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“Rights of Things”

A Posthumanist Approach to Law?

Doris Schweitzer


We can identify a legal vanishing point within neo-materialist and posthumanist approaches—either explicitly, for example, when things are regarded as political actors or contractual partners; or implicitly, when authors hint at the anthropocentric limitations of the granting of rights to human beings. Conversely, “rights of things” appear as a posthumanist approach to law as they decentralize “the human.” But do “rights of things” actually surmount the strict divide between humans (persona) and nonhumans (res) within law? By referring to three empirical cases—animal rights, rights of nature, and robot rights—I will argue that “rights of things” do not necessarily push against the anthropocentrism of law. Rather, we can identify a re-centralization of humans within a given milieu. Thus, the critical impact of the concept “rights of things” must be reconsidered; furthermore, we can draw some conclusions for the theoretical approaches of New Materialism and Posthumanism itself.

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The Alchemy of a Corpus of Underwater Images

Locating Carysfort to Reconcile our Human Relationship with a Coral Reef

Deborah James


Through an ecocinema lens, an unconventional corpus of photographs of Carysfort Reef, one of seven iconic coral reefs along the Florida Reef Tract, represents something of an extreme time-lapse series. In the absence of a cohesive underwater documentary record at the time when the Florida Reef Tract is undergoing the most extensive reef restoration in the world, speculation allows us to search for patterns in damaged places with incomplete information and practice a form of multispecies storytelling of our encounters. Taken in 1966, 2003, 2014, and 2019, these images are evidence of cultural moments in our changing relationship with this reef in the context of anthropocentrism, the emergence of an alternative environment spectatorship of awareness, and a baseline for localized social change.

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Artificial Intelligence

Faith in Machine or Man?

Jan Martijn Meij

Lovelock, James. 2019. Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

McKibben, Bill. 2019. Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? New York: Holt.

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Making Sense of the Human-Nature Relationship

A Reception Study of the “Nature Is Speaking” Campaign on YouTube

Ulrika Olausson


Gaining knowledge about laypeople's representations of nature is crucial to meeting the sustainability challenges ahead. However, the ways laypeople discursively construct nature in digital settings have received scant attention. Guided by Stuart Hall's theory of encoding/decoding and multimodal critical discourse analysis, this study aims to contribute knowledge about the ways laypeople construct the human-nature relationship on social media. This is accomplished through a reception study of YouTube users’ discussions about two of the films in the campaign “Nature Is Speaking.” The results show that the human-nature dichotomy largely prevails notwithstanding the pluralist nature of YouTube users’ interpretations, but also indicate the (embryonic) potential of social media to open up for a politics revolving around new visions of the socio-environmental future.

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More than Darkness Preservation

The Importance of the Dark, Star-Filled Skies in Urban Areas

Yee-Man Lam


Enveloped in artificial light, many urban dwellers have never experienced real darkness. Seeing this as a loss, scholars and organizations have initiated discussions on light and darkness and advocated the preservation of the dark skies. This article aims to further this study by emphasizing the importance of the stars. Instead of studying lights, stars, and darkness ethnographically, the article examines the ideas of stars and darkness in Thierry Cohen's photographs and two of Vincent van Gogh's paintings. This article will suggest that the dark, star-filled skies represented in van Gogh's paintings provide a visual blueprint of what the article calls the “star-lit cities,” which goes beyond a simple preservation of darkness, and may be significant in driving vital changes in combating the current environmental crises.

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Symbolizing Destruction

Environmental Activism, Moral Shocks, and the Coal Industry

Alison E. Adams, Thomas E. Shriver, and Landen Longest


Emotions can play an important role in the perception of grievances, yet we know little about how environmentalists strategically utilize emotions to bolster activism and garner support. Drawing on social movement and environmental sociological research, we analyze how moral shocks can be used to mobilize activists against environmentally destructive activities. We study the case of Libkovice, Czech Republic, where environmentalists battled against the coal industry to save a city from being razed to access coal reserves. The data come from in-depth interviews, organizational and documentary video, and archival documents. Findings indicate that environmentalists drew upon symbols of destruction, such as threats to the local church, to fuel anger and mobilize the campaign. Results show how symbolic environmental campaigns can serve as beacons for future protest.

