The humanities after the Anthropocene

Authored by: Stephanie LeMenager

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

10.4324/9781315766355.ch45

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Abstract

At the core of the humanities lies the question of human nature, a question of “who are we?” that has been reanimated by debates about the proposed geological epoch of the Anthropocene. “Who is the ‘anthro’ in Anthropocene?” the cultural theorist Stacy Alaimo asks, archly. When not altogether under erasure, “human nature” presents a troubling indebtedness to dualistic thought. Writing of the conceptual tension between humanity and animality for anthropologists, Tim Ingold notes that “we are, according to [human nature], constitutionally divided creatures, one part immersed in the physical condition of animality, the other in the moral condition of humanity” (21). The politics and artistic production associated with environmentalism as a social movement in the global North grows out of the dualistic legacy that Ingold describes. Environmentalists and environmental scholars in the humanities seek in different degrees what Greg Garrard in this volume calls an “ecologizing of the human,” by which we emphasize our deep interconnection with other life. Yet environmentalists and, more covertly, environmental scholars cling to fantasies of moral self-determinism.

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