Redistributive Environmental Humanities?

Mycelium mold growth. Courtesy of Bob Blaylock via Wikimedia Commons

Hello Readers,

This week I have been thinking about a satisfying trend within the humanities, the advent of the multi-disciplinary practice of Environmental Humanities. More precisely, I have been considering the interesting intersections between the mingling of disciplines within a new space, and some of the ecologically derived critical modes that have been gaining increased popularity. This train of thought has emerged from my random and justaposed readings of two blog posts, Levi Bryant’s 2010 discussion of Timothy Morton’s then-new book The Ecological Thought, and the recent announcement of a brand new journal of Environmental Humanities based at the University of New South Wales here in the antipodes. Papers for the inaugural issue are due by the end of November of this year.

As one of nature’s systems thinkers, I find the mingling of disciplines implicit within the notion of environmental humanities extremely satisfying on a metaphysical level: I feel that it gives us a disciplinary framework to mimic the inherent interconnectivity and openness of the world that it seeks to explore. The journal will be open access and open to a wide range of possible combinations, presenting a good platform for big picture environmental scholarship. The mission statement of the Environmental Humanities journal promises that the journal exists to:

  1. Publish interdisciplinary papers that do not fit comfortably within the established environmental sub-disciplines, and
  2. Publish high quality submissions from within any of these fields that are accessible and seeking to reach a broader readership.

This pair of goals, fairly standard for a journal within an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, then proceeded to combine with my discovery of Levi Bryant’s excellent discussion of The Ecological Thought the following day. This section in particular got my attention:

Let’s put this in Deleuzian terms, since Deleuze has far more clout than us little object-oriented ontologists and is perhaps a bit sexier. [Object-Oriented Ontology] is a rigorous ontology of deterritorialization. When OOO says that objects cannot be reduced to their relations, that they are not identical to their relations, that they are in excess of all their relations, what OOO is saying is that within any network, within any set of relations, within any field, deterritorialization is always possible. Indeed, one of the primary reasons for engaging in “the ecological thought” is precisely to strategize possibilities of deterritorialization. We can talk about relations and interconnections to our hearts content within an OOO framework, so long as we always recognize that deterritorialization is always possible and that relations are mobile, contingent, local, and temporary. That’s it. Somehow it sounds less extraordinary when I put it this way.

It occurs to me that environmental humanities, and many other trans-disciplines emerging to tackle the discursive challenges of the twenty first century, has great potential for disciplinary deterritorialization, a flattening and merging pluripotency that is in excess of its relations. What better place to encourage distributed agency and rhitzomatic disciplinary structure than in a holistic exploration of environmental thought and practice?

Through this juxtaposition, I have come up with two thoughts: First, this emerging discipline has a lot to learn from the wonderful trends emerging within the thought of speculative realists, object-oriented philosophers and those who have been creatively deploying their work. We can encourage new cross disciplinary conversations and greater public engagement be encouraging the mingling and multiplication of objects. The holism of an ecological thought-world and the exploration of a commodious new environmental humanities are synergistically powerful, and mutually reinforcing. How exciting! I can feel an argument coming on.

Until next time, take care readers!


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