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Mapping Meaning, the Journal (Issue No. 4)

Issue theme: Life After the Anthropocene: Envisioning the Futures of the World

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<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>,<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong><br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 • Summer 2020


The contents of this publication are under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) unless<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rwise specified. Contents may be shared and distributed for noncommercial purposes as<br />

long as proper credit is given to <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong> as well as <strong>the</strong> individual author(s).<br />

To view a copy of this license, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.<br />

2 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

3


About<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong><br />

Minidoka Project, all-female survey crew, Idaho 1918,<br />

Photo of <strong>the</strong> U.S. Department of <strong>the</strong> Interior, courtesy of <strong>the</strong> U.S. Bureau of<br />

Reclamation.<br />

4 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


"824 Min Surveying party of<br />

girls on <strong>the</strong><br />

Minidoka project."<br />

Original caption, National Archives<br />

How might interdisciplinary practices promote a<br />

reconsideration of <strong>the</strong> role that humanity plays in a<br />

more-than-human world?<br />

In a strongly fragmented and disciplined-based<br />

world, <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong> offers a collective space<br />

to imagine, create, and propose new models in <strong>the</strong><br />

face of radical global change and ecological and<br />

social crises. Each issue takes up a particular <strong>the</strong>me<br />

and is edited by different curatorial teams from a<br />

variety of disciplines. All issues include <strong>the</strong> broadest<br />

possible calls for submission and ga<strong>the</strong>r toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

divergent and experimental knowledge practices.<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>, is published one to<br />

two times per year.<br />

www.mappingmeaning.org<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

5


6 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Founding<br />

Editorial Board<br />

Melanie Armstrong<br />

Krista Caballero<br />

Nat Castañeda<br />

Sarah Kanouse<br />

Vasia Markides<br />

Jennifer Richter<br />

Carmina Sánchez-del-Valle<br />

Karina Aguilera Skvirsky<br />

Sree Sinha<br />

Trudi Lynn Smith<br />

Sylvia Torti<br />

Linda Wiener<br />

Toni Wynn<br />

Many thanks to <strong>the</strong> Honors College at<br />

<strong>the</strong> University of Utah, which served<br />

as <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>’s partner<br />

and initial fiscal sponsor. Consistent<br />

with <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>’s mentorship<br />

mission, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong> is committed to<br />

publishing a breadth of work from<br />

those at all stages of <strong>the</strong>ir careers.<br />

Artistic Director: Krista Caballero<br />

Visual Designer: Aliza Jensen<br />

Copy Editor: Corinna Cape<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> Editors:<br />

Melanie Armstrong and Jennifer Richter<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

7


8 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Life After <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

9


Content<br />

12<br />

Introduction<br />

Life After <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: Envisioning <strong>the</strong><br />

Futures of <strong>the</strong> World<br />

Jennifer Richter and Melanie Armstrong<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> #4 editors<br />

24<br />

Section 1: Experiencing <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

Image: Shanna Merola, Xylene (C8H10), 2016<br />

27<br />

We All Live Downwind<br />

Shanna Merola<br />

34<br />

Rite of Spring<br />

Liz Ivkovich and Kate Mattingly<br />

53<br />

Field Environmental Philosophy for Post-<br />

Anthropocene Realities: Low Power Radio as<br />

Biocultural Conservation<br />

Rachel Weaver<br />

64<br />

Section 2: Decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Post-<br />

Anthropocene<br />

Image: Shanna Merola, Toluene (C7H8), 2018<br />

66<br />

Inefficiently <strong>Mapping</strong> Boundaries: How is an<br />

urban citizen?<br />

Linda Knight<br />

76<br />

The Europocene: A Past, Present, and Future<br />

Narrative of Climate Change Beginning with<br />

<strong>the</strong> Disruption of Indigenous Relations<br />

Jade Swor, Melanie Armstrong, Taryn Mead, and<br />

Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk<br />

10 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


96<br />

Section 3: Beyond Utopias and Dystopias<br />

Image: Shanna Merola, Ionizing Radiation, 2017<br />

98<br />

Tending Breadth<br />

Jacklyn Brickman and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor<br />

111<br />

Violence, Apocalypse, or a Changing World?<br />

Re-Constructing <strong>the</strong> Climate Imaginary /<br />

Thinking of Doggerland<br />

Evan Tims<br />

128<br />

Section 4: The Past Is <strong>No</strong>t a Predictor for<br />

<strong>the</strong> Future<br />

Image: Shanna Merola, Benzene (C6H6), 2017<br />

130<br />

Gaia Rise: Myths and Politics in <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene<br />

Artemis Herber<br />

149<br />

After Animals<br />

Jay R. Elliott<br />

162<br />

Don’t Pave Paradise<br />

Rosalind Murray and Art O’Neill Mooney<br />

176<br />

The Center for Post-Capitalist History<br />

Leah Sandler<br />

Front and Back Cover Images,<br />

Shanna Merola, Uranium, 2017<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

11


12 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Introduction to<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

Jennifer Richter and Melanie Armstrong<br />

Life After <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: Envisioning <strong>the</strong><br />

Futures of <strong>the</strong> World<br />

For <strong>the</strong> past six months, scholars, activists, and<br />

artists have worked to continue <strong>the</strong>ir acts of<br />

production in a world that became evermore<br />

uncertain and chaotic. During <strong>the</strong> social unrest<br />

of a global pandemic, we formulated new ways<br />

of working even as we rearranged our kitchens<br />

into offices, constructed virtual classrooms, and<br />

consumed news reports as voraciously as we ate<br />

potato chips. Today, in July 2020, art spaces, <strong>the</strong><br />

academy, and <strong>the</strong> broader world are substantially<br />

transformed from July 2019, when we issued<br />

<strong>the</strong> call for submissions for <strong>the</strong> fourth issue of<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>, on <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>me “Life<br />

After <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: Envisioning <strong>the</strong> Futures<br />

of <strong>the</strong> World.” We ga<strong>the</strong>red contributions in<br />

<strong>the</strong> fall and sorted through <strong>the</strong>m as our social<br />

norms began to unravel during <strong>the</strong> winter. We<br />

revised and edited as we watched a pandemic<br />

expand across <strong>the</strong> globe and protests against<br />

systemic racial injustices rise up. We chatted with<br />

contributors about COVID-19 and George Floyd,<br />

even as we dialogued about tightening a <strong>the</strong>me or<br />

enlivening an argument. These eleven essays and<br />

art pieces became a central part of <strong>the</strong> intellectual<br />

discourse we have used to interpret <strong>the</strong> events<br />

around us. Our perspectives on early 2020 have<br />

been shaped by this collection, none of which<br />

was created specifically in response to events<br />

of <strong>the</strong> last six months, but all of which speaks<br />

to those events in critical ways. Fortunately,<br />

<strong>the</strong> call to imagine a post-Anthropocene world<br />

brought to our attention an array of work that is<br />

simultaneously provocative and hopeful, beautiful<br />

and jarring, and takes a stance of imagination,<br />

play, critique, and action, which are proving to be<br />

vital tools for living in a global pandemic.<br />

Global events occurring in 2020 highlight <strong>the</strong> ways<br />

“control of nature” is both elusive and a persistent<br />

social ideal enacted through <strong>the</strong> management<br />

of human bodies. As political institutions fail to<br />

control <strong>the</strong> biophysical world, <strong>the</strong>y turn instead<br />

to human subjects, managing <strong>the</strong> movement<br />

and positioning of those bodies to achieve <strong>the</strong><br />

objectives of governance, whe<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> health<br />

of people, <strong>the</strong> security of citizens, or <strong>the</strong> growth<br />

of capital. The expansion of globally-dominant,<br />

human-centered economic and political systems<br />

has transformed human relations, but also<br />

produced significant ecological effects. The term<br />

“Anthropocene” is used to highlight how, in<br />

just a few centuries, a small subset of humans,<br />

beginning in Europe and <strong>No</strong>rth America, have<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

13


The call to imagine a post-<br />

Anthropocene world brought<br />

to our attention an array of<br />

work that is simultaneously<br />

provocative and hopeful,<br />

beautiful and jarring, and<br />

takes a stance of imagination,<br />

play, critique, and action,<br />

which are proving to be vital<br />

tools for living in a global<br />

pandemic.<br />

14 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


ecome ever more successful at converting<br />

nature into capital through colonization,<br />

industrialization, imperialism, and financialization<br />

of climate risk and resilience. The ecological<br />

costs have been great, including exponential<br />

decreases in biodiversity, unpredictable and<br />

extreme wea<strong>the</strong>r, and <strong>the</strong> degradation of entire<br />

ecosystems and <strong>the</strong> human/more-than-human<br />

lifeways <strong>the</strong>y support. So, too, are <strong>the</strong> social<br />

costs of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, for <strong>the</strong> accelerated<br />

conversion of “nature” into “resource” is not<br />

consistent with <strong>the</strong> long-term survival, let alone<br />

flourishing, of humanity—or anything else.<br />

The emergence of <strong>the</strong> term Anthropocene two<br />

decades ago has driven planetary scientists to<br />

critically and deeply look for markers of human<br />

influence in <strong>the</strong> geologic record, while humanists<br />

have used <strong>the</strong> term to argue for new ways of<br />

conceptualizing <strong>the</strong> relationship between people<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir planet, and media deploy <strong>the</strong> word<br />

as a headline to bring such debates to a public<br />

audience. The utility of <strong>the</strong> construct of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene is <strong>the</strong> way it binds our attention<br />

to global systems, diverse scales of capital,<br />

and ecological outcomes of social systems. A<br />

limitation is <strong>the</strong> fixation of that attention on<br />

human actions in <strong>the</strong> past and present, to <strong>the</strong><br />

detriment of <strong>the</strong> creative visioning that will be<br />

needed to change global systems.<br />

As news spread of <strong>the</strong> emerging novel<br />

coronavirus, some authors argued that <strong>the</strong> virus<br />

was fur<strong>the</strong>r evidence of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, in<br />

which environmental degradation, systemic<br />

poverty and inequality, and lack of community<br />

services create <strong>the</strong> precise circumstances<br />

needed for viruses to jump species from <strong>the</strong><br />

“wild” to human bodies (De Pascale and Roger,<br />

Kothari et al.). Indeed, disease management<br />

reinforces narratives of power and control of<br />

nature, <strong>the</strong> standard of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> human relationship to microbes has<br />

long been characterized by <strong>the</strong> same desire<br />

to manage nature that has driven capitalism<br />

globally. Situating COVID-19 within <strong>the</strong> broad<br />

environmental discourse of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

depicts a truly wicked problem. However,<br />

thinking of <strong>the</strong> coronavirus as just ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

product of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene limits <strong>the</strong> ways<br />

<strong>the</strong> human/virus relationship can push us to<br />

think about life after <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. As<br />

a species understood to be alive through its<br />

complete dependence upon o<strong>the</strong>r species,<br />

viruses exemplify hybridity. Viruses are in our<br />

DNA, and past viral infections altered <strong>the</strong> human<br />

genome in ways that ensure <strong>the</strong> continuance<br />

of our species. When <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene directs<br />

our attention to <strong>the</strong> disproportionate effects<br />

of human activities on <strong>the</strong> planet, we might<br />

consider that microbes have done more to shape<br />

<strong>the</strong> planet than any o<strong>the</strong>r lifeform. The most<br />

dramatic event on earth occurred 2.4 billion years<br />

ago when cyanobacteria transformed <strong>the</strong> planet<br />

to its present, oxygen-rich status and triggered<br />

<strong>the</strong> evolution of multicellularity. When looking<br />

at <strong>the</strong> long history of <strong>the</strong> planet, comprehending<br />

<strong>the</strong> interspecies relationships between humans<br />

and viruses requires post-Anthropocene thinking<br />

about hybridity, evolution, and social relations.<br />

The social transformations of <strong>the</strong> COVID-19<br />

pandemic create an opportunity to realize new<br />

formulations of human relations on and with<br />

<strong>the</strong> planet. As schools and businesses shuttered,<br />

people looked out from <strong>the</strong>ir homes at silent<br />

streets and marveled at how swiftly <strong>the</strong>ir world<br />

seemed to come to a halt. The constraint of<br />

physical touch disrupted <strong>the</strong> interactions that<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

15


most make us human. Stock markets registered<br />

flux as <strong>the</strong> systems that transform labor into<br />

capital slowed. A way of living that was difficult<br />

to imagine a year ago rapidly materialized and<br />

endured weeks longer than many anticipated.<br />

New forms of governance emerged as public<br />

health officials exerted authority over businesses,<br />

elections, and individual behavior, and tensions<br />

between local, national, and global political<br />

institutions flared. Discourses took shape around<br />

“normalcy” and <strong>the</strong> desire to return to or reclaim<br />

something of <strong>the</strong> past. Even as <strong>the</strong> pandemic<br />

persisted and citizens pled for more movement—<br />

some through political protest, many wistfully<br />

in more intimate circles—that past grew more<br />

distant and normalcy became more elusive. This<br />

state of being holds within it opportunities for<br />

deliberation, social contemplation, and political<br />

imagination, perhaps most evident in <strong>the</strong> political<br />

disturbances that emerged during <strong>the</strong> pandemic<br />

in <strong>the</strong> United States, Hong Kong, and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

nations.<br />

The US is currently wracked by new calls for<br />

recognizing and reckoning with a past built<br />

on violence and dispossession. Structural<br />

and systemic racism have defined <strong>the</strong> history<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Americas, and in <strong>the</strong> US specifically,<br />

<strong>the</strong> dispossession of land from Indigenous<br />

communities through displacement, settler<br />

colonialism, and genocide coupled with <strong>the</strong><br />

enslavement of Black bodies for labor are<br />

<strong>the</strong> foundations of American “freedom.” The<br />

Anthropocene lays bare <strong>the</strong> consequences of<br />

capitalism built on <strong>the</strong> exploitation of land and<br />

labor, and of <strong>the</strong> separation of humans from <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

humanity. The systemic precarity of economic,<br />

social, political systems all reliant on <strong>the</strong><br />

conversion of nature into natural resources is a<br />

defining feature of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, made clear<br />

through responses to <strong>the</strong> pandemic and <strong>the</strong> calls<br />

for racial justice, as Black and Brown bodies bear<br />

<strong>the</strong> brunt of <strong>the</strong>m both.<br />

Calls for reparations, recognition, and change<br />

in current systems predicated on control and<br />

surveillance of Black and Brown bodies, of<br />

<strong>the</strong> bodies of women and <strong>the</strong> poor, force us<br />

to confront <strong>the</strong> inherent paradoxes of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene that relies on ignoring <strong>the</strong>se<br />

facts. The Movement for Black Lives argues<br />

that we need to recognize calls for “law and<br />

order” as rationales to increase <strong>the</strong> surveilling,<br />

policing, and destruction of poor communities in<br />

increasingly disparate and inequitable ways. The<br />

connections between control of racialized bodies<br />

and control of land and resources are inextricably<br />

linked historically and in <strong>the</strong> future by Black<br />

and Indigenous communities and experiences<br />

(King); in order for new relationships between<br />

humans and <strong>the</strong> biophysical world to come<br />

into being after <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, <strong>the</strong> claims<br />

of communities who have been systematically<br />

degraded need to be acknowledged, recognized<br />

and addressed as fundamental issues of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene. Environments (both internal and<br />

external to <strong>the</strong> human body) as well as capital are<br />

racialized (Pulido); understanding <strong>the</strong> implications<br />

of this racialization is critical for understanding<br />

why addressing climate change will fail if we<br />

do not make connections between all kinds of<br />

environments and justice (Sengupta).<br />

As people wrestle with <strong>the</strong> physical and social<br />

realities <strong>the</strong> first half of 2020 has put before<br />

<strong>the</strong>m, <strong>the</strong>y are compelled to examine anew<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir planetary relations, if only through simple<br />

acts like deciding to go outside or leng<strong>the</strong>ning<br />

16 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


In 2020, <strong>the</strong> once nearly<br />

unimaginable ability of an<br />

unseen organism to disrupt<br />

social living has brought<br />

about awe, despair, and<br />

humility, but it has also<br />

demonstrated that human<br />

institutions can change<br />

abruptly and radically, even<br />

if temporarily, due to actions<br />

by people and communities.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

17


<strong>the</strong> time <strong>the</strong>y spend at <strong>the</strong> sink washing <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

hands. While some point to <strong>the</strong> emergence of<br />

a novel coronavirus as fur<strong>the</strong>r evidence of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene and a consequence of capitalist<br />

pursuits (Loeb), 2020 has also seen citizens<br />

around <strong>the</strong> world collectively demand <strong>the</strong><br />

ability to participate in imagining new futures<br />

and creating <strong>the</strong> societies and governments<br />

capable of constituting <strong>the</strong>m. In 2020, radical<br />

actions like defunding police departments or<br />

voluntary stay-at-home practices have garnered<br />

widespread support, with biophysical effects<br />

such as slowing <strong>the</strong> reproduction and spread<br />

of viruses or potentially reducing atmospheric<br />

carbon emissions. While 2020 has brought awe,<br />

despair, and humility about <strong>the</strong> once nearly<br />

unimaginable ability of an unseen organism to<br />

disrupt social living, it has demonstrated that<br />

human institutions can change abruptly and<br />

radically, even if temporarily, due to behavioral<br />

changes in people and communities. What fur<strong>the</strong>r<br />

opportunities does 2020 present for materializing<br />

<strong>the</strong> ways of living in which we have thus far only<br />

dared to dip our toes—imagining in our fiction,<br />

debating in our statehouse, speculating in our<br />

brewpubs, and visualizing in our galleries?<br />

In times of uncertainty and chaos, <strong>the</strong> ways<br />

human lives deeply entwine with <strong>the</strong> physical and<br />

social environment become apparent to more<br />

people. During a state of emergency, imaginative<br />

practices can have a powerful material effect<br />

in envisioning and constituting new worlds.<br />

Diverse visions of how humans should relate to<br />

<strong>the</strong> world have always existed, and audacious<br />

new imaginaries are still being born. These<br />

imaginings chart a post-Anthropocene future<br />

where relationships beyond control exist between<br />

humans and with <strong>the</strong> planet. The present course<br />

invites despair, which can lead to inaction. But<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r visions of how humans should relate to<br />

<strong>the</strong> world have always existed, and audacious<br />

new imaginaries are still being born. They chart<br />

a future in which humans are integrated with <strong>the</strong><br />

world, ra<strong>the</strong>r than in control of it.<br />

Life After <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: The Works<br />

This issue explores <strong>the</strong> world after <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene, to materialize and make<br />

possible future-thinking in <strong>the</strong> present, and to<br />

demonstrate that paradigm shifts and radical<br />

actions will come from imagining <strong>the</strong> futures<br />

we want and need. Swanson et al. have argued,<br />

“Somehow, in <strong>the</strong> midst of ruins, we must<br />

maintain enough curiosity to notice <strong>the</strong> strange<br />

and wonderful as well as <strong>the</strong> terrible and<br />

terrifying” (M7). The works that follow grapple<br />

with <strong>the</strong>se strange and wonderful aspects<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, as well as <strong>the</strong> terrible<br />

and terrifying. These ideas show recognition,<br />

support, and appreciation for post-Anthropocene<br />

ecological webs, integrate knowledges that<br />

collapse perceived divides between nature and<br />

culture, and think about scales outside of human<br />

time and place. We gain and share insights from<br />

a number of perspectives and methods, including<br />

Indigenous thought, grassroots activism, public<br />

policy, and artistic interventions. These ideas<br />

unfold through diverse forms, including fiction,<br />

critical essays, performance, cinematography, and<br />

artworks.<br />

Collectively and individually, this work investigates<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene through four entry points.<br />

Experiencing <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: As a starting<br />

point, <strong>the</strong>se pieces define aspects of <strong>the</strong><br />

18 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


experience of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, identifying how<br />

different human communities are making sense<br />

of <strong>the</strong> time we live in by challenging <strong>the</strong> rigidity<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Western human/nature divide. They also<br />

urge us to envision new futures built on <strong>the</strong><br />

recognition of communal and collective pasts<br />

that were centered on deep understandings of<br />

local ecologies, a <strong>the</strong>me that has been central<br />

to <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong> as a collective. A focus on<br />

reclaiming taken-for-granted spaces, used and<br />

discarded by modern society, ignored and wasted,<br />

infuses <strong>the</strong>se interventions into <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

experience. Shanna Merola’s project, “We All<br />

Live Downwind,” employs photographic collage<br />

to uncover and make manifest <strong>the</strong> polluted<br />

spaces of bodies and land that undergird <strong>the</strong><br />

economic expansion of capitalist systems.<br />

Her work stresses <strong>the</strong> ways that land is made<br />

expendable through uncontrolled longterm<br />

exposure and contamination, explicitly<br />

linking <strong>the</strong> costs of endless extraction and<br />

industrialized production to <strong>the</strong> costs to health<br />

and environment for communities across <strong>the</strong><br />

US, from Detroit, Michigan, to Love Canal, New<br />

York. Similarly, Kate Mattingly and Liz Ivkovich<br />

analyze a dance performance of Rite of Spring<br />

that took place in 2019 beneath an overpass<br />

in an economically-depressed area of Salt<br />

Lake City. They excavate <strong>the</strong> ways a forgotten<br />

industrial urban landscape is imbued with <strong>the</strong><br />

history, labor, and values of <strong>the</strong> cultures and<br />

communities that have previously laid claim to<br />

<strong>the</strong> place. They link those histories to <strong>the</strong> culture<br />

of labor in dance, to underscore <strong>the</strong> precarity<br />

and risk of <strong>the</strong> dancer’s body, as well as <strong>the</strong> ways<br />

that dance can provoke new considerations of<br />

<strong>the</strong> relationships and histories we have with our<br />

local environments. Beyond physical spaces,<br />

Rachel Weaver invites us to consider aural spaces<br />

as sites of reclamation through her application<br />

of field environmental philosophy to local radio<br />

airwaves. Her essay allows us to see more of <strong>the</strong><br />

“soundscape ecologies” that surround us, showing<br />

<strong>the</strong> possibility of reclaiming those spaces for<br />

community needs by understanding low-power<br />

FM radio stations as sites of resistance against<br />

<strong>the</strong> homogenization of radio airwaves. These<br />

works peer into spaces of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene that<br />

epitomize <strong>the</strong> values that drive huge ecological<br />

changes, while also demonstrating ways of<br />

destabilizing and challenging <strong>the</strong> dehumanizing<br />

effects of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

Decolonizing <strong>the</strong> post-Anthropocene: Taking<br />

<strong>the</strong> call from Indigenous scholar-activists, a<br />

second <strong>the</strong>me recognizes <strong>the</strong> need to decolonize<br />

our relationships with each o<strong>the</strong>r and <strong>the</strong> world<br />

in order to address climate injustices, fur<strong>the</strong>ring<br />

practices that will lead human societies to reject<br />

processes of colonization and imperialization<br />

(Tuck and Young, Whyte). From its conception,<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong> has challenged scholars to<br />

reconsider <strong>the</strong> colonial powers inscribed in<br />

mapping, and indeed in all disciplinary practices,<br />

by creating spaces to experiment with forms<br />

of knowledge production as a response to <strong>the</strong><br />

current state of ecological emergency. In this<br />

space producers who are often confined by<br />

discourses and methods of a discipline use<br />

cross- and transdisciplinary play to remake<br />

<strong>the</strong> tools <strong>the</strong>y’ve acquired for surveying <strong>the</strong><br />

world, imitating <strong>the</strong> act of resistance of an allwomen<br />

survey crew in 1918 who decorated <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

surveying instruments with stylized hearts and<br />

dashes. Changing <strong>the</strong> tools one uses to describe<br />

<strong>the</strong> world—or creating a new tool outside <strong>the</strong><br />

spaces of capitalism—is a decolonizing practice<br />

that changes <strong>the</strong> world itself. Linda Knight’s<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

19


Envisioning life after <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene forces us to<br />

ask difficult questions,<br />

in order to revolutionize<br />

our relationships to <strong>the</strong><br />

biophysical world and each<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

20 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


work in “Inefficient <strong>Mapping</strong>” rejects <strong>the</strong> colonial<br />

practices of mapping which give full power to <strong>the</strong><br />

cartographer to bestow meaning on a landscape.<br />

Ra<strong>the</strong>r she creates alternative protocols that draw<br />

<strong>the</strong> creator’s gaze away from <strong>the</strong> map, connecting<br />

place to map through <strong>the</strong> human body itself.<br />

Her goal is to see <strong>the</strong> pieces of <strong>the</strong> landscape<br />

which have been visually overlooked because<br />

<strong>the</strong>y don’t contribute to <strong>the</strong> work of production,<br />

extraction, and growth, and give <strong>the</strong>m power in<br />

<strong>the</strong> landscape by mapping <strong>the</strong>m. This creates<br />

new places, freed from <strong>the</strong> demands of capital.<br />

Jade Swor et al. propose <strong>the</strong> use of <strong>the</strong> term<br />

“Europocene” to draw attention to <strong>the</strong> systems of<br />

capital rooted in imperialism and colonialism that<br />

have generated and driven <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

Enduring Indigenous values offer a means of<br />

decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Europocene and challenging<br />

mechanistic worldviews, to show that <strong>the</strong>se<br />

practices are not emergent, but <strong>the</strong> cyclical and<br />

repeating ways of knowing that have sustained<br />

Indigenous cultures for generations. New<br />

worldviews, new governance, new discourses, and<br />

even new naming practices for <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

emerge toge<strong>the</strong>r to forge <strong>the</strong> relationships that<br />

will carry over into life after <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

Beyond utopias and dystopias: In soliciting<br />

submissions for this issue, we offered <strong>the</strong><br />

particular challenge to represent a post-<br />

Anthropocene future in ways that go beyond<br />

utopias and dystopias, technofixes and fatalism<br />

(Haraway). As Evan Tims points to in critiquing <strong>the</strong><br />

genre of climate fiction, even <strong>the</strong> creative forms<br />

that imagine <strong>the</strong> future in liberating ways often<br />

fall short of creating complex visions of future<br />

ecologies. Dystopian narratives tend to take place<br />

in degraded landscapes, a narrow view of <strong>the</strong><br />

planet’s ecological future, one that may instill<br />

paralyzing fear in those who might o<strong>the</strong>rwise<br />

act to influence <strong>the</strong> political systems that drive<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. Tims urges those engaged in<br />

speculative climate fiction to present a range of<br />

possible futures in order to broaden our capacity<br />

to imagine how humans will live in a climatealtered<br />

future.<br />

The works contained here present a range of<br />

tools to re-envision different and co-constructive<br />

relationships. In a decolonized future, traditional<br />

ecological knowledges cyclically engage both past<br />

and future political, economic, and biological<br />

processes. Through activism, citizens might<br />

escape <strong>the</strong> dystopian politics of <strong>the</strong> bureaucracy<br />

to establish a complex multispecies citizenship.<br />

Science and technology transform relationships<br />

with animals and elements, place and community.<br />

Art forms invite new relationships between<br />

subject and object, even as <strong>the</strong>y remake materials<br />

into imagined worlds. Such tools reify complex<br />

futures where human experiences endure.<br />

Filmmakers Jacklyn Brickman and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor<br />

playfully embrace <strong>the</strong> concept of caring in <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene, using many tropes of <strong>the</strong> science<br />

fiction genre to imagine crossing into a post-<br />

Anthropocene world. The caregivers in “Tending<br />

Breadth” work in a shiny mylar world encased in<br />

a greenhouse, using <strong>the</strong> technological growing<br />

spaces of <strong>the</strong> past and present to cultivate silvery<br />

future worlds. The connection between care and<br />

world-making runs against <strong>the</strong> assumption of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene that human societies are on track<br />

to destroy worlds, particularly our own. In 2020,<br />

as <strong>the</strong> global pandemic reconfigured political<br />

systems of care, people turned increasingly to a<br />

number of practices traditionally associated with<br />

individualistic care: bread-baking, gardening, pet<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

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adoption, and more. These intergenerational,<br />

interspecies practices are vibrant and generative<br />

of <strong>the</strong> future, but <strong>the</strong>y also suggest nurturing our<br />

lives in <strong>the</strong> present in hopes that <strong>the</strong>re will be a<br />

future, during a time when <strong>the</strong> character of that<br />

future seems more uncertain than ever. Like a<br />

gardener in a greenhouse, <strong>the</strong>se acts speak to <strong>the</strong><br />

hope of generating society anew.<br />

The past is not a predictor for <strong>the</strong> future:<br />

Envisioning life after <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene forces us<br />

to ask difficult questions, in order to revolutionize<br />

our relationships to <strong>the</strong> biophysical world<br />

and each o<strong>the</strong>r. To destabilize, challenge,<br />

and upend <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, we have to<br />

embrace <strong>the</strong> “ghosts” and “monsters” (Gan et<br />

al.) of our landscapes. Gan et al. argue that,<br />

“Anthropogenic landscapes are also haunted<br />

by imagined futures. We are willing to turn<br />

things into rubble, destroy atmospheres, sell out<br />

companion species in exchange for dreamworlds<br />

of progress” (G2). Instead, progress as a species,<br />

as an ecological sphere, and as a world needs<br />

to acknowledge <strong>the</strong> histories by which our<br />

collective futures will be shaped; “progress” itself<br />

needs to be redefined. Leah Sandler’s “Center<br />

for Post-Capitalist History” fuses toge<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong><br />

capitalist-driven past with <strong>the</strong> archaeology of<br />

<strong>the</strong> future. Her project proposes <strong>the</strong> creation<br />

of a fictitious museum in <strong>the</strong> unspecified future<br />

that will house ironic archives documenting <strong>the</strong><br />

increasing precarity of existence and scarcity<br />

of necessities that mark <strong>the</strong> latter stages of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene. The Center demonstrates <strong>the</strong><br />

logical conclusion of late capitalism, but also<br />

points to post-capitalist possibilities where<br />

interpretations of our cataclysmic age will be<br />

met with curiosity and bewilderment, and <strong>the</strong><br />

recognition that <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene cannot<br />

happen again. In <strong>the</strong> present, Rosalind Murray<br />

and Art Mooney’s activist intervention into a local<br />

development project reveals and challenges<br />

<strong>the</strong> ways environments have been and are<br />

currently assessed, and how political systems<br />

driven by economic narratives operate through<br />

misinformation and deceit. Their struggle to<br />

understand and intervene in <strong>the</strong> development of<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir local river in Ireland is a first-hand account<br />

that serves as a model for challenging not only<br />

processes of environmental degradation couched<br />

in terms of economic development, but also<br />

unveiling <strong>the</strong> roots of <strong>the</strong> value systems that<br />

promote long-term environmental change in<br />

exchange for short-term goals.<br />

In <strong>the</strong>se post-Anthropocene places, humans<br />

and non-humans navigate new relationships<br />

with o<strong>the</strong>r biological life-forms, including flows<br />

of energy, food, and water, such that our<br />

entanglements with o<strong>the</strong>r species change and<br />

morph into new kinds of relationships. Values<br />

that reduce <strong>the</strong> natural world to resources for<br />

human consumption need to be challenged,<br />

and Jay Elliot’s essay disputes <strong>the</strong> geophysical<br />

grounding of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, looking instead<br />

to <strong>the</strong> biological relationships of modern life that<br />

characterize <strong>the</strong> current moment. He argues<br />

that <strong>the</strong> ways Western society uses animals<br />

in food production push our society into <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene. He interrogates <strong>the</strong> technological<br />

innovations around in-vitro meat to argue for<br />

different relationships with <strong>the</strong> fauna around<br />

us, to recognize how <strong>the</strong>ir existence is knitted to<br />

our own; producing animals from cells does not<br />

recognize <strong>the</strong>ir agency or right to co-exist with<br />

humans.<br />

Finally, Artemis Herber’s large-scale installation<br />

22 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


ings <strong>the</strong> mythic Hellenic past in line with<br />

alternate visions of <strong>the</strong> future. Her artwork<br />

employs found objects and materials taken from<br />

abandoned places like quarries and dumpsters,<br />

giving <strong>the</strong>m new life in her series entitled “Gaia<br />

Rise.” Her pieces link <strong>the</strong> catastrophic present to<br />

<strong>the</strong> mythic past, to call into question <strong>the</strong> roots of<br />

globalized systems of capital that use and discard<br />

people and places, and to raise new possibilities<br />

for life after <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

Collectively, <strong>the</strong> works presented in this issue of<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong> ask us to interrogate our place<br />

in <strong>the</strong> world, as individuals, community members,<br />

citizens, and global inhabitants. They articulate<br />

<strong>the</strong> paradoxes of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, challenging<br />

<strong>the</strong> ideal of complete human control over nature.<br />

Instead, <strong>the</strong>y offer insights into new relationships<br />

with each o<strong>the</strong>r and o<strong>the</strong>r global denizens,<br />

resisting <strong>the</strong> totalizing and inexorable pull of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene by exposing its precarious<br />

foundations, built on exploitation, contamination,<br />

colonialism, and waste. By envisioning life after<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, we aim to collectively create<br />

new foundations, pulling on histories, presents,<br />

and futures based on care, compassion, and<br />

respect for ourselves and those to come.<br />

Black and Native Studies. Duke University Press, 2019.<br />

Kothari, Ashish et al. “Coronavirus and <strong>the</strong> Crisis of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene.” Ecologist: The <strong>Journal</strong> for <strong>the</strong> Post-Industrial<br />

Age, 27 March 2020, https://<strong>the</strong>ecologist.org/2020/mar/27/<br />

coronavirus-and-crisis-anthropocene.<br />

Loeb, Avi. “A Sobering Astronomical Reminder from<br />

COVID-19.” Scientific American, 18 April 2020, https://blogs.<br />

scientificamerican.com/observations/a-sobering-astronomicalreminder-from-covid-19/.<br />

Pulido, Laura. “Flint, Environmental Racism, and Racial<br />

Capitalism.” Capitalism Nature Socialism, vo. 27, 3, 2016, 1-16.<br />

DOI: 10.1080/10455752.2016.1213013<br />

Sengupta, Somini. “Read Up On <strong>the</strong> Links Between Racism and<br />

<strong>the</strong> Environment.” The New York Times (June 5, 2020). https://<br />

www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/05/climate/racismclimate-change-reading-list.html.<br />

Accessed 21 June 2020.<br />

Swanson, Hea<strong>the</strong>r et al. “Introduction: Bodies Tumbled<br />

into Bodies.” Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Monsters of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, edited by Anna Tsing et al. Minneapolis:<br />

University of Minnesota Press, 2017. M1-M12.<br />

Tuck, Eve and K. Wayne Young. “Decolonization Is <strong>No</strong>t a<br />

Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, vo.<br />

1, 1, 2012, 1-40.<br />

Whyte, Kyle Powys. “The Dakota Access Pipeline,<br />

Environmental Injustice, and U.S. Colonialism.” Red Ink, vo. 19,<br />

1, 2017, 154-169.<br />

Works Cited<br />

De Pascale, Francesco and Roger, Jean-Claude. “Coronavirus:<br />

An Anthropocene's Hybrid? The Need for a Geoethic<br />

Perspective for <strong>the</strong> Future of <strong>the</strong> Earth.” AIMS Geosciences, vo.<br />

6, 2020, 131-134. 10.3934/geosci.2020008.<br />

Gan, Elaine et al. “Introduction: Haunted Landscapes of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene.” Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Monsters<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, edited by Anna Tsing et al. Minneapolis:<br />

University of Minnesota Press, 2017. G1-G14.<br />

Haraway, Donna. Staying with <strong>the</strong> Trouble: Making Kin in <strong>the</strong><br />

Chthulucene. Duke University Press, 2016.<br />

King, Tiffany Lethabo. The Black Shoals: Offshore Formation of<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

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24 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


SECTION 1:<br />

Experiencing <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

25


26 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


We All Live Downwind<br />

Shanna Merola<br />

Shanna Merola<br />

Uranium, 2017<br />

Handmade sculptural collage photographs / Archival inkjet pigment print<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

Artist Statement:<br />

The images in We All Live Downwind are culled<br />

from daily headlines—inspired by global and<br />

grassroots struggles against <strong>the</strong> forces of<br />

privatization in <strong>the</strong> face of disaster capitalism.<br />

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein writes about<br />

<strong>the</strong> exploitation of disaster-shocked people and<br />

countries, saying, “<strong>the</strong> original disaster—<strong>the</strong><br />

coup, <strong>the</strong> terrorist attack, <strong>the</strong> market meltdown,<br />

<strong>the</strong> war, <strong>the</strong> tsunami, <strong>the</strong> hurricane—puts <strong>the</strong><br />

entire population into a state of collective shock”<br />

(20). The scenes in We All Live Downwind have<br />

been carved out of dystopian landscapes in <strong>the</strong><br />

aftermath of <strong>the</strong>se events.<br />

On <strong>the</strong> surface, rubble hints at layers of oil and<br />

shale, cracked and bubbling from <strong>the</strong> earth<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

27


elow. Rising from ano<strong>the</strong>r mound, rows of<br />

empty mobile homes bake beneath <strong>the</strong> summer<br />

sun, remnants of <strong>the</strong> bust of small towns left dry<br />

in <strong>the</strong> aftermath of supply and demand. In this<br />

place, only fragments of people remain, <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

mechanical gestures left tending to <strong>the</strong> chaos on<br />

auto. Reduced to survival, <strong>the</strong>ir struggle to exist<br />

against an increasingly hostile environment goes<br />

unnoticed. Beyond <strong>the</strong> upheaval of production,<br />

a bending highway promises never ending<br />

expansion - and that low rumble you hear to <strong>the</strong><br />

West is getting louder.<br />

Research and Process<br />

Dioxin, cadmium, arsenic, lead... what happens<br />

over time when <strong>the</strong> human body is exposed to<br />

<strong>the</strong>se elements, and what happens to <strong>the</strong> land?<br />

Since <strong>the</strong> 1960s, sou<strong>the</strong>ast Michigan has become<br />

a dumping ground for corporations looking to<br />

cheaply store and dispose of hazardous waste,<br />

often in <strong>the</strong> backyards of communities of color<br />

and low-income neighborhoods. From uncovered<br />

petroleum coke piles to expanding oil refineries,<br />

residents find <strong>the</strong>mselves teetering on <strong>the</strong> brink<br />

of environmental collapse. Extraction takes what<br />

it needs from <strong>the</strong> earth by force, disrupting<br />

ecosystems and boosting economies. Industrial<br />

waste storage becomes its own market, in turn,<br />

ensuring an endless cycle of wealth production<br />

through <strong>the</strong> exploitation of labor and land. The<br />

photographs in We All Live Downwind examine<br />

<strong>the</strong> human cost of <strong>the</strong>se extractive economies—<br />

across different decades and regions—from my<br />

own neighborhood in Detroit, MI, to Chicago’s<br />

Altgeld Gardens, and Love Canal, NY.<br />

The process for creating each collage begins<br />

with a visual databank. This cache of source<br />

images (a combination of photos I’ve taken at<br />

EPA designated Superfund sites and o<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

pulled from <strong>the</strong> Internet) are printed, hand<br />

cut, assembled into <strong>the</strong> environment and rephotographed.<br />

There is often a chaotic violence<br />

to <strong>the</strong> scenes which reference industrial related<br />

health hazards, ecological crisis, and bodies<br />

for exchange in <strong>the</strong> global market. Aerial views<br />

of fracking fields show devastated landscapes,<br />

carved into <strong>the</strong> earth like veins. These<br />

topographies become a surgery room for <strong>the</strong><br />

victims of late-stage capitalism with no option but<br />

to mutate or adapt.<br />

Works Cited<br />

Klein, Naomi (2008). The Shock Doctrine: The rise of disaster<br />

capitalism. London: Penguin.<br />

Bio<br />

Shanna Merola is a visual artist, photojournalist, and legal<br />

worker. In addition to her studio practice, she has been a human<br />

rights observer during political uprisings across <strong>the</strong> country—<br />

from <strong>the</strong> struggle for water rights in Detroit and Flint, MI, to <strong>the</strong><br />

frontlines of Ferguson, MO and Standing Rock, ND. Her collages<br />

and constructed landscapes are informed by <strong>the</strong>se events.<br />

Merola lives in Detroit, MI where she facilitates Know-Your-<br />

Rights workshops and coordinates legal support for grassroots<br />

organizations through <strong>the</strong> National Lawyers Guild. She has<br />

been awarded studio residencies and fellowships through <strong>the</strong><br />

MacDowell Colony, <strong>the</strong> Studios at MASS MoCA, Kala Institute of<br />

Art, <strong>the</strong> Society for Photographic Education, <strong>the</strong> Puffin Foundation,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Virginia Museum of Fine Art. Merola holds an MFA in<br />

Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from<br />

Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has been published<br />

and exhibited both nationally and abroad.<br />

28 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Shanna Merola<br />

Polychlorinated Biphenyl, 2017<br />

Handmade sculptural collage photographs / Archival inkjet pigment print<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

From <strong>the</strong> 1920s until <strong>the</strong>y were banned in 1979, an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of <strong>the</strong> toxic compound<br />

known as polychlorinated biphenyls were produced in <strong>No</strong>rth America. For decades, wastes containing<br />

PCBs were cast off into soil-beds, rivers, and wetlands, affecting <strong>the</strong> animals and people around <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

These industrial legacies disproportionately affect communities of color living in <strong>the</strong> shadow of heavy<br />

industry. In a historic housing project on <strong>the</strong> south side of Chicago, <strong>the</strong> residents of Altgeld Gardens<br />

have been waging an environmental justice battle against <strong>the</strong> slow violence of deregulation. Originally<br />

established as federal housing for Black World War II veterans, <strong>the</strong> area would later become known as<br />

