Figuring Spinelessness: Luther Burbank and The Cactus Boom

Megan Martenyi

University of California Santa Cruz

Megan Martenyi is a third-year PhD student in the Politics department at UC Santa Cruz. She’s interested in how figures like the spineless cactus raise questions about the politics of knowledge production and the ongoing ecological consequences of modernity. These curiosities have been fueled and shaped by over a decade of work in archives, libraries, and museums, including the San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the California Historical Society, Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, and the Freedom Archives.


Megan Martenyi recounts the cultural and political power of the spineless cactus. First publicized by Luther Burbank in his 1907 seed catalogue, The New Agricultural-Horticultural Opuntias, the spineless cactus promised to... [ view full abstract ]


  1. Megan Martenyi (University of California Santa Cruz)

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P79 » “A Plant Out of Place”: The Working of Weeds in the Long 19th Century (14:00 - Saturday, 24th March, Enchantment E)

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