez Rodriguez brings forth the social and cultural encounters, tensions, hierarchies, and exclusions that underscore universalist discourses of health, suggesting that epistemic inclusivity may better be approached by embracing nature as an essentially unstable object of human knowledge."
— Inanna Hamati-Ataya, Principal Research Associate at CRASSH, University of Cambridge