<strong>the</strong> “Toxic Doughnut”. Engulfed by factories, landfills, and an incinerator, Altgeld had one of <strong>the</strong> highest<br />

concentrations of hazardous waste sites in <strong>No</strong>rth America. Toxicology studies (98-99’)* from <strong>the</strong> air and<br />

soil revealed dangerous levels of heavy metal neurotoxins causing disproportionate rates of asthma,<br />

birth defects, miscarriages, and cancer.<br />

* People for Community Recovery Archives, Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection<br />

of Afro-American History and Literature<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

29


Shanna Merola<br />

Uranium, 2017<br />

Handmade sculptural collage photographs / Archival inkjet pigment print<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

In <strong>No</strong>vember of 2019, a nuclear waste contaminated shoreline crumbled into <strong>the</strong> waters of <strong>the</strong><br />

Detroit river, exposing residents to decades-old uranium deposits. The radioactive substance, along<br />

with o<strong>the</strong>r deadly chemicals, had been stored onsite by a WWII era weapons subcontractor for <strong>the</strong><br />

Manhattan Project. Between <strong>the</strong> 1940s and 50s, this facility produced over a thousand tons of uranium<br />

in <strong>the</strong> development of fuel rods for <strong>the</strong> atomic bomb. During this time, factories across <strong>the</strong> country<br />

manufactured materials for atomic weapons to support <strong>the</strong> United States Cold War agenda. Today,<br />

communities from <strong>the</strong> Fort Wayne area in Detroit, MI, to Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, CA, are still<br />

burdened by <strong>the</strong>se nuclear legacies, where government-mandated clean-up efforts range from limited<br />

to non-existent. Kidney disease and cancer are among <strong>the</strong> serious health effects reported by people<br />

with prolonged exposure to enriched uranium.<br />

30 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Shanna Merola<br />

Dibenzodioxin, 2017<br />

Handmade sculptural collage photographs / Archival inkjet pigment print<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

For nearly 30 years, 20,000 tons of submerged chemical waste drums lay undiscovered beneath <strong>the</strong><br />

surface of Love Canal, NY. Situated between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, this sleepy working class town<br />

grew out of <strong>the</strong> region’s 1950s tourism boom. By <strong>the</strong> late 1970s, Love Canal would become a household<br />

name, splashed across <strong>the</strong> headlines of national newspapers as <strong>the</strong> story of corporate negligence<br />

and environmental disaster unfolded. A citizen-led investigation into <strong>the</strong> mysterious health issues of<br />

neighbors impacted by dioxin poisoning incited public outcry along with lawsuits. It also ignited a major<br />

social justice movement at <strong>the</strong> intersection of housing and environmental rights which ultimately led to<br />

<strong>the</strong> creation of <strong>the</strong> U.S. Superfund program. A study of blood samples at Love Canal found significant<br />

chromosomal abnormalities in thirty percent of those tested. This scientific research corresponds with<br />

firsthand testimonials of birth defects, miscarriages, and elevated rates of cancer.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

31


Shanna Merola<br />

Methane, 2018<br />

Handmade sculptural collage photographs / Archival inkjet pigment print<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

Ruptured pipes and oil storage tanks leeched into Houston’s floodwaters after Hurricane Harvey<br />

devastated whole neighborhoods in <strong>the</strong> summer of 2017. As families searched for dry ground,<br />

factory fires in this highly industrialized city released a toxic cocktail of benzene, butadiene, and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r carcinogens into <strong>the</strong> surrounding environments. For decades, <strong>the</strong> oil and gas industry had<br />

over-burdened Houston’s predominantly low income and communities of color neighborhoods with<br />

petrochemical waste. In addition, methane emissions from fossil fuel production can aggravate <strong>the</strong><br />

lungs, skin, and eyes. On a normal day <strong>the</strong>se conditions can be untenable, but in <strong>the</strong> face of climate<br />

change induced disaster, elevated levels of human carcinogens can become a matter of life or death.<br />

What efforts have been made on behalf of private corporations to safeguard against future industrial<br />

catastrophes as oceans swell and rising sea levels alter <strong>the</strong> coastal landscapes?<br />

32 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

33


The Anthropocene and <strong>the</strong><br />

Rite of Spring: Performances<br />

of Labor<br />

Kate Mattingly and Liz Ivkovich<br />

June 22, 2019. Walking to <strong>the</strong> elevated stage<br />

beneath an overpass in Salt Lake City, I noticed<br />

my unfamiliar surroundings: railroad tracks,<br />

gravel, chain link fence, and abandoned factories.<br />

This was not <strong>the</strong> typical setting for a performance<br />

of contemporary dance, but NOW-ID, a Utahbased<br />

interdisciplinary company, prides itself on<br />

finding unusual places to set <strong>the</strong>ir performances.<br />

The company, co-directed by choreographer<br />

Charlotte Boye-Christensen and architect Nathan<br />

Webster, created a one-time performance of Igor<br />

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, held on June 22, 2019.<br />

The platform of uneven risers that served as<br />

<strong>the</strong> stage was set in a landscape of concrete,<br />

brick, and asphalt. Folding chairs surrounded<br />

<strong>the</strong> sides of this elevated stage, so that watching<br />

<strong>the</strong> show gave us a view of fellow audience<br />

members; approximately 250 people attended.<br />

The choreography was exacting and relentless,<br />

generating a series of images, ra<strong>the</strong>r than a<br />

narrative.<br />

The performance began with <strong>the</strong> four dancers<br />

seated on stools at <strong>the</strong> corners of <strong>the</strong> stage.<br />

Evoking boxers waiting on <strong>the</strong> edges of a ring,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y seemed focused and primed. Jo Blake stood,<br />

as if to signal <strong>the</strong> beginning of a ritual, and slowly<br />

walked by <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r dancers (Sydney Sorenson,<br />

Liz Ivkovich, and Tara McArthur) to greet opera<br />

singer Joshua Lindsay as he stepped onto <strong>the</strong><br />

stage and began singing.<br />

When Lindsay had finished singing and exited,<br />

<strong>the</strong> dancing began. Each of <strong>the</strong> four performers<br />

presented distinct qualities––power, extension,<br />

expansion, and speed––while also maintaining a<br />

sense of camaraderie. During unison sections, <strong>the</strong><br />

women generated a sense of solidarity, bounding<br />

across <strong>the</strong> stage with a loping gait that seemed<br />

to gain momentum as <strong>the</strong>y moved. At o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

times, <strong>the</strong> four performers divided into pairs that<br />

suggested rival tribes: Ivkovich and McArthur<br />

wore reddish pants that contrasted with Blake’s<br />

and Sorenson’s attire. In partnering sections,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y seemed to engage in combat, like wrestlers<br />

grappling.<br />

The costumes by Mallory Prucha added to <strong>the</strong><br />

rough and exposed environment: pants were<br />

made of heavy cotton (“monk’s cloth”) but<br />

shredded at <strong>the</strong> hems and stained with dark<br />

streaks. Make-up and hair designs enhanced<br />

this sense of roughness and severity with body<br />

34 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


paint and spiky hairstyles. As <strong>the</strong> performance<br />

continued, <strong>the</strong> body paint disintegrated, leaving<br />

traces of colors just as <strong>the</strong> surroundings<br />

presented traces of former industries and<br />

communities.<br />

Later I would learn that one of <strong>the</strong> four dancers<br />

had split open her toe on a gap in <strong>the</strong> stage<br />

panels during <strong>the</strong> rehearsal before <strong>the</strong> show.<br />

Smears of blood combined with <strong>the</strong> sweat<br />

from previous runs and <strong>the</strong> dust from <strong>the</strong><br />

underpass, none of which had been mopped off<br />

<strong>the</strong> stage. The blurring of this dust, blood, and<br />

sweat left traces and residues, much like <strong>the</strong><br />

patina that covers most of <strong>the</strong> surfaces under<br />

<strong>the</strong> overpass and surrounding buildings. This<br />

layering motivated our analysis of this production<br />

as a site that makes visible <strong>the</strong> dancers’ labor<br />

and exhaustion, as well as <strong>the</strong> limits of artistic<br />

practices, labor relations, and capitalism in <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene.<br />

This introduction was written by Kate, a dance<br />

scholar who attended <strong>the</strong> performance and who<br />

studies dance criticism and its impacts. The rest<br />

of <strong>the</strong> article is co-written with Liz, a dancer in this<br />

Rite who studies performances as contributions<br />

to critical sustainability through corporeal<br />

perspectives. 1 Our approach is both (auto)<br />

ethnographic and <strong>the</strong>oretical, offering an analysis<br />

of <strong>the</strong> performance as a way of elucidating how<br />

tenets of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene are made visible in<br />

choreographic production. Such choreographies<br />

present a worldview that is characterized by<br />

“human-centered economic and political systems<br />

that have had significant ecological effects so as<br />

to alter <strong>the</strong> course of earth history” (Armstrong<br />

1<br />

We chose to use our first names here to emphasize <strong>the</strong><br />

friendship, familiarity, and collaboration that underpin and<br />

influence this project.<br />

and Richter). Performance also holds <strong>the</strong> potential<br />

to reveal post-Anthropocentric worldviews,<br />

since it is an indeterminate practice, one that<br />

is different each time it is presented, and can<br />

dismantle assumptions about human domination<br />

while imagining new futures.<br />

Prior to <strong>the</strong> June 22, 2019 performance of Rite<br />

of Spring, Liz and Kate collaborated on a series<br />

of blog posts, at <strong>the</strong> request of NOW-ID, that<br />

appeared from April 12 to June 20, 2019 on <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

company’s website. These 10 posts speculated on<br />

<strong>the</strong> political and social messages of <strong>the</strong> project,<br />

and through this writing process, we discovered<br />

that <strong>the</strong> human-centric worldview imposed by<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene finds a haunting parallel in<br />

hierarchies of labor that are favored in making<br />

performances.<br />

Drawing from this writing and from our<br />

experiences of <strong>the</strong> performance, we analyze how<br />

and why dance can be used to challenge <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene, and why <strong>the</strong>se ideas are critical to<br />

thriving in <strong>the</strong> post-Anthropocene. To articulate<br />

<strong>the</strong>se ideas, we incorporate three <strong>the</strong>oretical<br />

frameworks: first, <strong>the</strong> concept of entrainment,<br />

which describes how music’s meter is internalized<br />

by a listener, second, ecofeminism, which<br />

connects critiques of patriarchy and capitalism,<br />

and third, decolonizing methodologies, which, as<br />

explained by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, “pose, contest<br />

and struggle for <strong>the</strong> legitimacy of oppositional or<br />

alternative histories, <strong>the</strong>ories and ways of writing”<br />

(40). For us, decolonizing our existing frameworks<br />

means that we address and challenge separations<br />

between humans and our ecologies, and we<br />

recognize labor in dance differently. Ultimately,<br />

we argue that interrogating existing logics of<br />

performance and creative process reveals <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

35


36 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Image 1 | Left to right: Tara<br />

McArthur holds Sydney<br />

Sorenson’s shoulders, Jo Blake<br />

holds Liz Ivkovich. Liz’s black body<br />

paint has cracked and peeled<br />

away at this point, near <strong>the</strong> end of<br />

<strong>the</strong> performance. Photographer:<br />

Jeffrey Juip, Image courtesy of<br />

NOW-ID.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

37


ways capitalist regimes have become naturalized,<br />

and that performance holds <strong>the</strong> potential to<br />

reconfigure how we value labor in dance, as<br />

well as how we value <strong>the</strong> interconnectedness of<br />

humans and ecologies.<br />

The Rituals of <strong>the</strong> Rite of Spring<br />

The Rite of Spring (1913) was a landmark<br />

performance in dance and music canons, bringing<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r Igor Stravinsky as <strong>the</strong> composer,<br />

Vaslav Nijinsky as <strong>the</strong> choreographer, and set<br />

and costume designs by Nicholas Roerich. At<br />

its premiere in Paris on May 29 at <strong>the</strong> Theatre<br />

Champs-Élysées, <strong>the</strong> Rite of Spring was performed<br />

by dancers of <strong>the</strong> Ballets Russes, a company<br />

directed by Sergei Diaghilev. The performance<br />

caused a riot, with audience members shocked<br />

by Stravinsky’s pounding score and Nijinsky’s<br />

contorted and awkward choreography. The<br />

intensity of <strong>the</strong> production and its references<br />

to pagan sacrifice created a stark contrast to<br />

<strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r performances on <strong>the</strong> program that<br />

evening, namely Michel Fokine’s choreography<br />

of Les Sylphides and Le Spectre de la Rose. Both<br />

of <strong>the</strong>se ballets exemplify <strong>the</strong> demure and<br />

romantic characters that were familiar to balletgoers.<br />

The Rite of Spring was shocking in its sonic<br />

and kinetic angularities, and <strong>the</strong> brutality of <strong>the</strong><br />

woman’s murder. Since that fateful evening,<br />

<strong>the</strong>re have been numerous re-envisionings of <strong>the</strong><br />

performance, by choreographers like Pina Bausch<br />

(1975), Glen Tetley (1974), and Wayne McGregor<br />

(2018), as well as <strong>the</strong> filmmaker Walt Disney<br />

(1940).<br />

The indelible impression of <strong>the</strong>se productions is<br />

a sense of being drawn into <strong>the</strong> musical score: as<br />

we listen to Stravinsky’s music, we internalize its<br />

meter. This connection is called “entrainment.”<br />

Music scholar Pieter C. van den Toorn explains,<br />

“[L]isteners entrain to meter, which in turn<br />

becomes physically a part of us. Entrainment is<br />

automatic (reflexive) as well as subconscious (or<br />

preconscious). Like walking, running, dancing,<br />

and breathing, meter is a kind of motor behavior”<br />

(172). In o<strong>the</strong>r words, when we listen to music,<br />

its meter infiltrates our eardrums, brains, and<br />

nervous systems. Listening is an embodied and<br />

interactive process: it changes us.<br />

In Rite of Spring, disruptions of meter generate a<br />

sense of displacement and irregularity. Scholar<br />

van den Toorn attributes <strong>the</strong> “effect” of Rite on<br />

listeners, to “<strong>the</strong> raw, relentless character of <strong>the</strong><br />

dissonance” (172). The fourth section, “Ritual<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Rival Tribes,” introduces Stravinsky’s<br />

massive stratification. One of several reasons<br />

why <strong>the</strong> first performance of <strong>the</strong> Rite of Spring<br />

provoked such a riotous response was because<br />

<strong>the</strong>se stratifications were unprecedented in<br />

<strong>the</strong> art music of Russia and <strong>the</strong> West, yet <strong>the</strong><br />

polyrhythms and ostinatos in Stravinsky’s score<br />

are also found in African music.<br />

Music that compels us to move may be <strong>the</strong><br />

best evidence of entrainment <strong>the</strong>ories, but<br />

it also points to a more sinister reality. If we<br />

entrain to meter, what else do we internalize?<br />

Thoughts and messages that become part of<br />

our subconscious, also known as implicit bias,<br />

propel our judgments and assumptions. Just as<br />

we internalize music’s meters, we also operate<br />

with internalized value systems that are activated<br />

involuntarily, without awareness or intentional<br />

control. Much of <strong>the</strong> social inequities perpetuated<br />

in our world today can be traced to implicit biases<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir activations in educational, political,<br />

38 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


and legal settings. Systems like capitalism and<br />

consumerism appear “natural” because we have<br />

habituated to <strong>the</strong>ir norms and <strong>the</strong>ir ubiquity. The<br />

fortunate aspect of implicit associations is that<br />

<strong>the</strong>y can be gradually unlearned, and this is how<br />

performances contribute to decolonization: <strong>the</strong>y<br />

rewire our bodies and brains. In o<strong>the</strong>r words,<br />

performances shape our perceptions of <strong>the</strong><br />

world because <strong>the</strong>y invite us to feel and think<br />

differently.<br />

When we began writing blog posts prior to <strong>the</strong><br />

performance in 2019, we were faced with a<br />

Sisyphean task: we were adding to more than a<br />

century of discourse about a performance that<br />

is considered genre-changing in both dance<br />

and music histories (see Brandstetter; Eksteins;<br />

Neff). We envisioned <strong>the</strong> role of our writing<br />

as three-fold: expanding perspectives on <strong>the</strong><br />

functions of dance criticism, on this production<br />

and its distinct location in Salt Lake City, and on<br />

its contributions to <strong>the</strong>mes of environmental<br />

sustainability, which were also at <strong>the</strong> core of<br />

<strong>the</strong> 1913 Rite. We view performances as always<br />

imbricated in social, political, cultural and<br />

economic systems that cannot be separated<br />

from <strong>the</strong>ir analysis as creative events, and looked<br />

forward to highlighting <strong>the</strong> ways that pre-show<br />

blog posts could offer a reflective platform, a<br />

sounding board, and a container for ideas that<br />

would inform and respond to <strong>the</strong> choreographer’s<br />

process. By situating this performance outdoors,<br />

NOW-ID created a distinct opportunity to<br />

emphasize <strong>the</strong> fraught relationships between<br />

urban development and displacement, and <strong>the</strong><br />

narrative of <strong>the</strong> Rite of Spring is a rich site to<br />

investigate questions about <strong>the</strong> patriarchy, critical<br />

sustainability, and environmental justice.<br />

These <strong>the</strong>mes are particularly apparent in <strong>the</strong><br />

third section of Stravinsky’s score, called <strong>the</strong><br />

“Ritual of Abduction,” which signals <strong>the</strong> violence<br />

that is <strong>the</strong> centerpiece of <strong>the</strong> production. In fact,<br />

Stravinsky originally intended <strong>the</strong> Rite to be called<br />

The Great Sacrifice. According to <strong>the</strong> libretto, in<br />

order for spring to arrive and humanity to thrive,<br />

a Chosen Maiden must dance to death. A sense<br />

of “abduction,” meaning to forcibly take someone<br />

against <strong>the</strong>ir will, exists in many versions of Rite:<br />

by Vaslav Nijinsky, Maurice Bejart, Pina Bausch,<br />

and Anne Bogart & Bill T. Jones. Each of <strong>the</strong>se<br />

performances is characterized by violence and<br />

aggression. As we dug deeper into connections<br />

between violence and patriarchy, we questioned<br />

<strong>the</strong> ongoing need for a woman to die in order for<br />

<strong>the</strong> production to come to close. This is <strong>the</strong> crux<br />

of many versions (by Nijinsky and Bausch) as well<br />

as canonical ballets: La Sylphide, Giselle, Swan Lake,<br />

to name a few. If we go to <strong>the</strong>se performances,<br />

and if <strong>the</strong>y continue to be popular more than<br />

a century after <strong>the</strong>ir premieres, what does this<br />

indicate about <strong>the</strong> value of women in today’s<br />

society? We wondered if a re-envisioning of <strong>the</strong><br />

Rite could alter this narrative, and by extension<br />

<strong>the</strong> value we place on women’s rights. In spite<br />

of our questions and writing, <strong>the</strong> production by<br />

NOW-ID ended with one of <strong>the</strong> women collapsing<br />

and <strong>the</strong> audience applauding, motivating our<br />

analysis of <strong>the</strong> internalized narratives and implicit<br />

biases that pervade dance performance.<br />

The Chosen Maiden and <strong>the</strong> Chosen Site<br />

The site of <strong>the</strong> performance by NOW-ID amplified<br />

<strong>the</strong>se connections between its plot and women’s<br />

rights: about a mile from <strong>the</strong> stage stands<br />

<strong>the</strong> Utah State Capitol. A month prior to <strong>the</strong><br />

performance, on May 21, 2019, more than 300<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

39


people ga<strong>the</strong>red to protest <strong>the</strong> growing numbers<br />

of bans on abortions. A large banner, held by<br />

three people at <strong>the</strong> top of <strong>the</strong> stairs inside <strong>the</strong><br />

rotunda, stated “Stop <strong>the</strong> War on Women.” In<br />

2019, <strong>the</strong>re were 16 abortion restrictions or<br />

bans passed in states, including two in Utah.<br />

Representative Angela Romero was quoted in<br />

<strong>the</strong> Salt Lake Tribune about her opposition to <strong>the</strong><br />

ban’s infringement on women’s choices: “We<br />

have no business making that decision for <strong>the</strong>m”<br />

(Rodgers).<br />

In her exemplary book, One Place After Ano<strong>the</strong>r,<br />

Miwon Kwon writes about “site specificity as <strong>the</strong><br />

cultural mediation of broader social, economic,<br />

and political processes that organize urban life<br />

and urban space" (3). Kwon is interested in “new<br />

site-oriented practices” that “accommodate and/<br />

or trouble <strong>the</strong> construction and commodification<br />

of urban identities” (4). Kwon’s work is predicated<br />

on <strong>the</strong> fact that <strong>the</strong>re is no such thing as “empty<br />

space,” and every environment is a negotiation<br />

between power and resources.<br />

Debates over abortion demonstrate <strong>the</strong><br />

persistence of a patriarchal system, where<br />

men make decisions for women, and in spite of<br />

decades of marches, court cases, and elections,<br />

women are still underrepresented in politics<br />

(127 women now in Congress, less than 25%),<br />

and women’s rights seem nei<strong>the</strong>r secure nor<br />

protected. We hoped this new version of Rite<br />

would be an opportunity to address and challenge<br />

<strong>the</strong> traditional narrative. We saw an opportunity<br />

to move <strong>the</strong> production away from a story of<br />

patriarchy and tribalism to an event that offers a<br />

different perspective and perhaps a less violent<br />

outcome. Situating this version of Rite in a location<br />

that was rife with memories, associations, and<br />

possibilities, seemed to us a crucial decision.<br />

Like a protest, performances leave <strong>the</strong>ir imprints<br />

in <strong>the</strong> environment, and our surroundings hold<br />

traces of events, in such a way that entering a<br />

certain building or crossing a certain street can<br />

recall a memorable experience that occurred<br />

years before. This is one of many reasons why<br />

<strong>the</strong>re has been heightened attention brought to<br />

<strong>the</strong> term “site-specific art” over <strong>the</strong> last decade.<br />

Artists who create site-specific work have a choice<br />

to engage or ignore <strong>the</strong>se layers of histories.<br />

Like Kwon, choreographer Joanna Haigood<br />

acknowledges <strong>the</strong>se negotiations of sites, politics,<br />

and communities. In her performances of Invisible<br />

Wings, she excavates <strong>the</strong> history of Jacob’s<br />

Pillow, an iconic outdoor dance venue, to make<br />

visible <strong>the</strong> site’s connection to <strong>the</strong> Underground<br />

Railroad. Asked about <strong>the</strong> motivation for <strong>the</strong><br />

project, Haigood spoke about “our social need<br />

to recognize and celebrate our histories, to<br />

illuminate and enrich our present with our past”<br />

and “to encourage us all to look at our history and<br />

connect it to <strong>the</strong> current social and political trends<br />

as <strong>the</strong>y relate to race, class and international<br />

relations” (Haigood). Like Haigood and Kwon, we<br />

view performances on site as opportunities to<br />

“reveal and preserve an important part of our<br />

national heritage” (Haigood).<br />

<strong>No</strong>t all choreographers share this view of working<br />

with site. The chosen location for <strong>the</strong> 2019<br />

performance of <strong>the</strong> Rite contained multiple and<br />

conflicting histories, but <strong>the</strong> choreographer,<br />

Charlotte Boye-Christensen, said in an April<br />

2019 conversation with us, that she selected<br />

<strong>the</strong> location because it was a “raw and off <strong>the</strong><br />

radar space… It was so obviously right as a<br />

setting for our interpretation of <strong>the</strong> work. We<br />

40 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Image 2 | Tara McArthur (foreground) with Sydney Sorenson (middle) and Jo Blake (back) under <strong>the</strong> sharp lined ceiling of <strong>the</strong><br />

Interstate 15 highway overpass. Photographer: Jeffrey Juip, Image courtesy of NOW-ID.<br />

loved <strong>the</strong> industrial yet sensory nature of <strong>the</strong><br />

space: <strong>the</strong> patina, <strong>the</strong> sounds of <strong>the</strong> trains, traffic,<br />

neighboring businesses, <strong>the</strong> rhythmic structure<br />

above, and <strong>the</strong> historical references.” Looking<br />

back on this statement, <strong>the</strong> verb “love” stands<br />

out next to its objects, namely <strong>the</strong> site’s aes<strong>the</strong>tic<br />

properties and “references,” as if <strong>the</strong>se were<br />

scenic elements waiting to be activated. In an<br />

Anthropocentric worldview, natural resources<br />

are “up for grabs,” available to be consumed<br />

for <strong>the</strong> benefit and profit of certain people. In a<br />

photograph taken at <strong>the</strong> site, Boye-Christensen<br />

clasps a large iron ring, curving her torso to<br />

mimic <strong>the</strong> round shape of <strong>the</strong> structure and<br />

lunging in her heeled shoes to get closer to <strong>the</strong><br />

object. This piece of equipment is treated like a<br />

sculpture or prop, as Boye-Christensen detaches<br />

<strong>the</strong> equipment’s function from her use of it as<br />

decoration.<br />

This extraction of resources and <strong>the</strong>ir purposes<br />

extended to <strong>the</strong> site itself: NOW-ID’s Rite relegated<br />

<strong>the</strong> space to a backdrop, instead of engaging with<br />

<strong>the</strong> historical and ecological context of <strong>the</strong> space.<br />

Ra<strong>the</strong>r than a “raw and off <strong>the</strong> radar” space, <strong>the</strong><br />

industrial scene at 600 <strong>No</strong>rth stands on top of<br />

long-gone communities and activities. Less than a<br />

mile from <strong>the</strong> site of <strong>the</strong> performance, and dating<br />

back centuries, hot springs offered respite and<br />

rejuvenation to Shoshones, Utes and Paiutes. In<br />

<strong>the</strong> twentieth century, Wasatch Springs Plunge<br />

was a popular recreation spot for decades, with<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

41


water piped in from surrounding hot springs, until<br />

<strong>the</strong> building closed due to lack of attendance in<br />

1976. As real estate prices in Salt Lake County<br />

increase, and <strong>the</strong> median price for a single-family<br />

home hit an all-time high of more than $381,500<br />

in 2019 (Semerad), this site for Rite seems to<br />

be a rare place in Salt Lake City that feels more<br />

deserted than oversaturated.<br />

obsolete, and how to denaturalize capitalist<br />

regimes that make this system seem logical. The<br />

Rite of Spring is a particularly conducive site for<br />

<strong>the</strong>se inquiries because <strong>the</strong> performance centers<br />

physical exhaustion and suggests that people are<br />

disposable.<br />

Ecofeminism and Environmental Sustainability<br />

The site used to be a flourishing center for<br />

industrial activity, specifically metal casting. The<br />

May Foundry, located at 454 West 600 <strong>No</strong>rth,<br />

was established in 1912 by Ruben May, and<br />

lasted more than 100 years before recently<br />

shutting down. Mike May, great-grandson<br />

of Ruben, was <strong>the</strong> general manager in 2014<br />

when he told Company Week that foundries<br />

are “misunderstood” as relics and irrelevant<br />

(Peterson). May Foundry produced 80 types of<br />

metal, including super-duplex stainless steel<br />

and ductile iron. Their client roster included<br />

companies like Caterpillar and Barnes Aerospace.<br />

In addition, <strong>the</strong>y worked with military, automotive,<br />

industrial, and agricultural clients.<br />

But <strong>the</strong> company couldn’t survive <strong>the</strong> economic<br />

downturns and technological advances of<br />

recent years, and its machinery now stands<br />

unused. Such devastation, especially for a<br />

family-owned business, can take a toll on<br />

individuals. Tragically, Mark May ended his life<br />

and his wife’s life in a murder-suicide two years<br />

ago (Reavy). In 2019, <strong>the</strong> site looks more like a<br />

museum than a factory, evidence of just how<br />

quickly industries can change. To situate a Rite<br />

of Spring in its vicinity should raise concerns<br />

about how we sustain communities in <strong>the</strong> midst<br />

of changing economies, how people transition<br />

when vocations that were once needed become<br />

Ecofeminist scholar Theresa May connects <strong>the</strong><br />

oppression of women to exploitations of natural<br />

resources. In her article entitled “Toward a<br />

Dangerous Ecocriticism in Theatre Studies,” May<br />

probes <strong>the</strong> potential of productions in creating<br />

environmental change by creating a list of “Green<br />

Questions” to ask a performance. In our preshow<br />

blog posts, we applied <strong>the</strong>se inquiries to<br />

interrogate how <strong>the</strong> show might complicate <strong>the</strong><br />

effects of technology on people, animals, plants,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> land, while also subverting or propagating<br />

master narratives that sanction human<br />

exploitation of <strong>the</strong> land. We inquired into how <strong>the</strong><br />

spatiality of performance could inform reciprocity<br />

among spectator, performer, and environment,<br />

as well as how it may inform notions of ecological<br />

“community.” Instead of a woman’s sacrifice<br />

for <strong>the</strong> survival of a community, how might <strong>the</strong><br />

performance disconnect patriarchal domination<br />

from ecological survival? We looked to Stravinsky’s<br />

original title, “The Great Sacrifice,” as suggestive<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene’s sacrifice of our planet<br />

and its resources. Highlighting relational ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

than transactional interactions, we envisioned<br />

a community of performers and audience<br />

supporting and sustaining one ano<strong>the</strong>r as well as<br />

<strong>the</strong> plants, animals, and environments <strong>the</strong>y live<br />

within and alongside. We sought to challenge a<br />

reductive view of nature in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene that<br />

Donna Haraway describes succinctly as “only <strong>the</strong><br />

42 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


aw material of culture, appropriated, preserved,<br />

enslaved, exalted, or o<strong>the</strong>rwise made flexible<br />

for disposal by culture in <strong>the</strong> logic of capitalist<br />

colonialism” (592).<br />

A post-Anthropocentric vision of environmental<br />

sustainability finds commonality with Indigenous<br />

epistemologies as described by scholar Charles<br />

Sepulveda, who uses <strong>the</strong> Tongva word for guests,<br />

Kuuyam, to <strong>the</strong>orize a “decolonial possibility based<br />

on culture and tradition in which settler relations<br />

to land can be reformed.” Sepulveda writes:<br />

Kuuyam can assist in <strong>the</strong> abolition of white<br />

supremacist logics that demand domestication<br />

and submission. These relationships, of guest and<br />

host, are formed outside of western conceptions<br />

of property and hierarchies between wilderness<br />

and civilization. Decolonization through<br />

Indigenous <strong>the</strong>ory, such as Kuuyam, is not based<br />

in going back to a former time but a decisive<br />

resolve for a future in which everyone recognizes<br />

our lands and our water as sacred sources of<br />

life. Kuuyam, as I am <strong>the</strong>orizing, is not an open<br />

invitation for settler possession of Native land.<br />

Instead, it is a defiant act of love for our lands;<br />

placing <strong>the</strong>m above <strong>the</strong> needs of humans. (55)<br />

Sepulveda contributes to our understanding<br />

of sustainability in <strong>the</strong> post-Anthropocene by<br />

emphasizing <strong>the</strong> importance of non-hierarchical<br />

relationships among humans, animals,<br />

plants, and environments, ra<strong>the</strong>r than human<br />

domination. When applied to a performance,<br />

Kuuyam challenges assumptions about a<br />

performance dominating a site, or <strong>the</strong> submission<br />

of dancers to <strong>the</strong> dominance of a choreographer.<br />

Reconfiguring <strong>the</strong>se relationships directly<br />

links performance to <strong>the</strong> possibility of social<br />

change: it is a site to destabilize and challenge<br />

Anthropocentric, patriarchal, and settler colonial<br />

approaches.<br />

The performance of NOW-ID’s Rite presented a<br />

narrative and relationship to site that aligned with<br />

patriarchal, settler colonial, and Anthropocentric<br />

priorities, and <strong>the</strong>se relationships extended to<br />

its creative process. In o<strong>the</strong>r words, <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>mes<br />

of domination and exhaustion that existed<br />

in <strong>the</strong> choreography aligned with traditional<br />

choreographic processes of white modern dance<br />

that depend on a choreographer who uses<br />

transactional instead of relational encounters:<br />

<strong>the</strong> choreographer produces movement phrases<br />

that are taught to dancers who are told to<br />

perform <strong>the</strong> movement to her specifications.<br />

In a relational or collaborative process, dancers<br />

engage with <strong>the</strong> choreographer in co-creating<br />

and discussing <strong>the</strong> movement. The traditional<br />

process aligns with Anthropocentric worldviews<br />

that depend on human domination over o<strong>the</strong>rs,<br />

while <strong>the</strong> relational approach connects to<br />

post-Anthropocentric values that foreground<br />

interdependencies.<br />

Scholar Tria Blu Wakpa <strong>the</strong>orizes <strong>the</strong>se relational<br />

interactions as “interconnected individualism,”<br />

a concept that emphasizes interdependence<br />

which “transcends human-to-human interactions<br />

and presents an alternative to Western<br />

epistemologies, which hierarchize humans above<br />

plants” (119). Interconnected individualism is a<br />

challenge to settler colonialism and capitalism<br />

which seek to obliterate Indigenous peoples. In<br />

many ways, <strong>the</strong>se <strong>the</strong>ories, which “illuminate<br />

<strong>the</strong> importance of reciprocal relationships for<br />

sustainable living and <strong>the</strong> survival of Native and<br />

non-Native peoples and non-human animals and<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

43


plants” (119), predate <strong>the</strong> post-Anthropocene<br />

and influence more ethical approaches to labor,<br />

politics, and economic systems. If we consider<br />

performances, and writing about performances,<br />

to be opportunities to challenge <strong>the</strong>se dominant<br />

narratives of individualism and <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene,<br />

<strong>the</strong>n we need to center relational ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

transactional encounters, to work with natural<br />

processes ra<strong>the</strong>r than striving to control <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

To create this performance of Rite, <strong>the</strong> dancers<br />

had to translate Boye-Christensen’s instructions<br />

into 40 minutes of non-stop choreography across<br />

bodies and different studio spaces. This was<br />

particularly complicated given <strong>the</strong> gaps between<br />

a well-controlled studio environment at a local<br />

private school where <strong>the</strong> choreography was<br />

created, and <strong>the</strong> uneven and dust-covered stage<br />

where it was performed. The four dancers––Tara<br />

McArthur, Jo Blake, Sydney Sorenson and Liz<br />

Ivkovich––built The Rite over an intensive three<br />

weeks in <strong>the</strong> studio in Sandy. Taking time off of<br />

jobs and families, three of <strong>the</strong> dancers came from<br />

out of state and stayed with friends, borrowing<br />

cars and rides to get from Salt Lake City and<br />

Provo to <strong>the</strong> studio. Boye-Christensen created<br />

nearly all <strong>the</strong> movement on-site on <strong>the</strong> dancers’<br />

bodies, a feat of choreographic birthing. Her<br />

work is distinguished by its exhausting intensity,<br />

intricate partner work, lots of floorwork, and<br />

<strong>the</strong> use of tight unison. As movers in <strong>the</strong> studio,<br />

dancers were rehearsing <strong>the</strong>se steps in a short<br />

amount of time, which is challenging since it takes<br />

time with choreography to understand where and<br />

how to move your body efficiently and conserve<br />

energy. They experienced a number of minor<br />

injuries during <strong>the</strong> process, all managed through<br />

physical <strong>the</strong>rapy and massage, paid for by <strong>the</strong><br />

dancers personally. After three weeks of building,<br />

<strong>the</strong> dancers moved to <strong>the</strong> site, where a stage was<br />

constructed of a series of platforms next to each<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r. The uneven surface dropped off abruptly to<br />

<strong>the</strong> gravel underpass, and <strong>the</strong> intense bright lights<br />

and an unseasonal cold snap added ano<strong>the</strong>r layer<br />

of translation for <strong>the</strong> movers in situ.<br />

Precarious Labor<br />

The increased precarity and risk in moving from<br />

studio to site that <strong>the</strong> dancers absorbed finds a<br />

haunting parallel in <strong>the</strong> disposable labor of <strong>the</strong><br />

site’s metal castings factory. NOW-ID’s projectbased<br />

way of working is rapidly becoming <strong>the</strong><br />

norm across <strong>the</strong> field, yet, without <strong>the</strong> support<br />

of a traditional company structure that offers<br />

physical <strong>the</strong>rapy, benefits, per diem for tours,<br />

and consistent paychecks, each production<br />

depends on <strong>the</strong> dancers’ perseverance. Injuries<br />

and challenges are outsourced onto <strong>the</strong> dancer’s<br />

bodies. In Boye-Christensen’s process, dancers<br />

are instruments of her vision, ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

onsite collaborators. Like factory workers’ labor,<br />

<strong>the</strong> dancers’ labor is under-valued and easily<br />

replaced.<br />

Dancers’ labor is fur<strong>the</strong>r devalued by dance critics<br />

who rarely acknowledge or name <strong>the</strong> dancers in a<br />

work that <strong>the</strong>y review. This was especially visible<br />

in a review of NOW-ID’s Rite that was published<br />

and circulated in SLUG magazine and online as<br />

representative of <strong>the</strong> production: it was selected<br />

by NOW-ID to represent <strong>the</strong> performance in <strong>the</strong><br />

newsletter for <strong>the</strong>ir subscribers. The review began<br />

by referring to NOW-ID as “<strong>the</strong> international<br />

dance company in Salt Lake City” (Kubarycz), a<br />

statement that makes invisible <strong>the</strong> many o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

choreographers and dancers that make up Salt<br />

Lake City’s dance scene. The writer went on to<br />

44 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


praise Boye-Christensen’s turn to “<strong>the</strong> abstract,”<br />

and “how this production seemed blissfully<br />

unconcerned with instigating any sort of riot or<br />

scandal” (Kubarycz).<br />

If our pre-show writing probed <strong>the</strong> intersections<br />

of performances and contexts, of <strong>the</strong><br />

impossibilities of separating humans from<br />

landscapes, histories, and non-human beings, this<br />

critic praised <strong>the</strong> company’s ability to ignore its<br />

surroundings: “NOW-ID’s Rite adopts modernist<br />

abstraction as a temporary refuge from <strong>the</strong><br />

current (not to say postmodern) technological<br />

landscape” (Kubarycz). The statement suggests an<br />

apt summation of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene’s worldview.<br />

Even <strong>the</strong> overpass became a resource for this<br />

human-centric approach, its “steel undercarriage<br />

served at once as both a ceiling and a sky”<br />

(Kubarycz).<br />

attends to <strong>the</strong> disproportionate power of dance<br />

critics and <strong>the</strong> artists <strong>the</strong>y champion, noting<br />

<strong>the</strong> importance of seeing <strong>the</strong>ir perspectives as<br />

partial, “situated knowledges” that are reflective<br />

of “politics and epistemologies of location,<br />

positioning, and situating, where partiality and<br />

not universality is <strong>the</strong> condition of being heard<br />

to make rational knowledge claims” (Haraway).<br />

By erasing dancers’ labor and creative process,<br />

<strong>the</strong> traditional approach to dance criticism<br />

reproduces <strong>the</strong> hierarchies of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

that eliminate considerations of interdependent<br />

ecologies and histories. For people who did<br />

not see <strong>the</strong> performance, <strong>the</strong> SLUG review<br />

circulates as a representation of a show that has<br />

no recording or o<strong>the</strong>r documentation, beyond<br />

photos. The critic’s voice becomes <strong>the</strong> voice of all<br />

<strong>the</strong> audience members, no matter how different<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir perspectives and interpretations.<br />

Within this same review, none of <strong>the</strong> dancers<br />

were named. While not an uncommon approach<br />

to dance criticism, this decision by <strong>the</strong> writer<br />

underscores <strong>the</strong> transactional nature of <strong>the</strong> field<br />

in regard to <strong>the</strong> labor of <strong>the</strong> dancing body. By<br />

representing <strong>the</strong> “daring creative strategy” of<br />

<strong>the</strong> production as lying completely with Boye-<br />

Christensen, <strong>the</strong> writer erases <strong>the</strong> knowledge,<br />

artistry, and perseverance of <strong>the</strong> dancers. In <strong>the</strong><br />

SLUG review, <strong>the</strong> narrative arc generated by <strong>the</strong><br />

dancers, <strong>the</strong> one that kept audience members<br />

interested in <strong>the</strong> performance, is rendered<br />

invisible.<br />

As a kind of archival material, dance criticism<br />

has a long history of determining <strong>the</strong> success of<br />

certain artists and propelling <strong>the</strong>ir careers, while<br />

distorting and misrepresenting performances<br />

by o<strong>the</strong>r dancers (Mattingly). Recent scholarship<br />

Decolonizing Dance Criticism<br />

In our pre-show blog posts we attempted to<br />

introduce a form of criticism that is about<br />

recognizing positionality and expanding <strong>the</strong><br />

performance beyond <strong>the</strong> confines of a stage and a<br />

show. 2 This was our effort to decolonize criticism<br />

by honoring relationships between artists and<br />

writers, and dismantling <strong>the</strong> hierarchy that makes<br />

archival material (writing) more important than<br />

embodied knowledge (dancing, performance).<br />

We sought to include perspectives and histories<br />

that inform our ways of seeing and engaging. This<br />

interdisciplinary approach, we hoped, would exist<br />

in synergistic dialogue with <strong>the</strong> choreographer’s<br />

and dancers’ processes. At <strong>the</strong> outset of this<br />

2<br />

Liz made this clear in her statement about our blog posts<br />

as “analyses of <strong>the</strong> ways race, class, and gender influence <strong>the</strong><br />

distribution of environmental goods and bads, and why <strong>the</strong>se<br />

issues are among our most pressing concerns:” http://www.<br />

now-id.com/blog/2019/4/12/13-statements-on-rite-of-spring-1<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

