Interspecies diplomacy in Anthropocenic waters

Performing an ocean-oriented ontology

Authored by: Una Chaudhuri

The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138786745
eBook ISBN: 9781315766355
Adobe ISBN: 9781317660194


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“Yes, animal, what a word!” Jacques Derrida famously exclaimed, calling out the totalization of animal life by a self-serving and arrogant humanist tradition (32). Today, the concept of the Anthropocene suggests an inverse scandal, and evokes the equivalent of another exclamation: “Anthropos—what a prefix!” many seem to be saying, objecting to the term’s potential elision of national and economic differences, its tendency to shift ecological responsibility away from the West’s carbon-based industrial capitalism and onto a totalized and featureless humanity (see, for example, Haraway and Kenney 259). Yet, undifferentiated though they are, both the Anthropocene and “the animal” are galvanizing concepts for two fields, the environmental humanities and animal studies respectively, whose subjects involve urgent realities that can make certain differences seem less relevant. When terrestrial species are undergoing something called “the Sixth Extinction,” and when CO2 levels are over 400 parts per million, “big picture” constructs like “the animal” and “the Anthropocene” can be valuable not just for political activation, but also for fresh thinking about the species and ecospheres that climate change is plunging into a state of emergency.

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