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The Ecology of Images

Seeing and the Study of Religion

David Morgan

Opening with a review of leading accounts of the image as an object with agency, this article proposes to study religious images within the webs or networks that endow them with agency. The example of a well-known medieval reliquary serves to show how what I refer to as 'focal objects' participate in the creation of assemblages that engage human and non-human actors in the social construction of the sacred. Focal objects are nodal points that act as interfaces with the network, particularly with invisible agents within it. As participants in a network, images are like masks, offering access to what looks through the mask at viewers engaged in a complex of relations that constructs a visual field or the ecology of an image.

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An ecology of difference

Equality and conflict in a glocalized world

Arturo Escobar

This paper develops a broad conceptualization of what could be called a political ecology of difference. The paper builds on trends in political ecology, the politics of place, and cultural analyses of modern conceptions of nature, rights, and the individual to outline an integrated framework for thinking about difference from the perspective of economic, ecological, and cultural distribution conflicts. The argument is illustrated with a case study from the Pacific rainforest region of Colombia, particularly the political ecology developed by the region’s social movement of black communities; the paper concludes with implications of the framework for thinking about the cultural politics of dominant institutions and their potential transformation along the lines of a politics of difference.

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Humans, Animals, and Health

From Ecology to Entanglement

Alex M. Nading

Medical and environmental social scientists have recently become interested in how health brings human and nonhuman animals together. is article discusses historical approaches to this question. It then explores applied disease ecology, which examines how anthropogenic landscape change leads to “disease emergence.” The article goes on to review two critical approaches to the question. Critics of bio-security concern themselves with the ways in which animal and human lives are regulated in the context of “emerging diseases” such as avian influenza and foot and mouth disease. Scholarship on human-animal “entanglement” focuses on the ways in which disease, instead of alienating humans from other life forms, brings their intimate relationships into sharper relief. The article argues that health is one terrain for developing a critical environmental analysis of the production of life, where life is the ongoing, dynamic result of human and nonhuman interactions over time.

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Teresa Lloro-Bidart

This article begins by introducing educational humanism, the Anthropocene concept, and the political ecology of education framework that guides the analysis. I then demonstrate that the current Anthropocene-informed educational research literature pragmatically focuses on how education has the capacity to serve as a means to adapt to the impending environmental challenges of the current geological epoch. I argue that though this literature makes important contributions, educational researchers doing Anthropocene-informed work would benefit from an ecofeminist and/or posthumanist political ecology of education. This conceptual lens: (1) examines how the kinds of human-nature relationships perpetuated in educational spaces are the result of complex and scaled political factors and (2) questions and reimagines human-nature divides reified in educational practice and research. Throughout the article, the persistent humanism of the American formal education system is critiqued, drawing on both the extant literature and a textual analysis of the Framework for K–12 Science Education.

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Jennifer Foster

This paper considers the transformation of two decommissioned rail lines, in Paris and New York City, into ecologically-oriented green space. Situating the restoration of these rail lines within dominant trajectories of urbanization helps to understand how ecological restoration projects may function as financial instruments that intensify experiences of social injustice. This paper considers how the design and aesthetics of New York's High Line and Paris' Sentier Nature construct ecologies that also produce environmental subjectivities, and how these spaces reflect uneven investment in nature across urban landscapes. While the two case studies are aesthetically distinct, they are both woven into existing global patterns of urban transformation, and their evolution from disused industrial space to public park shares an emotional attachment to safety that demands removal of threatening inhabitants.

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Walking with the Goat-God

Gothic Ecology in Algernon Blackwood’s Pan’s Garden: A Volume of Nature Stories

Michelle Poland

In order to understand Earth’s increasingly unpredictable climate, we must accept natural chaos and anthropogenic disturbance as a key component of our ecological and social future. Just as Heidi C.M. Scott’s Chaos and Cosmos (2014) powerfully demonstrates that a postmodern view of chaotic nature is shown to have been harbouring Romantic and Victorian literary foundations, this article further suggests that chaos ecology also has its roots in the Gothic. Drawing on Algernon Blackwood’s collection Pan’s Garden: A Volume of Nature Stories (1912), it tentatively begins to unearth some of the ways in which ‘walking with Pan’ could be anticipatory of ecological concepts recognised today. By rereading transcendental Pan from the context of a ‘Gothic ecology’, it explores how Blackwood transforms nature into a supernaturally powerful, inviting and terrifying character. In doing so, it becomes clear that disturbing Pan’s garden may have far greater consequences for Blackwood’s human wayfarers than for nature itself.