45


Image 3| Jo Blake performs a solo with <strong>the</strong> May Foundry in <strong>the</strong> background. Photographer: Jeffrey Juip, Image courtesy of NOW-ID.<br />

project we envisioned writing as a way of opening<br />

up dialogue and conversation. We sought to pose<br />

questions more than dictate narratives. We are<br />

keenly aware of <strong>the</strong> fraught relationships between<br />

writing and power, as well as <strong>the</strong> ways that writing<br />

has come to stand in for embodiment, and has<br />

equated embodied epistemologies with “lesser”<br />

forms of knowledge (Taylor).<br />

We took inspiration from Rebecca Solnit, who<br />

advocates for a “counter-criticism” that “seeks to<br />

expand <strong>the</strong> work of art, by connecting it, opening<br />

up its meanings, inviting in <strong>the</strong> possibilities. A<br />

great work of criticism can liberate a work of<br />

art, to be seen fully, to remain alive, to engage<br />

in a conversation that will not ever end but<br />

will instead keep feeding <strong>the</strong> imagination. <strong>No</strong>t<br />

against interpretation, but against confinement,<br />

against <strong>the</strong> killing of <strong>the</strong> spirit” (Solnit). Looking<br />

back, we realize that <strong>the</strong> conversation was<br />

more one-sided than we had hoped, and we<br />

missed an opportunity to collaborate with<br />

<strong>the</strong> choreographer and dancers. Instead of<br />

our blog posts encouraging a relational and<br />

interconnected process, <strong>the</strong> roles of writers and<br />

artists remained separate and disconnected. If<br />

a post-Anthropocentric worldview emphasizes<br />

interdependencies, we sought a similar exchange<br />

and reciprocity between <strong>the</strong> writing and artistic<br />

processes. Without this relational and dialogic<br />

approach, we were subsumed by <strong>the</strong> trope of a<br />

choreographer as sole inventor and director, and<br />

unclear as to why we were asked to produce our<br />

writing and discursive frameworks.<br />

46 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


There is a similar silo effect that occurs in<br />

approaches to dance criticism wherein one<br />

writer’s review is taken to be representative of<br />

a multifaceted and heterogeneous audience<br />

response. The harm caused by this approach to<br />

criticism, visible in <strong>the</strong> SLUG review, stems from<br />

<strong>the</strong> writing’s inability to account for <strong>the</strong> biases or<br />

criteria of <strong>the</strong> writer. In o<strong>the</strong>r words, what one<br />

critic values, for instance, human domination over<br />

a landscape, ano<strong>the</strong>r finds deeply problematic. In<br />

<strong>the</strong> SLUG review, dancers’ identities are omitted,<br />

exacerbating <strong>the</strong> way <strong>the</strong>ir labor is subsumed by<br />

<strong>the</strong> choreographer’s “daring” vision. In her preshow<br />

writing, Liz attended to <strong>the</strong>se complexities:<br />

“I am curious about a … relationship of performer<br />

to choreography. I think it is often true that for<br />

dancers, our own experience of being in <strong>the</strong><br />

studio learning from a choreographer is often<br />

substituted by <strong>the</strong> artifact of stories from friends<br />

or friends of friends. Though most of us won’t<br />

work with most choreographers, we may still feel<br />

like we know about it, even though we’ve never<br />

had an embodied experience. The choreography<br />

has been framed for us by <strong>the</strong> circulating material<br />

of dancer stories.” (Ivkovich).<br />

This circulating information is a kind of secret<br />

resource that dancers share with each o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

to protect and warn friends against harmful<br />

creative processes or predatory choreographers.<br />

Rarely are dancers’ voices given platforms such<br />

as this article to publicly share <strong>the</strong>se narratives.<br />

The dynamics in <strong>the</strong> studio echo those of <strong>the</strong><br />

boardroom, with <strong>the</strong> person identified as <strong>the</strong><br />

choreographer or director holding power.<br />

Dancers seem to simultaneously look out for<br />

each o<strong>the</strong>r and keep each o<strong>the</strong>r silent by <strong>the</strong><br />

pressure to be “easy to work with” in <strong>the</strong> hopes of<br />

getting more gigs. The written memory of a show<br />

generally remains <strong>the</strong> perspective of a reviewer<br />

and words from <strong>the</strong> director.<br />

In a NOW-ID blog post written two years ago,<br />

Charlotte Boye-Christensen asked dancers<br />

<strong>the</strong> question, “Can you tell us a little bit about<br />

your creative process - how do you learn new<br />

choreography?” (Ivkovich). Each of <strong>the</strong> dancers<br />

involved in Rite was part of <strong>the</strong> conversation and<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir responses ranged from Ivkovich’s “I almost<br />

have no answer here -- I am embarrassingly<br />

bad at learning new movement… it takes me so<br />

much mental labor to retain choreography…”<br />

to Jo Blake’s “Do I LOVE <strong>the</strong> creative process in<br />

<strong>the</strong> studio with <strong>the</strong> choreographer and dancers?<br />

HELL YEAH!! I live for <strong>the</strong> creative process!!”<br />

Tara McArthur answered, “When learning<br />

new movement I get really curious about <strong>the</strong><br />

transitions between movements, shapes, or<br />

concepts, not only as a way to string it toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

and solidify it in my mental and physical memory,<br />

but also to find my own creative voice within a<br />

certain structure.” Sydney Sorenson responded,<br />

“I try to be as pure of a dancer as possible for <strong>the</strong><br />

choreographer. I desire to serve <strong>the</strong>ir vision.” The<br />

significance of this sharing of perspectives lies in<br />

<strong>the</strong> lacunae between each response: Sorensen<br />

seeks to “serve” while McArthur finds her “own<br />

creative voice.” Toge<strong>the</strong>r this cast produced a<br />

riveting and beautifully danced performance, but<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir ability to generate a collective vision remains<br />

under-documented.<br />

As <strong>the</strong>ir responses to creative process<br />

demonstrate, <strong>the</strong>re is no dominant or allencompassing<br />

view among <strong>the</strong> dancers, and<br />

at times <strong>the</strong>ir perspectives run counter to a<br />

choreographer’s interpretations. This was seen<br />

most vividly in Boye-Christensen’s comments<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

47


about <strong>the</strong> costumes, designed by Mallory Prucha.<br />

As Boye-Christensen created <strong>the</strong> choreography,<br />

she was inspired by <strong>the</strong> voluminous pants<br />

designed by Prucha: “The costume designs are<br />

feeding <strong>the</strong> choreography. When I saw <strong>the</strong> pants<br />

I started creating <strong>the</strong>se low walks that made <strong>the</strong><br />

costumes look like a skirt.” 3 She adds that she<br />

loves how <strong>the</strong> costumes suggest both dresses and<br />

warriors’ garments. Instead of making <strong>the</strong> dancing<br />

look smooth or streamlined, Boye-Christensen is<br />

intentionally keeping <strong>the</strong> movement “awkward.”<br />

She likes how this alludes to pagan rites that<br />

are performed by a community of people ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

than by trained artists. Yet, her intricate and<br />

demanding choreography requires an incredible<br />

level of stamina, even without heavy costumes<br />

that hinder <strong>the</strong> ability of dancers to execute <strong>the</strong><br />

steps. In <strong>the</strong> final dress rehearsal, one of <strong>the</strong><br />

dancers––normally <strong>the</strong> picture of humor and<br />

equanimity––ended up in tears after her foot<br />

caught on a stray hem and twisted to <strong>the</strong> point of<br />

pain. “This is so dangerous. Someone is going to<br />

get hurt!” she sobbed.<br />

For Boye-Christensen, <strong>the</strong> body paint contributes<br />

to this idea of ritual action by disintegrating<br />

as <strong>the</strong> dancers perform: in o<strong>the</strong>r words, <strong>the</strong><br />

ritual generates its impact by being lived and<br />

experienced. The performers, however, worried<br />

about how this ritual would be interpreted:<br />

would body paint and braids read as cultural<br />

appropriation or blackface and if so, how could<br />

<strong>the</strong> dancers address that with Boye-Christensen<br />

in a constructive way that wouldn’t hinder her<br />

creative process? Ultimately, <strong>the</strong> dancers felt<br />

<strong>the</strong> elements worked toge<strong>the</strong>r and <strong>the</strong>y let go of<br />

concerns about appropriation.<br />

3<br />

Quote from Boye-Christensen in article by Kate Mattingly on<br />

costume design for NOW-ID’s blog: http://www.now-id.com/<br />

blog/2019/6/11/ritual-action-dark-beauty<br />

Conclusion<br />

When we agreed in April of 2019 to write about<br />

this production of Rite of Spring for NOW-ID’s blog,<br />

we viewed <strong>the</strong> project as a rich site to investigate<br />

questions about <strong>the</strong> patriarchy, reconstruction,<br />

critical sustainability, and environmental justice.<br />

Within a couple weeks of writing posts about<br />

<strong>the</strong> project, what we envisioned as dialogue and<br />

collaboration with <strong>the</strong> choreographer felt more<br />

like a one-sided conversation. Our posts reflected<br />

on questions and <strong>the</strong>ories that intrigued us but<br />

seemed irrelevant or uninteresting to <strong>the</strong> design<br />

team. We began to question <strong>the</strong> limits of creative<br />

processes: in a traditional model of choreographic<br />

production, dancers are seen as <strong>the</strong> “instruments”<br />

or “paintbrushes” of <strong>the</strong> choreographer. For<br />

instance, Charlotte Boye-Christensen would<br />

deliver <strong>the</strong> steps and phrases to <strong>the</strong> cast of four,<br />

and <strong>the</strong>y would master and repeat <strong>the</strong>m. In<br />

more progressive and perhaps more sustainable<br />

models, choreographers, dancers, and writers<br />

work collaboratively to create, reshape, and<br />

discuss <strong>the</strong> material being generated. This is a<br />

relational instead of a transactional process, as<br />

each entity influences and informs <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

We see parallels between this process and<br />

environmental justice in <strong>the</strong> post-Anthropocene.<br />

Interrogating existing logics of performance<br />

and creative process opens analysis of <strong>the</strong> ways<br />

capitalist regimes that rely on <strong>the</strong> disposability<br />

of land and labor have become naturalized and<br />

<strong>the</strong>se systems are made to seem logical. We<br />

seek to honor <strong>the</strong> interconnected ways that<br />

dancers’ labor, creative processes, performance<br />

environments, and dance criticism can work<br />

collaboratively to re-pattern habitual thinking and<br />

to challenge systems of globalized capital and<br />

resource extraction.<br />

48 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Image 4 | Liz Ivkovich (foreground), Sydney Sorenson (middle), and Tara McArthur (background) in a trio.<br />

Also seen here are <strong>the</strong> bright lights along <strong>the</strong> edge of <strong>the</strong> stage, pointed upwards towards <strong>the</strong> dancers’<br />

faces. Photographer: Jeffrey Juip, Image courtesy of NOW-ID.


In Decolonizing Methodologies, Linda Tuhiwai<br />

Smith writes about <strong>the</strong> importance of centering<br />

Indigenous <strong>the</strong>ories in a settler colonial world.<br />

She writes that we search for ways to “pose,<br />

contest and struggle for <strong>the</strong> legitimacy of<br />

oppositional or alternative histories, <strong>the</strong>ories and<br />

ways of writing… This means “struggling to make<br />

sense of our own world while also attempting<br />

to transform what counts as important in <strong>the</strong><br />

world of <strong>the</strong> powerful” (40). If we aspire to<br />

decolonize performance and dance criticism, <strong>the</strong>n<br />

we need to investigate <strong>the</strong> creative processes,<br />

implicit assumptions, and relationships with<br />

environments that are activated by performances.<br />

Most importantly, to challenge dominant<br />

narratives of individualism and <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene,<br />

we need to center relational ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

transactional encounters, to work with natural<br />

processes ra<strong>the</strong>r than striving to control <strong>the</strong>m,<br />

and to recognize <strong>the</strong> valuable work that dance<br />

criticism and performances can do to motivate<br />

different ways of seeing, thinking, and living.<br />

Works Cited<br />

Armstrong, Melanie and Jennifer Richter, “Life After <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene: Envisioning <strong>the</strong> Futures of <strong>the</strong> World,”<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong> Call for Submissions, 2020, http://www.<br />

mappingmeaning.org/call-for-submissions-issue-4. Accessed<br />

July 8, 2020.<br />

Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question<br />

in Feminism and <strong>the</strong> Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist<br />

Studies, vol. 14, no. 3, Autumn, 1988.<br />

Ivkovich, Liz. “Procession of <strong>the</strong> Sages,” NOW-ID blog, May 23,<br />

2019, http://www.now-id.com/blog/2019/5/23/7-procession-of<strong>the</strong>-sages-liz-ivkovich.<br />

Accessed July 8, 2020.<br />

Kubarycz, Brian. “NOW-ID Dance Presents Stravinsky’s Rite of<br />

Spring,” SLUG Magazine, June 26, 2019. https://www.slugmag.<br />

com/performance-<strong>the</strong>atre/now-id-dance-presents-stravinskysrite-of-spring/.<br />

Accessed January 3, 2020.<br />

Kwon, Miwon. One Place After Ano<strong>the</strong>r: Site-specific Art and<br />

Locational Identity, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.<br />

Mattingly, Kate. “Digital Dance Criticism: Screens as<br />

Choreographic Apparatus,” International <strong>Journal</strong> of<br />

Screeendance (2019).<br />

May, Theresa. “Toward a Dangerous Ecocriticism in Theatre<br />

Studies,” Theatre Topics, vol. 17, no. 2, September 2007, 95-110.<br />

Neff, Severine, ed. The Rite of Spring at 100. Bloomington, IN:<br />

Indiana University Press, 2017.<br />

Peterson, Eric. “May Foundry & Machine Co,” Company Week,<br />

Dec. 1, 2014, https://companyweek.com/article/may-foundrymachine-co.<br />

Accessed July 7, 2020.<br />

Reavy, Pat. “Sugar House couple found deceased,”<br />

Deseret News, July 17, 2017, https://www.deseret.<br />

com/2017/7/17/20615923/sugar-house-couple-founddeceased-in-<strong>the</strong>ir-home.<br />

Accessed July 7, 2020.<br />

Rodgers, Bethany. “Utah House passes bill banning elective<br />

abortion,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 27, 2019, https://www.<br />

sltrib.com/news/politics/2019/02/26/utah-house-passed-bill/.<br />

Accessed July 7, 2020.<br />

Blu Wakpa, Tria. “Culture Creators and Interconnected<br />

Individualism,” Dance Research <strong>Journal</strong>, vol. 48, no. 1, April<br />

2016, 107-125. doi:10.1017/S0149767715000509<br />

Brandstetter, Gabriele, ed. Sacré 101: An Anthology on The Rite<br />

of Spring, JRP|Ringier/Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst,<br />

2014.<br />

Eksteins, Modris. Rites of Spring: The Great War and <strong>the</strong> Birth of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Modern Age, HMH Books, 2000.<br />

Haigood, Joanna. “Invisible Wings,” Zaccho Dance Theatre,<br />

http://www.zaccho.org/?event_invisiblewings. Accessed June<br />

1, 2020<br />

Semerad, Tony. “Home prices in Salt Lake County reach an<br />

all-time high,” Salt Lake Tribune, <strong>No</strong>vember 19, 2019, https://<br />

www.sltrib.com/news/2019/11/19/home-prices-salt-lake/.<br />

Accessed July 7, 2020.<br />

Sepulveda, Charles. “Our Sacred Waters: Theorizing Kuuyam as<br />

a Decolonial Possibility,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education &<br />

Society, vol. 7, no. 1, 2018, 40-58.<br />

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and<br />

Indigenous Peoples, London: Zed Books, 2012.<br />

Solnit, Rebecca. “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing <strong>the</strong><br />

Inexplicable,” New Yorker, April 24, 2014, https://www.<br />

newyorker.com/books/page-turner/woolfs-darkness-<br />

50 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


embracing-<strong>the</strong>-inexplicable. Accessed June 1, 2020.<br />

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and <strong>the</strong> Repertoire. Durham: Duke<br />

University Press. 2003.<br />

Van den Toorn, Pieter C. “The Rite of Spring briefly revisited:<br />

Thoughts on Stravinsky’s Stratifications, <strong>the</strong> Psychology of<br />

Meter, and African Polyrhythm,” Music Theory Spectrum no. 39,<br />

2017, 158-181.<br />

Bios<br />

Kate Mattingly is an Assistant Professor at <strong>the</strong> University of<br />

Utah. She received her doctoral degree in Performance Studies<br />

with a Designated Emphasis in New Media from <strong>the</strong> University<br />

of California, Berkeley. Her Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance<br />

is from New York University and her Bachelor of Arts degree<br />

in Architecture is from Princeton University. Her writing has<br />

been published in <strong>the</strong> International <strong>Journal</strong> of Screendance,<br />

Performance Research, Convergence, Dance Chronicle, Dance<br />

Research <strong>Journal</strong>, <strong>the</strong> New York Times, <strong>the</strong> Village Voice, Dance<br />

Magazine, loveDANCEmore, and many o<strong>the</strong>r publications and<br />

websites. She currently teaches courses in dance histories, dance<br />

studies, and dance criticism.<br />

Liz Ivkovich hails from rural Michigan. She is <strong>the</strong> Development<br />

Director for UtahPresents, <strong>the</strong> multidisciplinary arts presenter<br />

at <strong>the</strong> University of Utah, where she oversees all fundraising<br />

and contributes to dance and environmental programming.<br />

Her research explores dance and environmental justice, with<br />

articles in <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong> of Environmental Studies & Sciences, Local<br />

Environment, and loveDANCEmore. Liz received her Bachelor of<br />

Science in Sustainable Business and International Studies from<br />

Aquinas College and her Master of Fine Arts in Modern Dance from<br />

<strong>the</strong> University of Utah. She is finishing up her Interdisciplinary<br />

Graduate Certificate in Sustainability from <strong>the</strong> University of Utah.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

51


52 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Field Environmental Philosophy<br />

for Post-Anthropocene<br />

Realities: Low Power Radio as<br />

Biocultural Conservation<br />

Rachel Weaver<br />

Introduction<br />

The scales of current industrialized processes<br />

continue to lead to an increasingly unpredictable<br />

future. We, as humans, need to develop<br />

imaginative processes and experiments to<br />

grapple with <strong>the</strong> strange, wonderful, and<br />

terrifying aspects of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. Integrated<br />

knowledges and situated imaginations enhance<br />

<strong>the</strong> possibilities of a post-Anthropocene beyond<br />

binaries of utopias and dystopias. Exercising <strong>the</strong><br />

environmental imagination and making ourselves<br />

receptive to experimentation makes possible<br />

an understanding of a wider range of future<br />

possibilities and sustainable realities.<br />

Our engagement with future ecologies and<br />

post-Anthropocene realities can be playful<br />

and transformative with a currently persistent<br />

technology: radio. Our environmental<br />

imaginations and electronic communications via<br />

radio, specifically local and low power community<br />

radio, are living, breathing time capsules of<br />

our past, present, and future possibilities,<br />

simultaneously. Community radio enthusiasts<br />

and producers examine possibilities to re-vision<br />

and co-construct post-Anthropocene realities to<br />

materialize and make possible future-thinking in<br />

<strong>the</strong> present, through historical technology. Radio<br />

is both material in its processes and ephemeral<br />

as it permeates <strong>the</strong> vast space through which air<br />

travels.<br />

This essay uses local radio as a case study<br />

for applying Field Environmental Philosophy<br />

as an analytical framework. This analysis is<br />

fur<strong>the</strong>r enhanced by concepts of environmental<br />

imagination, and allows us to understand local<br />

radio as biocultural conservation. Community<br />

radio projects benefit from philosophical analyses<br />

that clarify <strong>the</strong> transformative abilities radio<br />

can play in human imaginations, and <strong>the</strong>se<br />

concepts can be applied to <strong>the</strong> development,<br />

implementation, and training of local radio<br />

stations, organizations, and producers. Local radio<br />

can be understood as a tool for enriching cultural<br />

and ecological conservation projects, and can<br />

be utilized as a platform for post-Anthropocene<br />

realities to be broadcast.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

53


Environmental Imagination and Field<br />

Environmental Philosophy<br />

physical reactions to environmental issues in <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene.<br />

The concept of <strong>the</strong> environmental imagination<br />

is initially applied to literature, to organize<br />

and outline how environmental interactions<br />

guide human perception (Buell). This essay<br />

understands <strong>the</strong> environmental imagination<br />

as operative and situational (Klaver). It arises<br />

out of <strong>the</strong> interplay between individuals and<br />

environments, and people can operate <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

environmental imagination in order to perceive<br />

ecological happenings and environmental issues.<br />

When we experience moments of wildness, or<br />

seek to conceive of <strong>the</strong> impacts of environmental<br />

degradation, we are accessing our environmental<br />

imaginations in particular situations to help us<br />

understand patterns and implications that can<br />

be fur<strong>the</strong>r expanded. In order to have a fuller<br />

understanding of environmental connections and<br />

impacts, our environmental imaginations operate<br />

“within embedded practices and events [where]<br />

we imagine our future, present and past” (Klaver).<br />

Within diverse environments and historical<br />

understandings, we may begin to comprehend<br />

<strong>the</strong> effects of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, as well as<br />

possibilities of post-Anthropocene scenarios.<br />

The maieutic process helps us to find, uncover,<br />

and construct new knowledge systems, develop<br />

arguments, and imagine multiple possibilities<br />

while critically assessing our positions. Those<br />

practicing <strong>the</strong>ir environmental imagination may<br />

explore maieutic processes and learn to bring<br />

latent ideas into clear consciousness in order<br />

to imagine co-constructive relationships and<br />

realities. Environmentally-oriented maieutic<br />

processes help us acknowledge and comprehend<br />

a range of emotional, psychological, and<br />

This essay employs a Field Environmental<br />

Philosophy (FEP), to explore new possibilities<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. It is an ethically- and<br />

environmentally-oriented methodology that<br />

“emphasizes ecologically and philosophically<br />

guided field experiences in local habitats,<br />

sociocultural communities, and regional<br />

institutions and is designed to stimulate <strong>the</strong><br />

perception of and valuation of biological and<br />

cultural diversity in specific places and moments”<br />

(Rozzi, 2012). This four-step cycle allows for<br />

an open-ended research-experience to guide<br />

one’s actions within environments that support<br />

communities of life.<br />

The four-step FEP cycle involves: 1)<br />

interdisciplinary ecological and philosophical<br />

research, 2) poetic communication through<br />

metaphors and narratives, 3) field activities with<br />

an ecological and ethical orientation, and 4) in<br />

situ biocultural conservation. Field experiences<br />

create situations for direct encounters with <strong>the</strong><br />

living and non-living entities of a community.<br />

Initial perceptions can transform “into a deeper<br />

experience” as well as “conservation actions<br />

and to an ethical relationship of co-inhabitation”<br />

(Jiménez, 2014).<br />

FEP allows us to integrate knowledges in order<br />

to collapse perceived divides between nature<br />

and culture. One way FEP has been utilized is<br />

in developing ethical biocultural conservation<br />

programs around <strong>the</strong> world. For instance, it<br />

was implemented and advanced in <strong>the</strong> Sub-<br />

Antarctic region of sou<strong>the</strong>rn South America,<br />

in order to develop sustainable research and<br />

54 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


conservation practices that are inclusive to <strong>the</strong><br />

indigenous communities and native species<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Sub-Antarctic rainforest. In this study, I<br />

employ a FEP methodology to empower people<br />

in understanding <strong>the</strong> ecological connections of<br />

low-power FM radio and <strong>the</strong> abilities of a local<br />

community radio station in <strong>No</strong>rth Texas to create<br />

spaces that playfully participate in biocultural<br />

conservation.<br />

Applying a Field Environmental Philosophy<br />

Approach to Local (Low-Power) Radio: Slow<br />

Radio, Soundscape Ecology, and Biocultural<br />

Conservation<br />

FEP is rhizomatic, in that “it always has multiple<br />

entryways” and is “open and connectable in all<br />

of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible,<br />

susceptible to constant modification” (Deleuze<br />

and Guattari 12). The four steps in FEP may occur<br />

simultaneously, influence each o<strong>the</strong>r, and steps<br />

may ebb and flow from <strong>the</strong> focus and perception<br />

of <strong>the</strong> practitioner at various times in <strong>the</strong><br />

process. The cycle is not necessarily a complete<br />

experience in itself, but enhances our imaginative<br />

and transformative capabilities. Discovering<br />

maieutic processes, exercising our environmental<br />

imagination, and applying FEP to conservation<br />

practices requires observations and perceptions<br />

of specific instances and issues in environments.<br />

As Donna Haraway has observed, “The only way<br />

to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in<br />

particular” (Haraway 590).<br />

In <strong>the</strong> following section, I discuss how <strong>the</strong> four<br />

steps of FEP can be applied to multiple scales of<br />

Low-Power Frequency Modulation (LPFM), and<br />

also relate <strong>the</strong>m to a general understanding of<br />

LPFM radio, <strong>the</strong> experiences of a local <strong>No</strong>rth<br />

Texas LPFM community radio station, and a<br />

particular program on <strong>the</strong> <strong>No</strong>rth Texas LPFM<br />

radio station.<br />

Step 1: Interdisciplinary Ecological and<br />

Philosophical Research<br />

Interdisciplinary ecological and philosophical<br />

research involves multiple interconnected<br />

and intersectional disciplines, and becomes<br />

transdisciplinary as it expands to nonacademic<br />

considerations. Understanding radio leads to<br />

research in history, technology, sociology, policy,<br />

science, telecommunications, music, ecology,<br />

aes<strong>the</strong>tics, mechanics, and electronics, along<br />

a vast spectrum of disciplines and research<br />

categories.<br />

Understanding <strong>the</strong> origins of a local station is<br />

enhanced by knowing <strong>the</strong> technological and<br />

regulatory processes that shape radio in <strong>the</strong><br />

United States. To begin with it is useful to have<br />

a general understanding of processes of radio.<br />

Music, speech, and sounds are sent by means of<br />

radiated energy that is transmitted through <strong>the</strong><br />

air. Radio stations provide <strong>the</strong> necessary energy<br />

source, high-frequency oscillator, and equipment<br />

to transmit speech, music, and sound.<br />

The energy source produces a high voltage. The<br />

oscillator causes a stream of electrons to vibrate<br />

back and forth at high frequencies…, to vibrate,<br />

or oscillate. Similarly, vocal cords in a person’s<br />

throat cause a stream of air to vibrate. The<br />

rapidly oscillating movement of electrons causes<br />

energy to be radiated, or sent through <strong>the</strong> air, in<br />

<strong>the</strong> form of electromagnetic waves. (Schmitt)<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

55


Carrier waves convey speech and music from<br />

<strong>the</strong> radio station transmitter to radio receivers,<br />

where “[m]odulation allows <strong>the</strong> carrier wave to<br />

carry information from one place to ano<strong>the</strong>r by<br />

electromagnetic energy” (ibid.).<br />

Radio experimentation flourished in <strong>the</strong><br />

nineteenth century, and by 1891 wireless<br />

telegraph radios began to appear on ships at sea.<br />

The importance of radio for public safety and<br />

necessary communications, as well as its ability<br />

to be constructed by amateurs, led to <strong>the</strong> spread<br />

and development of radio spectrum and uses.<br />

Definitive of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, humans assert<br />

dominance upon <strong>the</strong> airwaves. As an example,<br />

<strong>the</strong> U.S. Radio Act of 1912 mandated that all<br />

radio stations in <strong>the</strong> United States be licensed by<br />

<strong>the</strong> federal government, and declared <strong>the</strong> entire<br />

broadcast spectrum to be governmental property.<br />

The current government agency that regulates<br />

radio, <strong>the</strong> Federal Communications Commission<br />

(FCC), was established in <strong>the</strong> Communications<br />

Act of 1934 as <strong>the</strong> sole entity for regulating <strong>the</strong><br />

airwaves for radio, television, wire, (and later,<br />

satellite and cable) in <strong>the</strong> public interest. The<br />

second half of <strong>the</strong> twentieth century saw <strong>the</strong><br />

increasing deregulation and homogenization of<br />

radio, leading to <strong>the</strong> growth of radio and media<br />

conglomerates across <strong>the</strong> nation. In 2003, <strong>the</strong><br />

FCC voted to repeal and change various crossownership<br />

rules, which allowed for <strong>the</strong> mergers of<br />

several large telecommunications companies and<br />

<strong>the</strong> buyout of over 4,000 radio stations (KUZU).<br />

In response to <strong>the</strong> disappearance of local voice,<br />

grassroots radio organizations began lobbying<br />

<strong>the</strong> FCC at <strong>the</strong> end of <strong>the</strong> twentieth century for<br />

communities to gain access to local airwaves.<br />

After decades of lobbying, <strong>the</strong> FCC enacted<br />

<strong>the</strong> Local Community Radio Act of 2010, which<br />

established LPFM stations with a cap of 100 watts<br />

and a radius of 3 miles. LPFMs must be owned<br />

and operated by nonprofit organizations. The<br />

FCC only accepted LPFM applications for a few<br />

years beginning in 2013 (ibid.). Radio enthusiasts<br />

in a modest <strong>No</strong>rth Texas town leaped at <strong>the</strong><br />

rare opportunity, and in 2015, Real Waves Radio<br />

Network was granted permission by <strong>the</strong> FCC to<br />

manage KUZU 92.9 LPFM in Denton, Texas.<br />

Real Waves Radio Network is a nonprofit<br />

organization whose purpose is to operate a noncommercial,<br />

non-sectarian, LPFM community<br />

radio station by broadcasting terrestrially and<br />

digitally to provide “a designated public arena<br />

for artistic expression, music, debate, discussion,<br />

announcements, and o<strong>the</strong>r public affairs and<br />

services” (KUZU). KUZU broadcasts on local FM<br />

radio and streams online with over 60 producers<br />

contributing to unique show programming<br />

featuring a variety of music genres, literature,<br />

mixed media, sound art, local information,<br />

discussion, and experimentation. I have been<br />

a supporter, advocate, and volunteer for KUZU<br />

since 2015. I was voted onto <strong>the</strong> Real Waves Radio<br />

Network Board of Directors in 2017, and I have<br />

hosted a KUZU program since 2018. I help train<br />

producers, maintain <strong>the</strong> station and operations,<br />

and interact with <strong>the</strong> community on behalf of<br />

KUZU.<br />

KUZU was created by and for <strong>the</strong> <strong>No</strong>rth Texas<br />

community it serves, and is maintained by<br />

volunteers. KUZU brings toge<strong>the</strong>r hundreds<br />

of community members from a variety of<br />

backgrounds as volunteers, producers, supporting<br />

members, underwriters, and community<br />

56 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


to a wider society. Slow radio is “an antidote to<br />

today’s frenzied world… [and] a lo-fi celebration<br />

of pure sound” (BBC). It is “basically [radio]<br />

programming that moves at a very casual<br />

pace. It immerses you in sound to help you<br />

stay grounded in <strong>the</strong> present” (Entenmen). IN<br />

FORMED, seeks to cultivate spaces to sincerely<br />

discuss and purposefully express philosophical,<br />

social, and environmental issues through radio<br />

programming. IN FORMED Radio broadcasts<br />

philosophy, literature, field recordings, discussion,<br />

poetry, found sounds, mindful observation,<br />

nonfiction, and more, in a playful and welcoming<br />

environment.<br />

Step 2: Poetic Communication Through<br />

Metaphors and Narratives<br />

Image 1 | “Records”<br />

A color photo of <strong>the</strong> KUZU radio mixing board table/<br />

producer station with microphones, laptop, records, record<br />

players, and supplies for producer shows. Image courtesy of<br />

Peter Salisbury, 2020.<br />

partners. Community members identify with<br />

KUZU and connect with each o<strong>the</strong>r through <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

shared care for local airwaves. KUZU producers<br />

spend numerous volunteer hours every week<br />

providing ever-changing, interesting, and diverse<br />

programming that is transmitted through radio<br />

signals.<br />

One of <strong>the</strong> producer-generated programs<br />

on KUZU is a “slow radio” program called IN<br />

FORMED Radio that asks listeners to recognize<br />

<strong>the</strong> genuine nature of <strong>the</strong> questions presented<br />

to our creative and local communities, as well as<br />

Narrative and poetic communications are a<br />

critical aspect of FEP. These arise in producers’<br />

communal storytelling through broadcasted<br />

music, playlists, topics, and shared sounds.<br />

Local radio is <strong>the</strong> heartbeat of a locale. LPFM<br />

and community radio stations rely upon local<br />

producer-generated programming that is<br />

imaginative and expresses community emotions<br />

on varieties of topics. LPFMs are community<br />

oriented and become a social art practice by <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

very existence. Low-Power is participatory radio, a<br />

tool for social justice movements and community<br />

expression (Prome<strong>the</strong>us Radio Project).<br />

Diverse and unique programming is a<br />

foundational philosophy for KUZU. Local<br />

producers are challenged to abide by FCC rules<br />

and regulations, such as using language that<br />

excludes profanity and calls to action, and shows<br />

that follow all copyright rules. Producers also<br />

have a space for radio experimentation, and<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

57


inherently express <strong>the</strong>ir individual voice, tastes,<br />

curation, and process with each program. They<br />

interconnect <strong>the</strong>ir own stories, memories, and<br />

feelings into <strong>the</strong>ir shows, and share <strong>the</strong>m into<br />

<strong>the</strong> homes, vehicles, and spaces airing KUZU.<br />

The producers and listeners connect through<br />

community airwaves.<br />

In addition to <strong>the</strong> wide spectrum of music genres<br />

showcased and informational topics aired on<br />

KUZU, o<strong>the</strong>r programming offers additional<br />

alternatives. Late night experimental sound<br />

art programs such as WOODS offer “Extreme<br />

Miscellaneous…for those who accidentally<br />

stumble upon it” and who become entranced<br />

by <strong>the</strong> layering of sounds featuring archival<br />

speeches, field recordings, found sounds, and<br />

song collage (KUZU). Spiderweb Salon’s Radio<br />

Poets Live airs on various music programs to<br />

showcase <strong>the</strong> work of a local art collective and<br />

provide an intermission for listeners. These<br />

shows, as well as IN FORMED Radio, are examples<br />

of slow radio on KUZU.<br />

A growing list of locally produced shows on KUZU<br />

offers a spectrum of opportunities for listeners<br />

to “step back, let go, immerse yourself” (BBC). IN<br />

FORMED seeps into artistic spaces and resonates<br />

through airwaves in order to share uncivilized<br />

philosophy in a free form. By hosting IN FORMED<br />

Radio, I am attempting to undo concepts of<br />

civilized, rigid, academic philosophy and share<br />

information in atypical ways. The task is to<br />

present imaginative, educational, and academic<br />

information in an accessible way for a general<br />

audience. The stories and playlists shared on<br />

KUZU are presented freely to listeners with no<br />

expectations, no requirements, and no objective.<br />

Producers simply aspire to share <strong>the</strong> music,<br />

stories, and heartsongs of our town with o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

Step 3: Field Activities with an Ethical and<br />

Ecological Orientation<br />

Field activities occur in <strong>the</strong> direct action of<br />

radio broadcast. Ethical considerations are<br />

made explicit, and ecological considerations<br />

are necessary. LPFMs are required to be less<br />

than 100 watts and operate on small scales<br />

compared to <strong>the</strong> hundreds-of-thousands of watts<br />

used by larger radio stations. These restrictions<br />

necessitate a local orientation for community<br />

radio stations. Managing a LPFM radio station<br />

requires we abide by FCC guidelines and laws,<br />

respect community expectations, and work<br />

each day to maintain equipment, status, and<br />

programming. Our field activities for radio require<br />

consistent maintenance, and constant vigilance<br />

to remedy occurrences of “dead air” radio silence,<br />

encroachment from larger stations, and technical<br />

difficulties. Due to <strong>the</strong>ir small size, LPFMs are also<br />

more likely to be affected by local geography and<br />

environmental occurrences.<br />

KUZU has a small antenna attached to a larger<br />

tower, and this small antenna is where our<br />

signal is sent to <strong>the</strong> public. Changes in <strong>the</strong> local<br />

topography, such as hills and highways, create<br />

physical barriers for carrier waves and can<br />

affect <strong>the</strong> listener’s signal. Internet streaming<br />

connection can be affected by storms and times<br />

of high internet traffic. At KUZU, we have a story<br />

growing in our own narrative: <strong>the</strong> jitter tree. We<br />

began to notice a jitter or glitch would occur<br />

at random times during songs and shows. We<br />

investigated <strong>the</strong> tower area and determined <strong>the</strong><br />

cause. During <strong>the</strong> Texas springs and summers, a<br />

tree located near <strong>the</strong> tower blooms and expands<br />

58 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


its greenery. As <strong>the</strong> tree blooms and <strong>No</strong>rth Texas<br />

winds dance with <strong>the</strong> leaves, our signal is briefly<br />

interrupted with a jitter sound that pulses into<br />

<strong>the</strong> programs. Ra<strong>the</strong>r than remove <strong>the</strong> tree at a<br />

time of increased urbanization and deforestation,<br />

or even trim various limbs, KUZU decided to<br />

embrace <strong>the</strong> tree as part of our community<br />

narrative. When you hear <strong>the</strong> jitter tree, it is<br />

dancing with us, and we are lucky enough to hear<br />

this on <strong>the</strong> radio.<br />

of <strong>the</strong> public and reproduced for <strong>the</strong>ir individual<br />

works. Additionally, IN FORMED seeks to embrace<br />

local resources for programming, and <strong>the</strong>se<br />

field activities connect our communities. Local<br />

artists, creatives, and active community members<br />

have opportunities to discuss and present<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir work on <strong>the</strong> radio. Soundscape ecology<br />

and field recordings are also incorporated into<br />

programming, offering listeners natural sounds<br />

and wonders through electronic communications.<br />

KUZU also makes its ethical orientation explicit<br />

in development and organization, and its ethical<br />

statement is part of its guiding mission. “KUZU<br />

will not accept or air programming that incites<br />

hatred against, or serious contempt for, or severe<br />

ridicule of, any person or group of persons<br />

because of age, ethnicity, nationality, race,<br />

gender expression, sexual orientation, religion,<br />

transgender status, or disability” (KUZU). This<br />

policy helps guide decision making, and creates<br />

space for community members who are often<br />

not granted air time or space within community<br />

organizing. KUZU makes explicit its desire to<br />

provide space, both physical and via airwaves,<br />

for a greater percentage of diversity with local<br />

producers providing a deeper knowledge of <strong>the</strong><br />

various voices in our community. Through its<br />

youth producer program, hands-on producer<br />

training, and community outreach, KUZU aspires<br />

to give more opportunities for community<br />

members to streng<strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong>ir voices and share<br />

<strong>the</strong>m continuously.<br />

IN FORMED Radio presents information from<br />

<strong>the</strong> public domain as well as local community<br />

resources. Public domain sources are available<br />

to <strong>the</strong> public as a whole, no longer held in<br />

copyright, and can be used freely by members<br />

Inspired by <strong>the</strong> spontaneity of creative<br />

communities, soundscape ecology is an integral<br />

aspect of IN FORMED Radio. Soundscape ecology<br />

is made up of 1) Geophony, which are nonbiological<br />

audio signal sources coming from<br />

different types of habitats, whe<strong>the</strong>r marine or<br />

terrestrial, 2) Biophony, <strong>the</strong> collective sound<br />

that vocalizing animals create in each given<br />

environment, and 3) Anthrophony, <strong>the</strong> general<br />

sources of human sounds/noise that occur within<br />

a soundscape. Because “every soundscape that<br />

springs from a wild habitat generates its own<br />

unique signature, one that contains incredible<br />

amounts of information,” soundscape ecologists<br />

ga<strong>the</strong>r field recordings in various environmental<br />

conditions to capture <strong>the</strong> geophony, biophony,<br />

and anthrophony of a particular place, time,<br />

scene, situation, or occurrence (Krause).<br />

Personally-acquired and public domain<br />

soundscapes are embedded throughout IN<br />

FORMED programs in order to enhance listeners’<br />

environmental imagination and maieutic<br />

practice. These examples of environmentally and<br />

community oriented actions for LPFMs in general,<br />

KUZU in particular, and individual programs<br />

illustrate <strong>the</strong> possibilities for ethical and ecological<br />

field activities in local radio.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

59


Image 2 | “Jitter Tree”<br />

A black and white photo of <strong>the</strong> community tower where KUZU rents space for our<br />

L P F M a n t e n n a ; t h e j i t t e r t r e e i s t h e o n l y g r e e n / c o l o r e d t r e e , s h o w i n g i t s l o c a t i o n .<br />

Image courtesy of Peter Salisbury, 2020.<br />

.<br />

60 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Step 4) In situ Biocultural Conservation:<br />

possibilities, simultaneously.<br />

This final step of FEP is obtainable through<br />

biocultural community care, and <strong>the</strong> conservation<br />

and preservation of local culture and airwaves.<br />

In situ means “in its original place”, and<br />

conservation in situ of <strong>the</strong> memory (in <strong>the</strong> site<br />

of one’s memory) perpetuates <strong>the</strong> open-ended<br />

FEP discovery process. In situated memories are<br />

<strong>the</strong> thoughts, feelings, reflections, and responses<br />

of transformative conservation processes.<br />

These “situated knowledges” demonstrate<br />

how “politics and epistemologies of location,<br />

positioning, and situating…are claims on people’s<br />

lives” (Haraway 589-590, 1988). LPFMs are sitespecific<br />

local stations that provide glimpses of a<br />

community’s situated knowledges, memories, and<br />

imaginations.<br />

KUZU is site-specific in Denton, Texas, and<br />

persists in part because of <strong>the</strong> concentrated local<br />

music and art scene that is cultivated through<br />

multiple universities and colleges, persistent<br />

“DIY” spaces, and ever-changing responses to<br />

counter status quo. Local programming on<br />

KUZU gives airtime to local artists, musicians,<br />

and community members in a public arena<br />

that circulates around us. A KUZU talk show,<br />

Attention Denton, “is an informative radio space<br />

where members of <strong>the</strong> Denton community talk<br />

about and connect important events, people,<br />

and ideas from yesterday, today, and tomorrow”<br />

(KUZU, 2017). In addition to its radio mission<br />

and education programs, KUZU preserves an<br />

archive of music, shows, interviews, ephemera,<br />

and programs of local music and culture. KUZU<br />

also has intergenerational potential, and creates<br />

opportunities for multiple generations to interact<br />

with and cultivate past, present, and future<br />

Researching public domain sources creates a<br />

time machine to investigate <strong>the</strong> cultural and<br />

historical occurrences of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene where<br />

literature, philosophy, poetry, and texts of <strong>the</strong><br />

past are read and heard in contemporary context.<br />

In 2020, public domain works are works published<br />

in or before 1924. Currently, literature, movies,<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r works released 96 years ago will enter<br />

