Some of the quotes here are from John Hartigan's comments and some are from John McCreery's - McCreery is a regular pundit over at Savage Minds.
domestication–a subject which, given the array of nonhumans who also practice it, needs to be rendered in less anthropocentric terms.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no other species practices domestication. At the very least, no other species practices domestication like humans do, and that's an important point.
Humans are capable of thinking about plants and the domestication process, and that can lead to multiple instances of domestication - peanuts, manioc, tobacco, etc, in southwestern Amazonia; various tree crops, bananas, aroids, etc, in New Guinea; rice, millet, pigs, etc, between the Yellow River and Changjiang, and so on. This is because people can think about what they're doing in ways that other animals can't.
Selectively cultivating specific plants to encourage certain traits isn't a new thing - it's something as old as domestication itself. It's why wild bananas don't look like Cavendish bananas and why teosintes don't look much like flint corn. Humans changed those species: the species did not play active roles in the changes, only passive ones. And humans saw the changes, thought about them, applied them regularly in their horticulture. This is not something a dugong does.
Domestication doesn't need to be made less anthropocentric. It is something humans do and it's enormously different in degree, if not different in kind, to what non-humans do. Humans are the key to making sense of it, and domestication should be understood chiefly in terms of human beliefs and desires, not in terms of those of the plants.
it’s not anthropomorphizing; any organism maintaining homeostasis has a self.
If you define the word 'self' that way, then maybe that is true. But that's not how anybody uses the word 'self' in the human sciences. A human sense of self goes far beyond homeostasis.
I feel a little bit strange having to point that out.
I’m more interested in what’s happening with the species than I am in what plant scientists think about (ideologically) as they’re working with maize. This is a significant shift in ethnographic practice, hence my stance that this is an ethnography of maize.
That isn't a 'shift in ethnographic practice'. It's a shift into botany. And that's fine: botany is really cool.
If you like plants, do botany. If you want to observe the workings of bee colonies, go into ethology. If you want to do ethnographic studies, where you speak to the subjects (=humans) and attempt to comprehend their societies' deepest functions through participation, observation, discussion, and analysis within, say, a cog-sci framework, then go into anthropology ('the study of humans').
Don't pretend that they're all one and the same thing. They are not.
Should we say,”You can’t do that” because it violates current conventional wisdom? Remember Galileo? Remember Darwin?
Darwin and Galileo provided reasons to believe in what they did. They both wrote long books in plain language to explain why they believed what they did. They wrote for everybody to understand, and their arguments were good; they did not consist of spuriously conflating things that are distinct.
Finally: Yes, I think Hartigan has endorsed the idea that plants have strategies in their interactions with humans. Look to the second paragraph, where he summarises some of Michael Pollan's ideas on the subject.
I also posted this comment on another of Hartigan's posts on Savage Minds, here - it's another one about how non-human organisms have 'culture' because they sometimes transmit arbitrary traits to one another. The comment is still in moderation, but anyway, here it is: