Abstract and open access link to Dr. Sarah Abbott’s Doctorate of Social Sciences dissertation.

Link to Synthesis Paper, one of the four components of Sarah’s dissertation by portfolio, published July 8, 2021, Royal Roads University, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Dissertation Abstract

Research for my interdisciplinary Doctorate of Social Sciences focused on the sentient intelligence of trees as agentic, conscious entities with unique ontologies, perspectives and life- ways, alive in ongoing relational inter-response and action with their communities. Qualitative inquiries and considerations were informed by ontological emergence theory, Indigenous epistemologies and research methodologies, and public ethnography entangled with plant science, philosophies from the recent ontological and nonhuman turns—with a particular focus on plants—interspecies communication, and ethnographic film production. The overarching research questions consider how tree ontologies can be (re)presented through ethnographic inquiry, and what ethnography with trees reveals about humanity. Components of the dissertation portfolio include one journal article, two book chapters, and a Synthesis Paper that imparts the research context, frameworks, approaches, findings and discussions, and outlines the rationale and conceptual links of the dissertation contents. The dominant trajectory within the dissertation is ethnographic, sensual, relational and filmic research processes and knowledge-making between trees and humans, including tree-human communication methods and findings. As a fluid, emergent, entangled, diffractive bundle, the guiding collection of methods, methodologies, and theory for this research supports and reveals findings that offer and advocate for (re)newed ways of being and collaboration with the intelligent aliveness of trees and other nonhumans that move away from limitations and fragmentations within modern anthropocentric perspectives and behaviour informed by Western paradigms and toward increased empathy and holistic, reciprocal relations with trees and nonhumans.

Abbott, S. J. (2021). Tree knowing: Ethnographic encounters, sensuous scholarship, relational ontologies, and environmental empathy. [Doctoral dissertation, Royal Roads University]. DSpace@RRU.

Also available through ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Abbott, S. J. (2021). Tree knowing: Ethnographic encounters, sensuous scholarship, relational ontologies, and environmental empathy (Publication No. 28645037) [Doctoral dissertation, Royal Roads University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Other Dissertation Portfolio Components

Abbott, S. (2021). Approaching nonhuman ontologies: Trees, communication, and qualitative inquiry. Qualitative Inquiry, 27(8-9): 1059-1071.
(Open Access thanks to Canadian Knowledge Research Network)

Abbott, S. (2020). Filming with nonhumans. In P. Vannini (Ed.), The Routledge international handbook of ethnographic film and video (pp. 224-233). London, UK: Routledge.

Abbott, S. & Leadbeater, S. (2020). If a Tree Falls… Perspectives on Sentience. In R. Povall, S. Lloyd, & J. Ralph (Eds.), Evolving the forest (pp. 175-182). Kingsbridge, UK: art.earth Books.

Image: Elm, Maryland
Video still: Sarah Abbott