<strong>the</strong> public domain every January 1st until 2073.<br />

Public works and federally released information<br />

are in <strong>the</strong> public domain, as well. IN FORMED<br />

Radio searches <strong>the</strong> public domain for sources<br />

that present ecological, artistic, and philosophical<br />

information, as well as viewpoints from<br />

historically silenced voices in literature, fiction,<br />

and poetry. Examples from shows focusing on<br />

traditionally unheard voices have featured literary<br />

works such as: <strong>the</strong> essays of early 20th century<br />

Lakota writer and activist Zitkála-Šá; <strong>the</strong> poems of<br />

<strong>the</strong> first published African American poet Phillis<br />

Wheatley of <strong>the</strong> 18th century; <strong>the</strong> essays and<br />

poems from 20th century Harlem Renaissance<br />

poet, journalist, and activist for African American<br />

and women’s rights, Alice Ruth Moore. The<br />

information and stories are curated so that<br />

listeners may experience a maieutic reaction that<br />

brings <strong>the</strong>ir latent ideas into clear consciousness.<br />

Soundscape ecology archives “<strong>the</strong> signature<br />

voices of <strong>the</strong> natural world, and as we hear<br />

<strong>the</strong>m, we’re endowed with a sense of place and<br />

<strong>the</strong> true story of <strong>the</strong> world we live in” (Krause,<br />

2013). IN FORMED Radio archiving and airing<br />

field recordings in its soundscape ecology praxis<br />

necessitates devotion and evokes maieutic<br />

memory. In situated memories retain placespecific<br />

transformative conservation, education,<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

61


and discovery processes through subjective<br />

experiences. Ra<strong>the</strong>r than selfish subjective<br />

experiences, in situated memories have <strong>the</strong> ability<br />

to create a sense of solidarity with <strong>the</strong> biocultural<br />

diversity and mosaics of forms in environments.<br />

In situ conservation protects native habitats and<br />

interactions, and fosters a sense of responsibility.<br />

In situated memories call forth <strong>the</strong> essential<br />

sense one develops through direct interactions in<br />

meaningful environments.<br />

Conclusion<br />

Sound is vibration of <strong>the</strong> air—it is something<br />

that is not only heard, but also felt (perhaps<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rwise sensed, too). Radio waves are a type<br />

of electromagnetic radiation that transmit sound<br />

and energy through physical space, and are only<br />

made intelligible to humans through technology.<br />

Humans have transformed physical and aerial<br />

environments in order to broadcast and receive<br />

radio, yet rarely acknowledge <strong>the</strong>se alterations to<br />

land and air. The anthropocentric view tends to<br />

render invisible <strong>the</strong> human impact on landscapes,<br />

climate change, and biophysical alterations.<br />

Homogenization and dominance of <strong>the</strong><br />

environment to human ends are characteristics of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. KUZU’s stewardship of LPFM<br />

radio, and <strong>the</strong> very existence of local stations<br />

challenge <strong>the</strong> homogenization of airwaves,<br />

sound, music, and media. The industrialization,<br />

corporate ownership, and conglomeration of<br />

radio have become an “air grab” where <strong>the</strong><br />

commercialization of sound supersedes <strong>the</strong><br />

community voices previously flourishing on radio.<br />

Encroachment from radio conglomerates silences<br />

and overpowers local stations. Listeners adapt to<br />

<strong>the</strong> homogenization and experience loss without<br />

realization.<br />

LPFM radio conserves and preserves local<br />

airwaves and sounds. This form of environmental<br />

stewardship is essential to transform<br />

towards a sustainable post-Anthropocene.<br />

Soundscape ecology provides a deeper, fuller,<br />

all-encompassing approach to nature, and<br />

directly competes with homogenization and <strong>the</strong><br />

sensations of industrialization. It may also be<br />

understood beyond sound because many of <strong>the</strong><br />

encompassing sounds of nature correlate with<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r senses that resonate through us and allow<br />

us to imagine a more sustainable and eco-centric<br />

approach to nature and society.<br />

Field Environmental Philosophy offers a playful<br />

methodology to integrate knowledges and<br />

situate memories. Moments in low-power and<br />

slow radio collapse perceived divisions between<br />

nature and culture. Progressing through <strong>the</strong><br />

FEP methodology adds layers of interpretation<br />

that help stimulate environmental perceptions<br />

and discover nuanced understandings of our<br />

biocultural interactions. LPFM radio offers a<br />

glimpse of <strong>the</strong> post-Anthropocene: to re-vision<br />

different and co-constructive relationships, to<br />

think about scales outside of human time and<br />

place, to become conscious of latent sensations.<br />

The stewardship of KUZU for low-power radio<br />

and local airwaves is not one of dominance, but a<br />

nurturing and caring preservation of an essential<br />

biocultural environment. Low-power radio<br />

materializes and makes possible future-thinking,<br />

and future-sensing, which can be cultivated for a<br />

post-Anthropocene beyond human dominion.<br />

62 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Works Cited<br />

Bio<br />

BBC. BBC Radio 3 - Slow Radio. 1 January 2019. 1 February<br />

2019. .<br />

Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau,<br />

Nature Writing, and <strong>the</strong> Formation of American Culture.<br />

Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1995.<br />

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus:<br />

Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of<br />

Minnesota Press, 1987.<br />

Entenmen, Elizabeth. I listened to 'slow radio' for a week, and<br />

now I don't think I'll ever stop. 26 October 2018. 1 February<br />

2019. .<br />

Haraway, Donna. "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question<br />

in Feminism and <strong>the</strong> Privilege of Partial Perspective." Feminist<br />

Studies 14.3 (1988): 575-599.<br />

Jiménez, Jaime and Rozzi R.. Magellanic Sub-Antarctic<br />

Ornithology: First Decade of Long-Term Bird Studies at <strong>the</strong> Omora<br />

Ethnobotanical Park, Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile. Ed.<br />

Ricardo Rozzi and Jaime E. Jiménez. Denton: University of<br />

<strong>No</strong>rth Texas Press, 2014.<br />

Rachel Weaver is a community organizer, agrarian, and creative.<br />

They hold degrees in Social Sciences (B.A.) and Philosophy<br />

(M.A.), focusing on environmental issues. Rachel advocates<br />

for environmental health, local resilience, and developing our<br />

environmental imaginations. They seek to build strong community<br />

relationships and foster opportunities for growth through<br />

transdisciplinary environmental education and creative learning.<br />

Rachel has worked as a director of a nonprofit creative reuse<br />

center, managed an art and farmers market, taught college<br />

courses, managed small farm crews and community gardens,<br />

and coordinates local zine and art events. They are a board<br />

member and producer on KUZU 92.9 LPFM in Denton, Texas.<br />

Rachel has works published in The Greenhorn’s New Farmer’s<br />

Almanac (Volumes 2 – 4) and The Black Earth Institute’s About<br />

Place journals (May 2018 and May 2020), and presented at<br />

<strong>the</strong> International Long-Term Ecological Research – All Scientists<br />

Meeting of <strong>the</strong> Americas in 2015. KUZU information found at kuzu.<br />

fm<br />

Klaver, Irene J. "Environmental Imagination Situation." Linking<br />

Ecology and Ethics for a Changing World: Vlaues, Philosophy, and<br />

Action (2013): 85 - 105.<br />

Krause, Bernie. "The voice of <strong>the</strong> natural world." TED Global<br />

2013. Edinburgh : TED, 2013.<br />

KUZU. kuzu.fm. 20 July 2017. 23 June 2019. .<br />

Prome<strong>the</strong>us Radio Project. Low Power Radio. 1 January 2019.<br />

26 June 2019. .<br />

Ricardo Rozzi, et al. "Integrating Ecology and Environmental<br />

Ethics: Earth Stewardship in <strong>the</strong> Sou<strong>the</strong>rn End of <strong>the</strong><br />

Americas." BioScience 62 (2012): 226 - 236.<br />

Rozzi, Ricardo. "Biocultural Ethics: From Biocultural<br />

Homogenization Toward Biocultural Conservation." Linking<br />

Ecology and Ethics for a Changing World: Values, Philosophy, and<br />

Action (2013): 9 - 32.<br />

Schmitt, Peter Buban and Marshall L. Understanding Electricity<br />

and Electronics. Ed. Chris H. Groneman. 4th Edition. New York:<br />

McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1982.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

63


64 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


SECTION 2:<br />

Decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Post-<br />

Anthropocene<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

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66 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Inefficiently <strong>Mapping</strong><br />

Boundaries: How is an urban<br />

citizen?<br />

Linda Knight<br />

This project uses an inefficient mapping<br />

methodological protocol to explore urban<br />

citizenship in and beyond <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, in<br />

order to study how posthuman urban citizens<br />

might be mapped as <strong>the</strong>y move through <strong>the</strong> city.<br />

Anthropocene citizens cannot be thought of as<br />

distinctly human. These citizens are transversal:<br />

non/in/human, not singly identified, but<br />

composite, more than a single entity permeated<br />

by chemicals, micro-organisms and viruses that<br />

invade bodily boundaries, and technologically<br />

permeated by manufactured materials including<br />

medical aids such as bone and joint replacements<br />

and pacemakers. The urban citizen in <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene is chimeric, bio-speculative,<br />

beautiful and monstrous. As Haraway (30-38)<br />

declares, citizenship in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene is<br />

Chthulic; a cluster of creatures and lifeforms that<br />

live with, in, and amongst us.<br />

I designed inefficient mapping (Knight,<br />

Playgrounds 22) (Knight, Playing 142) as a<br />

research-creation project (Loveless 39; Manning<br />

97-100) for working with speculative, immanent,<br />

and posthuman <strong>the</strong>ories. The exacting rules of a<br />

protocol encourage creative problem-setting and<br />

problem solving (O’Rourke 48-55). In <strong>the</strong> case of<br />

inefficient mapping, <strong>the</strong> protocols are to not look<br />

at <strong>the</strong> drawing surface while mapping, to hold <strong>the</strong><br />

drawing tool in a fist grip to disengage <strong>the</strong> wrist<br />

and gesturally engage <strong>the</strong> elbow and shoulder<br />

in driving <strong>the</strong> mark making, and to randomly<br />

layer mappings. The “inefficiency” of inefficient<br />

mapping productively undermines colonial<br />

approaches to mapping that assumes a landscape<br />

devoid of meaning or value until being brought<br />

into being by <strong>the</strong> cartographer (Eades 80-81).<br />

The How is an urban citizen? project maps<br />

shadows and movement of urban detritus<br />

including rubbish bins, litter, building materials,<br />

food scraps, trash, animals, oils, cigarettes,<br />

and commercial waste. <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>the</strong> shadows<br />

and movements of diverse citizens such as oil<br />

spills, water scum, insects, wind, chewing gum,<br />

garbage, and chopped, discarded concrete<br />

counters <strong>the</strong> attention of colonial cartographies<br />

that omit/erase what does not bear relevance to<br />

capitalist interests in farming, mining, forestry,<br />

and manufacturing. As <strong>the</strong> maps are created,<br />

posthuman <strong>the</strong>ories remain foregrounded. This<br />

creates mappings, that, through <strong>the</strong>ir subject<br />

matter and markings, critique <strong>the</strong> impacts of a<br />

mainstream politics and culture on conceptions<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

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68 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Linda Knight<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong>, 2018<br />

Pencil and ink on tracing film, 297 x 420 mm<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

69


Linda Knight<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong>, 2019<br />

Ink on tracing film, 210 x 297 mm<br />

Images courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

View video documentation here: https://vimeo.com/403143116<br />

70 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Linda Knight<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong>, 2018<br />

Pencil on tracing film, 210 x 297 mm<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

of rights, belongings, nationhood, and asserting<br />

who/what/how are in/non/human citizenships.<br />

The attention to shadows and movement gives<br />

presence and substance to all manner of matter<br />

and bodies and visualizes a cosmopolitical<br />

(Stengers 997) civics and how different energies<br />

and matters “come to be constituted, co-exist or<br />

interfere with each o<strong>the</strong>r” (Farias and Blok 9) as<br />

posthuman urban dwellers.<br />

Inefficient mapping is a non-representational<br />

methodological protocol that keeps <strong>the</strong>ories<br />

centrally located throughout <strong>the</strong> artistic<br />

production process. Representational schematics<br />

are avoided in favour of marks of partial details.<br />

Partiality emphasises <strong>the</strong> total incapacity for<br />

<strong>the</strong> human to capture everything and remain<br />

centrally important in <strong>the</strong> milieu, and more<br />

widely, in <strong>the</strong> effects, impacts, and responses<br />

to <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. Inefficiently mapping<br />

shadows and movement in How is an urban<br />

citizen? non-representationally attunes to <strong>the</strong><br />

alternative genealogies of sites and places.<br />

The protocol is to mark snippets of shadows of<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

71


Linda Knight<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong>, 2019<br />

Charcoal and pencil on Fabriano, 1500 x 600 mm<br />

Images courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

72 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

73


things in <strong>the</strong> milieu. In How is an urban citizen?<br />

<strong>the</strong> scratches and marks create mappings that<br />

visually and conceptually remain in <strong>the</strong> chaos<br />

and help prompt different ways of thinking about<br />

urban populations. The drawn mappings are a<br />

geontologic practice (Povinelli 18) for <strong>the</strong>orizing<br />

on citizenships in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, <strong>the</strong> ethics of<br />

place and land and for troubling <strong>the</strong> hierarchies<br />

and privileges that underpin <strong>the</strong> urban design of<br />

cities. The maps geontologically interrogate how<br />

<strong>the</strong> term “population” might be rethought and<br />

what impact that might have on our conceptions<br />

of designing architectures and urban planning<br />

for non/in/human populations. For example,<br />

what could cities look like if we acknowledge<br />

rain, ants, microbes, and plastics as citizens?<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>the</strong>se seemingly insignificant citizens<br />

through <strong>the</strong> shadows <strong>the</strong>y generate literally<br />

and politically marks <strong>the</strong> presence of things and<br />

beings usually not recognized and omitted. The<br />

inefficient mapping of <strong>the</strong>ir shadows creates a<br />

geontologic, cartographic record of a citizenry<br />

that far exceeds <strong>the</strong> conceptual parameters of<br />

citizenship established by and for humanist,<br />

colonial interests.<br />

How is an urban citizen? prompts speculative<br />

wonderings about cosmopolitical ethics and<br />

<strong>the</strong> precarious, monstrous future cities that are<br />

emerging all around us. Inefficient mapping<br />

requires thinking differently about <strong>the</strong> world<br />

and how community becomes “SF”: an uberacronym<br />

developed by Haraway (Staying 2-4;<br />

Species 92-93; Modest_witness 233-236) to describe<br />

science fiction, speculative fabulation, string<br />

figures, speculative feminism, science fact, so far.<br />

The speculative, more-than-human ontological<br />

orientation of <strong>the</strong> project commits to gesturally<br />

marking affective and relational imprints of<br />

colonisation, industrialisation, appropriation,<br />

histories, futures, exclusions, privileges, neglect,<br />

survival, and persistence. Inefficiently mapping<br />

urban communities beyond <strong>the</strong> human helps to<br />

“see” <strong>the</strong> vast number of transversal communities<br />

that are also living in cities and urban centres, and<br />

how our understandings of civics and citizenship<br />

must shift in <strong>the</strong>se times of great change.<br />

Works Cited<br />

Eades, Gwilym Lucas. Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture,<br />

Place, and Identity in Indigenous Communities. McGill-Queen’s<br />

UP, 2015.<br />

Farias, Ignacio and Anders Blok. “Introducing Urban<br />

Cosmopolitics.” Urban Cosmopolitics: Agencements, Assemblies,<br />

Atmospheres, edited by Anders Blok et al., Routledge, 2016, pp.<br />

1-22.<br />

Haraway, Donna. Staying with <strong>the</strong> Trouble: Making Kin in <strong>the</strong><br />

Chthulucene. Duke UP, 2016.<br />

Haraway, Donna. When Species Meet. U of Minneapolis Press,<br />

2008.<br />

Haraway, Donna. “Modest_witness@second_millenium.” The<br />

Haraway Reader, edited by Donna Haraway, Routledge, 2004,<br />

pp. 223-250.<br />

Knight, Linda. “Playing: More-Than-Human Irreverences in<br />

Urban Spaces.” Feminist Research for 21st Century Childhoods,<br />

edited by B. Denise Hodgins, Bloomsbury, 2019, pp. 139-148.<br />

Knight, Linda. “Playgrounds as Sites of Radical Encounters:<br />

A <strong>Mapping</strong> of Material, Affective, Spatial, and Pedagogical<br />

Collisions.” Pedagogical Matters: New Materialisms and<br />

Curriculum Studies (Counterpoints Series), edited by Nathan<br />

Snaza, et al., Peter Lang, 2016, pp. 13-28.<br />

Loveless, Natalie. How to Make Art at <strong>the</strong> End of <strong>the</strong> World: A<br />

Manifesto for Research-Creation. Duke UP, 2019.<br />

Manning, Erin. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. MIT<br />

Press, 2009.<br />

74 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


O’Rourke, Karen. Walking and <strong>Mapping</strong>: Artists as Cartographers.<br />

MIT Press, 2013.<br />

Povinelli, Elizabeth A. Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism.<br />

Duke UP, 2016.<br />

Stengers, Isabelle. “A Cosmopolitical Proposal.” Making Things<br />

Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, edited by Bruno Latour et al.,<br />

MIT Press, 2005, pp. 994-1003.<br />

Bio<br />

Linda Knight is an artist and academic who specializes in critical<br />

and speculative arts practices and methods. Linda devised<br />

“Inefficient <strong>Mapping</strong>” as a methodological protocol for conducting<br />

fieldwork in projects informed by “post-” <strong>the</strong>ories. In her role as<br />

Associate Professor at RMIT University, Australia Linda creates<br />

transdisciplinary projects across early childhood, creative practice,<br />

and digital media. Toge<strong>the</strong>r with Jacina Leong, Linda is a founding<br />

member of <strong>the</strong> Guerrilla Knowledge Unit, an artist collective that<br />

curates interface jamming performances between <strong>the</strong> public and<br />

AI technologies.<br />

Linda has exhibited digitally and physically in Australia, <strong>the</strong> U.K.,<br />

<strong>the</strong> U.S.A., Canada, New Zealand, and South America and has<br />

been awarded arts research grants and prizes with international<br />

reach and impact, most recently including an Australian Research<br />

Council Discovery project that designs novel technologies for<br />

framing and enabling young children’s active play.<br />

Website: https://lindaknight.org/<br />

Inefficient mapping IG: @lk_inefficient_urban_maps<br />

GKU: https://guerrillaknowledgeunit.com/<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

75


Jade Swor<br />

hohojin, 2 0 1 9<br />

Color photograph (printed on paper or displayed on a<br />

screen with visual sonification)<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

76 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


The Europocene: A Past,<br />

Present, and Future Narrative<br />

of Climate Change Beginning<br />

with <strong>the</strong> Disruption of<br />

Indigenous Relations<br />

Jade Swor, Melanie Armstrong, Taryn Mead and Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk<br />

Introduction<br />

The term Anthropocene points to how a small<br />

subset of humans, beginning in Europe and <strong>No</strong>rth<br />

America, have become ever more successful<br />

at converting nature into capital through<br />

colonization, industrialization, imperialism, and<br />

financialization of climate risk. Adopting <strong>the</strong><br />

naming conventions of <strong>the</strong> geological sciences<br />

has <strong>the</strong> effect of underscoring <strong>the</strong> scale and scope<br />

of <strong>the</strong>se actions and <strong>the</strong> lasting imprint <strong>the</strong>y will<br />

have on <strong>the</strong> planet. While <strong>the</strong> date of when this<br />

ecological shift began is debated, ranging from<br />

<strong>the</strong> rise of agriculture 8,000 years ago (Ruddiman<br />

261), to <strong>the</strong> industrial revolution of <strong>the</strong> eighteenth<br />

century (Crutzen and Stoermer 17), to <strong>the</strong> peak<br />

in radionuclides in <strong>the</strong> 1950s (Anthropocene<br />

Working Group), <strong>the</strong> favored term and its<br />

“anthro” prefix unilaterally assign responsibility<br />

to all humans (Todd and Davis 763). In reality,<br />

European colonization created deleterious effects<br />

on Earth’s climate, which disproportionately affect<br />

Indigenous peoples today. We propose <strong>the</strong> term<br />

“Europocene” to highlight how climate change<br />

has been constituted through acts of colonial<br />

dispossession, genocide, and ecocide ongoing<br />

since <strong>the</strong> European colonization of <strong>the</strong> Americas,<br />

work that deeply relied upon transforming <strong>the</strong><br />

physical landscape and exploiting human labor,<br />

from slavery to industrialization.<br />

Contemporary logics of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene give<br />

attention to <strong>the</strong> human, but in ways that distract<br />

from <strong>the</strong> injustices and violences of colonialism.<br />

With colonialization, <strong>the</strong> global minority of<br />

European colonizers ruptured Indigenous<br />

relationships to land, elements, language, and<br />

spirituality, violently destroying Indigenous<br />

identities and livelihoods. Indigenous peoples and<br />

<strong>the</strong> interconnected biosphere have been adapting<br />

to <strong>the</strong>se changes for 400 years. Acknowledging<br />

<strong>the</strong> roots of <strong>the</strong> climate crisis in European<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

77


colonialism is needed to create <strong>the</strong> possibility for<br />

actions radical enough to generate new futures<br />

for humanity, culminating in an audacious new<br />

imaginary where Indigenous relations are <strong>the</strong><br />

foundations of just and sustainable societies with<br />

revived ecological worldviews.<br />

To develop a socio-political system that can act<br />

upon climate change, we must decolonize <strong>the</strong><br />

Europocene, an act of justice that will make<br />

possible <strong>the</strong> global shift necessary for humanity’s<br />

continued existence upon this planet. Davis and<br />

Todd argue that “<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene continues<br />

a logic of <strong>the</strong> universal which is structured<br />

to sever <strong>the</strong> relations between mind, body,<br />

and land” (761). Such ideological separation<br />

makes capitalism possible. In turn, <strong>the</strong> climate<br />

crisis emerges through “proto-capitalist logics<br />

based on extraction and accumulation through<br />

dispossession” (Davis and Todd 764). Recognizing<br />

how <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene operates as an ideological<br />

construct, Davis and Todd point to <strong>the</strong> value<br />

of aligning <strong>the</strong> term more fully with European<br />

colonial practices to highlight <strong>the</strong> ongoing<br />

ecological effects of colonial violence. We offer<br />

<strong>the</strong> term Europocene to realize that alignment<br />

through <strong>the</strong> powerful act of naming.<br />

Donna Haraway proposes <strong>the</strong> need for many<br />

names for this moment that rests between <strong>the</strong><br />

past we know and a future unlike <strong>the</strong> present,<br />

names that acknowledge <strong>the</strong> myriad entities<br />

entangled with humans in <strong>the</strong> work of worldmaking.<br />

Indeed, scholars and creatives have<br />

playfully and earnestly presented numerous<br />

names as alternatives to <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene,<br />

seemingly as a way to comprehend wicked<br />

problems and identify opportunities for change,<br />

or as Haraway proposes, to “ga<strong>the</strong>r up <strong>the</strong><br />

complexities and keep <strong>the</strong> edges open and<br />

greedy for surprising new and old connections”<br />

(160). The Homogenocene was a precursor to<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, pointing to global decline<br />

in biodiversity (Samways 65). The Capitalocene<br />

has been favored among some cultural scholars<br />

for its attention to impacts of capitalism and<br />

industrialization (Moore xi). Haraway offers <strong>the</strong><br />

Chthulucene to shift time and make kin of <strong>the</strong><br />

biological, cultural, political, and technological<br />

(160). In this article, to imagine life after <strong>the</strong><br />

Europocene, we also consider Shyam’s Biocene,<br />

where looking deeply at <strong>the</strong> biological world<br />

prompts ingenuity to overcome <strong>the</strong> harmful acts<br />

of humans during <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

These “‘cenes,” including <strong>the</strong> Europocene and<br />

<strong>the</strong> Biocene, keep attention on human actions<br />

and effects—not surprisingly, as humans are<br />

only capable of seeing <strong>the</strong> world from a human<br />

perspective—but even if we widen <strong>the</strong> circle or<br />

change our perspective, humans remain at <strong>the</strong><br />

core. The Europocene does not undo <strong>the</strong> dualisms<br />

reinforced by <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, but it points<br />

to specific ways that systems of social power<br />

entwine with <strong>the</strong> management of ecological<br />

systems. Creating a livable environmental future<br />

requires dismantling <strong>the</strong> social systems that make<br />

<strong>the</strong> present unlivable for many people.<br />

To imagine life after <strong>the</strong> Europocene, this<br />

multidisciplinary project explores <strong>the</strong> past,<br />

present, and future of <strong>the</strong> planet through <strong>the</strong><br />

tensions of settler colonialism and Indigenous<br />

relations. Three documentaries, each less than<br />

15 minutes in length, explore short- and longterm<br />

strategies for climate action that enhance<br />

and support tribal communities, intending to<br />

bring Indigenous scholarship on climate change-<br />

78 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


elated issues to a wide public audience through<br />

film. “Climate Change in Tribal Nations” illustrates<br />

how colonialism entwines with climate disruption<br />

(Part 1), shows <strong>the</strong> impact of <strong>the</strong>se forces on<br />

<strong>the</strong> current context (Part 2), and <strong>the</strong>n considers<br />

a future created through climate actions that<br />

enhance and support tribal communities (Part<br />

3). Film as a creative medium invites <strong>the</strong> viewer<br />

to reframe <strong>the</strong> persisting historical narrative,<br />

enabling audiences to shift <strong>the</strong>ir sense of<br />

what <strong>the</strong>y know for certain in ways that allow<br />

<strong>the</strong>oretical ideas to take hold (Ginsberg). Both<br />

scholars and artists create new practices to<br />

supplant past ideologies that sustain injustice in<br />

<strong>the</strong> present. Creating a future where Indigenous<br />

peoples and all cultures flourish as we collectively<br />

meet <strong>the</strong> current climate challenges will unveil<br />

more generative possibilities of human agency.<br />

In this article, we contextualize <strong>the</strong> film project<br />

using divergent lenses. From a design perspective,<br />

we explore how a mechanistic worldview, which,<br />

expanded as an enabling aspect of colonialization,<br />

defines <strong>the</strong> Europocene. We apply an ecological<br />

worldview and living systems science to challenge<br />

<strong>the</strong> dominant mechanistic worldview as <strong>the</strong><br />

basis for building systems. A political ecology<br />

lens proposes that reframing <strong>the</strong> concept of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene might generate new knowledge<br />

of <strong>the</strong> climate crisis that can become <strong>the</strong> basis<br />

for more just political systems, which can in<br />

turn transform <strong>the</strong> material outcomes of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene. And, with insights from an<br />

indigenous activist, we use a direct-action lens<br />

to envision how human relationships to <strong>the</strong><br />

ecological world might shift by writing a narrative<br />

of climate change that begins with <strong>the</strong> disruption<br />

of indigenous relations.<br />

Part 1: The Beginning of <strong>the</strong> Europocene: The<br />

Orbis Spike Apocalypse<br />

(Click here: VIDEO PART 1: Past)<br />

“Consider for a moment that instead of a line,<br />

time moves in a circle, or from ano<strong>the</strong>r angle, a<br />

spiral. Consider all <strong>the</strong> actions you have made<br />

in your life, all of <strong>the</strong> thoughts you have had,<br />

all of <strong>the</strong> relationships you have nurtured, all<br />

of <strong>the</strong> loved ones you have lost. <strong>No</strong>w, consider<br />

how all of this, every aspect of your life and<br />

everything you consider to be yourself, exists<br />

within <strong>the</strong> context of <strong>the</strong> land which is currently<br />

beneath your feet. The air you brea<strong>the</strong>, <strong>the</strong> bed<br />

in which you sleep, <strong>the</strong> last food you ate; all of<br />

this exists in complete interdependence with <strong>the</strong><br />

land that supports you even now. Naturally, this<br />

interdependence extends both backwards and<br />

forwards along <strong>the</strong> direction of time, spiraling in<br />

both directions, weaving this current moment into<br />

a tapestry of interlocking moments, which all give<br />

context to one ano<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

“While this way of understanding space and time<br />

might be very different from how you see things,<br />

this is fundamental for many people around<br />

<strong>the</strong> world. And this way of seeing changes our<br />

relationships to one ano<strong>the</strong>r, to our environment<br />

and to ourselves. For some people, <strong>the</strong>re is little<br />

separation between <strong>the</strong> three. These different<br />

ways of experiencing <strong>the</strong> world have led to <strong>the</strong><br />

major differences with how we remember <strong>the</strong><br />

past, see <strong>the</strong> present, and imagine <strong>the</strong> future.<br />

From here we can also see how we find ourselves<br />

in <strong>the</strong> current climate crisis.”<br />

Distinct shifts in <strong>the</strong> Earth's geological state are<br />

chronicled in <strong>the</strong> rocks and minerals that form<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

79


our planet. Geologists look to <strong>the</strong> rock itself to<br />

understand change throughout planetary time,<br />

marking transitions through measures such as<br />

periods, eras, and epochs. When in May 2019<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene Working Group voted to mark<br />

<strong>the</strong> 1950s as <strong>the</strong> start date of a new epoch called<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, coinciding with <strong>the</strong> “Great<br />

Acceleration” of humanity’s impact, <strong>the</strong>y asserted<br />

<strong>the</strong> notion that humans have, through <strong>the</strong>ir use of<br />

technology, physically transformed <strong>the</strong> planet and<br />

become a force of planet-wide nature. Thus, what<br />

began with a pushing away or separation from<br />

nature has culminated in a conceptualization<br />

of human society as a natural force, capable of<br />

transforming <strong>the</strong> planet using Earth’s own scales,<br />

mechanisms, and processes.<br />

The Orbis Spike, which shows a major decrease<br />

in carbon dioxide levels around <strong>the</strong> time of<br />

European arrival in <strong>the</strong> Americas, exemplifies<br />

how cultural shifts may be recorded on <strong>the</strong> Earth<br />

itself. Geographers Lewis and Maslin suggest<br />

a major reshaping of ecosystems through <strong>the</strong><br />

global exchange of animals and plants brought<br />

<strong>the</strong> carbon decline, or <strong>the</strong> genocide of Indigenous<br />

peoples in <strong>the</strong> Americas which led to regrowth<br />

of forests and o<strong>the</strong>r plant life. In 1492, <strong>the</strong>re<br />

were an estimated 54 to 61 million people in<br />

<strong>the</strong> Americas, and by 1650, <strong>the</strong>re were 6 million<br />

(Lewis and Maslin 175). The deaths of around 50<br />

million people (and some researchers believe that<br />

estimate is low) substantially altered relationships<br />

between land, water, and people. The rapid<br />

erasure of human bodies from <strong>the</strong> American<br />

continent created a new landscape—one with<br />

more trees—which within a few generations<br />

would fuel industrial expansion and free-market<br />

capitalism. The Orbis Spike is a physical marker<br />

of <strong>the</strong> onset of a cultural moment that is defined<br />

by free-market capitalism and industrialization,<br />

both of which have accelerated climate change.<br />

As settlers remade <strong>the</strong> landscape once again<br />

with timber mills, plows, and roadways, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

accelerated yet ano<strong>the</strong>r transformation of <strong>the</strong><br />

landscape and fur<strong>the</strong>r climate effects, one<br />

divorced from long-term understanding of<br />

ecological cycles.<br />

The term “Anthropocene” recognizes humanity's<br />

impact on <strong>the</strong> earth's tenuous state (Steffen et<br />

al. 842). The “anthro” prefix attached to words<br />

like “anthropogenic” and “anthropocentric”<br />

lumps toge<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> generative acts of all human<br />

cultures, suggesting that all human engagement<br />

in <strong>the</strong> biosphere has caused ecological change.<br />

Our current climate crisis, however, is rooted in<br />

<strong>the</strong> mechanistic worldview perpetuated through<br />

colonial settlements globally (Capra and Luisi<br />

4). Colonialism, “a form of domination in which<br />

at least one society seeks to exploit some set of<br />

benefits believed to be found in <strong>the</strong> territory of<br />

one or more o<strong>the</strong>r societies” (Whyte, Indigenous<br />

Climate Change Studies 154), established a<br />

trajectory of human development which altered<br />

human perception and treatment of <strong>the</strong> animate<br />

versus inanimate and sentient versus insentient.<br />

The physical domination and exploitation of<br />

both humans and nature during European<br />

colonization parallels <strong>the</strong> reductionism of <strong>the</strong><br />

Scientific Revolution which overwhelmed <strong>the</strong><br />

animistic beliefs that were previously common<br />

across Europe. In addition to <strong>the</strong> overt oppression<br />

of <strong>the</strong>se beliefs, <strong>the</strong> influence of <strong>the</strong> mechanistic<br />

worldview was evident in <strong>the</strong> metaphors of <strong>the</strong><br />

universe and natural systems inspired by <strong>the</strong><br />

engineering feats of <strong>the</strong> time. <strong>No</strong>n-human beings<br />

were reduced to non-sentient, passive resources,<br />

80 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


experimental instruments, and capital, while<br />

Indigenous cultures were categorized as simply<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r component of an expiring ecological<br />

worldview that needed to be replaced and<br />

modernized with European ingenuity (Merchant<br />

xvi; Capra and Luigi 25). Indeed, <strong>the</strong> industrial<br />

revolution depended upon “seeing nature quite<br />

clearly and even coldly as a set of objects, on<br />

which men could operate” (Williams 77). This<br />

reductive and hierarchical understanding of<br />

non-human nature was embedded in emerging<br />

technologies, social systems, and <strong>the</strong> land<br />

that sustained <strong>the</strong> colonial-industrial-capitalist<br />

complex. Moreso, cultural depictions of<br />

Indigenous peoples as primitive, close-to-nature,<br />

and even “savage” enabled colonial societies to<br />

exploit Indigenous bodies as <strong>the</strong>y did nature—as<br />

resource and capital for <strong>the</strong> expansion of Western<br />

society.<br />

For many people, cultural identity stretches<br />

for millennia through <strong>the</strong>ir creation stories; in<br />

Indigenous societies, <strong>the</strong>se creation stories often<br />

encompass relationships between animals,<br />

elements, and also <strong>the</strong> future. For example, Watts<br />

describes <strong>the</strong> phenomenon “Place-Thought,”<br />

stemming from Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee<br />

histories in which place and thought were never<br />

separated. “Place-Thought is based upon <strong>the</strong><br />

premise that land is alive and thinking and<br />

that humans and non-humans derive agency<br />

through <strong>the</strong> extensions of <strong>the</strong>se thoughts” (Watts<br />

21). This is radically different from surviving<br />

European histories which abstract <strong>the</strong>se relations,<br />

concluding “society” to be human-centered and<br />

non-human beings to be judged solely on <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

contributions. Unlike cultures where identity<br />

is centered in <strong>the</strong> individual, cultures where<br />

identity and thought itself is rooted in land are<br />

particularly vulnerable to disruption when <strong>the</strong><br />

environment is degraded. Although people and<br />

knowledge systems are adaptable to changes in<br />

<strong>the</strong> environment, rapid and catastrophic change<br />

to Indigenous ways of life have necessitated a<br />

tremendous amount of resilience. Given that<br />

90-95% of Indigenous societies were destroyed,<br />

some say if we were to ask Indigenous ancestors,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y would say <strong>the</strong>ir descendants alive today<br />

are already in post-apocalyptic times (Whyte<br />

“Indigenous science (fiction),” 227). In spite of this<br />

world-ending violence, Indigenous communities<br />

persist, enduring “post-apocalyptic stress<br />

syndrome” (Gross 33), as climate destabilization<br />

is framed as <strong>the</strong> new apocalypse (Todd and Davis<br />

773).<br />

The collapsing of human/nonhuman and past/<br />

present in Indigenous creation stories creates<br />

a pathway for new responses to climate crisis<br />

through <strong>the</strong> inclusion of diverse knowledge<br />

systems, such as Traditional Ecological Knowledge<br />

(TEK). Also known as Indigenous or local<br />

knowledge, <strong>the</strong>se are epistemological frameworks<br />

that:<br />

...broadly refer to indigenous communities’ ways<br />

of knowing that both guide and result from <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

communities members’ close relationships with<br />

and responsibilities towards <strong>the</strong> landscapes,<br />

waterscapes, plants, and animals that are<br />

vital to <strong>the</strong> flourishing of indigenous culture.…<br />

Accumulated through experience, relationships,<br />

and upheld responsibilities towards o<strong>the</strong>r living<br />

beings and places, [<strong>the</strong>y] are passed down<br />

generationally from elder to youth through<br />

oral histories, stories, ceremonies, and land<br />

management practices. (<strong>No</strong>rton-Smith et al. 13)<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

81


Jade Swor<br />

masho naman, 2019<br />

Digital Watercolor and<br />

Color Photography<br />

(printed on paper or<br />

displayed on a screen<br />

with visual sonification)<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong><br />

artist.<br />

As a framework, TEK is difficult to integrate with<br />

Western epistemological ways of knowing that<br />

dominate climate science and define <strong>the</strong> narrative<br />

of change in biophysical terms, as TEK is non<strong>the</strong>oretical,<br />

place-based, and localized.<br />

Knowledge is not static and cannot be isolated<br />

from <strong>the</strong> context in which it is created and<br />

received. TEKs make <strong>the</strong>se connections evident,<br />

as <strong>the</strong>y are unified with <strong>the</strong> land and waters in<br />

which <strong>the</strong>y are made and learned. As extensions<br />

of <strong>the</strong> ecosystem, traditional forms of knowledge<br />

are vulnerable to climate change. The Europocene<br />

illuminates how <strong>the</strong> ongoing destruction of <strong>the</strong><br />

ecosystem continues <strong>the</strong> colonial act not only<br />

by harming <strong>the</strong> landscape but by destroying<br />

Indigenous knowledge systems that are deeply<br />

entwined with place. Thus, changing <strong>the</strong><br />

environment changes traditional knowledge.<br />

The mechanistic worldview marginalized <strong>the</strong><br />

environment and consequently those whose<br />

knowledge was bound to it.<br />

Using explicitly Indigenous perspectives to<br />

frame <strong>the</strong> challenges faced by Indigenous<br />

communities makes it easier to understand<br />

this interdependence. Wildcat coined <strong>the</strong> term<br />

Indigenuity—indigenous ingenuity—as “<strong>the</strong> ability<br />

to solve pressing life issues facing humankind<br />

now by situating our solutions in Earth-based<br />

local indigenous deep spatial knowledge” (39). TEK<br />

provides narratives of socioecological systems<br />

that are distinct to <strong>the</strong> storyteller’s culture and<br />

its experiences. It challenges <strong>the</strong> dominating,<br />

mechanistic worldview that accompanied <strong>the</strong><br />

European mind around <strong>the</strong> globe, changing <strong>the</strong><br />

biosphere in ways that are recorded upon <strong>the</strong><br />

earth itself. For this reason, we propose that<br />

<strong>the</strong> Europocene is <strong>the</strong> appropriate title for this<br />

geological epoch, limiting its inclusion to <strong>the</strong><br />

widespread damage proliferated in <strong>the</strong> context of<br />

a particular scientific and cultural paradigm.<br />

82 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Part 2: Navigating <strong>the</strong> Europocene: Bracing for<br />