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Appropriate Targets

Global Patterns in Interaction and Conflict Surrounding Cetacean Conservation and Traditional Marine Hunting Communities

Florence Durney


With the International Whaling Commission's 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling in force, much of today's cetacean hunting is done by traditional or indigenous communities for subsistence use. However, many communities continue to face pressure from other global stakeholders to stop. Informed by my research with marine hunters in Indonesia, this article combines scholarship from biology, philosophy, and law with global anthropology on cetacean hunting groups to explore a set of recurring arguments arising between hunting communities, management and conservation bodies, and publics. These include the role of charismatic species in Western imagination and conservation; how understandings of animal sentience determine acceptable prey; disputes about the authenticity of and control over traditional hunting practice; and the entanglement of cultural sovereignty and rights to animal resources. Bringing these arguments together allows for an examination of how the dominant global discourse about traditional whaling is shaped and how it affects extant hunting communities.

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Eugene N. Anderson, Jodie Asselin, Jessica diCarlo, Ritwick Ghosh, Michelle Hak Hepburn, Allison Koch, and Lindsay Vogt

Hamilton, Sarah R. 2018. Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 312 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-74331-8.

Besky, Sarah, and Alex Blanchette, eds. 2019. How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8263-6085-4

Lora-Wainwright, Anna. 2017. Resigned Activism: Living with Pollution in Rural China. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0-2620-3632-0.

Symons, Jonathan. 2019. Ecomodernism: Technology, Politics and the Climate Crisis. Cambridge: Polity. 232 pp. ISBN: 978-1-5095-3120-2.

Miller, Theresa L. 2019. Plant Kin: A Multispecies Ethnography in Indigenous Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press. 328 pp. ISBN 978-1-4773-1740-2.

Aistara, Guntra. 2018. Organic Sovereignties: Struggles Over Farming in an Age of Free Trade. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 272 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-74311-0.

Drew, Georgina. 2017. River Dialogues: Hindu Faith and the Political Ecology of Dams on the Sacred Ganga. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 264 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8165-4098-3.

Folch, Christine. 2019. Hydropolitics: The Itaipú Dam, Sovereignty, and the Engineering of Modern South America. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0-6911-8659-7.

Open access

Decoupling Seascapes

An Anthropology of Marine Stock Enhancement Science in Japan

Shingo Hamada


The roles played in fishery resource management by the nonhuman species that coevolve with humans are often marginalized in both discourse and practice. Built on existing reviews of the multispecies ethnography of maritime conservation, domestication, and marine biology, this article aims to reconceptualize the politics of difference in stock enhancement. By examining the herring stock enhancement program in Japan as an assemblage of multispecies inter- and intra-action in the context of marine science and seascaping, this article recontextualizes fisheries management and crosses the methodological and ontological borders in maritime studies. The article shows that multispecies ethnography serves as a heuristic means to describe the co-constitution of seascapes, which are beings, things, and bodies of information and processes that shape marine surroundings, or what fisheries biologists and fisheries resource managers tend to overlook as mere background.

Open access

Documenting Sea Change

Ocean Data Technologies, Sciences, and Governance

Kathleen M. Sullivan


This review examines social science and practitioner literature regarding the relationship between ocean sciences big data projects and ocean governance. I contend that three overarching approaches to the study of the development of ocean sciences big data techne (the arts of data creation, management, and sharing) and data technologies can be discerned. The first approach traces histories of ocean sciences data technologies, highlighting the significant role of governments in their development. The second approach is comprised of an oceanic contribution to the study of ontological politics. The third takes a human-social centered approach, examining the networks of people and practices responsible for creating and maintaining ocean sciences big data infrastructure. The three approaches make possible a comparative reflection on the entangled ethical strands at work in the literature.