The idea of non-human objects speaking has an illustrious pedigree. Using Holbraad’s (2011) question ‘can the thing speak?’ as a springboard, the author asks what it means to say that tobacco might speak. Accepting a degree of ventriloquism in giving a voice to plants, he tracks examples of tobacco (and its paraphernalia) speaking in English literary sources, demonstrating that the postmodern turn to ‘material agency’ and object sentiency, voice and intentionality is, in fact, nothing new. Taking Miller and Latour’s conceptions of hybridity in human/non-human relationships seriously, he argues further that tobacco can speak, or remain silent, through a number of different human and corporate locutors. Where tobacco speaks in its own words, its voice – in contrast to the ‘tinny but usable’ voice of a mushroom spore – becomes that of an imperious autocrat intent on world domination.
Russell, A. (2018). Can the plant speak? Giving tobacco the voice it deserves. Journal of Material Culture, 23(4), 472-487. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183518799516