<strong>the</strong> Next Apocalyptic Change<br />

(Click here: VIDEO PART 2: Present)<br />

and loss of connections to homeland and social<br />

networks (Willox et al. 21). Indigenous youth<br />

especially suffer from climate change-related<br />

mental health issues (MacDonald et al. 133).<br />

“Climate change has affected and is affecting<br />

Indigenous peoples first. The challenges faced<br />

by Indigenous communities are continually<br />

being framed from a non-Indigenous perspective<br />

making it hard to see <strong>the</strong> interdependent<br />

changes. At <strong>the</strong> present, <strong>the</strong> current impacts<br />

experienced by Tribal Nations are far-ranging,<br />

and, as we’ve learned, cannot be separated from<br />

colonialism, industrialization, and capitalism.<br />

The broad range of issues is difficult to put<br />

into context without seeing <strong>the</strong> people and<br />

communities being affected.”<br />

Colonial narratives perpetuate <strong>the</strong> myth that<br />

Indigenous peoples and cultures are in <strong>the</strong><br />

past; however, in <strong>the</strong> United States alone, <strong>the</strong>re<br />

are 573 federally recognized tribes and 245<br />

additional unrecognized tribes, many of whom<br />

are petitioning for federal recognition. Climate<br />

change has affected and is affecting Indigenous<br />

peoples directly and disproportionately,<br />

exacerbating intersectional problems stemming<br />

from colonialism, industrialization, and capitalism.<br />

Public health complications include losing<br />

traditional food and medicine, infectious disease<br />

spread, contamination of water and food sources,<br />

heat-related illnesses, degraded air quality, and<br />

reactions to extreme wea<strong>the</strong>r. Historical grief and<br />

trauma are worsened by climate change as well as<br />

structural issues rooted in poverty, inequality, and<br />

discrimination (<strong>No</strong>rton Smith et al. 33). In terms of<br />

mental health, <strong>the</strong> intensity of climate change has<br />

been associated with higher rates of mood and<br />

anxiety disorders, strong emotional responses,<br />

Tribes’ varied governance structures enable a<br />

range of nimble reactions to climate threat. Many<br />

tribes have environmental departments working<br />

on climate change-related issues, but tribal<br />

nations also use tribal law to move past federal<br />

environmental laws. While tribes may exercise<br />

authority in environmental decision-making,<br />

without true sovereignty <strong>the</strong>y often lack <strong>the</strong><br />

capacity to act on decisions. Despite this, tribal<br />

nations can function as climate change adaptation<br />

and mitigation laboratories, testing <strong>the</strong> impacts of<br />

climate initiatives on a small scale. Such actions<br />

include inter-tribal declarations on climate<br />

change, tribal environmental justice groups,<br />

summits and symposia on climate change, tribal<br />

law and treaty rights focusing on environmental<br />

issues, and youth-led climate change education.<br />

The case studies that follow illustrate approaches<br />

for adaptation and environmental regulation<br />

that combine innovative and transdisciplinary<br />

strategies to effect change (Kronk Warner 427).<br />

Iñupiat Communities (Arctic Alaska): The Good<br />

Music<br />

For Indigenous Arctic Alaskan residents, climate<br />

change alters <strong>the</strong>ir ancestral territory, hindering<br />

access to animals and influencing physical and<br />

spiritual well-being. Near <strong>the</strong> coastal areas<br />

where Iñupiat communities are located, <strong>the</strong><br />

ocean environment is getting too warm for<br />

<strong>the</strong> bowhead whale to survive. Iñupiat whalers<br />

now go out 50 miles into open waters, using<br />

motorized boats and o<strong>the</strong>r technology ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

83


than traditional whaling techniques. The Iñupiat<br />

people are spiritually and physically tied to <strong>the</strong><br />

whale through traditional music making; in <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

lore, <strong>the</strong> whale brings <strong>the</strong>m music. When Iñupiat<br />

villages are out looking for whales, whales are<br />

looking for <strong>the</strong> villages with <strong>the</strong> “good music”<br />

of <strong>the</strong> drums (Sakakibara 290). Physically,<br />

Iñupiat people use <strong>the</strong> whale hide for drums,<br />

so if <strong>the</strong>re is no whale, <strong>the</strong>re is no music, no<br />

celebration. Iñupiat have responded to this<br />

environmental change by replacing <strong>the</strong> whale skin<br />

with plastic. By modifying drums and adapting<br />

hunting patterns, Iñupiat people reinforce and<br />

reaffirm <strong>the</strong>ir cultural relationship with <strong>the</strong><br />

bowhead whale, allowing <strong>the</strong>m to better cope<br />

with an unpredictable environment and future<br />

(Sakakibara). During times of environmental<br />

uncertainty, Iñupiat communities reaffirm cultural<br />

traditions to survive.<br />

Ojibwe (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan):<br />

Tribal Adaptation Menu<br />

The Bois Forte Band, Fond du Lac Band and<br />

Grand Portage Band created a Climate Change<br />

Adaptation Plan and a Tribal Adaptation Menu<br />

for <strong>the</strong> Ojibwe’s 1855 Ceded Territory of 6.4<br />

million acres in Minnesota. In <strong>the</strong> Climate<br />

Change Adaptation Plan, an adaptive capacity<br />

and sensitivity chart prioritizes culturally<br />

important species for <strong>the</strong>ir adaptive capacity<br />

and sensitivity, including paper birch, wild<br />

rice, moose, and water (Stults et al. 11). For<br />

generations, wild rice (Manoomin) has been<br />

ga<strong>the</strong>red for food and cultural practices, taking<br />

a central role in Ojibwe cultural and spiritual life.<br />

Climate stressors that threaten wild rice would<br />

not just harm <strong>the</strong> physical health of an Ojibwe<br />

member but also have mental, spiritual, and<br />

sociological ramifications. The Ojibwe Climate<br />

Plan argues that “preparing for climate change<br />

is a process, not an outcome” and institutes an<br />

iterative process to fully implement strategies<br />

(Stults et al. 146). The Tribal Adaptation Menu is<br />

a living document that invites each user to add<br />

language, words, concepts, strategies, approaches<br />

and tactics to customize <strong>the</strong> menu to fit <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

community.<br />

Salish-Kootenai (Montana): Climate Change<br />

Strategic Plan<br />

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes<br />

(CSKT) include <strong>the</strong> Salish, Kootenai, and<br />

Pendd'Oreilles Tribes. Today, <strong>the</strong> Fla<strong>the</strong>ad<br />

Reservation is 1.317 million acres, of which just<br />

over 790,000 acres are owned and managed by<br />

<strong>the</strong> tribes and <strong>the</strong>ir members. The three tribes<br />

are culturally unique and have different belief<br />

systems, yet have in common a profound respect<br />

for and knowledge of <strong>the</strong> natural environment,<br />

which has been vital to <strong>the</strong> tribes’ survival.<br />

Developed through an adaptive management<br />

process, <strong>the</strong> Confederated Salish and Kootenai<br />

Tribes Climate Change Strategic Plan’s mitigation<br />

and adaptation strategies are guided by local<br />

impact assessments. The plan also includes Tribal<br />

Elders’ observational data spanning back 150-<br />

250 years through <strong>the</strong>ir lineages (CSKT Climate<br />

Plan). The recollection of tribal and global change<br />

through oral histories offers a holistic account<br />

of <strong>the</strong> impacts of colonialism and climatic shifts<br />

without distinguishing between <strong>the</strong> causes of<br />

each. CSKT member Stephen Smallsalmon recalls:<br />

I remember Uncle Pete Beaverhead and I used<br />

to hear him talking. They say it's going to be<br />

changing—just like our language, our life, <strong>the</strong><br />

84 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Jade Swor Climate Change on Turtle Island, 2020.<br />

Watercolor and color photograph (printed on paper or displayed on a screen with visual sonification)<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

85


snowpack. It seemed like <strong>the</strong>y knew. I don't know<br />

how <strong>the</strong>y knew. I guess <strong>the</strong>y were wise. Maybe,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y learned it from <strong>the</strong>ir folks. Handed it down<br />

generation-to-generation, <strong>the</strong>n to me. I started<br />

to realize [<strong>the</strong> climate] is changing. The life is<br />

changing. The world is changing. Everything is<br />

changing. (CSKT 32)<br />

For Indigenous communities, addressing climate<br />

change requires integrating adaptation strategies<br />

from <strong>the</strong>ir post-apocalyptic mechanisms of<br />

resilience.<br />

Karuk Communities (<strong>No</strong>r<strong>the</strong>rn California):<br />

Knowledge Sovereignty and Cultural Burning<br />

The Karuk Tribe located in <strong>No</strong>r<strong>the</strong>rn California<br />

has conducted a Climate Assessment, adopted<br />

a Climate Adaptation Plan, and drafted fire<br />

management plans based on Traditional<br />

Ecological Knowledge and Knowledge Sovereignty.<br />

The introduction to <strong>the</strong> Climate Adaptation<br />

Plan describes climate change as a strategic<br />

opportunity for tribal and non-tribal peoples<br />

around <strong>the</strong> world to engage in efforts to halt fossil<br />

fuel production, move to renewable energy and<br />

transportation systems, document <strong>the</strong> current<br />

impacts from climate change, and plan for <strong>the</strong><br />

future. On using TEK as living practice in a climate<br />

changing world, Karuk Eco-Cultural Restoration<br />

Specialist William Tripp explains,<br />

We need to get people back onto <strong>the</strong> landscape<br />

and learn what is going on. In looking at this<br />

trajectory, TEK indicates we could find ourselves<br />

in an opposite situation...Re-learning from our<br />

ceremonies and revitalizing Karuk practices<br />

and belief systems should lead us to solutions<br />

regardless of <strong>the</strong> particular way <strong>the</strong> climate is<br />

going. People need to be noticing <strong>the</strong>se things<br />

for <strong>the</strong>mselves this is how we teach and learn<br />

in Karuk culture. It is based on observation and<br />

practice. (Karuk Tribe 203)<br />

Laws established in <strong>the</strong> early 1900s prohibiting<br />

cultural uses of fire came at great cost to Karuk<br />

practices. Fire is critical for restoring grasslands<br />

for elk, managing food sources including tanoak<br />

mushrooms and black oak acorns, maintaining<br />

quality basketry materials, and producing smoke<br />

that shades <strong>the</strong> river for fish (Karuk Tribe 55).<br />

As fewer burns happened, more vegetation<br />

grew, and now as climate change brings warmer<br />

temperatures and droughts, California faces<br />

catastrophic fires every year. The Karuk Tribe is<br />

leading <strong>the</strong> way in reestablishing traditional fire<br />

regimes as an important tool to change <strong>the</strong> land<br />

for cultural sustenance and well-being.<br />

Diné (Navajo) (Arizona): Climate Change<br />

Adaptation Plan<br />

The Navajo Nation is located on <strong>the</strong> Four Corners<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Colorado Plateau, which extends into<br />

Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. There are over<br />

300,000 enrolled tribal members and around half<br />

live on <strong>the</strong> reservation. Many tribal members are<br />

concerned about losing traditional ceremonies<br />

and dances due to climate stress, even as<br />

those cultural ties bring tension to ecological<br />

governance. For example, Diné consider horses<br />

to be both powerful and sacred beings, making<br />

it difficult to resolve <strong>the</strong> overpopulation of feral<br />

horses in <strong>the</strong> Navajo Nation. Known as <strong>the</strong> “great<br />

gift of <strong>the</strong> Holy People,” one legend describes<br />

how Sun bearer created <strong>the</strong> horse with elements<br />

from fa<strong>the</strong>r God in mo<strong>the</strong>r Earth (Mose 1).<br />

Some members argue that <strong>the</strong> horse precedes<br />

86 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


European introduction, as evidenced in Diné song<br />

and historical narratives (Stumpff 1).<br />

Feral horses top <strong>the</strong> priority lists of <strong>the</strong> nation’s<br />

Climate Change Adaptation Plan due to damage<br />

to natural resources, as well as <strong>the</strong> loss of grazing<br />

management knowledge when <strong>the</strong>re is a lack of<br />

transfer between old and new livestock owners<br />

(Navajo Nation 11). The line between what makes<br />

a horse “feral” or “wild” is as blurred as <strong>the</strong> federal<br />

and tribal policies that continue to fragment<br />

<strong>the</strong> issues. In response, <strong>the</strong> plan reiterates <strong>the</strong><br />

need for traditional knowledge to be adopted<br />

within policy plans and management. As recently<br />

as 2018, <strong>the</strong> Navajo Nation Department of<br />

Agriculture has implemented a voluntary horse<br />

sale and equine reward program, paying $50<br />

for each horse (AP). One strategy aligned with<br />

<strong>the</strong> Tribe’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan,<br />

management objectives, and TEK education is to<br />

establish “eco-sanctuaries” for Navajo horses on<br />

<strong>the</strong> properties of large landowners, supporting<br />

research initiatives and tourism centers (Vandoor<br />

6).<br />

The Isle de Jean Charles band of Biloxi-<br />

Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (Louisiana): Can’t Stop<br />

<strong>the</strong> Water<br />

The Isle de Jean Charles is a very small ridge of<br />

land located in sou<strong>the</strong>rn Louisiana. For over<br />

170 years, it has been <strong>the</strong> historical homeland<br />

and burial ground of <strong>the</strong> Isle de Jean Charles<br />

Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians,<br />

whose ancestors moved to <strong>the</strong> island to escape<br />

<strong>the</strong> Indian Removal Act and <strong>the</strong> Trail of Tears.<br />

The island comprised more than 22,000 acres<br />

in 1955, but has since lost 98% of its land due<br />

to offshore drilling projects, dredging activities,<br />

dams, oil pipelines, and hurricanes. In <strong>the</strong> early<br />

2000s, only 25 families remained on <strong>the</strong> island,<br />

as people who could afford to had moved away.<br />

For tribal members, resettlement is seen as <strong>the</strong><br />

best way to reunite displaced tribal members<br />

and rekindle traditional lifeways. In 2016, after<br />

nearly two decades of gradual displacement, <strong>the</strong><br />

tribe received federal funding for resettlement to<br />

safer ground. The relocation includes plans for<br />

networks of care, a community center, museum,<br />

oral teaching educational spaces, a library, a<br />

seed-saving program, traditional plant gardens,<br />

and a market (Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw). The<br />

Isle de Jean Charles Band relocation models how<br />

to provide safe and sustainable housing while<br />

recognizing <strong>the</strong> importance of community and<br />

rekindling traditional lifeways.<br />

These examples demonstrate how <strong>the</strong><br />

repercussions from climate change-related issues<br />

have quickly evoked responses from Indigenous<br />

peoples. Through climate planning processes,<br />

many <strong>No</strong>rth American Tribal Nations have<br />

prioritized species vulnerable to climate change<br />

and those that affect <strong>the</strong> self-determination and<br />

cultural integrity of tribal traditions. They have<br />

developed adaptation strategies that include<br />

knowledge sovereignty and <strong>the</strong> exchange of<br />

traditional knowledge. By refusing to forget <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

culture and traditions, Indigenous peoples take<br />

a stand to remember that human agency can<br />

benefit <strong>the</strong> world, while also recognizing <strong>the</strong><br />

importance of preserving and acting upon local<br />

ecological knowledge.<br />

Climate planning requires studying and<br />

assessing <strong>the</strong> present in ways that can make new<br />

futures possible. Decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Europocene<br />

and re-indigenizing <strong>the</strong> future will generate<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

87


Jade Swor<br />

kaye, 2019<br />

Digital Acrylic and Color Photography (printed on paper or displayed on a screen with visual sonification)<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

abundant and varied mechanisms of knowledge<br />

production, materializing those ways of knowing<br />

through management and planning actions<br />

as well as cultural interactions and social<br />

exchanges. Similarly, terms like “Europocene”<br />

and “Anthropocene” make new ways of knowing<br />

possible. They bring seemingly-oppositional<br />

forces into conversation, even pushing forward<br />

<strong>the</strong> unspoken opposite: <strong>the</strong> power of nature<br />

emerges through an emphasis on <strong>the</strong> human<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene; naming <strong>the</strong> colonizer<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Europocene underscores <strong>the</strong> necessity<br />

of indigenous knowledge to shape a resilient<br />

future. Both terms turn us toward <strong>the</strong> human<br />

relationship to <strong>the</strong> landscape, but <strong>the</strong> power of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Europocene emerges when we acknowledge<br />

how controlling ano<strong>the</strong>r group or individual’s way<br />

of living in <strong>the</strong> world has been and continues to<br />

be an act of domination and a source of social<br />

inequality. Empowering Indigenous peoples,<br />

on <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r hand, not only will generate new<br />

knowledge, but also will bring about new ways<br />

of thinking about how knowledge production<br />

informs climate adaptation and mitigation.<br />

Part 3: Post-Europocene: Future Imaginings of<br />

a Reinvigorated Ecological Worldview<br />

(Click here: VIDEO PART 3: Future)<br />

“Cultural movements come in many shapes and<br />

forms. Some are large, o<strong>the</strong>rs small, some are<br />

slow, o<strong>the</strong>rs fast, some are planned and o<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

are seemingly spontaneous. The movements<br />

that are broadcasted on <strong>the</strong> media tend to be<br />

<strong>the</strong> ones that are large, occur relatively fast, and<br />

88 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


are seemingly spontaneous. In terms of climate<br />

change and Tribal Nations, <strong>the</strong> most recent of<br />

<strong>the</strong>se movements are <strong>the</strong> Dakota Access Pipeline<br />

protests and Thirty Meter Telescope protests at<br />

Mauna Kea. As <strong>the</strong>se movements draw attention<br />

to issues Indigenous peoples are facing, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

are not isolated events and are expressions of<br />

<strong>the</strong> greater movement, bubbling up below <strong>the</strong><br />

surface.<br />

The movement of tribal nations to “decolonize”<br />

aspects of our lives and experiences is relatively<br />

slow, planned, and starts very small, beginning<br />

with individuals choosing to decolonize <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

own choices. People can decolonize <strong>the</strong>ir diets<br />

by choosing to eat foods that are native to <strong>the</strong><br />

land <strong>the</strong>y are on. People can decolonize <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

gender-normative mindsets by supporting<br />

genderqueer and two-spirit identities as well<br />

as non-monogamous relationships. People<br />

can decolonize <strong>the</strong>ir spending by supporting<br />

Indigenous-owned businesses and also<br />

decolonize economies by choosing alternatives<br />

to money by swapping goods and services.<br />

People can decolonize <strong>the</strong>ir education by<br />

reading and listening to Indigenous scholars,<br />

thinkers, and artists. And people can decolonize<br />

<strong>the</strong> environmental movement and climate<br />

change adaptation and mitigation by supporting<br />

Indigenous-initiated policies and programs and<br />

supporting Indigenous sciences.”<br />

The word “apocalypse” has Greek roots which<br />

translate to “becoming uncovered,” or “to<br />

reveal.” The current apocalypse is revealing <strong>the</strong><br />

diverse ways people have valued—or failed to<br />

value—o<strong>the</strong>r humans, cultures, and ideologies,<br />

particularly through actions that degrade <strong>the</strong><br />

environment in pursuit of capital. If time is not<br />

a linear conception, but ra<strong>the</strong>r a spiral, humans<br />

are always returning towards <strong>the</strong> past. We need<br />

to return, differently. We must alter our narrative<br />

of <strong>the</strong> past to be able to create a narrative of<br />

Indigenous futurism. The responses of Inupiat<br />

communities and Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw<br />

Tribe to climate catastrophe demonstrate that<br />

cultural practices are <strong>the</strong> source of resilience in<br />

climate change adaptations. The future-vision of<br />

<strong>the</strong> post-Europocene is a place of survivance, a<br />

state of “critical active presence and resistance,<br />

over historical and cultural absence, nihility and<br />

victimry” (Vizenor Survivance xlvii). Survivance<br />

stories do not emerge sequentially from <strong>the</strong><br />

rubble of colonialism; <strong>the</strong>y are not a reversal,<br />

but a timeless sense of presence, active tradition<br />

and thought. Storytellers, says <strong>the</strong> writer Elias<br />

Canetti, make “a living from unpredictable leaps<br />

of transformation and an inexhaustible supply<br />

of breath” (Vizenor Literary Chance 13), which is<br />

precisely what humans need now to generate<br />

new livelihoods that sustain <strong>the</strong> environment<br />

beyond <strong>the</strong> Europocene.<br />

Because a mechanistic worldview brings a<br />

separation of thought and location, an ecological<br />

focus such as TEK is closer to <strong>the</strong> reality all Earth<br />

dwellers experience. Once severed from our<br />

connection to place, we lose a vital sense of<br />

positioning. In an ecologically-focused framework,<br />

our experience of being cannot be separated<br />

from <strong>the</strong> effect of our local geographies, and<br />

our experience of time changes depending on<br />

which part of ecology we are paying attention<br />

to. Comparing calendars exemplifies how this<br />

difference manifests in daily life. The solar<br />

Gregorian calendar emphasizes important<br />

religious dates. The phenological calendar, one<br />

that many Indigenous societies and contemporary<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

89


land-based peoples have in common, such as<br />

<strong>the</strong> Potawatomi peoples of which Professor<br />

Kyle Whyte is a member, is based on lunar<br />

cycles as well as seasonal biological events<br />

such as flowering, migrations, and fall foliage.<br />

Disrupting ecological cycles through climate<br />

change is changing an Indigenous knowledge of<br />

time and, consequently, <strong>the</strong> calendar (Whyte Is it<br />

colonial 90). A calendar exemplifies an ecological<br />

technology, relatively unconscious to most<br />

of us, that must be normalized as part of reindigenization.<br />

Kerber argues that re-indigenization is more<br />

than a “naïve return to <strong>the</strong> land … in which<br />

settler culture plays out fantasies of ecological<br />

primitivism” (16). Ra<strong>the</strong>r, it weaves Indigenous<br />

realities into <strong>the</strong> social fabric, questioning<br />

how “our stories and practices respectfully<br />

acknowledge and enable <strong>the</strong> continuance of <strong>the</strong><br />

life forces that underlie our dwelling in … places”<br />

(16). Indigenous writers and artists are rewriting<br />

colonial narratives that place Indigenous peoples<br />

in <strong>the</strong> past, without technology and on <strong>the</strong><br />

brink of being forgotten, a myth that has been<br />

used throughout history to rationalize colonial<br />

practices. In her analysis of Indigenous science<br />

fiction, gender and futurism, Medak-Saltzman<br />

writes that “Indigenous futurist work can and does<br />

also explore a variety of dystopian possibilities,<br />

which allows for critical contemplation about <strong>the</strong><br />

dangerous ‘what ifs’ we might face and, more<br />

pragmatically, can aid us in our efforts to imagine<br />

our way out of our present dystopian moment<br />

to call forth better futures” (143). Facing <strong>the</strong><br />

dystopian present gestures toward an intentional<br />

future.<br />

On <strong>the</strong> podcast “Metis in Space,” Molly Swain<br />

proposes <strong>the</strong> notion of <strong>the</strong> “dystopian now,''<br />

which Nixon uses in an online essay in Guts<br />

Magazine to characterize <strong>the</strong> current moment:<br />

“Armed with spirit and <strong>the</strong> teachings of our<br />

ancestors, all our relations behind us, we<br />

are living <strong>the</strong> Indigenous future. We are <strong>the</strong><br />

descendants of a future imaginary that has<br />

already passed; <strong>the</strong> outcome of <strong>the</strong> intentions,<br />

resistance, and survivance of our ancestors.<br />

Simultaneously in <strong>the</strong> future and <strong>the</strong> past, we<br />

are living in <strong>the</strong> ‘dystopian now.’” By seeing<br />

<strong>the</strong> wholeness of time, ra<strong>the</strong>r than just its<br />

linear tendencies, we see how our stories are<br />

interwoven with <strong>the</strong> stories of those who came<br />

before us and those who are yet to come.<br />

What would a reimagined role for humans be<br />

like in a post-apocalyptic climate narrative in<br />

which humanity is again deeply embedded<br />

in a cyclical sense of time, space, and nature?<br />

Such a shift reveals opportunities to utilize TEK,<br />

ecological science, and systems thinking to<br />

reimagine a role for humans grounded in many<br />

worldviews, both local and global. This emerging,<br />

novel scientific paradigm would include both<br />

<strong>the</strong> interdependence and interconnectivity<br />

of ecological knowledge empowered by <strong>the</strong><br />

specialized mechanical knowledge gained in <strong>the</strong><br />

last 400 years. A new post-Europocene era may<br />

be emerging in multiple places simultaneously.<br />

For instance, <strong>the</strong> use of strong biomimicry (when<br />

coupled with an ecological consciousness, ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

than fur<strong>the</strong>r domination and enslavement<br />

of nature) provides modern innovators and<br />

problem-solvers with paths forward derived from<br />

models found in <strong>the</strong> natural world (Blok and<br />

Gremmen 1). Shyam, describing this new period<br />

as <strong>the</strong> Biocene, writes:<br />

90 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


The Biocene is <strong>the</strong> period of new life. When our<br />

descendants look back at this period in time, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

will see evidence, in <strong>the</strong> geologic and electronic<br />

record, of anthropic climate change, growing<br />

population, and scarcity of resources. But <strong>the</strong>y<br />

will also see <strong>the</strong> rebirth of human ingenuity as we<br />

overcame <strong>the</strong> challenges that faced us through<br />

nature inspired exploration.<br />

By using <strong>the</strong> principles of living systems as <strong>the</strong><br />

definition of sustainability, biomimicry provides<br />

a future vision of sustainable societies based<br />

“not on what we can extract from nature, but on<br />

what we can learn from it” (Benyus 2), introducing<br />

a wholly novel epistemology (Dicks 1). In this<br />

framing, nature is <strong>the</strong> model and source of ethical<br />

behavior, <strong>the</strong> standard measure for sustainability,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> model of responsible human design<br />

(Mead and Landrum 212). The proposition of <strong>the</strong><br />

Biocene presents a future where <strong>the</strong> knowledge<br />

gained from <strong>the</strong> Scientific Revolution combines<br />

with TEK and re-indigenizes <strong>the</strong> human species as<br />

a whole in a post-carbon future.<br />

The powerful concept of indigenuity invites<br />

humans to become indigenous to our places in<br />

light of <strong>the</strong> new climate realities that will unfold<br />

in <strong>the</strong> decades to come. As a biological species in<br />

<strong>the</strong> context of a constantly evolving biosphere,<br />

humans might be afforded <strong>the</strong> same opportunity<br />

for ecological “naturalization” we give non-native<br />

plant species that have found suitable habitat<br />

outside of <strong>the</strong>ir native range. The human species<br />

may have <strong>the</strong> opportunity to come to know an<br />

unfamiliar habitat with <strong>the</strong> same intimacy that <strong>the</strong><br />

plant species adapts to its new microclimate. For<br />

humans, this naturalization is an act of cultural<br />

learning as much as physical adaptation. Through<br />

our stories, politics, and creative practices,<br />

humans use <strong>the</strong> knowledge that is rooted in who<br />

we are intrinsically to grapple with an unfamiliar<br />

future. By coupling <strong>the</strong> intuitive approach to<br />

observation and adaptation found in TEK with<br />

<strong>the</strong> tools and methods that drive scientific<br />

discovery, humans are well-positioned for novel<br />

epistemologies only knowable in <strong>the</strong> emerging<br />

Biocene. Bringing deep knowledge of biophysical<br />

systems to bear on <strong>the</strong> structural issues of <strong>the</strong><br />

Europocene imagines a materiality for <strong>the</strong> post-<br />

Europocene where <strong>the</strong> extractive processes<br />

that drive capitalism have been supplanted by<br />

integrative practices that sustain human society<br />

without <strong>the</strong> exploitation of human bodies or<br />

ecological landscapes.<br />

The Europocene brings into focus <strong>the</strong> political<br />

systems that shape human activities in enduringly<br />

inequitable ways. While <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene centers<br />

on all humanity uniformly, <strong>the</strong> Europocene vitally<br />

points out that <strong>the</strong> tools of governance that<br />

enable <strong>the</strong> colonization of humans also enable<br />

<strong>the</strong> colonization of nature. Human impacts on<br />

<strong>the</strong> biosphere emerge from political systems and<br />

<strong>the</strong> politics of colonization have shaped those<br />

systems globally for centuries. Imagining life after<br />

<strong>the</strong> Europocene demands that humans enact<br />

politics to dismantle unjust colonial systems<br />

in order to materialize <strong>the</strong> futures known now<br />

in stories and TEK. Shifting from a mechanistic<br />

to ecological worldview, or giving space to<br />

multiple divergent worldviews, is one such act<br />

of decolonization. In a post-Europocene future,<br />

social interventions to respond swiftly and<br />

effectively to climate threats are made possible by<br />

political systems enacted through just practices<br />

towards humans, non-human species, and <strong>the</strong><br />

physical world alike.<br />

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Works Cited<br />

Anaya, James. Indigenous Peoples in International Law. Oxford<br />

University Press, 2004<br />

Anthropocene Working Group. “Results of Binding Vote by<br />

AWG.” 21May 2019, quaternary.stratigraphy.org/workinggroups/anthropocene/.<br />

AP (Associated Press). “Navajo Nation Launches Program to<br />

Manage Feral Horse Population.” Navajo-Hopi Observer, 14<br />

Aug. 2018, Farmington, NM. www.nhonews.com/news/2018/<br />

aug/14/navajo-nation-launches-program-manage-feral-horse-/.<br />

Benyus, Janine. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.<br />

HarperCollins, 1997.<br />

Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe. 2009. “Tribal Resettlement.<br />

Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw<br />

Indians,” http://www.isledejeancharles.com/our-resettlement.<br />

Accessed 13 July 2020.<br />

Karuk Tribe. Karuk Climate Adaptation Plan, 2019,<br />

karuktribeclimatechangeprojects.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/<br />

reduced-size_final-karuk-climate-adaptation-plan.pdf. Accessed<br />

13 July 2020.<br />

Kerber, Jenny. Writing in Dust: Reading <strong>the</strong> Prairie<br />

Environmentally. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010.<br />

Kronk Warner, Elizabeth Ann. “Looking to <strong>the</strong> Third Sovereign:<br />

Tribal Environmental Ethics as an Alternative Paradigm.” Pace<br />

Environmental Law Review, vol 33, no. 3, Spring 2016, pp. 397-<br />

436.<br />

Lewis, Simon L., and Mark A. Maslin. “Defining <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene.” Nature, vol. 519, 2015, pp. 171–180, doi:10.1038/<br />

nature14258.<br />

MacDonald, Joanna P., et. al. “Protective Factors for Mental<br />

Health and Well-being in a Changing Climate: Perspectives<br />

from Inuit Youth in Nunatsiavut, Labrador.” Social Science &<br />

Medicine, vol. 141, September 2015, pp. 133-141, doi:10.1016/j.<br />

socscimed.2015.07.017.<br />

Blok, Vincent, and Bart Gremmen. “Ecological Innovation:<br />

Biomimicry as a New Way of Thinking and Acting Ecologically.”<br />

<strong>Journal</strong> of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, vol. 29, no. 2,<br />

Springer Ne<strong>the</strong>rlands, 2016, pp. 1–15.<br />

Capra, Fritjof, and Pier Luisi. The Systems View of Life: a<br />

Unifying Vision. Cambridge University Press, 2018.<br />

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of <strong>the</strong> Fla<strong>the</strong>ad<br />

Reservation (CSKT). “Climate Change Strategic Plan,” 2013,<br />

https://csktribes.org/CSKTClimatePlan.pdf. Accessed 13 July<br />

2020.<br />

Crutzen, Paul J. and Stoermer, Eugene F. “The ‘Anthropocene.’”<br />

IGBP Newsletter, vol. 41, 2000, pp. 17-18.<br />

Davis, Hea<strong>the</strong>r, and Zoe Todd. “On <strong>the</strong> Importance of a Date,<br />

or Decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.” ACME An International<br />

<strong>Journal</strong> for Critical Geographies, vol. 16, no. 4, 2017, pp. 761-<br />

780<br />

Ginsburg, Faye. “Embedded Aes<strong>the</strong>tics: Creating a Discursive<br />

Space for Indigenous Media.” Cultural Anthropology, vol. 9, no.<br />

3, 1994, pp. 365-382.<br />

Mead, Taryn L., and Nancy E. Landrum. “Bioinspiration as a<br />

Guide for Responsible Management.” Research Handbook of<br />

Responsible Management, edited by Oliver Laasch et al., Edward<br />

Elgar Publishing, 2020, pp. 212–26, doi:10.4337/9781788971966<br />

.00021.<br />

Medak-Saltzman, Danika. “Coming to You from <strong>the</strong> Indigenous<br />

Future: Native Women, Speculative Film Shorts, and <strong>the</strong> Art of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Possible.” Studies in American Indian Literatures, vol. 29, no.<br />

1, 2017, pp. 139–71.<br />

Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and<br />

<strong>the</strong> Scientific Revolution. New York: Harper Collins, 1980.<br />

Moore, Jason W., editor. Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature,<br />

History, and <strong>the</strong> Crisis of Capitalism. PM Press, 2016.<br />

Mose, Don, Jr. and Charles Yanito. Legend of <strong>the</strong> Horse. San Juan<br />

School District Media Center, 2011.<br />

Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. Climate<br />

Adaptation Plan for <strong>the</strong> Navajo Nation, December 2018, //www.<br />

nndfw.org/docs/Climate%20Change%20Adaptation%20Plan.pdf.<br />

Accessed 13 July 2020.<br />

Gross, Lawrence William. Anishinaabe Ways of Knowing and<br />

Being. Ashgate, 2014.<br />

Haraway, Donna. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene,<br />

Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.” Environmental<br />

Humanities, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165.<br />

Nixon, Lindsay. “Visual Cultures of Indigenous Futurisms.” Guts<br />

Magazine, 20 May 2016, gutsmagazine.ca/visual-cultures/.<br />

Accessed 10 July 2020.<br />

<strong>No</strong>rton-Smith, Kathryn, et al. Climate Change and Indigenous<br />

Peoples: A Syn<strong>the</strong>sis of Current Impacts and Experiences,<br />

General Technical Report PNWGTR-944. U.S. Forest Service,<br />

Pacific <strong>No</strong>rthwest Research Station, 2016.<br />

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Ruddiman, William F. “The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era<br />

Began Thousands of Years Ago.” Climate Change, vol. 61, 2003,<br />

pp. 261-93.<br />

and Environmental Change, Affect, and Emotional Health and<br />

Well-being in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Canada.” Emotion, Space<br />

and Society, vol. 6, 2011, pp. 14–24.<br />

Sakakibara, Chie. “‘<strong>No</strong> Whale, <strong>No</strong> Music’: Iñupiaq Drumming<br />

and Global Warming.” Polar Record, vol. 45, no. 4, 2009, pp.<br />

289-303.<br />

Samways, Michael. “Translocating Fauna to Foreign<br />

Lands: Here Comes <strong>the</strong> Homogenocene.” <strong>Journal</strong> of Insect<br />

Conservation, vol. 2, no. 3, 1999, pp. 65-66.<br />

Saul, John Ralston. A Fair Country: Telling Truths about<br />

Canada. Toronto, Viking Canada, 2008.<br />

Williams, Raymond. Problems in Materialism and Culture.<br />

Verso, 1980.<br />

Wildcat, Daniel. Red Alert! Saving <strong>the</strong> Planet with Indigenous<br />

Knowledge. Fulcrum, 2009.<br />

Vandoor, Brendan. “If All O<strong>the</strong>r Options Fail: The Plight of Wild<br />

Horses and <strong>the</strong> Dubious Case for Slaughtering.” University of<br />

Michigan <strong>Journal</strong> of Law Reform Caveat, vol 41, <strong>No</strong> 1, 2013, pp.<br />

1-9.<br />

Shyam, Vikram. The Biocene: The Age of New Life Beyond<br />

Evolution. Elsevier Science, 2020.<br />

Steffen, Will, et al. “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and<br />

Historical Perspectives.” Philosophical Transactions of <strong>the</strong><br />

Royal Society A: Ma<strong>the</strong>matical, Physical and Engineering<br />

Sciences, vol. 369, 2011, pp. 842–67, http://doi.org/10.1098/<br />

rsta.2010.032.<br />

Stults, Missy, et al. Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment<br />

and Adaptation Plan: 1854 Ceded Territory Including <strong>the</strong> Bois<br />

Forte, Fond du Lac, and Grand Portage Reservations, 2016,<br />

www.1854treatyauthority.org/images/ClimateAdaptationPlan_<br />

Final-July_2016-optimized(1).pdf.<br />

Vinyeta, Kristen, et. al. Climate Change Through an<br />

Intersectional Lens: Gendered Vulnerability and Resilience<br />

in Indigenous Communities in <strong>the</strong> United States. General<br />

Technical Report PNW-GTR-923. U.S. Forest Service, Pacific<br />

<strong>No</strong>rthwest Research Station, 2015.<br />

Vizenor, Gerald. "Aes<strong>the</strong>tics of Survivance." Survivance:<br />

Narratives of Native Presence, edited by Gerald Vizenor,<br />

University of Nebraska Press, 2008, pp. 1-23.<br />

Vizenor, Gerald. Literary Chance: Essays on Native American<br />

Survivance. Universitat de Valencia, 2007.<br />

Stumpff, Linda Moon. “The Navajo Horse Policy Dilemma: Too<br />

Many Horses? T’ooahayoo Nihilii?.” Evergreen State College,<br />

2014, nativecases.evergreen.edu/sites/nativecases.evergreen.<br />

edu/files/case-studies/navajo-horse-policy-case-study.pdf.<br />

Watts, Vanessa. "Indigenous Place-thought & Agency amongst<br />

Humans and <strong>No</strong>n-humans (First Woman and Sky Woman Go<br />

on a European World Tour!)." Decolonization: Indigeneity,<br />

Education & Society vol. 2, no. 1, 2013, pp. 20-34.<br />

Whyte, Kyle. “Indigenous Science (Fiction) for <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene: Ancestral Dystopias and Fantasies of<br />

Climate Change Crises.” Environment and Planning E:<br />

Nature and Space, vol. 1, no 1-2, 2018, pp. 224-42, doi.<br />

org/10.1177/2514848618777621.<br />

Whyte, Kyle. “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing<br />

Futures, Decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.” English Language<br />

<strong>No</strong>tes, vol. 55, 2017, pp. 1-2.<br />

Whyte, Kyle. “Is It Colonial Deja Vu? Indigenous Peoples and<br />

Climate Injustice.” Humanities for <strong>the</strong> Environment: Integrating<br />

Knowledges, Forging New Constellations of Practice, edited by<br />

Joni Adamson, et al., Earthscan Publications, 2017, pp. 88-104.<br />

Willox, Ashlee, et al. “The Land Enriches <strong>the</strong> Soul: On Climatic<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

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Bios<br />

Melanie Armstrong is faculty in <strong>the</strong> Master of Environmental<br />

Management Program at Western Colorado University. Her<br />

research embodies principles of engaged scholarship and<br />

interdisciplinarity, and is grounded in <strong>the</strong> study of how societal<br />

systems are built around shifting ideologies of nature. She is<br />

author of Germ Wars: The Politics of Nature and America’s<br />

Landscape of Fear (University of California Press, 2017) and<br />

coauthor of Environmental Realism: Challenging Solutions<br />

(Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). In 2018, Armstrong founded <strong>the</strong><br />

Center for Public Lands, a hub for cross-boundary work and study.<br />

The Center aims to infuse a new generation of land stewards<br />

with talent, vision, and energy to meet <strong>the</strong> challenges of a rapidly<br />

evolving social and ecological climate. As a 2020 National<br />

Geographic Explorer, she investigates how Native American treaty<br />

rights influence resource management, hosting a field school on<br />

co-management of public lands at Bears Ears National Monument.<br />

Taryn Mead is a sustainability, innovation, and management<br />

scholar whose research focuses on <strong>the</strong> interface between<br />

corporate strategies and conceptualizations of nature. This<br />

includes subjects such as sustainability-oriented innovation,<br />

biomimicry, circular economy, <strong>the</strong> integration of planetary<br />

boundaries into corporate strategy, and <strong>the</strong> role of corporations<br />

in sustainable development. She also has expertise in creativity<br />

for sustainability among design and engineering professionals in<br />

interdisciplinary settings. Before pursuing her Ph.D., Taryn worked<br />

as biologist, sustainability strategist, and certified biomimicry<br />

professional consulting, with over 30 corporate, municipal, and<br />

non-profit clients.<br />

Jade Swor has most recently worked as an Environmental<br />

Technician with <strong>the</strong> Potter Valley Tribe in Pomo Country, Ukiah,<br />

California. While working <strong>the</strong>re, Jade’s main focus was to cultivate<br />

fungi for medicine, food, and exchanging traditional knowledge<br />

in partnership with <strong>the</strong> Potter Valley Tribe. Through Western<br />

Colorado University, Jade has successfully started a mushroom<br />

growing and knowledge exchange operation for <strong>the</strong> Tribe and is<br />

continuing this work through meekology, an organization that<br />

explores projects at <strong>the</strong> interface of tribal relations, mycology,<br />

and biomimicry. Jade currently lives in <strong>the</strong> Pacific <strong>No</strong>rthwest at<br />

<strong>the</strong> intersection of <strong>the</strong> Nisqually, Coast Salish, Stl’pulmsh (Cowlitz),<br />

and Squaxin ancestral territories.<br />

Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk was born and raised in southwestern<br />

Colorado and is a member of <strong>the</strong> Ute Mountain Ute Tribe of<br />

Towaoc. At an early age, Lopez-Whiteskunk began to advocate<br />

for land, air, water, and animals, and strongly believes that <strong>the</strong><br />

inner core of healing comes from <strong>the</strong> knowledge of our land and<br />

elders. In October 2013, she was elected to serve as a member of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Ute Mountain Ute Tribal leadership. She is a former co-chair<br />

for <strong>the</strong> Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition and education director<br />

for <strong>the</strong> Ute Indian Museum in Montrose. She currently is seeking<br />

a Master of Environmental Management from Western Colorado<br />

University. Lopez-Whiteskunk has traveled extensively sharing<br />

Ute culture through song, dance, presentations, and is honored<br />

to continue to protect, preserve and serve through education,<br />

building understanding of our resources, culture, and beliefs—a<br />

great foundation for a better tomorrow.<br />

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SECTION 3:<br />

Beyond Utopias and<br />

Dystopias<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

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Tending Breadth<br />

Jacklyn Brickman and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor<br />

What would it mean to have interspecies familial<br />

relationships that translate human behaviors to<br />

plants in a post-anthropocentric future? What if<br />

humans could harness <strong>the</strong> wisdom, science, and<br />

magic of plants to cultivate new planets?<br />

Left | Jacklyn Brickman and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor<br />

Tending Breadth, 2 0 1 9<br />

Film Still<br />

Following | Jacklyn Brickman and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor<br />

Tending Breadth, 2 0 1 9<br />

Film Stills.<br />

All images courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artists.<br />