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The Promise of Solutions from Increasing Diversity in Ways of Knowing

Educational Lessons from Meteorology, Ethnobotany, and Systems Ecology

Amy Freitag

The number of terms used for historically unrepresented types of knowledge in environmental management is large and growing. The emphasis on these “new” perspectives reflects a shift in how society values different ways of knowing. A primary reason behind this recognition of value is that fresh perspectives offer new problem framings, approaches to solutions, and linkages to other issues. Successes in collaborating across multiple knowledge domains have yielded new medicines, culturally appropriate regulations, and a better understanding of ecological dynamics, among others. These examples show the search for creative solutions cuts across disciplines, each of which has its own priorities, values, ethical practices, and approaches to knowledge creation. This review demonstrates how systems ecology, ethnobotany, and meteorology increase problem solving by legitimizing different ways of knowing. Pioneers in valuing nonscientific ways of knowing, they set the path forward for methods and theory used to inform research questions.

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Dennis W. MacDonald

Among the many contributions of Roderick D. McKenzie to sociology are two ideas which continue to be useful in understanding modern society. First, as the main proponent and theorist of the human ecology of the Chicago School, McKenzie offers suggestions for an alternative conception of society, one that emphasizes among other things the physical basis of social relations. Secondly, McKenzie's works suggest in various ways that modern society is characterized by a growth in physical integration. The first aspect of this argument is found in his discussion of the centrality of institutions in the analysis of social relations. The second aspect is his detailed description and analysis of the “great integrated unity“ that he called the Great Society or World Society. Many decades before sociologists began to write of “globalization,“ McKenzie provides detailed description and extensive analysis of global society and many of the issues in the current globalization debate.

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Media Ecologies of Autonomous Automobility

Gendered and Racial Dimensions of Future Concept Cars

Julia M. Hildebrand and Mimi Sheller

The imagination of automated automobility puts into question the control of the vehicle by a masculine driver and potentially disturbs feelings of safety, power, security, and freedom. Given that systems of automobility and communication technology are already gendered and racialized in particular ways, this article explores how recent “premediated” depictions of automated car technologies reconfigure and reproduce the historically gendered and raced representations, meanings, and practices of (auto)mobility. This inquiry employs a media ecological approach within the qualitative analysis of two concept car previews by Nissan and Volvo. Rather than a degendering of the driver, we suggest a multiplication of gendered and racialized technologies of mobility via several forms of hypermediation. We also explore how the autonomous car continues to evoke utopian spatial metaphors of the car as sanctuary and communicative environment while allaying fears of dystopian metaphors of the vehicle as traffic trap, virtual glass house, and algorithmic target.

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Religion and Environment

Exploring Spiritual Ecology

Leslie E. Sponsel

Many scholars have touched on the relationships between religion and nature since the work of late nineteenth-century anthropologists such as Edward B. Tylor. This is almost inevitable in studying some religions, especially indigenous ones. Nevertheless, only since the 1950s has anthropological research gradually been developing that is intentionally focused on the influence of religion on human ecology and adaptation, part of a recent multidisciplinary field that some call spiritual ecology (Merchant 2005; Sponsel 2001, 2005a, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; S. Taylor 2006). At last this ecological approach is beginning to receive some attention in textbooks on the anthropology of religion, ecological anthropology, human ecology, and environmental conservation, though it is still uncommon in the anthropological periodicals (Bowie 2006; Marten 2001; Merchant 2005; Russell and Harshbarger 2003; Townsend 2009). This article summarizes a sample of the growing literature and cites other sources to help facilitate the eff orts of those who may find this new subject to be of sufficient interest for further inquiry.