Office Hours: Grafting Trees with Professor Matthew Westermayer

Host Priscilla Lee ’25 is joined by Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Matthew Westermayer to discuss one of his favorite, and surprisingly profound, interests: trees.

Grafting is an essential agricultural technique for making trees bear sweet-tasting fruit. In the ancient Mediterranean, it was the only known way for humans to modify nature. The graft, then, was and continues to be a prompt to rethink our relationship with the nonhuman world. As Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Mattthew Westermayer asks, “What is nature insofar that a tree is so malleable?” In conversation with host Priscilla Lee ’25, he traces the roots of grafting as metaphor in Greek and Roman literature, and how it grows beyond metaphor to become spiritual practice—particularly, in Ephrem the Syrian’s Christian hymns. Once you see arboricultural practice as a way of understanding the world, Professor Westermayer promises you won’t stop finding it, everywhere you look.

Episode notes and further reading:

Edited and produced by Priscilla Lee ’25.