View film here:<br />

https://vimeo.com/342057606<br />

Tending Breadth is a film by Jacklyn Brickman<br />

and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor that attempts to tease out<br />

<strong>the</strong>se questions through <strong>the</strong> amplification of<br />

and challenge to <strong>the</strong> human hubris. It is an<br />

assertion that through a nurturing, maternal and<br />

interspecies collaborative approach to working<br />

with biological systems, people will possess <strong>the</strong><br />

capability to form new planets.<br />

A response to <strong>the</strong> ideology of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

and its apocalyptic forms, Tending Breadth<br />

was filmed in a greenhouse, a structural<br />

representation of <strong>the</strong> human propensity toward<br />

cultivating nature for capital. Where one would<br />

expect to encounter a world of verdancy, <strong>the</strong><br />

frame is filled with <strong>the</strong> syn<strong>the</strong>tic sheen of mylar.<br />

As mirrored spheres expand and contract in a<br />

mimesis of human breath, <strong>the</strong>y press against<br />

one ano<strong>the</strong>r and <strong>the</strong> glass panes in which <strong>the</strong>y<br />

are contained. Two figures don golden, hooded<br />

suits as <strong>the</strong>y move through <strong>the</strong> scene continually<br />

performing motions of care, with emphasis on <strong>the</strong><br />

value of touch.<br />

Touch forges vital interspecies bonds. In Staying<br />

with <strong>the</strong> Trouble (2016), Donna Haraway implores<br />

<strong>the</strong> importance of such bonds. “Staying with<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

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<strong>the</strong> trouble requires making oddkin; that is, we<br />

require each o<strong>the</strong>r in unexpected collaborations<br />

and combinations, in hot compost piles. We<br />

become-with each o<strong>the</strong>r or not at all. That kind of<br />

material semiotics is always situated, someplace<br />

and not noplace, entangled and worldly” (4).<br />

To build a sustainable future, one must begin<br />

grounded in <strong>the</strong> now, with actions generated from<br />

<strong>the</strong> highly personal, even maternal. The eventual<br />

presentation of a dried black walnut provides a<br />

new context in <strong>the</strong> film’s progression. Its gloved<br />

insertion into a large metallic sphere displays a<br />

reversal of <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r earth paradigm, suggesting<br />

that instead of earth as mo<strong>the</strong>r, humans may<br />

parent a new planet into being. How would such<br />

pseudo-procreation and subsequent birth force<br />

reevaluations of interspecies relationships?<br />

As a challenge to <strong>the</strong> typical hierarchal<br />

relationship humans hold with plants and<br />

inanimate objects, Tending Breadth also pulls<br />

inspiration from Jane Bennett’s book Vibrant<br />

Matter (2010), in which she aims to “…present<br />

non-human materialities as bona fide participants<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r than as recalcitrant actants, objects, social<br />

constructs, or instrumentalities” (62). Bennett’s<br />

assertion that all varieties of matter are vibrant<br />

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<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 103


and full of life is displayed throughout <strong>the</strong><br />

demonstrative processes performed in Tending<br />

Breadth. From <strong>the</strong> careful movements between<br />

<strong>the</strong> expanses of breathing mylar spheres, to<br />

<strong>the</strong> gentle handling of a single, precious walnut,<br />

dried with its husk intact, to assisting in <strong>the</strong><br />

eventual delivery of a silver neonate planet, <strong>the</strong><br />

suited figures offer all matter <strong>the</strong>ir attention,<br />

ministrations, and touch.<br />

While Tending Breadth was filmed in early 2019,<br />

this statement was composed in April of 2020,<br />

amid a Stay-At-Home order issued around <strong>the</strong><br />

globe as a result of COVID-19. In a world called<br />

home during a pandemic, <strong>the</strong> ability and action<br />

to turn inward, be still, and focus energies on<br />

one’s cohabitants, be <strong>the</strong>y human, plant, animal<br />

or o<strong>the</strong>r vibrant matter, is a radical act, with<br />

unknown effects that could reverberate for years<br />

to come.<br />

Indoor and outdoor living spaces have become<br />

microhabitats in which a bourgeoning reignition<br />

of co-habitation and interspeciesism has<br />

come to fruition. Emergent experimentation<br />

or reacquaintances with domestic acts and<br />

collaborations with living systems are now<br />

ubiquitous.<br />

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<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 107


As in Tending Breadth, in homes across <strong>the</strong> globe,<br />

<strong>the</strong> hand, a multi-fingered appendage and<br />

conveyor of human care, delivers <strong>the</strong> tenderness<br />

of its touch. Essential interpersonal relationships<br />

are fulfilled by unexpected organisms, within<br />

<strong>the</strong> niche defined by one’s residence. The hand<br />

moves through nutrient rich soil, teeming with<br />

microbes, earthworms and rotifers, <strong>the</strong> push and<br />

pull of kneading sourdough culture alive with<br />

wild yeast. It holds <strong>the</strong> watering can gently tilted<br />

to hydrate house plants, caresses <strong>the</strong> furry or<br />

fea<strong>the</strong>red creature newly acquainted to its digs<br />

and offers companionship and repairs or replaces<br />

<strong>the</strong> vibrant matter that composes <strong>the</strong> structures<br />

which house <strong>the</strong>se actions.<br />

These practices recall a tradition of caring,<br />

whose reemergence is radicalized by <strong>the</strong> nature<br />

of necessity and newly defined circumstances<br />

<strong>the</strong>y exist in. It has become clear that no one will<br />

return to “normal”—on <strong>the</strong> contrary, each person<br />

is a reactant, involved in a change both at home<br />

and abroad. This waiting in individual dwellings<br />

for <strong>the</strong> benefit of o<strong>the</strong>rs who are at risk or on <strong>the</strong><br />

front lines of fighting <strong>the</strong> illness is a lesson in care,<br />

empathy and respect that one hopes will last far<br />

beyond <strong>the</strong> political and financial ramifications of<br />

<strong>the</strong> coronavirus. It’s a lesson in relationships, <strong>the</strong><br />

power of <strong>the</strong> unknown and <strong>the</strong> generation of a<br />

new social reality.<br />

Working within a pre-established structure,<br />

Tending Breadth, with <strong>the</strong> tenderness and care<br />

of a parent, enforces an altered approach<br />

of movements that nurture into being new,<br />

imaginative possibilities. It offers a speculative<br />

future that ponders <strong>the</strong> evolution from plant to<br />

planet.<br />

Text by Jacklyn Brickman<br />

Tending Breadth is a collaborative film by Jacklyn Brickman and<br />

Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor. It was filmed in March of 2019 in The Ohio<br />

State University Biological Sciences Greenhouse in Columbus,<br />

Ohio. Special thanks to Greenhouse Director David Snodgrass<br />

and Superintendent Emily Yoders-Horn.<br />

Works Cited<br />

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things,<br />

Duke University Press, 2010. Print.<br />

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Staying with <strong>the</strong> Trouble: Making Kin<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Chthulucene, Duke University Press, 2016. Print.<br />

Bios<br />

Jacklyn Brickman is a multidisciplinary artist whose work<br />

entangles science fact with fiction to address social and<br />

environmental concerns by employing natural objects, processes,<br />

and technology. She explores relationships between people and<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir environments to blur <strong>the</strong> natural and fantastical through<br />

performance, sculpture, installation, video, and photographs,<br />

with a special interest in cross-disciplinary collaboration and<br />

social engagement. Fellowships include <strong>the</strong> National Academy<br />

of Sciences, Chaire arts et sciences, Livable Futures, Jentel<br />

Foundation, Popps Packing, <strong>the</strong> National Endowment for <strong>the</strong><br />

Arts, <strong>the</strong> Erb Family Foundation, and <strong>the</strong> Greater Columbus Arts<br />

Council. She has screened and exhibited her work in <strong>the</strong> U.S.,<br />

Canada, France, India, and Slovenia. Brickman resides with her<br />

partner and <strong>the</strong>ir children in Columbus, Ohio.<br />

Hea<strong>the</strong>r Taylor is an interdisciplinary artist and curator who<br />

works primarily in photography, filmmaking, and sound. Inspired<br />

by natural patterns and phenomena, she explores palpable and<br />

corporeal materials through <strong>the</strong> phantasma with experimental<br />

sound and lens-based media. A self-taught drummer, beat and<br />

rhythm influences <strong>the</strong> flow of her multimodal work. She often<br />

works collaboratively with institutions, artists, and musicians to<br />

produce multimedia events. Taylor is <strong>the</strong> Founder and Editor of<br />

Hiss Magazine, which ran three issues and provided a space for<br />

femme, non-binary, and LGBTQIA artists to share <strong>the</strong>ir work and<br />

engage in contemporary art and culture. She is <strong>the</strong> recipient of a<br />

Greater Columbus Arts Council Media Arts Fellowship (2015) and<br />

a Cart Pushers Studio Residency (2019). Her films have screened<br />

in <strong>the</strong> United States and India. Taylor is a news videographer and<br />

editor in Columbus, Ohio.<br />

108 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 109


110 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Violence, Apocalypse, or<br />

a Changing World? Re-<br />

Constructing <strong>the</strong> Climate<br />

Imaginary / Thinking of<br />

Doggerland<br />

Evan Tims<br />

Climate change is a redefinition of <strong>the</strong> world’s<br />

imaginable futures. As material realities shift<br />

and a regime of predictive institutions articulate<br />

<strong>the</strong> ecological crisis with growing urgency, a new<br />

genre of literature is developing in response.<br />

Climate fiction, first named in 2007 (Ullrich),<br />

produces a network of imagined landscapes<br />

and futures that play a major role in <strong>the</strong> political<br />

and social dimensions of environmental change.<br />

However, climate change remains a somewhat<br />

fringe <strong>the</strong>me in contemporary literature, and <strong>the</strong><br />

examples that do exist tend to repeat tropes of<br />

hopelessness, disaster and suffering. 1 Given <strong>the</strong><br />

wide crossover between authors, readers, and<br />

<strong>the</strong> environmentally-concerned public, it should<br />

be expected that fiction would minister to <strong>the</strong><br />

deep anxieties experienced by many over <strong>the</strong><br />

occurring and imminent catastrophes associated<br />

with a global rise in surface temperature. Even if<br />

1<br />

See Meagan Hunter, Helen Simpson, and Claire Vaye Watkins<br />

for literary examples of <strong>the</strong>se <strong>the</strong>mes.<br />

mainstream fiction might prefer to steer clear of<br />

<strong>the</strong> speculative or dystopian elements suggested<br />

by narratives that deal with <strong>the</strong> future, <strong>the</strong>re<br />

ought to be a wealth of work that navigates <strong>the</strong><br />

particular stresses and cultural responses to<br />

contemporary discourses about <strong>the</strong> ecological<br />

crisis. As Amitav Ghosh notes in The Great<br />

Derangement: Climate Change and <strong>the</strong> Unthinkable,<br />

this is not <strong>the</strong> case. While works by several major<br />

authors such as Lydia Millet, Barbara Kingsolver,<br />

and David Mitchell have contributed to <strong>the</strong> genre,<br />

<strong>the</strong> majority of contemporary literature evades<br />

<strong>the</strong> subject, and <strong>the</strong>re are few authors who<br />

center <strong>the</strong>ir work on <strong>the</strong> issue (Ghosh 17). The<br />

climate fiction that does exist tends to employ<br />

apocalyptic narratives and aes<strong>the</strong>tics of disaster<br />

in depicting climate change as a catastrophe that<br />

denies <strong>the</strong> possibility of hope, or what Gregers<br />

Anders calls <strong>the</strong> “social collapse” model of climate<br />

fiction. Mat<strong>the</strong>w Schneider-Mayerson found that<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

111


while reading climate fiction offers inspiration<br />

for environmental activism and for imagining<br />

<strong>the</strong> future possibilities of climate change, it also<br />

spurs “intense negative emotions” (473). This<br />

negative reaction may outweigh any political<br />

reflection provoked by <strong>the</strong> genre because it could<br />

prompt intellectual and political distancing from<br />

<strong>the</strong> issue. I argue that <strong>the</strong> repetition of certain<br />

<strong>the</strong>mes throughout climate fiction evokes <strong>the</strong><br />

counterproductive responses of many readers.<br />

I fur<strong>the</strong>r explore <strong>the</strong> role of climate fiction in<br />

representing <strong>the</strong> broader climate imaginary, and<br />

propose alternative narratives that may expand<br />

our capacity for conceptualizing a changing world.<br />

imaginaries of technological and scientific futurity.<br />

Therefore, works such as Paolo Bacigalupi’s The<br />

Wind-Up Girl and Oryx and Crake by Margaret<br />

Atwood—which explore genetic editing—were<br />

left out of my analysis. Works of climate fiction<br />

are numerous and span multiple broader<br />

genres, geographies, and social structures.<br />

Therefore, this article cannot be considered<br />

a comprehensive survey of <strong>the</strong> entire genre.<br />

Instead, I explore several major works frequently<br />

cited as representative of <strong>the</strong> genre and conduct<br />

an analysis of <strong>the</strong>ir <strong>the</strong>mes and what <strong>the</strong>y might<br />

indicate about <strong>the</strong> contemporary Western climate<br />

imaginary.<br />

In selecting works of fiction representative of<br />

<strong>the</strong> genre, I reference articles that list Englishlanguage<br />

literature considered to be canonical<br />

climate fiction. 2 These articles describe cli-fi<br />

as distinct from science fiction, as <strong>the</strong> genre<br />

speculates about <strong>the</strong> character of a future that<br />

is overwhelmingly likely, as opposed to more<br />

fantastical topics such as artificial intelligence<br />

(Ullrich). I also rely on <strong>the</strong> scholarly articles<br />

referenced throughout this work in order<br />

to determine which stories and novels are<br />

considered most representative of <strong>the</strong> genre by<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r researchers. I fur<strong>the</strong>r narrow my analysis<br />

by focusing on works of literature that deal<br />

primarily with environmental change and its<br />

impact on social relationships and individual<br />

perceptions, while excluding titles that give<br />

primary narrative weight to technological<br />

development. Works of speculative climate fiction<br />

that contend with technological change are major<br />

contributions to <strong>the</strong> genre and often appear in<br />

<strong>the</strong> aforementioned lists; however, here I focus<br />

on navigating <strong>the</strong> Western literary imagination<br />

of material climate change as opposed to<br />

2<br />

For <strong>the</strong>se lists and guides, see Megan O’Grady and J.K. Ullrich.<br />

Climate fiction often relies on a sense of things<br />

remaining <strong>the</strong> same, or of society regressing to<br />

an imagined “natural” state. In David Mitchell’s<br />

The Bone Clocks, a novel that spans a century<br />

of interwoven stories, a protagonist comments<br />

that <strong>the</strong> future looks much like <strong>the</strong> past. This<br />

makes sense within a narrative that depicts<br />

armed conflict and <strong>the</strong> retreat of organized<br />

government as climate change causes massive<br />

resource shortages and unpredictable wea<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

It also makes sense in Nathaniel Rich’s Odds<br />

Against Tomorrow, where a Wharton graduate and<br />

successful businesswoman is faced with physical<br />

danger caused by social upheaval after a massive<br />

storm ravages <strong>the</strong> <strong>No</strong>r<strong>the</strong>ast, causing her to<br />

witness groups of men battling for control over a<br />

commune in Maine. In both of <strong>the</strong>se novels, one<br />

kind of control—bureaucratic and technological—<br />

recedes and is replaced by more fragmented and<br />

heavily gendered forms of social organization.<br />

Climate degradation forces <strong>the</strong> state to retreat,<br />

and a more inherent, violence-based social<br />

system rises to fill <strong>the</strong> vacuum. Existing climate<br />

fiction also often involves protagonists with<br />

112 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


particular experiences—namely, white women<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir vulnerabilities in a dangerous world. In<br />

“Diary of an Interesting Year,” by Helen Simpson,<br />

a world ravaged by climate change turns to<br />

violence and extreme suffering. A baby dies inside<br />

of a pregnant woman, causing her death. Toxic<br />

rivers, sewers spreading disease in <strong>the</strong> streets,<br />

dangerous refugees; <strong>the</strong> story layers tragedy<br />

upon tragedy, building a world defined by human<br />

pain. The protagonist’s husband, an academic, is<br />

murdered by a foreign assailant. The foreigner,<br />

likely a climate refugee, rapes her repeatedly<br />

and keeps her captive. Eventually she murders<br />

him, and successfully ends her pregnancy before<br />

setting off with a rucksack and a gun, discovering<br />

that her only way forward is to embrace <strong>the</strong><br />

violence inherent to a new world. In The End We<br />

Start From by Megan Hunter, ano<strong>the</strong>r woman also<br />

deals with <strong>the</strong> trials of pregnancy, mo<strong>the</strong>rhood,<br />

and male domination in <strong>the</strong> context of a climatedestroyed<br />

England. In Gold Fame Citrus by Claire<br />

Vaye Watkins, a woman relies on a male cult<br />

leader while she struggles to care for her adopted<br />

child on a future West Coast replaced by vast<br />

deserts. Finally, in Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight<br />

Behavior, <strong>the</strong> protagonist’s struggle to navigate<br />

family and marriage becomes intertwined with<br />

<strong>the</strong> disruptive migratory patterns of butterflies.<br />

These stories reveal several characteristics of <strong>the</strong><br />

current climate imaginary. The first is that our<br />

visions of <strong>the</strong> future, as in The Bone Clocks, tend<br />

to rely on a conceptual framework of <strong>the</strong> past as<br />

a male-dominated environment wherein women<br />

are commodities, threats, or excess baggage. The<br />

second is that literary imaginings of <strong>the</strong> future<br />

tend to focus on <strong>the</strong>mes of life and death—for<br />

which birth is often a convenient motif—by<br />

contrasting individual survival with civilizational<br />

collapse. The third is that most of <strong>the</strong>se works<br />

situate narratives of climate apocalypse within<br />

<strong>the</strong> experiences of white, Western women, to<br />

<strong>the</strong> exclusion of o<strong>the</strong>r subjectivities. As Kendra<br />

Strauss writes of two examples of climate fiction,<br />

“Both are U.S.-centric, and both largely ignore<br />

issues of race…Thus, although contemporary<br />

utopias and dystopias and <strong>the</strong>ir geographical<br />

imaginations are vital to <strong>the</strong> imperative to imagine<br />

radical alternatives to existing social orders,<br />

geographers also have a role to play in mapping<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir exclusions, or what <strong>the</strong>y fail to dream”<br />

(348). As Strauss rightly identifies, an exploration<br />

of existent climate fiction must contend with<br />

<strong>the</strong> “exclusions” within popular narratives and<br />

consider how <strong>the</strong>se exclusions reflect broader<br />

hierarchies. This critique is not intended as a<br />

dismissal of <strong>the</strong>se works, because <strong>the</strong>y deal with<br />

valuable <strong>the</strong>mes relating to bodily harm, women’s<br />

rights, and environmental change. Ra<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong><br />

homogeneity of <strong>the</strong>ir <strong>the</strong>matic content is an<br />

indication of repetitive <strong>the</strong>mes that populate a<br />

broader understanding of climate change and <strong>the</strong><br />

threat it poses to a particular form of human life.<br />

Fur<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong> uniformity of <strong>the</strong> protagonists<br />

leads to a climate imaginary that prioritizes<br />

<strong>the</strong> victimhood of those who are beneficiaries<br />

of a global system of racial hierarchy that<br />

is inescapably bound up with <strong>the</strong> economic<br />

structures and colonial histories responsible<br />

for climate change. These dynamics offer a<br />

responsibility-avoidant model for thinking<br />

through climate change. The almost exclusively<br />

white female characters are sufferers of male<br />

violence and victims of a hostile environment, but<br />

<strong>the</strong>y are rarely considered to be responsible for,<br />

or beneficiaries of, <strong>the</strong> economic conditions that<br />

lead to global environmental destruction. Climate<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 113


The consistency of narratives<br />

of white suffering in <strong>the</strong><br />

context of a crisis that<br />

disproportionately impacts<br />

non-white communities suggests<br />

that <strong>the</strong> climate imaginary has<br />

yet to fully contend with <strong>the</strong><br />

role of race in environmental<br />

harm, even as it defines <strong>the</strong><br />

suffering of <strong>the</strong>se characters<br />

along gendered lines.<br />

114 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


change, and its subsequent social failings, is a<br />

series of things that happen to <strong>the</strong>m¬—a new<br />

social context in which old forms of dominance<br />

re-emerge, ra<strong>the</strong>r than itself being an actionable<br />

problem or cause for social reflection. The<br />

consistency of narratives of white suffering in <strong>the</strong><br />

context of a crisis that disproportionately impacts<br />

non-white communities suggests that <strong>the</strong> climate<br />

imaginary has yet to fully contend with <strong>the</strong> role<br />

of race in environmental harm, even as it defines<br />

<strong>the</strong> suffering of <strong>the</strong>se characters along gendered<br />

lines.<br />

These stories advance a cultural belief that <strong>the</strong><br />

loss of civilization as a social regulatory body<br />

and technological framework allows for <strong>the</strong><br />

resurgence of behavioral traits inherent to human<br />

beings—namely, male domination and violence.<br />

Civilization in <strong>the</strong>se stories is a steward that saves<br />

us from ourselves, and once it collapses <strong>the</strong>re is<br />

little left except for <strong>the</strong> brutality of human nature.<br />

Ironic, <strong>the</strong>n, that industrialized civilization is<br />

also <strong>the</strong> very threat that causes <strong>the</strong> catastrophe<br />

in <strong>the</strong> first place. Thus, both <strong>the</strong> protagonists<br />

<strong>the</strong>mselves and <strong>the</strong> systems around <strong>the</strong>m escape<br />

significant culpability. If climate literature can be<br />

taken as both a representative and producer of<br />

<strong>the</strong> broader Western climate imaginary, <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong><br />

repetition of this <strong>the</strong>me in many recent works<br />

of climate fiction is a concerning indicator of our<br />

current capacity to imagine our way through<br />

a changing world. One possible counterpoint<br />

to this narrative is Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water<br />

Knife, a novel centered on <strong>the</strong> corruption and<br />

governmentality involved in water rights in a<br />

future American Southwest. In The Water Knife,<br />

climate change serves as <strong>the</strong> backdrop and<br />

impetus for dystopia, and while <strong>the</strong> villains<br />

are not responsible for global climate change<br />

per se, <strong>the</strong>y are actively engaged in worsening<br />

<strong>the</strong> material conditions of many communities<br />

vulnerable to drought and disaster. These villains<br />

clearly bear responsibility for material conditions,<br />

as a contrast to <strong>the</strong> characters in <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r works<br />

I reference, who—even when <strong>the</strong>y are defined as<br />

villains—have nothing to do with environmental<br />

destruction.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> face of <strong>the</strong> climate crisis, not only do<br />

we as readers, writers, and members of <strong>the</strong><br />

environmentally-destructive public frequently<br />

find our footing in stories that replicate many<br />

pre-existing assumptions about human nature,<br />

we also find ourselves cozying up to <strong>the</strong> broader<br />

frameworks that are associated with so much<br />

environmental damage in <strong>the</strong> first place—<br />

namely, <strong>the</strong> technological state and consumer<br />

capitalism. The danger of this kind of fiction is<br />

that it conveys a singular message: fix this, or it<br />

all ends. While <strong>the</strong>re are realistic claims that <strong>the</strong><br />

most extreme emissions scenarios might result in<br />

truly apocalyptic futures, it seems more likely that<br />

<strong>the</strong> twenty-first century is witnessing a variety<br />

of changes to ecologies and built environments<br />

that, while impactful and potentially catastrophic,<br />

do not immediately result in <strong>the</strong> extinction of<br />

civilization. 3 At <strong>the</strong> very least, if apocalypse is<br />

<strong>the</strong> ultimate result, <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong>re are quite a few<br />

steps between now and <strong>the</strong>n, and countless<br />

contemporary and historical examples of<br />

climate change, which are worthy of imaginative<br />

consideration. As Strauss writes of dystopian<br />

climate fiction, “We are, it seems, transfixed by<br />

visions that enact, literally, Jameson’s maxim that<br />

it is easier to imagine <strong>the</strong> end of <strong>the</strong> world than<br />

<strong>the</strong> end of capitalism” (342). There are many<br />

3<br />

For <strong>the</strong> extensive work on different environmental futures<br />

based on scientific parameters, see Intergovernmental Panel<br />

on Climate Change.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 115


alternatives to <strong>the</strong> American consumer’s ideal<br />

life of owning two cars, building a house, and<br />

maintaining a career in an office somewhere. The<br />

fact that <strong>the</strong> only alternative considered by this<br />

kind of fiction is one of destruction and anarchy<br />

is a revealing tendency, one that reflects both<br />

an uncritical faith in <strong>the</strong> necessity of statecraft in<br />

its modern iteration and a perception of climate<br />

change as yet ano<strong>the</strong>r science fictional disaster<br />

relegated to <strong>the</strong> ranks of nuclear warfare, alien<br />

invasions, and apocalyptic viruses.<br />

These narratives also tend to imagine that<br />

contemporary values, especially those of<br />

human rights and community entitlements,<br />

are civilizational products ra<strong>the</strong>r than cultural<br />

tendencies. If protections and social entitlements<br />

are nothing but legal infrastructures restraining<br />

<strong>the</strong> violent nature of humanity, <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong>y collapse<br />

as soon as stable environments begin to dissolve.<br />

This <strong>the</strong>me suggests that caring for o<strong>the</strong>rs can<br />

only exist on institutional scales, ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

emerging within multiple forms of community.<br />

As Andersen writes, “…global warming is still<br />

represented here as a phenomenon that has not<br />

only reversed technological development and<br />

reduced socio-political complexity, but has also<br />

reduced human empathy” (34). In The End We<br />

Start From, for example, <strong>the</strong> efforts of <strong>the</strong> state<br />

to maintain refugee camps is always contrasted<br />

to <strong>the</strong> fully anarchic and individualistic life on<br />

<strong>the</strong> road. The duality between anarchy and<br />

government is thus also a contrast between<br />

institutional protection and pure chaos. However,<br />

to extrapolate <strong>the</strong>se fictional settings into an<br />

argument or ideology is to come up against <strong>the</strong><br />

inaccuracy of such a position. To claim that <strong>the</strong><br />

contemporary ideation of statecraft is <strong>the</strong> only<br />

legitimate manifestation of care is to ignore<br />

<strong>the</strong> endless examples of community and social<br />

existence that exist within, and have existed long<br />

before and outside of, <strong>the</strong> modern state.<br />

The biophysical world itself is also depicted as a<br />

realm of hostility and destruction in <strong>the</strong> context of<br />

a climate-changed world. The End We Start From,<br />

Gold Fame Citrus, and “Diary of an Interesting<br />

Year,” all take place in semi-desert environments.<br />

With <strong>the</strong> exception of J.G. Ballard’s 1962 novel The<br />

Drowned World, which takes place in an explosion<br />

of life and vitality in <strong>the</strong> context of accelerated<br />

evolution, most of <strong>the</strong> speculative climate<br />

fiction I examined explores arid and apocalyptic<br />

wastelands. While some incorporate flooding<br />

as an impetus to migrate, <strong>the</strong> environment is<br />

never<strong>the</strong>less stripped of life and often beauty.<br />

In Gold Fame Citrus, for example, when a male<br />

cult leader makes sketches in ecological field<br />

notebooks depicting beautiful and strange new<br />

forms of life in <strong>the</strong> desert, his work is revealed as<br />

a fraud, cementing <strong>the</strong> notion that <strong>the</strong> desertified<br />

wasteland is one devoid of life. Deserts occupy a<br />

particular place in <strong>the</strong> apocalyptic imaginary. They<br />

are often associated with nuclear catastrophe,<br />

from <strong>the</strong> realities of nuclear testing and waste<br />

disposal in American deserts to <strong>the</strong> imagined<br />

post-war irradiated wasteland (Kuletz). Though<br />

deserts are rich with ecological diversity,<br />

nuclear imaginings have remade deserts into<br />

wastelands, a <strong>the</strong>me repeated in climate fiction<br />

which imagines a destruction of biological life in<br />

a similar vein as that of nuclear war. While <strong>the</strong>se<br />

imagined landscapes depict <strong>the</strong> basic destruction<br />

of biological existence, climate change remakes<br />

environments into a variety of new ecologies,<br />

including ones that are not necessarily devoid of<br />

life.<br />

116 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Climate change is portrayed within fiction<br />

as a negation of contemporary existence, a<br />

reversal of both social and ecological norms. In<br />

such works, it causes pure death—of humans,<br />

ecosystems, and social formations. What little<br />

life persists continues in forms that are not<br />

evolved or changed but regressed. Schneider-<br />

Mayerson’s findings, that such works spur<br />

negative feelings and perhaps even fatalism,<br />

might relate to <strong>the</strong> extent to which climate fiction<br />

deals with a presumptive ultimate worst case<br />

scenario ra<strong>the</strong>r than <strong>the</strong> countless possibilities<br />

of life in remade environments. But what are<br />

<strong>the</strong> alternatives to a collection of imaginaries<br />

that portray climate change as a universal<br />

catastrophe? After all, climate change will indeed<br />

probably cause immense suffering and loss.<br />

The novels mentioned here depict undeniably<br />

possible futures. However, <strong>the</strong>se futures are<br />

based in frameworks of race, gender, and <strong>the</strong><br />

logic of government that inhibit imaginaries which<br />

could, as Manjana Milkoreit writes, “shap[e] our<br />

collective imaginations of possible, plausible,<br />

desirable, and undesirable futures, <strong>the</strong>reby<br />

helping us reflect not only on <strong>the</strong> nature of<br />

climate change, but on <strong>the</strong> meaning of human life<br />

and social existence in a changing climate” (177).<br />

Perhaps work that is best suited for invigorating<br />

<strong>the</strong> climate imaginary is situated outside of<br />

racially and culturally homogenous frameworks.<br />

In Octavia Butler’s Parable of <strong>the</strong> Sower, a young<br />

black woman navigates a post-climate change<br />

American West, in which violence and religious<br />

extremism have taken root. After her family<br />

is killed, she begins a journey for survival that<br />

mirrors events in many of <strong>the</strong> aforementioned<br />

works. However, in Butler’s novel, <strong>the</strong> protagonist<br />

develops a new set of beliefs she refers to as<br />

Earthseed. These beliefs offer a radical alternative<br />

to <strong>the</strong> destructive landscape. As a counterpoint<br />

to <strong>the</strong> narratives of individual survival replete in<br />

climate fiction, Butler’s novels offer a reframing of<br />

<strong>the</strong> ultimate purpose and meaning of humanity’s<br />

destiny to explore o<strong>the</strong>r worlds and reach<br />

maturity among <strong>the</strong> stars. Perhaps Butler’s work<br />

points to a compromise between portraying<br />

destruction and offering a sense of hope; amid<br />

unprecedented violence, wholly new ways of living<br />

become possible. While <strong>the</strong> novel depicts a return<br />

to <strong>the</strong> past in <strong>the</strong> same vein as o<strong>the</strong>r works, <strong>the</strong><br />

characters invent ways of counterbalancing that<br />

process and imagining a hopeful, unique way of<br />

life.<br />

Radical alternatives to <strong>the</strong> climate imaginary<br />

also emerge in forms of narrative outside of <strong>the</strong><br />

norms of <strong>the</strong> Western novel. Chie Sakakibara<br />

explores a different form of climate storytelling<br />

within <strong>the</strong> Iñupiat community of Point Hope,<br />

Alaska. The Iñupiat community exists at <strong>the</strong><br />

forefront of climate change, facing rapidly<br />

rising sea levels and signficant changes to local<br />

landscapes. In 1970, <strong>the</strong> community was forced<br />

to relocate from <strong>the</strong>ir homeland, referred to as<br />

“Old town,” to its current home, “New Town,”<br />

located some distance away. As <strong>the</strong> world around<br />

<strong>the</strong>m has shifted, so has <strong>the</strong> content of <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

stories. Sakakibara writes: “…Environmental<br />

change is culturally manifest through tales of <strong>the</strong><br />

supernatural, particularly ‘spirit beings’ or ‘ghosts’<br />

that confirm human ties with a place” (459). In<br />

Iñupiat stories, different kinds of “spirit beings”<br />

have gone extinct or changed <strong>the</strong>ir behavior as<br />

a reflection of <strong>the</strong> changing environment. As<br />

one of Sakakibara’s interlocutors recounts of a<br />

species of spirit being, “Oh, I heard <strong>the</strong>ir lagoons<br />

drained and <strong>the</strong>y lost <strong>the</strong>ir water, <strong>the</strong>y became<br />

homeless and died out or decided to leave” (469).<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 117


Climate change impacts <strong>the</strong> drainage of arctic<br />

lakes, leading to a disappearance of habitat for<br />

<strong>the</strong> aforementioned species. Fictional worlds<br />

have thus merged with material ones, producing<br />

stories that have adjusted to <strong>the</strong> realities of<br />

climate change. Fur<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong>se stories serve to<br />

mediate broader sensibilities of identity and<br />

connection: “For [<strong>the</strong> Iñupiat], stories and <strong>the</strong><br />

very act of narrating <strong>the</strong>m help connect people to<br />

places, people to people, and ultimately people<br />

to <strong>the</strong> environment” (459). These stories <strong>the</strong>reby<br />

enact a form of interconnectivity between people<br />

and <strong>the</strong> environment, a counterpoint to Ghosh’s<br />

characterization of <strong>the</strong> Western novel as being<br />

focused on human drama with landscape as a<br />

mere backdrop.<br />

As Donna Haraway writes, “How can we think in<br />

times of urgencies without <strong>the</strong> self-indulgent and<br />

self-fulfilling myths of apocalypse, when every<br />

fiber of our being is interlaced, even complicit,<br />

in <strong>the</strong> webs of processes that must somehow<br />

be engaged and repatterned?” (39). Stories<br />

and imagined landscapes are intertwined with<br />

<strong>the</strong> kinds of inaction and fatalism that often<br />

defines modern environmental politics. When<br />

stories do engage with climate change, <strong>the</strong>y fall<br />

into apocalyptic imaginings–<strong>the</strong> “self-indulgent<br />

and self-fulfilling myths” that compose much<br />

of climate fiction. The intervention I make here<br />

is to claim that climate change is a fruitful<br />

imaginative space, and that it can be used to think<br />

through shifting social dynamics and ecologies<br />

in <strong>the</strong> context of <strong>the</strong> remaking of <strong>the</strong> human<br />

and nonhuman world. I extend this argument<br />

by offering a story that takes place in climatechanged<br />

environment. My hope is ultimately<br />

that by navigating <strong>the</strong> imagined terrain of future<br />

climate change through fiction, we can contribute<br />

to an alternative climate change imaginary, one<br />

that considers not merely <strong>the</strong> possibilities of<br />

destruction but also <strong>the</strong> opportunities for life in a<br />

remade world.<br />

Works Cited<br />

Andersen, Gregers. Climate Fiction and Cultural Analysis: A New<br />

Perspective on Life in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. Routledge, 2020.<br />

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. McClelland and Stewart,<br />

2003.<br />

Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Windup Girl. Night Shade Books, 2009.<br />

Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Water Knife. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.<br />

Ballard, J.G. The Drowned World. Berkley Books, 1962.<br />

Butler, Octavia. Parable of <strong>the</strong> Sower. Four Walls Eight Windows,<br />

1993.<br />

Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and <strong>the</strong><br />

Unthinkable. The University of Chicago Press, 2016.<br />

Haraway, Donna J. “Staying with <strong>the</strong> Trouble: Anthropocene,<br />

Capitalocene, Chthulucene.” Anthropocene or Capitalocene?<br />

Nature, History, and <strong>the</strong> Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Jason W.<br />

Moore, PM Press, 2016, 34-76.<br />

Hunter, Megan. The End We Start From. Grove Press, 2017.<br />

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Emissions<br />

Scenarios, edited by Nebojsa Nakicenovic and Rob Swart,<br />

Cambridge UP, 2000.<br />

Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior. Harper Perennial, 2012.<br />

Kuletz, Valerie L. The Tainted Desert: Environmental and Social<br />

Ruin in <strong>the</strong> American West. Routledge, 1998.<br />

Mitchell, David. The Bone Clocks. Random House, 2015.<br />

Milkoreit, Manjana. “The Promise of Climate Fiction:<br />

Imagination, Storytelling, and <strong>the</strong> Politics of <strong>the</strong> Future.”<br />

Reimagining Climate Change, edited by Paul Wapner and Hilal<br />

Elver, Routledge, 2016, 171-190.<br />

O’Grady, Megan. “10 Cli-Fi <strong>No</strong>vels for <strong>the</strong> Dark Days Ahead.”<br />

Literary Hub, 22 Oct. 2018, https://bookmarks.reviews/10-cli-finovels-for-<strong>the</strong>-dark-days-ahead/<br />

118 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Rich, Nathaniel. Odds Against Tomorrow. Picador, 2014.<br />

Sakakibara, Chie. “Our Home is Drowning: Iñupiat Storytelling<br />

and Climate Change in Point Hope, Alaska.” The Geographical<br />

Review, vol. 98, no. 4, 2008, 456-475.<br />

Schneider-Mayerson, Mat<strong>the</strong>w. “The Influence of Climate<br />

Fiction: An Empirical Study of Readers.” Environmental<br />

Humanities, vol. 10, no. 2, 2018, 473-500. https://doi.<br />

org/10.1215/22011919-7156848<br />

Simpson, Helen. “Diary of an Interesting Year.” I’m With <strong>the</strong><br />

Bears: Short Stories From a Damaged Planet. Edited by Mark<br />

Martin. London: Verso, 2011.<br />

Strauss, Kendra. “These Overheating Worlds.” Annals of <strong>the</strong><br />

Association of American Geographers, vol. 105, no. 2, 2015, 342-<br />

350.<br />

Ullrich, J.K. “Climate Fiction: Can Books Save <strong>the</strong> Planet?”<br />

The Atlantic, 14 Aug. 2015, https://www.<strong>the</strong>atlantic.com/<br />

entertainment/archive/2015/08/climate-fiction-margaretatwood-literature/400112/<br />

Watkins, Claire Vaye. Gold Fame Citrus. Riverhead Books, 2015.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 119


120 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Thinking of Doggerland<br />

The apartment was closer to <strong>the</strong> ocean every year. When <strong>the</strong>y’d bought it<br />

forty years earlier, <strong>the</strong> water’s edge was a brisk walk away, and <strong>the</strong> young Ruth<br />

was always out of breath by <strong>the</strong> time she returned from what she called her<br />

“sunset strolls.” Although she had turned limp and squishy in many parts,<br />

ballooning in one or two places and becoming bony in o<strong>the</strong>rs, she could make<br />

<strong>the</strong> trip more easily now.<br />

“You just have to get out of this place. You can’t believe what you’re<br />

missing. It’s all different now,” she said to her wife.<br />

“The difference is what frightens me.”<br />

“It’s not that different. But <strong>the</strong>re are all kinds of new things out <strong>the</strong>re. You<br />

won’t know until you look at it. Won’t you go?”<br />

“There’s nowhere to go.”<br />

“There’s everywhere to go.”<br />

“<strong>No</strong>t anymore.”<br />

This was a ritual, one of <strong>the</strong> many <strong>the</strong>y’d fallen into after fifty years<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r. Her wife’s response varied–sometimes a grunt, sometimes an<br />

extended debate–but <strong>the</strong> end result was <strong>the</strong> same: Ruth took her walks alone.<br />

They both knew she preferred it that way.<br />

A few blocks down from <strong>the</strong>ir moldering building on what was once a<br />

very well-to-do avenue, <strong>the</strong> apartments were dissolving. That was <strong>the</strong> best word<br />

she could think of. Their edges were blurring–brick crumbling into dust, thick<br />

roots penetrating walls, and roofs studded with grass. They were turning from<br />

hard lines and crisp colors into cracked borderlands that allowed <strong>the</strong> world to<br />

creep inside. Younger folks lived in <strong>the</strong>se places. They played loud music from<br />

<strong>the</strong> windows and stood huddled in mysterious collections on <strong>the</strong> broken<br />

pavement.<br />

They rarely noticed Ruth. She was a fixture, and like many fixtures she<br />

blended into her surrounding environment. The young people paid no mind to<br />

<strong>the</strong> flickering streetlights or <strong>the</strong> broken cars, rotted with saltwater, and <strong>the</strong>re was<br />

no particular reason to pay attention to her ei<strong>the</strong>r. If a young man or woman<br />

decided to walk down <strong>the</strong> street, <strong>the</strong>y became targets of attention, or new<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 121


members of <strong>the</strong> old groups. Ei<strong>the</strong>r way, <strong>the</strong>y called for a response, whereas Ruth<br />

was more like an empty space between more important things.<br />

Being old, it seemed to Ruth, was primarily a condition of being left out of<br />

things. There were years when she had been catcalled or robbed, and strangers<br />

had struck up conversations with her. Above all, she was seen—she was studied,<br />

looked at. That had been replaced with a more distant spectatorship around <strong>the</strong><br />

time her stomach began to truly descend toward her knees and her face grew<br />

deep wrinkles. Piece by piece she was remade into one of <strong>the</strong> countless<br />

forgotten gray-haired people of <strong>the</strong> world.<br />

Her own separation did not discourage her from wanting to take action.<br />

For Ruth, action was <strong>the</strong> only possible response. The ailing buildings had to be<br />

dealt with, for starters. Colonies of mold and even mushrooms had invaded <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

own block, and <strong>the</strong> basement–once a serviceable laundry room–had been filled<br />

with a kind of living brown slime and <strong>the</strong> door permanently locked. The sea now<br />

crept through <strong>the</strong> sewers and abandoned subway tunnels when <strong>the</strong> tide rose or<br />

a storm came, and ocean poured into sub-basements and platforms. These were<br />

fixable problems–<strong>the</strong>y required money, and time, but <strong>the</strong>re were solutions. The<br />

issue came with trying to grab <strong>the</strong> attention of a world that was distracted by<br />

more dramatic issues. Floods were everywhere, no longer abnormal events. <strong>No</strong>w<br />

