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Dr. Bil is a historian of science and European empires, with
specialization in nineteenth- and twentieth-century botany,
anthropology, empire, and Indigenous history. Prior to joining the
University of Delaware, he was a 2018-2019 Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral
Fellow at the New York Botanical Garden, and held predoctoral
fellowships at the Newberry Library, University of Sussex, and Victoria
University of Wellington. He received his PhD in History from the
University of British Columbia (2018).
His first book manuscript, "Indexing the Indigenous: Plants, Peoples and Empire," is under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press. The project
examines the history of Western engagements with Indigenous knowledge,
with particular emphasis on the varied ways that Indigenous plant names
have figured in imperial botany and anthropology. Previous histories
have tended to focus on the erasure of Indigenous knowledges following
the emergence of Linnaean nomenclature and classification. "Indexing the Indigenous" takes
a different approach. Drawing on science studies and Indigenous
critical approaches, and using examples drawn from Tahiti, the
Himalayas, and especially Aotearoa New Zealand, from the Enlightenment
to the early twentieth century and beyond, this project examines the contingent, contested and ambivalent means by which European ways of naming and knowing plants achieved precedence.
More importantly, through close analysis of field notebooks, private
letters, botanical flora and other sources, it evidences contexts in
which Indigenous botanical vocabularies continued to serve as currency
both for colonial scientific fieldwork and Indigenous cultural
Dr. Bil’s second book-length project, "Fields of Empire: Science, Ethnoscience and the Making of the American Century," tracks
Western engagements with Indigenous knowledge under the emerging
rubrics of ethnobotany and ethnoecology. Ranging from frontier
anthropology, through iterations in the Philippines, Sumatra and Central
America, "Fields of Empire" investigates
the varied ways that Indigenous and Western ethnoscientists contributed
to and contravened twentieth-century American colonizing interests. In
so doing, it aims to elucidate the complex histories underlying a
science vital to the comprehension of biocultural diversity today.
Dr. Bil serves as International Advisor for the British Society for the History of Science, and Associate Editor of Communiqué, the newsletter for the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science.
"Tangled Compositions: Botany, Agency and Authorship aboard HMS Endeavour," History of Science (2020, online before print) (link).
"Boas in the Age of BLM and Idle No More: Re-Evaluating the Boasian Legacy," History of Anthropology Newsletter (2020) (link).
“Imperial Vernacular: Phytonymy, Philology, and Disciplinarity in the Indo-Pacfiic,” British Journal for the History of Science 51:4 (2018), pp. 635-58.
“Between Māori and Modern? The Case of Mānuka Honey,” in Elisabeth Kapferer, Andreas Koch and Clemens Sedmak (eds.), Appreciating Local Knowledge (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016), pp. 61-76.
“Tensions in the World of Moon: Twin Peaks, Indigeneity and Territoriality,” Senses of Cinema 79 (2016).
"Imperial Vernacular: Phytonymy, Philology and Disciplinarity in the Indo-Pacific," Global Epistemologies and Ontologies Webinar series, Wageningen University, NL, 2021.
Ethnoscience to Ethnology - and Back Again: Mātauranga Māori and
Settler Epistemology in Historical and Contemporary Perspective,”
Encounters and Exchanges: Exploring the History of Science, Technology
and Mātauranga, University of Otago and Tōtaranui 250 Trust, Blenheim,
Resistance: Ethnoecology, Anticolonialism and Indigenous Territoriality
in Twentieth-Century Southeast Asia,” History of Science Society,
Utrecht, NL, sponsored by the Pacific Circle, 2019.
on the Line: Botanical Ethnology and Social Distance in
Late-Eighteenth-Century Tahiti,” Anthropology and Environmental Studies,
Bard College, 2019.
Translations: Science and Ethnoscience in Twentieth-Century Southeast
Asia,” Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science,
University of British Columbia, 2019.
History 102: Europe and the World II
History 227: History of Science
History 375: Modern Britain
History 396: Topics in World History: Plants, Peoples, and Empire
The Clover and the Fern
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