<strong>the</strong>y were routine for <strong>the</strong> coastal dwellers. They fled to upstairs rooms and<br />

packed fresh water in <strong>the</strong> attic, and waited for <strong>the</strong> sea to subside. That was<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r thing Ruth decided–<strong>the</strong> new world was one of waiting and seeing. She<br />

preferred to act.<br />

“It can’t be helped. The basements are flooded, <strong>the</strong> mold is just creeping<br />

up <strong>the</strong> walls. <strong>No</strong> one will buy <strong>the</strong>se old wrecks. Something ought to be done, you<br />

know it? Something just ought to be done,” she often repeated to her wife.<br />

Ruth’s letters and phone calls to her senators and council members of<br />

choice were ignored. The politicians were elsewhere, building new housing<br />

projects and debating machines that Ruth didn’t understand—great traps to pull<br />

carbon dioxide from <strong>the</strong> atmosphere, or rockets to send people to Mars. <strong>No</strong>ne of<br />

<strong>the</strong>se made any sense to Ruth, not when her avenue had once been lined with<br />

magnolias and was now decorated with abandoned stoves, and especially not<br />

when her wife’s retirement fund from <strong>the</strong> university had shrunk to a trickle with<br />

122 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


no explanation.<br />

The sunsets had also changed. When she was younger, <strong>the</strong>y stayed<br />

generally orange and yellow, comforting colors that ba<strong>the</strong>d <strong>the</strong> steel and glass<br />

and turned everything golden. Orange had become a deep and dangerous red,<br />

and unnatural violet had begun creeping in. <strong>No</strong>w even shades of blue and <strong>the</strong><br />

occasional hint of green stained <strong>the</strong> clouds that hovered over <strong>the</strong> sea.<br />

There was dust—that was what <strong>the</strong> news-people said. It came from <strong>the</strong><br />

Midwest, <strong>the</strong> once-fertile lands turning into a thin mist of chemical laden soil.<br />

Smog, too, had been collecting over <strong>the</strong> sea, brought by some kind of wind<br />

pattern. She used to watch <strong>the</strong>se reports obsessively, taking notes and bringing<br />

<strong>the</strong>m to her wife’s study before bed.<br />

“Look at this,” she would say, “look what it’s all come to. It’s falling to<br />

pieces, <strong>the</strong> whole world is breaking apart.”<br />

Her wife kept a number of maps pinned to her wall, <strong>the</strong> edges curled and<br />

torn. One of <strong>the</strong>m showed a series of images of <strong>the</strong> English Channel morphing<br />

over time. The first was modern and <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs showed a bloated France and<br />

finally no channel at all.<br />

The last map was what she pointed to.<br />

“Doggerland,” she said. “Fifteen thousand years ago this was all land, and<br />

people lived <strong>the</strong>re in tribes. Then <strong>the</strong> glaciers melted, and a tsunami came, and<br />

by ten-thousand years ago <strong>the</strong> whole thing was ocean. The trawlers haul up<br />

stone arrowheads sometimes. Look it up.”<br />

“But what happened to <strong>the</strong> people?”<br />

“They left, or died. We’ll never know. Point is, <strong>the</strong> world has always been<br />

breaking apart. We just fooled ourselves for a while. It was always a scam.”<br />

That night <strong>the</strong> sunset was especially alien, a mixture of blue-green and<br />

red. The clouds were low on <strong>the</strong> horizon and even <strong>the</strong> stars were invisible in <strong>the</strong><br />

darkness behind her. The lights of a passing ship were visible as <strong>the</strong> sunlight bled<br />

away, and she thought it must’ve been one of those new nuclear container ships<br />

larger than whole cities.<br />

“This isn’t my town anymore,” she said out loud. There was movement<br />

near her and she froze.<br />

It was a stray dog–its snout began poking around at <strong>the</strong> dirt near her<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 123


feet. It was seemingly unaware of her presence.<br />

“Did you live out <strong>the</strong>re?” she asked it.<br />

There were rows of apartment buildings crumbling into <strong>the</strong> sea, missing<br />

chunks of wall but largely whole above <strong>the</strong> waterline. On some nights she saw<br />

lights in <strong>the</strong> upper windows, small and insistent despite <strong>the</strong> scale of <strong>the</strong> ocean.<br />

People lived in <strong>the</strong>m still, and she had no idea who <strong>the</strong>y might be—people so<br />

desperate <strong>the</strong>y would throw <strong>the</strong>mselves at <strong>the</strong> feet of <strong>the</strong> sea, instead of running<br />

<strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r way as most people now did.<br />

The horizon only gave her more questions. That was <strong>the</strong> problem with<br />

her wife, she suspected. She liked answers, solutions, and <strong>the</strong> cosmos of <strong>the</strong><br />

apartment had only those. It was full of known things, familiar contours. It was<br />

easy to ask questions to. The ocean and <strong>the</strong> sunset and <strong>the</strong> crumbling buildings<br />

insisted on questions, demanded that kind of curiosity, but it refused to provide<br />

information. The beauty of <strong>the</strong> sunset was simply a trick to conceal that basic<br />

fact.<br />

Her wife had once occasionally gone for walks, but now she refused to<br />

leave <strong>the</strong> apartment altoge<strong>the</strong>r. Ruth argued with her often.<br />

“There’s just a lot going on out <strong>the</strong>re. You should see it, <strong>the</strong> way <strong>the</strong><br />

plants have overtaken everything. It’s interesting.”<br />

“Plants are taking over in here too.” That much was true–vines from <strong>the</strong><br />

outside were curling through <strong>the</strong> broken bathroom windows, and tiny gray<br />

mushrooms had sprouted from <strong>the</strong> rotten sills.<br />

“You should just see it.”<br />

“I can see from <strong>the</strong> windows, thank you very much.” The view from <strong>the</strong><br />

apartment was limited, however–at <strong>the</strong> upper edge of <strong>the</strong> marshy zone, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

couldn’t see much. If she squinted at it, her wife could almost pretend nothing<br />

had changed at all.<br />

Health didn’t convince her, ei<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

“If you don’t go outside you’ll be dead before eighty, and what will I do<br />

<strong>the</strong>n?”<br />

“You’ll go for walks, I expect.”<br />

Despite <strong>the</strong>ir arguments, Ruth loved her. Her hair had only grown more<br />

beautiful as it grayed, and it now frizzed around her head in a sparkling cloud.<br />

124 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Her eyes seemed to grow in size and depth with each passing year, even as her<br />

vision faded and she couldn’t read <strong>the</strong> cramped texts she once relied on for<br />

purpose and employment. She cleaned instead, rearranging useless little<br />

objects–a ceramic cat here and a bowl <strong>the</strong>re–and fighting an extended campaign<br />

with <strong>the</strong> fungi in <strong>the</strong> windows.<br />

Whenever Ruth returned home she brought something new. This was a<br />

personal rule, and it didn’t matter how many times <strong>the</strong> objects ended up in <strong>the</strong><br />

trash. From <strong>the</strong> broken concrete of <strong>the</strong> shoreline she brought strange fusions of<br />

metal and plastic and sand, like stones made from unnatural materials.<br />

Occasionally she found a piece of well-rounded sea glass that had somehow<br />

survived <strong>the</strong> hard beach and been deposited above <strong>the</strong> tide. From <strong>the</strong> city at<br />

large she brought new flowers that bloomed in <strong>the</strong> dark crevices between<br />

skyscrapers, or frilly little plants that clung to <strong>the</strong> sides of buildings without soil<br />

or water. If she was out shopping, she would buy something she hadn’t seen<br />

before, experimental new fruits and vegetables. She wanted to bring home <strong>the</strong><br />

rats that sat fatly in little corners and holes, but she had no way of catching <strong>the</strong>m<br />

and she didn’t care for <strong>the</strong> idea of capturing a living animal.<br />

Her wife didn’t like any of <strong>the</strong> new things she brought home. Ruth hoped<br />

that <strong>the</strong>y would accumulate as proof that <strong>the</strong> outside world still held beauty, but<br />

her wife refused to look at <strong>the</strong>m, packing <strong>the</strong>m away or flushing <strong>the</strong> soft plants<br />

down <strong>the</strong> toilet.<br />

One day she saw an air conditioner fall from <strong>the</strong> window of a nearby<br />

apartment. She watched <strong>the</strong> whole thing. It slowly tipped out of an upper story<br />

and came spinning down, shattering on <strong>the</strong> pavement. The brutality of it was a<br />

shock. The sound echoed through <strong>the</strong> quiet buildings and a nearby group of<br />

people paused to look. Ruth stood in <strong>the</strong> same place for a long time as <strong>the</strong> sky<br />

turned black. She’d been on her way to view a sunset, and this was <strong>the</strong> first one<br />

she’d missed in many years.<br />

Instead of turning directly home when <strong>the</strong> stars appeared, she started<br />

walking through <strong>the</strong> forest of buildings to <strong>the</strong> east of her apartment. Her feet<br />

took her away from <strong>the</strong> central area of <strong>the</strong> city, where she usually went shopping<br />

once every week or so. There <strong>the</strong> city seemed to be fighting to stay normal. The<br />

stores were air-conditioned, <strong>the</strong> windows were washed, and men and women<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 125


wearing tight suits used <strong>the</strong> offices. Newness only crept in at <strong>the</strong> edges–in <strong>the</strong><br />

vast sweat stains on <strong>the</strong> nice gray suits, in <strong>the</strong> way that people looked at each<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r, as if everyone else was a threat.<br />

The east quickly turned into a place she didn’t recognize. The streets<br />

were narrow and choked with cars and haphazard constructions. There were<br />

outgrowths to <strong>the</strong>se buildings, stalls and sheds that were attached to <strong>the</strong> sides.<br />

Weeds grew from <strong>the</strong> potholes, and she passed a sewer drain that burbled with<br />

seawater. She thought she should probably feel nervous, but she felt nothing at<br />

all.<br />

People were on <strong>the</strong> streets, more so than during <strong>the</strong> daytime. A few<br />

crowds stood in <strong>the</strong> pools of light that fell from open windows, and strangers<br />

walked with purpose. They hurried past as though appointments and interviews<br />

had been scheduled for midnight and <strong>the</strong>y were running late.<br />

The hulks of brick towers and metal skyscrapers loomed above, and<br />

many of <strong>the</strong>ir windows were dark. Closer to <strong>the</strong> ground, <strong>the</strong>y were lit with<br />

colorful bulbs, and <strong>the</strong> gentle glow spilled onto <strong>the</strong> streets, illuminating faces in<br />

every possible color.<br />

Soon Ruth reached a part of <strong>the</strong> city that she was certain she had never<br />

been to before. At least, it was so changed by <strong>the</strong> night and <strong>the</strong> sea that she<br />

could never hope to place it in her memory. This was ano<strong>the</strong>r shock to her, <strong>the</strong><br />

fact that she had spent years in a place while <strong>the</strong> unknown was waiting just a<br />

mile or so away. And this was not <strong>the</strong> kind of unknown that lived in <strong>the</strong> ocean.<br />

This was <strong>the</strong> unexpected.<br />

The constructions on <strong>the</strong> sides of <strong>the</strong> buildings–<strong>the</strong> tumors, as she was<br />

starting to think of <strong>the</strong>m–grew thicker <strong>the</strong> fur<strong>the</strong>r she walked. They turned into<br />

stalls with roofs and open windows. Through <strong>the</strong>m she could see people<br />

displaying rows of objects, things for sale. Some of it was scrap metal, as far as<br />

she could identify in <strong>the</strong> dim light. It was probably salvage from <strong>the</strong> sunken parts<br />

of <strong>the</strong> city, worth very little. The realization that this was a kind of black market<br />

gave her pause, but only for a moment.<br />

The crowds were denser, and Ruth herself simply became a member of<br />

<strong>the</strong> public. <strong>No</strong> one was really paying attention to her. She was used to that, but it<br />

had been some time since she’d last felt like she had blended into a crowd. There<br />

126 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


was shouting and even laughing, and she saw young children sneaking<br />

underfoot. These were dead streets during <strong>the</strong> daytime, streets resigned to <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

fate. Hospice streets. <strong>No</strong>w <strong>the</strong>y were reborn.<br />

The storefronts at street level were mostly broken, and new doorways<br />

had been constructed. When she saw what was inside she finally came to a stop.<br />

What had once been superstores and shopping plazas were now markets,<br />

labyrinths of stalls and people. There were brightly colored objects lined up in<br />

rows, men sitting in folding chairs, families with children walking and picking up<br />

products for sale. All of it stretched into <strong>the</strong> guts of <strong>the</strong> buildings until her failing<br />

eyesight could pick out nothing but vague movements.<br />

She walked into one of <strong>the</strong> markets, a store she had chosen at random.<br />

The smell of cooking food drew her through <strong>the</strong> gaping doorway and soon she<br />

stood inside of a narrow hallway, choked by piles of stuff and <strong>the</strong> people viewing<br />

it all.<br />

“Ma’am?” A loud voice seemed directed at her. Ruth turned around and<br />

found herself facing a young man, probably in his forties.<br />

“Yes?” she said, uncertain.<br />

“You’re looking for <strong>the</strong> best cookware, aren’t you? It’s right around <strong>the</strong><br />

corner here, and you won’t believe <strong>the</strong> kinds of discounts we’ll give you.”<br />

She was overwhelmed. The information around her was a blank wall.<br />

There was too much of it to interpret, and she didn’t know how to respond.<br />

“I don’t know,” she answered honestly.<br />

“You look like you’ve been in this city a long time, you know it?”<br />

“Yes.” This was slightly offensive to her, although it used to be a point of<br />

pride. “I’m just old.”<br />

“Sure, sure,” <strong>the</strong> man continued. “You know what <strong>the</strong> good stuff is, so no<br />

need to trust me. Just come and have a look and judge it for yourself. <strong>No</strong> harm<br />

no foul, what do you say?”<br />

She found herself led toward a large space that had been carved from<br />

<strong>the</strong> surrounding stalls. Tables and chairs and shelves were covered in pots and<br />

pans, all of it completely ordinary. It was strangely relieving. She picked up a<br />

teakettle, one that looked just like <strong>the</strong> kettle at home.<br />

“How much?”<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 127


“For you? <strong>No</strong>t much at all.”<br />

The price was low, and she paid. She half-expected him to look up at her<br />

with confused eyes when she handed her bills to him, as if she were a trespasser<br />

in ano<strong>the</strong>r country and she didn’t have legal tender. But she did, and she began<br />

walking again after making her purchase. The kettle clanked against her thigh<br />

every few seconds.<br />

The encounter had given her new confidence. She belonged here, that<br />

much was clear. She walked toward a young woman who was standing in a<br />

teetering pile of books.<br />

“Hello,” Ruth said.<br />

“Anything in particular?” <strong>the</strong> girl asked. She looked bored, but her clo<strong>the</strong>s<br />

were a light orange color that Ruth liked.<br />

“Just looking.”<br />

She chose a book called Indoor Gardening, mostly just for <strong>the</strong> picture. It<br />

showed an old couple in an apartment filled with plants, mostly vegetables and<br />

bright red tomatoes. They were smiling.<br />

She turned and began walking back out of <strong>the</strong> building. It had been<br />

hours, she was certain. Her wife would have no idea where she was. She might<br />

be worried sick, if she hadn’t already fallen asleep.<br />

A man behind a stall selling small red fruits waved at her.<br />

“Forty five cents for <strong>the</strong>se! You can’t beat that.”<br />

After hearing <strong>the</strong> man’s voice she started walking quickly. She began to<br />

feel like if she stayed for ano<strong>the</strong>r moment, had one more conversation with<br />

<strong>the</strong>se people from ano<strong>the</strong>r world, she would never find her way home.<br />

The crowds thinned as she worked her way down <strong>the</strong> street, and <strong>the</strong><br />

stalls began to turn back into tumors. There was one more vendor, a man she<br />

hadn’t seen before. He had a dozen cages lying around on <strong>the</strong> pavement. It was<br />

too dark to see what he was selling, but <strong>the</strong>re was <strong>the</strong> suggestion of movement.<br />

She hurried past, trying not to ask questions.<br />

The narrow streets took her in <strong>the</strong> general direction she thought was<br />

west. The moon rose overhead, transforming <strong>the</strong> black sky into a deep navy and<br />

illuminating <strong>the</strong> jagged towers above her. The color of her memory was fading as<br />

she walked across <strong>the</strong> cracked pavement. If it weren’t for <strong>the</strong> teakettle banging<br />

128 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


against her thigh and <strong>the</strong> book in her hand, it would be easier to deny what had<br />

happened. But even with that evidence, it began to feel like a series of events<br />

that happened to someone else, or a story she’d been told.<br />

Eventually, she came out onto <strong>the</strong> street near her home. There was <strong>the</strong><br />

air conditioner that had fallen from <strong>the</strong> building; those were <strong>the</strong> trees that had<br />

taken root in <strong>the</strong> apartment building near hers. Ugly music slammed from <strong>the</strong><br />

windows and someone was laughing nearby, but o<strong>the</strong>rwise <strong>the</strong> street was<br />

empty. The young people, she imagined, were back at <strong>the</strong> night-market, or party,<br />

or whatever it had been if not a dream.<br />

Roots caught her feet as she walked over pavement that had become<br />

unfamiliar during her absence, and it took her some time to reach her block.<br />

When she caught sight of <strong>the</strong> entrance to her building she stopped. In <strong>the</strong> silver<br />

glow of <strong>the</strong> moon and <strong>the</strong> emptiness of <strong>the</strong> street, her wife was standing outside,<br />

waiting for her return.<br />

Bio<br />

Evan Tims is a researcher and climate fiction writer who focuses on anticipatory politics, futurity, and<br />

cultural frameworks surrounding <strong>the</strong> climate crisis. Tims’ fictional work seeks to complicate our imaginings<br />

of <strong>the</strong> imminent reality of climate change. Tims holds a B.A. in Human Rights and Written Arts from Bard<br />

College, and has worked with <strong>the</strong> Center for Experimental Humanities and <strong>the</strong> Difference and Media<br />

Project. Tims is a two-time recipient of <strong>the</strong> Critical Language Scholarship for Bengali, and he received <strong>the</strong><br />

Bard undergraduate Written Arts Prize and <strong>the</strong> Christopher Wise Award for his honors <strong>the</strong>sis on climate<br />

fiction. Tims is currently based in New York City, where he investigates police misconduct for a civilian<br />

oversight organization.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 129


130 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


SECTION 4:<br />

The Past Is <strong>No</strong>t a Predictor<br />

for <strong>the</strong> Future<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 131


132 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Gaia Rise: Myths and Politics<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

Artemis Herber<br />

POLIT-MYTH<br />

Left | Artemis Herber<br />

Gaia’s Memory, 2 0 1 9 - 2 0 2 0 ( d e t a i l )<br />

Acrylic and mixed media (marble, honeycomb,<br />

rusted rail nail, corrugated cardboard), 85x10x95”<br />

Image courtesy of Tom Petzwinkler.<br />

I explore <strong>the</strong> entanglement of deep-time<br />

and human impact through <strong>the</strong> lens of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene by examining how human<br />

intervention, exploitation, and metabolic<br />

regimes have shaped <strong>the</strong> use of land and <strong>the</strong><br />

environment.<br />

As an example, recent news about <strong>the</strong> setting of<br />

politically-motivated fires in <strong>the</strong> Amazon indicate<br />

fur<strong>the</strong>r and ongoing anthropogenic changes of<br />

our biosphere, creating a scorched Earth through<br />

extortion, exhaust, mining, monoculture, and<br />

neglect caused by neoliberal political decisions.<br />

Indeed, "<strong>the</strong> ends today are clearly endless”<br />

(Nancy 90-91).<br />

I propose polit-myth as an artistic strategy to<br />

create a paradigm shift towards political decision<br />

making that is motivated by environmental<br />

concerns of climate change caused by human<br />

activity rooted in myths and histories. Politmyth<br />

involves interrogating <strong>the</strong> borders of<br />

<strong>the</strong> entangled fringes of sciences, politics, and<br />

myths to examine <strong>the</strong> impacts of deep time, its<br />

myths and narratives, on human interactions<br />

that compress time, revealing how <strong>the</strong> rise of<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 133


Artemis Herber<br />

Gaia Raise - Cycle, 2020<br />

Installation view, Landscape in an Eroded Field, Katzen Art Center of <strong>the</strong> American University, Washington DC.<br />

Image courtesy of Tom Petzwinkler.<br />

autocratic, male-dominated, and colonial-infused<br />

ideologies have impacted <strong>the</strong> entire world.<br />

We can observe events from <strong>the</strong> past through<br />

myths, archaeology, and philosophy to<br />

understand <strong>the</strong> consequences for today and <strong>the</strong><br />

outlook for future societies. In order to do so, I<br />

explore how shifts in our landscapes have been<br />

shaped by our tectonic activities and underscore<br />

<strong>the</strong> need for fur<strong>the</strong>r artistic investigations in <strong>the</strong><br />

era of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene in order to create new<br />

possibilities for <strong>the</strong> future.<br />

With a sense of urgency, my large-scale paintings<br />

from recycled cardboard employ polit-myth as<br />

an artistic strategy. Focusing on <strong>the</strong> deliberate<br />

use of selected materials (such as coal,<br />

marble, concrete, clay, and dust), I compose<br />

a metaphorical language that connects <strong>the</strong><br />

political status quo embedded into dys/utopian<br />

motives with underlying myths concerning<br />

<strong>the</strong> current condition on Earth, promoting a<br />

directional change from economics towards<br />

ecologies for critical political guidance. I am<br />

inspired by <strong>the</strong> use of global positioning systems<br />

in <strong>the</strong> field of experimental geography, where<br />

utopian/dystopian visualizations of urban and<br />

natural landscapes result in cartographies,<br />

134 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


personal memories, or field trips that magnify<br />

contemporary life problems. My paintings<br />

are a result of findings in maps, mappings,<br />

and personal memories of my field trips and<br />

excursions focused on urban settings and nonlandscapes,<br />

articulating concerns about presentday<br />

society in light of technological change,<br />

environmental degradation, or political turmoil.<br />

My recent works examine how geopolitical<br />

volatility is embedded in motifs of landscapes<br />

in precarious conditions. As an example,<br />

“Polyphemus-After Casting <strong>the</strong> Rocks” addresses<br />

geo-economic and -political issues within <strong>the</strong><br />

entanglement of deep time and ancient myth<br />

in intersections between time, <strong>the</strong> use of<br />

land and global settings. It is a metaphor for<br />

current and ongoing issues of global migration<br />

worldwide resulting from climate change and<br />

wars. I investigate how land use reflects societal,<br />

political, or geo-terrestrial concerns, and how<br />

time is interlaced between human histories and<br />

myths and geological events sedimented into <strong>the</strong><br />

Earth's strata. My works incorporate references<br />

and reinterpretations of mythologies of ancient<br />

civilizations into contemporary findings. Those<br />

fables resonate across time, embodying new<br />

forms and components. They help to explain<br />

<strong>the</strong> association between myths, historical, and<br />

archaeological evidence to find meaning through<br />

artistic discourses within interdisciplinary<br />

practices towards decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

Those interconnections could be understood<br />

as engravings, patterns, and traces in our<br />

landscapes, compositions of "songs of energies"<br />

and <strong>the</strong> "epics of metabolic regimes" (Sloterdijk).<br />

In <strong>the</strong> 19th century, exploitation of humans by<br />

humans shifted to methodical exploitation of <strong>the</strong><br />

Earth, which can be understood as narratives of<br />

metabolic regimes affecting both humans as well<br />

as natural resources. Against this background,<br />

Sloterdijk puts forward <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>sis that all stories<br />

of changing <strong>the</strong> conditio humana are narratives<br />

about <strong>the</strong> changing exploitation of energy<br />

sources or metabolic regimes that redefine<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene as <strong>the</strong> Capitalocene, <strong>the</strong><br />

“peak” agent of mass destruction that fuels <strong>the</strong><br />

elimination of <strong>the</strong> common grounds we share<br />

globally as <strong>the</strong> dominant Euro-centered culture<br />

(Haraway). Enforcing powers of ecologies, I<br />

expand from a social-economic historical review<br />

of man to explore <strong>the</strong> compression of time in <strong>the</strong><br />

landscape that defines our human and planetary<br />

condition. At <strong>the</strong> same time, I sympathize with our<br />

mythological counterparts or narratives where we<br />

can find oneself. “Compressing time” in my work<br />

means that past, present, and future merge into<br />

paintings that explore issues of disappearance,<br />

loss, power, and neglect in our environment by<br />

interlacing deep time, myth, and today's practices<br />

in land use and abuse.<br />

As an example, "Melancholia" presents an<br />

outrageous Gaiastory between geologies and<br />

a coal filled hole in <strong>the</strong> sky as reference to our<br />

disturbed biosphere including extortion and<br />

exhaust of Earth and atmosphere since <strong>the</strong><br />

Industrial Revolution. I agree with Haraway’s<br />

suggestion that we "give way to geostories, to<br />

Gaiastories, to sym-chthonic stories” (52).<br />

My works incorporate references and<br />

reinterpretations of mythologies of ancient<br />

civilizations into contemporary findings. Those<br />

fables resonate across time, embodying new<br />

forms and components. They help to explain<br />

<strong>the</strong> association between myths, historical, and<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 135


archaeological evidence to find meaning through<br />

artistic discourses within interdisciplinary<br />

practices towards decolonizing <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

I find inspiration in ancient myths, research on<br />

histories, archeology, and literature along with<br />

various adaptations from <strong>the</strong> text. Earlier series,<br />

engaged in questions of redefining concepts of<br />

landscapes and nature informed by multiple<br />

aspects of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene/Capitalocene,<br />

employ a comprehensive metaphorical<br />

language borrowed from Greek myths and <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

transformed and updated versions throughout<br />

history. These works are inspired by aspects<br />

of female powers in ancient Greek myth such<br />

as those of Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, and<br />

Medusa, that superimpose <strong>the</strong> delicate ecology of<br />

<strong>the</strong> world juxtaposed against cataclysmic events.<br />

Paintings such as "Gaia's Memory," "The<br />

Perseids," and "Chaos" refer to political volatility<br />

embedded in motifs of landscapes in precarious<br />

conditions. They are an attempt to create a<br />

metaphorical language that conveys aes<strong>the</strong>tic<br />

praxis confronting <strong>the</strong> problem of temporalities,<br />

and <strong>the</strong>y offer an ongoing consideration of<br />

interconnections between art, politics, and<br />

environment. They transform into parables and<br />

metaphors of man’s intervention, underscoring<br />

<strong>the</strong> formation of a movement between subjects<br />

in <strong>the</strong> vast field of land-seizure, exploitation, and<br />

separation over deep time up to <strong>the</strong> present.<br />

GAIA RISE<br />

My recent project, Gaia Rise, explores <strong>the</strong> political<br />

volatility embedded in motifs of landscapes<br />

in precarious conditions. The ongoing project<br />

started in 2019 during <strong>the</strong> London UK residency<br />

136 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Artemis Herber<br />

Polyphemus – After Casting Rocks, 2018<br />

Mixed media (acrylic, coal pigments coal chips) on multilayered corrugated cardboard; torn, ripped surface, re-using tattered<br />

scraps applying sculptural layers. The partially broken sphere built of paper scraps or from torn off elements. Inside <strong>the</strong> sphere:<br />

accumulated coal wood chips, 95x12x100”<br />

Image courtesy of Tom Petzwinkler.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 137


Artemis Herber<br />

The Perseids, 2019<br />

Acrylic on corrugated cardboard, mixed media (molded hand<br />

in-prints, gold embellished, incorporated into multilayered<br />

corrugated cardboard and packing paper ), 90x100”<br />

138 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Artemis Herber<br />

Melancholia, 2017<br />

Mixed media on corrugated cardboard, glued toge<strong>the</strong>r and partially hammered out<br />

digging holes into <strong>the</strong> accumulated material, washed paint, filled coal pigments,<br />

continuous collaging/de-collaging, disintegration and reconstruction, 90x10x100”.<br />

Following | Artemis Herber<br />

Melancholia, 2017 (detail)<br />

Images courtesy of Tom Petzwinkler.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 139


140 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 141


"Body and Place" with TheCoLAB and most<br />

recently continued as an artist residency at <strong>the</strong><br />

Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC.<br />

Gaia Rise attempts to create a metaphorical<br />

language that conveys aes<strong>the</strong>tic praxis<br />

confronting <strong>the</strong> problem of temporalities in <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene and argues for <strong>the</strong> importance<br />

of creating an ongoing consideration of<br />

interconnections between art, politics, and<br />

environment.<br />

Gaia's map is extending globally. As a chthonic<br />

deity, Gaia’s origin lies in <strong>the</strong> geological strata<br />

of Delphi in Greece. Delphi was considered <strong>the</strong><br />

center of <strong>the</strong> world for <strong>the</strong> ancients. According to<br />

<strong>the</strong> myth, Zeus had an eagle rise from each end of<br />

<strong>the</strong> world, meeting at Delphi. Gaia was combined<br />

with <strong>the</strong> mud left over from <strong>the</strong> world after <strong>the</strong><br />

end of <strong>the</strong> Golden Age and gave birth to Python, a<br />

winged serpent with clairvoyant abilities that lived<br />

in <strong>the</strong> place that was later to be called Delphi.<br />

After Python's execution, Delphi wrested control<br />

of Gaia and was henceforth under <strong>the</strong> protection<br />

of Apollo.<br />

“Gaia Rise” undergoes an exploration into<br />

critical zones (Latour) of our living conditions<br />

on Earth: With an emphasis on <strong>the</strong> urgency of<br />

environmental, political, and social instability,<br />

<strong>the</strong> depiction of Gaia and o<strong>the</strong>r mythic figures<br />

such as Prome<strong>the</strong>us or Medusa, represents not<br />

only deities from deep time, but <strong>the</strong> evolution<br />

of crisis in our times, evidenced in outbreaks,<br />

catastrophic powers, or hybrid landscapes, where<br />

all who are Earth-bound are at risk through an<br />

ongoing cataclysmic event of climate change and<br />

extinction.<br />

142 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Artemis Herber<br />

Chaos - Birth of Gaia, 2020.<br />

Acrylic on corrugated cardboard, mixed media (vine, coal, cable), 90x120”<br />

Image courtesy of Tom Petzwinkler.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 143


The triptych of "Prome<strong>the</strong>us" connects visually<br />

between folded landscapes, <strong>the</strong> empty shell of an<br />

elevated, but ephemeral human (using a female<br />

model to underscore human nature) figure filled<br />

with ashes, coal, and dust incorporated into <strong>the</strong><br />

layers of a mundane and industrial material<br />

made from raw corrugated cardboard. In terms<br />

of polit-myth, I question human mastery through<br />

his disappearance and dissolution. As mankind's<br />

creator, "Forethinker," and personification of<br />

civilization and quest for scientific knowledge, I<br />

suggest his death in my work.<br />

I extensively explore ancient myths and localities<br />

to raise awareness for Gaia, a concept that is not<br />

just defined as just a search for <strong>the</strong> clichéd idea of<br />

loss of nature or <strong>the</strong> traditional but problematic<br />

and essentialized sense of "caring mo<strong>the</strong>r earth."<br />

Gaia and her non-western and western relatives<br />

(Terra, Medusa, Incan Pachamama, Egyptian<br />

Gorgones, Wiccan Terra, Yoruban Oya, Navajo<br />

Spider Old-Woman) are chthonic entities to be<br />

excavated from rock strata. As Lucy Lippard<br />

(10) has noted, “[N]egative space can be more<br />

important than what’s constructed from its<br />

deported materials elsewhere. The gravel pit, like<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r mining holes, is <strong>the</strong> reverse image of <strong>the</strong><br />

cityscape it creates—extraction in aid of erection.”<br />

Moreover, <strong>the</strong> concept of Gaia offers access to<br />

what Latour has referred to as <strong>the</strong> "critical zone"<br />

of our planet. Similarly, I suggest a completely<br />

different perception of our planet that is<br />

animated, inhabited, or distorted by o<strong>the</strong>r-worldly<br />

environments. They are re-launched by hybridmythical<br />

landscapes or multi-species creatures<br />

Artemis Herber<br />

Prome<strong>the</strong>us Triptych, 2018-2020<br />

Acrylic and mixed media (layers of water-logged, wrung out, and unfolded sheets of corrugated cardboard).<br />

Images courtesy of Tom Petzwinkler.<br />

144 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


that remind us of friendly (or not so friendly)<br />

Gaia-related versions as a response to humanmade<br />

tectonic activities as new geological strata.<br />

I deliberately include narratives of extended Gaia<br />

versions and her remote relatives in my work—<br />

past and present.<br />

Divine deities (Gaia, Medusa) and "heroes" such<br />

as Perseus (in "Perseids") or "Prome<strong>the</strong>us" are<br />

embedded into metaphors of political landscapes<br />

concerning male authority, forcing a reading of<br />

<strong>the</strong> landscape (such as <strong>the</strong> disfiguring effects<br />

of culling natural and picturesque), <strong>the</strong>reby<br />

re-familiarizing <strong>the</strong> overlooked details of <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

everyday experience.<br />

As Haraway proposes with her analogies of<br />

"playing string figures" and <strong>the</strong> practice of<br />

"tentacular" figures, my large-scale formats allow<br />

me to experiment with mythic metaphors using<br />

generous painterly gestures, abrasive operations<br />

of destruction, disintegration, and reconstruction.<br />

I combine tattered textures of torn, shredded<br />

and crusted layers from corrugated cardboard<br />

combined with reclaimed man-made found<br />

objects from our top anthropogenic layer<br />

(concrete, cables, wires, industrial cleaning mops,<br />

as well as natural materials from geological strata<br />

(marble, clays, plaster, eggshells, gold). This forms<br />

an experimental tapestry of endless attempts<br />

of knitting between artistic practice, myth, and<br />

politics to produce a fabric of <strong>the</strong> world that can't<br />

or can be worn.<br />

In staged scenes filled to <strong>the</strong> brim with barren<br />

and lost spaces devitalized by multifaceted<br />

entanglement between o<strong>the</strong>r-worldly deities<br />

or science-fiction (post-) apocalyptic scenarios,<br />

Artemis Herber<br />

Urban Layers - New York City explorations<br />

in my environments - photo of documented<br />

“findings”, dismantling housing, concrete blocks<br />

made from aggregate of mountain-top removal.<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

I connect stories from <strong>the</strong> past to <strong>the</strong> ongoing<br />

extinction engraved into <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

era, by making kin and becoming friends with<br />

mythological creatures, revealing and excavating<br />

those who need to be revitalized and engaged—<br />

or buried—for change.<br />

Latour and Davis suggest that looking at earth<br />

from a different angle of ecologization creates<br />

a new perspective, different from opposing<br />

views between neo-conservatism and globalist<br />

modernism. Inspired by that idea, I excavate Gaia<br />

as an ecologically-relevant entity that connects<br />

with distinct mythological <strong>the</strong>mes into a tapestry<br />

of ei<strong>the</strong>r devastated, neglected, or exploited<br />

landscapes animated by ancient deities and myth.<br />

I find ways to understand Gaia as a delicate,<br />

vulnerable sphere that we collectively occupy.<br />

My adaptable approach reveals <strong>the</strong> collective<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 145


Artemis Herber<br />

Rape of Medusa, 2019<br />

Acrylic on corrugated cardboard, mixed media (commercial cleaning mop heads,<br />

incorporated into multilayered corrugated cardboard and packing paper),<br />

90x15x100”<br />

Image courtesy of Tom Petzwinkler.<br />

146 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


coherence with constant re-figurations of multigestures<br />

and layers that seemingly merge into a<br />

cohesive body of work as a metaphor of shared<br />

values and responsibilities. As a result, magic<br />

appears with a multi-leveled expression that<br />

emphasizes <strong>the</strong> vulnerability, preciousness, and<br />

urgency towards living and postponing ends to<br />

<strong>the</strong> future.<br />

My work exposes an underlying tale of<br />

environmental concerns embedded in<br />

tectonic activities that shape and change<br />

our landscapes over time and create a new<br />

geological Anthropocenic layer on top of all o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

strata, both human and geologic. In <strong>the</strong> 21st<br />

century, we are facing extortion, extinction, and<br />

environmental degradation paired with passive<br />

ignorance. We are responsible as collective<br />

players and must realize that all humans and nonhumans<br />

must be re-bound to Earth, aware, and<br />

take care of Earth with responsibility. I understand<br />

Gaia as local issues multiplied on a global level,<br />

informed by my travels to various places to<br />

experience and increase <strong>the</strong> complexity of <strong>the</strong><br />

Gaia Rise concept.<br />

While constantly turning our planet into a cloaca, I<br />

sense <strong>the</strong> entanglement between dirty businesses<br />

and <strong>the</strong> planet's precarious condition in <strong>the</strong><br />

specific environment. We experience Gaia as<br />

fragile and entirely out of balance, along with all<br />

atmospheric formations of climate change as an<br />

outrageous result of human activity. In history,<br />

Hesiod also describes Gaia as a very prolific, but<br />

also dangerous, fragile, and a violently cataclysmic<br />

power. Certainly, Gaia rises from deep time and<br />

history as a global phenomenon now in existence<br />

everywhere on Earth, requiring local and sitespecific<br />

explorations to understand <strong>the</strong> nature<br />

of Gaia. Using polit-myth to engage in "climate<br />

responsibility" and "ecologization" (Latour and<br />

Davis) and “composting” (Haraway and Kenney),<br />

my works are an attempt to decolonize <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene by unraveling time and place. By<br />

juxtaposing paintings of distinct mythological<br />

<strong>the</strong>mes into a tapestry of ei<strong>the</strong>r devastated,<br />

neglected, or exploited landscapes animated<br />

by Gaia and her close/far relatives, I reveal <strong>the</strong><br />

humanity of both ourselves and our planet rooted<br />

in <strong>the</strong> deep past, in order to envision different<br />

futures after <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

Works Cited<br />

Haraway, Donna, and Martha Kenney. “Anthropocene,<br />

Capitaloscene, Chthulhucene: Donna Haraway in Conversation<br />

with Martha Kenney.” Art in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: Encounters<br />

Among Aes<strong>the</strong>tics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies,<br />

edited by Hea<strong>the</strong>r Davis and Etienne Turpin, Open Humanities<br />

Press, 2015, 256-270.<br />

Haraway, Donna. “Staying with <strong>the</strong> Trouble: Anthropocene,<br />

Capitalocene, Chthulucene.” Anthopocene or Capitalocene?<br />

Nature, History, and <strong>the</strong> Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Jason<br />

Moore, PM Press, 2016, 34-76.<br />

Haraway, Donna. Staying with <strong>the</strong> Trouble: Making Kin in <strong>the</strong><br />

Chthulucene. Duke University Press, 2016<br />

Latour, Bruno. Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on <strong>the</strong> New Climate<br />

Regime. Polity Press, 2017.<br />

Latour Bruno, and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Davis. "Diplomacy in <strong>the</strong> Face<br />

of Gaia: Bruno Latour in Conversation with Hea<strong>the</strong>r Davis.”<br />

Art in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aes<strong>the</strong>tics, Politics,<br />

Environments and Epistemologies, edited by Hea<strong>the</strong>r Davis and<br />

Etienne Turpin, Open Humanities Press, 2015, 43-56.<br />

Lippard, Lucy. Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use,<br />

Politics, and Art in <strong>the</strong> Changing West. The New Press, 2014.<br />

Nancy, Jean Luc and John Paul Ricco. “The Existence of <strong>the</strong><br />

World is Always Unexpected: Jean Luc Nancy in conversation<br />

with John Paul Ricco.”Art in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: Encounters Among<br />

Aes<strong>the</strong>tics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, edited by<br />

Hea<strong>the</strong>r Davis and Etienne Turpin, Open Humanities Press,<br />

2015, 85-92.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 147


Sloterdijk, Peter. “The Anthropocene: Process-State at <strong>the</strong><br />

Edge of Geohistory?” Art in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene: Encounters Among<br />

Aes<strong>the</strong>tics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, edited by<br />

Hea<strong>the</strong>r Davis and Etienne Turpin, Open Humanities Press,<br />

2015, 327-340.<br />

Sloterdijk, Peter. Was geschah im 20. Jahrhundert?: Unterwegs<br />

zu einer Kritik der extremistischen Vernunft. Suhrkamp, 2016.<br />

BIO<br />

German-born artist Artemis Herber has exhibited in <strong>the</strong> U.S.,<br />

Germany, <strong>the</strong> U.K., Italy, Portugal and Spain. Highlights include<br />

Kunstverein Paderborn, Munich Airport, Goe<strong>the</strong>-Institut,<br />

Spartanburg Art Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, National<br />

Trust’s Newark Park, Cheltenham Museum, and Albright-Knox<br />

Gallery. Solo exhibitions include Erratic Landscapes, MPA,<br />

Autochthon, Arlington Arts Center, Shifting Identities/Humanity<br />

in Nature, Montgomery College and Liminal States, Delaplaine<br />

Arts Center. Herber has also accomplished public art projects<br />

in Baltimore and Washington D.C. and engages in International<br />

Cultural Relations with NRW KULTURsekretariat. As Transatlantic<br />

Cultural Projects curator, Herber created Micro-Monuments,<br />

Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University, and Micro-<br />

Monuments II – Underground, International Arts&Artists at Hillyer.<br />

As former president of <strong>the</strong> Washington Sculptors Group, Herber<br />

created concepts for Art in Nature and land-use projects. Her<br />

research on <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, embedded in <strong>the</strong> field of politmyth<br />

and experimental geography, has been deepened through<br />

residencies at Rensing Center, <strong>the</strong>CoLAB, London, and Skopelos<br />

Foundation of Arts, Greece.<br />

148 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 149


150 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


After Animals<br />

Jay R. Elliott<br />

The origins of <strong>the</strong> term “Anthropocene” lie in<br />

geology. Beginning in <strong>the</strong> 1980s, earth scientists<br />

argued that <strong>the</strong> eighteenth century inaugurated<br />

a distinct period in <strong>the</strong> history of our planet.<br />

They define this period by <strong>the</strong> massive humaninduced<br />

transformations witnessed over <strong>the</strong> past<br />

two centuries in <strong>the</strong> Earth’s planetary systems,<br />

including air, land, water, and climate. Similar<br />

definitions identify <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene in terms of<br />

<strong>the</strong> ongoing mass extinction and redistribution<br />

of plant and animal species; or in terms of<br />

<strong>the</strong> appearance of syn<strong>the</strong>tic materials such as<br />

aluminum, concrete, and plastic that will persist<br />

in geological strata. 1 All of <strong>the</strong>se definitions<br />

capture something of great importance about life<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, but <strong>the</strong>y are constrained by<br />

<strong>the</strong> origins of <strong>the</strong> term in geology. They model<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene on earlier geologic eras, and<br />

define it by signatures analogous to those we<br />

use to define those eras, such as a reduction in<br />

biodiversity in <strong>the</strong> fossil record or <strong>the</strong> presence of<br />

novel elements in rock formations. In what may<br />

or may not be a hopeful fantasy, <strong>the</strong>se definitions<br />

invite us to imagine paleontologists of <strong>the</strong> future<br />

uncovering our era, much as we have uncovered<br />

past eras of life on Earth, and discerning its<br />

boundaries geologically.<br />

1<br />

For an accessible introduction to <strong>the</strong> origins of <strong>the</strong> concept<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene in geology, see Kolbert. Waters et al. provides<br />

a review of recent geological research on <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

Elizabeth Povinelli criticizes geological conceptions of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene on <strong>the</strong> grounds that <strong>the</strong>y tend to reify oppositions<br />

between humanity and nature: see Povinelli 9-14.<br />

More recently, many have come to think of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene ra<strong>the</strong>r differently: not as a<br />

geological stratum to be uncovered by future<br />

scientists, but ra<strong>the</strong>r as a condition we are<br />

living through here and now. 2 Yet <strong>the</strong> standard<br />

geological definitions aren’t well-suited to<br />

capturing <strong>the</strong> character of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene as a<br />

lived experience. To craft a definition that comes<br />

closer to what living through <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

feels like, we might look to <strong>the</strong> transformation<br />

that recent centuries have wrought in <strong>the</strong> quality<br />

of human-animal relationships. Attending to our<br />

lives with animals in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene shifts our<br />

attention away from <strong>the</strong> grand planetary scale of<br />

<strong>the</strong> geological definitions and toward <strong>the</strong> more<br />

intimate transformations that recent centuries<br />

have created in our daily lives.<br />

As a mascot to represent some of <strong>the</strong>se<br />

transformations, I nominate in-vitro meat (IVM),<br />

<strong>the</strong> emerging technology in which animal cells<br />

are cultured in laboratories to create meat<br />

products in <strong>the</strong> absence of whole, living animals.<br />

This technology may strike us as bizarre, but it is<br />

a logical extension of our current relationships<br />

with animals. IVM lies at <strong>the</strong> end point of a<br />

process of transformation in human-animal<br />

relationships that began in industrializing<br />

Europe and <strong>the</strong> Americas, and <strong>the</strong>n spread<br />

throughout much of <strong>the</strong> world over <strong>the</strong> course<br />

of <strong>the</strong> twentieth century. In this process, <strong>the</strong><br />

2<br />

See Ghosh, Purdy, Vogel, Wakefield and <strong>the</strong> essays collected<br />

in Tsing et al.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4<br />

151


Attending to our lives with<br />

animals in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

shifts our attention away from<br />

<strong>the</strong> grand planetary scale of<br />

<strong>the</strong> geological definitions<br />

and toward <strong>the</strong> more intimate<br />

transformations that recent<br />

centuries have created in our<br />

daily lives.<br />

152 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


lives of <strong>the</strong> domesticated animals we eat, in<br />

particular, have been radically altered: once at<br />

home with humans (as <strong>the</strong> term “domesticated”<br />

suggests), <strong>the</strong>y have been isolated, confined,<br />

and subjected to ever-increasing demands of<br />

efficiency in industrial production. 3 Those of us in<br />

industrialized societies live with <strong>the</strong> effects of this<br />

transformation every day, and yet its character<br />

is obscure to us, because <strong>the</strong> memory of any<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r way of being with animals is becoming<br />

increasingly remote. But if we can regain<br />

something of this memory, we may enrich our<br />

understanding of <strong>the</strong> distinctive character of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene as a lived experience, and clarify<br />

some of what would be required in order for us to<br />

imagine life beyond it.<br />

In recent decades, philosophers such as Peter<br />

Singer and animal advocacy organizations such as<br />

People for <strong>the</strong> Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)<br />

have framed influential critiques of <strong>the</strong> treatment<br />

of animals in industrial agriculture. Yet <strong>the</strong>se<br />

critiques have too often failed to fundamentally<br />

contest <strong>the</strong> terms of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, as is<br />

shown by <strong>the</strong>ir full-throated advocacy of IVM. In<br />

order to resist <strong>the</strong> domination and manipulation<br />

of animal bodies at work in IVM, we need to<br />

move past <strong>the</strong>se familiar modes of critique and<br />

recognize <strong>the</strong> ways <strong>the</strong>y remain confined within<br />

<strong>the</strong> standpoint of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. With that<br />

aim in mind, I contrast Singer’s conception of<br />

animals as sentient beings entitled to moral<br />

consideration with alternative modes of thinking<br />

about human-animal relationships found in<br />

pre-modern and non-Western traditions. In<br />

<strong>the</strong>se alternative modes, <strong>the</strong> central moral<br />

concept that shapes human attitudes toward<br />

3<br />

For an introduction to <strong>the</strong> legal and economic history of this<br />

process, see McLeod-Kilmurray. For a vivid literary depiction,<br />

see Highsmith.<br />

animals is not that of sentience but ra<strong>the</strong>r that<br />

of companionship. From this standpoint, <strong>the</strong><br />

decisive fact about our relations with non-human<br />

animals is not that <strong>the</strong>y are like us in certain ways<br />

(as Singer suggests), but ra<strong>the</strong>r that <strong>the</strong>y are with<br />

us as our companions. It is this latter outlook that<br />

we need to cultivate, I propose, if we are to have<br />

an ethical ground on which to resist IVM and <strong>the</strong><br />

logic of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene more generally.<br />

In his 1980 essay “Why Look at Animals?,” John<br />

Berger wrote that <strong>the</strong> past two centuries have<br />

witnessed a process “by which every tradition<br />

which previously mediated between man and<br />

nature was broken.” “Before this rupture,” Berger<br />

writes, “animals constituted <strong>the</strong> first circle of<br />

what surrounded man… They were with man at<br />

<strong>the</strong> center of his world” (Berger 3). This intimacy<br />

between humans and animals, Berger reminds<br />

us, was not exclusively or even primarily a matter<br />

of utility in such matters as milk, meat, clothing<br />

and labor. To assume that animals have always<br />

appeared to human beings primarily as sources<br />

of useful products is to project a ra<strong>the</strong>r novel<br />

and parochial attitude onto o<strong>the</strong>r societies. In<br />

most civilizations throughout human history,<br />

animals have first of all “entered <strong>the</strong> imagination<br />

as messengers and stories” (Berger 4). In <strong>the</strong>se<br />

stories, animals appear as kin, as teachers, and as<br />

mediators between humans and <strong>the</strong> wider world.<br />

In societies that are not captive to <strong>the</strong> modern<br />

divide between human beings and nature,<br />

animals appear as <strong>the</strong> close kin of human beings<br />

and as vital carriers of meaning through which<br />

<strong>the</strong> world becomes intelligible. Among <strong>the</strong> Nuer<br />

of South Sudan, for example, <strong>the</strong> ox is recognized<br />

not merely as a source of milk and meat but as<br />

“mo<strong>the</strong>r,” “sister,” and “friend.” 4 According to<br />

indigenous Hawai’ian tradition, humans know<br />

4<br />

From E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer, quoted on Berger 4.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 153


<strong>the</strong> ways of beaver, bears, and salmon because<br />

“our men were once married to <strong>the</strong>m, and <strong>the</strong>y<br />

acquired this knowledge from <strong>the</strong>ir animal<br />

wives.” 5 In Homer, Odysseus approaches <strong>the</strong><br />

underworld through <strong>the</strong> ritual slaughter of<br />

animals, cutting <strong>the</strong>ir throats, burning <strong>the</strong>ir bodies<br />

and mixing <strong>the</strong>ir warm blood with <strong>the</strong> earth:<br />

Then I addressed <strong>the</strong> blurred and breathless<br />

dead,<br />

vowing to slaughter my best heifer for <strong>the</strong>m<br />

before she calved, at home in Ithaka,<br />

and burn <strong>the</strong> choice bits on <strong>the</strong> altar fire;<br />

as for Teiresias, I swore to sacrifice<br />

a black lamb, handsomest of all our flock.<br />

Thus to assuage <strong>the</strong> nations of <strong>the</strong> dead<br />

I pledged <strong>the</strong>se rites, <strong>the</strong>n slashed <strong>the</strong> lamb and<br />

ewe,<br />

letting <strong>the</strong>ir black blood stream into <strong>the</strong> wellpit<br />

(Odyssey XI. 31-39). 6<br />

Only through animal sacrifice does Odysseus gain<br />

access to <strong>the</strong> ghosts below and <strong>the</strong>ir knowledge<br />

of his fate. 7 Even in this act of slaughter, ancient<br />

Greek culture expressed a profound form of<br />

respect: in <strong>the</strong> deaths of animals, <strong>the</strong> secrets of<br />

human life and death were revealed. The bodies<br />

of animals, with <strong>the</strong>ir blood, bones, skin, and hair,<br />

are recognized as sacred objects, and <strong>the</strong> killing of<br />

animals is practiced as a sacred act.<br />

Today this ancient experience of animals as<br />

messengers and mediators comes down to us in<br />

forms we often take for granted, from <strong>the</strong> signs<br />

of <strong>the</strong> zodiac to <strong>the</strong> lessons of animal fables<br />

5<br />

From Claude Lévi-Straus, The Savage Mind, quoted on Berger<br />

4.<br />

6<br />

Fitzgerald 186<br />

7<br />

For a history of human-animal relationships centered on <strong>the</strong><br />

practice of animal sacrifice, see Bulliet.<br />

and proverbs. It persists above all in children’s<br />

literature, where our first lessons in how to be<br />

human, and even how to speak human languages,<br />

almost invariably come from animal characters.<br />

The roles that animals continue to play in our<br />

imagination remind us that human-animal<br />

relationships were not (and, in o<strong>the</strong>r societies,<br />

are not) so hierarchical and exploitative. Yet in<br />

societies dominated by industrial agriculture,<br />

<strong>the</strong>se animal messengers have become wholly<br />

removed from <strong>the</strong> living reality of <strong>the</strong> animals we<br />

kill and eat; <strong>the</strong> animals on whom we rely every<br />

day occupy our imaginations less and less.<br />

As Berger explains, animals function as<br />

messengers to human beings fundamentally<br />

because human-animal relationships combine<br />

intimacy with difference. The possibilities of this<br />

relationship are revealed in <strong>the</strong> human-animal<br />

gaze, that is, when a human being and an animal<br />

are looking at each o<strong>the</strong>r. This reciprocal gaze<br />

occurs in a literal sense when human beings and<br />

animals live toge<strong>the</strong>r in domestic intimacy. But<br />

it also takes a more metaphorical, though no<br />

less important, form in societies where stories<br />

about animals are among <strong>the</strong> basic ways in<br />

which human beings understand <strong>the</strong>mselves<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir world. In being seen by <strong>the</strong> animal,<br />

“man becomes aware of himself returning <strong>the</strong><br />

look.” (Berger 5) Thus <strong>the</strong> human gaze onto <strong>the</strong><br />

world discovers itself to be companionable in a<br />

particular way: “when [<strong>the</strong> human] is being seen by<br />

<strong>the</strong> animal, he is being seen as his surroundings<br />

are seen by him.” (Berger 5) In being seen by <strong>the</strong><br />

animal, we human beings become aware that<br />

we are also seen, and seen by creatures who<br />

are o<strong>the</strong>r than us, yet radically proximate to us.<br />

As Berger puts it, <strong>the</strong> animal thus represents “a<br />

companionship offered to <strong>the</strong> loneliness of man<br />

154 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


as a species.” (Berger 6) This companionship<br />

is essentially different from that offered by<br />

any human individual or group; for <strong>the</strong> animal<br />

reveals humanity as such to stand in need of<br />

companionship.<br />

The more recent history of human-animal<br />

relationships in industrialized societies has<br />

been one of <strong>the</strong> gradual erosion of this original<br />

companionship. As Berger puts it, “In <strong>the</strong> last two<br />

centuries, animals have gradually disappeared.”<br />

(Berger 11) This claim might sound surprising: <strong>the</strong><br />

numbers of animals raised and slaughtered every<br />

year remain mind-bogglingly large. According<br />

to <strong>the</strong> United Nations Food and Agriculture<br />

Organization, in 2017 <strong>the</strong> global population of<br />

chickens alone was approximately 22.8 billion.<br />

Yet in Berger’s sense, animals have indeed<br />

been disappearing in <strong>the</strong> eyes of many human<br />

societies: that is, <strong>the</strong>ir lives occupy less and less<br />

of our consciousness. Through <strong>the</strong> methods<br />

of modern factory farming, animals have been<br />

reduced to machines for <strong>the</strong> production of animal<br />

products. Their lives and deaths are hidden<br />

from view, <strong>the</strong>ir products presented to us neatly<br />

wrapped with scarcely a whiff of blood. We eat<br />

<strong>the</strong>se animals, but <strong>the</strong>ir gaze is not on us, and we<br />

find in <strong>the</strong>m no companions. 8<br />

I propose that we think of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene as<br />

marked precisely by <strong>the</strong> absence of this sort of<br />

companionship, and by <strong>the</strong> resulting loneliness<br />

of <strong>the</strong> human as a species. In <strong>the</strong> equivocal<br />

triumph of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, humans have<br />

broken <strong>the</strong>ir dependence on everything that once<br />

seemed to constitute <strong>the</strong>ir natural and inevitable<br />

8<br />

For a range of attempts to articulate <strong>the</strong> idea of human-animal<br />

companionship in a contemporary context, see Cavell, Coetzee,<br />

Derrida, Diamond, Haraway, and Hearne. These writers<br />

tend to find companionship in pets or working animals such as<br />

horses, or even in wild animals, but not in <strong>the</strong> animals we eat.<br />

world, including o<strong>the</strong>r animals. We have instead<br />

come to believe in our ability to dominate and<br />

manipulate <strong>the</strong> elements of this given world as<br />

so much raw material for our capitalist fantasies.<br />

For all its power and success, this project has left<br />

humanity profoundly isolated, at <strong>the</strong> center of<br />

a shapeless world in which everything outside<br />

of human consciousness appears equally<br />

remote, manipulable and dead. 9 In a break with<br />

<strong>the</strong> historical experience whereby <strong>the</strong> human<br />

recognized <strong>the</strong> animal as a companion “at <strong>the</strong><br />

center of his world,” in <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene (as <strong>the</strong><br />

name itself suggests) <strong>the</strong> human is alone. 10<br />

Today our societies are saturated with<br />

discourses of animal consciousness, animal<br />

welfare and animal rights. Yet <strong>the</strong> irony is that<br />

<strong>the</strong>se discourses do not show us a way past<br />

<strong>the</strong> limitations of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene; instead<br />

<strong>the</strong>y serve to confirm <strong>the</strong>m. Peter Singer is<br />

among <strong>the</strong> most prominent modern advocates<br />

for animals; he argues that animals possess<br />

consciousness, can feel pleasure and pain, and<br />

<strong>the</strong>refore deserve moral consideration. In his<br />

1975 classic, Animal Liberation, Singer argues<br />

that “all animals are equal” (Singer 1) insofar as<br />

<strong>the</strong>y all possess “<strong>the</strong> capacity for suffering and<br />

enjoyment” (Singer 7). He begins from human<br />

consciousness, taken as an evident fact, and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

infers from certain analogies between humans<br />

and animals (behavioral, physiological, and<br />

genetic) that animals must also share at least<br />

9<br />

The canonical formulation of this worldview is Descartes,<br />

parts 4 and 5.<br />

10<br />

From Berger’s perspective, we can see this name as ironic:<br />

<strong>the</strong> way of life it names, far from representing a fulfillment of<br />

<strong>the</strong> human, involves a diminishment of it, since <strong>the</strong> fullness of<br />

human being involves acknowledgment of <strong>the</strong> animal gaze.<br />

Compare this criticism of <strong>the</strong> term “Anthropocene” with that<br />

in Haraway, who objects to <strong>the</strong> term on <strong>the</strong> grounds that our<br />

present crisis requires a radical decentering of <strong>the</strong> human. By<br />

contrast, Berger reminds us that <strong>the</strong> human can be (and historically<br />

has been) both at <strong>the</strong> center of its world and in need<br />

of animal companionship.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 155


some aspects of this human consciousness. “If<br />

a being suffers,” Singer argues, “<strong>the</strong>re can be<br />

no moral justification for refusing to take that<br />

suffering into consideration. <strong>No</strong> matter what<br />

<strong>the</strong> nature of <strong>the</strong> being, <strong>the</strong> principle of equality<br />

requires that its suffering be counted equally with<br />

<strong>the</strong> like suffering… of any o<strong>the</strong>r being” (Singer 8).<br />

For Singer, human beings and o<strong>the</strong>r animals are<br />

analogous, in <strong>the</strong> sense that both are capable of<br />

suffering. If we are committed to seeing human<br />

suffering as morally significant, <strong>the</strong>n, Singer<br />

argues, we are required in consistency to regard<br />

animal suffering as morally significant also. If<br />

we do not, <strong>the</strong>n we are speciesists, by which<br />

Singer means that we arbitrarily take difference<br />

of species into account in choosing to care about<br />

<strong>the</strong> suffering of humans but not that of o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

animals. On this basis, Singer has argued that we<br />

should boycott and resist many forms of human<br />

domination over animals, including factory<br />

farming as well as animal testing in science and<br />

industry.<br />

Singer’s argument appears to show us a way out<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene. By affirming <strong>the</strong> fact of<br />

animal consciousness and its moral significance,<br />

Singer seems to set limits to <strong>the</strong> human<br />

domination of o<strong>the</strong>r animals, and to reject <strong>the</strong><br />

idea that humans occupy a unique, isolated place<br />

in <strong>the</strong> universe. But this appearance is deceptive,<br />

as we can begin to see by comparing Singer’s<br />

way of thinking with <strong>the</strong> traditions described by<br />

Berger. In <strong>the</strong> way of thinking Berger describes,<br />

<strong>the</strong> animal appears as <strong>the</strong> companion of <strong>the</strong><br />

human. The significance of animals for humans<br />

is thus seen as a basic fact about human life. By<br />

contrast, for Singer <strong>the</strong> animal is analogous to<br />

<strong>the</strong> human. Humans and animals are alike in<br />

certain respects, but this similarity has nothing<br />

to do with intimacy. Their lives are essentially<br />

parallel, precisely as our lives might be parallel<br />

to those of a sentient Martian. Singer’s type of<br />

argument could proceed in exactly <strong>the</strong> same way<br />

if it were being made about Martians, or indeed<br />

if it were being made by Martians. 11 In o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

words, <strong>the</strong> long and intimate companionship<br />

between humans and animals plays no role in<br />

<strong>the</strong>se arguments; it is displaced in favor of an<br />

abstract idea of similarity or genetic kinship.<br />

The fact that animals see us, and that we take<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir gaze as addressed to us, has no work to<br />

do here. From Singer’s point of view, animal<br />

consciousness appears as an addition alongside<br />

human consciousness, but not as an essential<br />

companion of <strong>the</strong> human species. As a result,<br />

Singer’s conception of animal sentience provides<br />

no essential relief to <strong>the</strong> loneliness at <strong>the</strong> heart of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Anthropocene.<br />

The emergence of IVM throws <strong>the</strong> difference<br />

between <strong>the</strong>se two attitudes toward animals<br />

into stark relief. 12 There are currently thirtythree<br />

companies, based primarily in <strong>No</strong>rth<br />

America, working to develop lab-based meat. 13<br />

By separating <strong>the</strong> production of meat products<br />

from <strong>the</strong> lives of animals, IVM promises to vastly<br />

increase <strong>the</strong> efficiency of meat production and<br />

to vastly decrease its environmental impact.<br />

Advocates of IVM also argue that it would greatly<br />

decrease <strong>the</strong> animal suffering involved in meat<br />

production. In order to secure <strong>the</strong>se benefits, IVM<br />

would have to essentially replace <strong>the</strong> production<br />

of meat via whole animals; as a result, <strong>the</strong><br />

11<br />

I owe this analogy to Diamond.<br />

12<br />

Berger did not explicitly comment on IVM. But he anticipated<br />

it in his observation that in advanced forms of factory farming,<br />

animals were becoming not even machines in <strong>the</strong> processes<br />

of generating animal products, but merely “raw material” for<br />

those processes. (Berger 13)<br />

13<br />

See Friend.<br />

156 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


domesticated animals currently used in meat<br />

production would simply cease to exist, at least<br />

in anything remotely resembling <strong>the</strong>ir current<br />

numbers. As Tad Friend notes in a recent article<br />

chronicling <strong>the</strong> emerging IVM industry, “meat is<br />

wildly inefficient. Because cattle use <strong>the</strong>ir feed<br />

not only to grow muscle but also to grow bones<br />

and a tail and to trot around and to think <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

mysterious thoughts, <strong>the</strong>ir energy-conversion<br />

efficiency—<strong>the</strong> number of calories <strong>the</strong>ir meat<br />

contains compared with <strong>the</strong> number <strong>the</strong>y take<br />

to make it—is a woeful one per cent” (Friend 45).<br />

By removing <strong>the</strong>se inefficiencies, IVM promises<br />

to reduce <strong>the</strong> threats that a meat-intensive<br />

diet poses to human health, animals and <strong>the</strong><br />

environment.<br />

According to industry analysts, IVM may occupy<br />

as much as thirty-five percent of <strong>the</strong> total market<br />

for meat products by 2040. 14 For now, <strong>the</strong><br />

project of IVM remains largely a fantasy. It is still<br />

technologically dependent on <strong>the</strong> conventional<br />

meat industry, since its favored nutritional bath<br />

for culturing animal cells involves fetal bovine<br />

serum (FBS), which is extracted from pregnant<br />

cows during slaughter. One of <strong>the</strong> most advanced<br />

companies, Just, Inc., has successfully developed<br />

an IVM chicken nugget, but it is hardly competitive<br />

with animal-based meat production: each IVM<br />

nugget currently costs around $50 to produce.<br />

Thus far IVM researchers have succeeded in<br />

reproducing only <strong>the</strong> texture of ground meat<br />

products, such as chicken nuggets or hamburger.<br />

The technology required to truly displace <strong>the</strong><br />

conventional meat industry, which would require<br />

replicating <strong>the</strong> full range of familiar cuts of meat,<br />

from steak and pork chops to rib roast and leg of<br />

lamb, may be decades away.<br />

14<br />

See Friend.<br />

But as a fantasy, IVM captures <strong>the</strong> spirit of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene with remarkable clarity. It responds<br />

to <strong>the</strong> multitude of threats posed to human<br />

beings and <strong>the</strong> Earth by industrial agriculture.<br />

But it does so by doubling down on <strong>the</strong> habits of<br />

mind that created those threats to begin with:<br />

<strong>the</strong> tendency to isolate human consciousness<br />

from <strong>the</strong> world and to render more and more of<br />

that world into a resource to be manipulated and<br />

controlled. In place of <strong>the</strong> “inefficient” process of<br />

producing meat via whole animals, it proposes to<br />

extract <strong>the</strong> parts of animals that are of greatest<br />

value to human beings, such as <strong>the</strong>ir muscle<br />

tissue, and to render <strong>the</strong>m wholly subservient<br />

to human purposes. At <strong>the</strong> same time, it makes<br />

<strong>the</strong> scope of human consciousness smaller and<br />

smaller, by separating <strong>the</strong> act of eating meat from<br />

any attempt to imagine animal life. Only such a<br />

reduced consciousness could look at <strong>the</strong> bones,<br />

tails, and “mysterious thoughts” of cows and<br />

see merely a “wildly inefficient” mechanism for<br />

<strong>the</strong> production of meat. In IVM, <strong>the</strong> business of<br />

producing meat is separated even from <strong>the</strong> act of<br />

killing. 15 <strong>No</strong>thing could be fur<strong>the</strong>r from Odysseus’s<br />

sense of <strong>the</strong> animal’s death as a sacred event<br />

that brings us closer to <strong>the</strong> mysteries of human<br />

life and death. Even if widespread use of IVM in<br />

place of factory farming would reduce animal<br />

suffering, it would do nothing to restore our sense<br />

of animals as messengers and companions.<br />

The desolation at <strong>the</strong> heart of modern animal<br />

advocates’ conception of animal consciousness is<br />

laid bare by <strong>the</strong>ir wholehearted embrace of IVM.<br />

Singer has heralded IVM as “all pluses and no<br />

minuses” (Specter). His advocacy of IVM is not <strong>the</strong><br />

product of momentary thoughtlessness; it flows<br />

15<br />

I speak here of <strong>the</strong> fantasy of IVM, not <strong>the</strong> reality, which, as<br />

noted above, remains tied to slaughter in <strong>the</strong> extraction of<br />

FBS. I thank Melanie Armstrong for pointing this out.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 157


from <strong>the</strong> fundamental logic of his argument. Since<br />

IVM lacks consciousness, for Singer it raises no<br />

ethical problems. <strong>No</strong>r is Singer’s advocacy of IVM<br />

idiosyncratic in <strong>the</strong> context of <strong>the</strong> contemporary<br />

animal-rights movement. PETA has offered a<br />

million-dollar prize to <strong>the</strong> first group that creates<br />

“an in-vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste<br />

and texture indistinguishable from real chicken<br />

flesh.’’ (Specter) Without a trace of irony, Ingrid<br />

Newkirk, President of PETA, calls <strong>the</strong> group’s<br />

support for IVM a “no-brainer.” She explains her<br />

support of IVM as follows: “If people are unwilling<br />

to stop eating animals by <strong>the</strong> billions, <strong>the</strong>n what<br />

a joy to be able to give <strong>the</strong>m animal flesh that<br />

comes without <strong>the</strong> horror of <strong>the</strong> slaughterhouse,<br />

<strong>the</strong> transport truck, and <strong>the</strong> mutilations, pain,<br />

and suffering of factory farming” (Specter). In<br />

<strong>the</strong> language of advocates such as Newkirk, <strong>the</strong><br />

fantasy of IVM combines vast optimism about<br />

human technical prowess with pitifully low<br />

expectations for human moral imagination. In <strong>the</strong><br />

name of animal welfare, she invites us to dream<br />

of a future in which we continue to eat “animal<br />

flesh,” while doing away with animals and <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

“mysterious thoughts” altoge<strong>the</strong>r. The eating of<br />

meat is thus finally, completely decoupled from<br />

human-animal companionship. For thinkers and<br />

activists in <strong>the</strong> mold of Singer and Newkirk, IVM<br />

is justified – indeed, imperative – as a way to<br />

reduce animal suffering. Their reasoning may<br />

seem to represent a brake on <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene’s<br />

devastation of human-animal relationships, but<br />

in fact it intensifies it. Ra<strong>the</strong>r than affirming <strong>the</strong><br />

value of animals’ lives, it reinforces <strong>the</strong> idea that<br />

animals – with <strong>the</strong>ir bones, tails and mysterious<br />

thoughts – are an inconvenient and ultimately<br />

dispensable stage in <strong>the</strong> processing of meat<br />

products. In <strong>the</strong> fantasy of IVM – a fantasy<br />

shared by animal advocates such as Singer and<br />

Newkirk – human life, including meat-eating, can<br />

carry on just as it is, without animals. If animal<br />

consciousness seems to present an impediment<br />

to meat-eating, <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong> obvious solution is<br />

simply to do away with animal consciousness.<br />

Thus <strong>the</strong> fact of animal consciousness becomes<br />

an invitation to human ingenuity ra<strong>the</strong>r than a call<br />

for ethical reflection.<br />

Attempts such as Singer’s to alleviate <strong>the</strong> ravages<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene instead end up repeating it.<br />

Is <strong>the</strong>re any way past it, <strong>the</strong>n? We have reasons to<br />

doubt it that go beyond <strong>the</strong> failure of Singer and<br />

company. Berger invites us to recall alternative<br />

ways of imagining human-animal relations. But<br />

he also presents <strong>the</strong>m as essentially distant<br />

and lost: for him, <strong>the</strong>se ways of thinking reside<br />

in traditions that, among those of us living in<br />

industrial societies, have been irreparably broken.<br />

It might seem, <strong>the</strong>n, that we are left with two<br />

unappealing alternatives: on <strong>the</strong> one hand, <strong>the</strong><br />

techno-optimism of IVM, or, on <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong><br />

pessimism of mourning and nostalgia for lost<br />

modes of human-animal intimacy. In reality, <strong>the</strong>se<br />

alternatives represent two sides of <strong>the</strong> same coin:<br />

nei<strong>the</strong>r imagines a meaningful future for humananimal<br />

relationships.<br />

I myself do not see a clear way forward. But<br />

it does seem to me that, as we try to imagine<br />

such a way, we might begin by renewing some<br />

of <strong>the</strong> wisdom at work in <strong>the</strong> traditions that<br />

Berger describes. I suggest two ways in which<br />

we might profitably revive for our moment <strong>the</strong><br />

idea of animals as companions and messengers.<br />

First, Berger suggests that we understand <strong>the</strong><br />

idea of human-animal companionship in terms<br />

of <strong>the</strong> thought that humans see <strong>the</strong>mselves in<br />

being seen by animals. Can we once again come<br />

158 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Can we once again come to<br />

see ourselves as animals see<br />

us? If we try, here is what<br />

I imagine we might see: a<br />

sibling, a partner, a friend,<br />

but one who has become oddly<br />

estranged; one who still<br />

depends as much as ever on<br />

daily communion with animal<br />

bodies, but whose imaginative<br />

feel for <strong>the</strong> meaning of that<br />

communion has become more and<br />

more impoverished and dim...<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 159


to see ourselves as animals see us? If we try,<br />

here is what I imagine we might see: a sibling, a<br />

partner, a friend, but one who has become oddly<br />

estranged; one who still depends as much as<br />

ever on daily communion with animal bodies,<br />

but whose imaginative feel for <strong>the</strong> meaning<br />

of that communion has become more and<br />

more impoverished and dim; an animal with a<br />

terrible passion for freedom that has led it to<br />

withdraw into increasing isolation; one who, in<br />

its loneliness, vainly consoles itself with fantasies<br />

of power, fantasies it plays out in <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>atres it<br />

calls “science” and “technology.” This is <strong>the</strong> sort of<br />

bitter and sobering self-knowledge that I suspect<br />

we might encounter in <strong>the</strong> gaze of animals today.<br />

is increasingly alienated from our bodies and<br />

world. Just as we have reduced <strong>the</strong> animal to<br />

pure body, so also we have reduced ourselves to<br />

pure consciousness. This pure consciousness is<br />

confident in its ability to think, to manipulate and<br />

to engineer its world: it needs no companions.<br />

But it is also disembodied, ghostly, homeless<br />

and lonely. We have been torn by <strong>the</strong> diremption<br />

of mind from body and world just as much as<br />

animals have, and by <strong>the</strong> very same processes. 16<br />

If we can come to see ourselves as sharing <strong>the</strong><br />

fate of animals in this way, we might begin to hear<br />

<strong>the</strong> message that animals still carry for us and to<br />

rediscover <strong>the</strong> meaning of companionship: that<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir fate is our fate as well.<br />

If we restore <strong>the</strong> idea of animals as companions<br />

in this sense, we might see that <strong>the</strong>y reveal<br />

ourselves to ourselves in ano<strong>the</strong>r way as well. For<br />

if <strong>the</strong> animal is indeed “toge<strong>the</strong>r with man at <strong>the</strong><br />

center of his world,” <strong>the</strong>n we are companions not<br />

merely in being alike in certain ways, but more<br />

so in sharing a fate. Over <strong>the</strong> past two centuries<br />

of capitalism and industrialization, what has<br />

been <strong>the</strong> fate of animals? An ever-increasing<br />

subordination of <strong>the</strong>ir lives to <strong>the</strong> demands of<br />

production, beginning with confinement and<br />

proceeding through <strong>the</strong> manipulation of <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

reproduction, growth, movement, rest, diet,<br />

habits, relationships, and ecologies. We can think<br />

of this process as one of <strong>the</strong> increasing separation<br />

of <strong>the</strong> animal body from consciousness, a process<br />

that now culminates in IVM and <strong>the</strong> promise<br />

of animal flesh with no consciousness at all.<br />

Our fate over <strong>the</strong> same period has not been so<br />

different: we find ourselves increasingly subject to<br />

routines artificially determined by <strong>the</strong> demands of<br />

productivity. We suffer an inverse process to <strong>the</strong><br />

one animals have undergone: our consciousness<br />

Acknowledgment<br />

This essay is deeply indebted to conversations<br />

with many people, especially Hunter Robinson<br />

Efrat, who has been a student, friend, and partner<br />

in conversations about animals and IVM for<br />

much of <strong>the</strong> last decade. As interlocutors, critics,<br />

and companions in thinking about animals and<br />

human-animal relationships, I also owe special<br />

thanks to Zed Adams, Thomas Bartscherer,<br />

Daniel Berthold, Krista Caballero, Alice Crary, Lori<br />

Gruen, Susan Merriam, Melanie Nicholson, Yuka<br />

Suzuki, Chiara Ricciardone, Kari Weil, and all of<br />

my students in PHIL 140 and 328. Many helpful<br />

suggestions for revisions to <strong>the</strong> manuscript<br />

came from <strong>the</strong> members of <strong>the</strong> Bard History of<br />

Capitalism Working Group as well as Melanie<br />

Armstrong, Jennifer Richter and <strong>the</strong> editors at<br />

<strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>.<br />

16<br />

Consideration of <strong>the</strong> shared fate of humans and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

animals under capitalism should also lead us to see points of<br />

intersection between <strong>the</strong> abuse of animals in industrial agriculture<br />

and <strong>the</strong> degradation of labor: see Blanchette 2020.<br />

160 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Works Cited<br />

Henry Holt and Company, 2014.<br />

Berger, John. “Why Look at Animals?” About Looking, Vintage,<br />

1980.<br />

Blanchette, Alex. Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized<br />

Life, and <strong>the</strong> “Factory” Farm, Duke University Press, 2020.<br />

Bulliet, Richard W. Hunters, Herders and Hamburgers: The Past<br />

and Future of Human-Animal Relationships, Columbia University<br />

Press, 2005.<br />

Cavell, Stanley. “Companionable Thinking.” Philosophy and<br />

Animal Life, edited by Cary Wolfe, Columbia University Press,<br />

2008.<br />

Coetzee, J. M. The Lives of Animals, edited by Amy Gutmann,<br />

Princeton University Press, 1991.<br />

Derrida, Jacques. The Animal That Therefore I Am, edited by<br />

Marie-Louise Mallet, translated by David Wills, Fordham<br />

University Press, 2008.<br />

Descartes, René. Discourse on <strong>the</strong> Method. The Philosophical<br />

Writings of Descartes, volume 1, edited and translated by<br />

John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch,<br />

Cambridge University Press, 1985.<br />

McLeod-Kilmurray, Hea<strong>the</strong>r. “Commoditizing <strong>No</strong>nhuman<br />

Animals and Their Consumers: Industrial Livestock Production,<br />

Animal Welfare and Ecological Justice.” Bulletin of Science,<br />

Technology and Society vol. 32, 2012, 71-85.<br />

Povinelli, Elizabeth A. Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism,<br />

Duke University Press, 2016.<br />

Purdy, Jedediah. After Nature: A Politics for <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene,<br />

Harvard University Press, 2015.<br />

Specter, Michael. “Test-Tube Burgers.” New Yorker, May 16,<br />

2011, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/23/testtube-burgers<br />

Tsing, Anna and Hea<strong>the</strong>r Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan and Nils<br />

Bubandt, editors. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and<br />

Monsters of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene, University of Minnesota Press,<br />

2017.<br />

Vogel, Stephen. Thinking Like a Mall: Environmental Philosophy<br />

after <strong>the</strong> End of Nature, MIT Press, 2015.<br />

Wakefield, Stephanie. Anthropocene Back Loop: Experimentation<br />

in Unsafe Operating Space, Open Humanities Press, 2020.<br />

Diamond, Cora. “Eating Meat and Eating People.” Philosophy<br />

vol. 53, 1978, 465-479<br />

Fitzgerald, Robert, translator. Homer: The Odyssey, Farrar,<br />

Straus, and Giroux, 1961.<br />

Friend, Tad. “Can a Burger Help Solve Climate Change?”<br />

New Yorker, Sept. 23, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/<br />

magazine/2019/09/30/can-a-burger-help-solve-climate-change<br />

Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and <strong>the</strong><br />

Unthinkable, University of Chicago Press, 2016.<br />

Haraway, Donna. The Companion Species Manifesto, Prickly<br />

Paradigm Press, 2003.<br />

Haraway, Donna. Staying with <strong>the</strong> Trouble: Making Kin in <strong>the</strong><br />

Chthulucene, Duke University Press, 2016.<br />

Hearne, Vicki. Adam’s Task, Skyhorse Publishing, 1986.<br />

Highsmith, Patricia. “The Day of Reckoning.” The Animal-Lover’s<br />

Book of Beastly Murder, William Heineman, Ltd, 1975.<br />

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,<br />

Waters, C., et al., “The Anthropocene is Functionally and<br />

Stratigraphically Distinct from <strong>the</strong> Holocene.” Science vol. 351,<br />

no. 6269, 2016, 137, DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2622<br />

Bio<br />

Jay R. Elliott is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bard College,<br />

where he is also an affiliated member of <strong>the</strong> Classical Studies and<br />

Medieval Studies programs, and director of <strong>the</strong> Thinking Animals<br />

Initiative. He is <strong>the</strong> author of Character (Bloomsbury, 2017) and an<br />

editor of The <strong>No</strong>rton Anthology of Western Philosophy, After Kant:<br />

The Analytic Tradition (<strong>No</strong>rton, 2018) and Diogenes Laertius: The<br />

Lives of Eminent Philosophers (Oxford, 2018). He is also a regular<br />

contributor to revenantquarterly.org. Topics he has taken up in<br />

recent work include: <strong>the</strong> concept of character in ethics, psychology,<br />

and literature; problems of realism in ethics and aes<strong>the</strong>tics; <strong>the</strong><br />

future of human-animal relationships; and <strong>the</strong> place of history<br />

and biography in philosophy. He is currently working on a book<br />

that recovers Aristotle’s conception of character as an alternative<br />

to modern <strong>the</strong>ories of agency and <strong>the</strong> self.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 161


162 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Don’t Pave Paradise<br />

Rosalind Murray and Art Mooney<br />

Left | Information Campaign gets up<br />

and running in 2014.<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artists.<br />

The following article is an adaptation of a<br />

conversation presented at Walking’s New<br />

Movements Conference at University of<br />

Plymouth, Plymouth, U.K. between <strong>the</strong> artists<br />

Rosalind Murray and Art Mooney about our<br />

collaboration to try turn <strong>the</strong> system against itself<br />

to protect <strong>the</strong> River Barrow SAC (Special Area of<br />

Conservation) in Ireland. Our work led a Planning<br />

Inspector from An Bord Pleanála, <strong>the</strong> Irish<br />

Planning Board, to walk <strong>the</strong> River Barrow six times<br />

between 2018-2019 before making a final decision<br />

on a development called <strong>the</strong> Barrow Blueway<br />

Proposal. This article in-cludes comments from<br />

<strong>the</strong> Planning Inspector’s Report.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 163


RM: (Singing)<br />

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what<br />

you’ve got ‘till it’s gone<br />

Big Yellow Taxi, 1970, Joni Mitchell<br />

C-BUG, or <strong>the</strong> “Carlow Barrow Users Group,” is<br />

an artists’ collaboration between Art Mooney and<br />

myself, Ros Murray. We began to work toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

and with our community in 2014, to advocate<br />

against development plans being proposed by <strong>the</strong><br />

Irish cross-border State agency called “Waterways<br />

Ireland” for <strong>the</strong> country’s second longest river, <strong>the</strong><br />

River Barrow.<br />

AM: The Planning Inspector’s Report ABP 301245-<br />

18 REF1718 came on <strong>the</strong> 5th of April 2019 and<br />

refused planning for <strong>the</strong> development along <strong>the</strong><br />

river. During <strong>the</strong> last five years of really hard work<br />

on <strong>the</strong> part of C-BUG, people’s general attitude<br />

to <strong>the</strong> environment and <strong>the</strong> environmental crisis<br />

has really taken center stage. This controversy is<br />

part of a larger question of whe<strong>the</strong>r we can view<br />

ourselves as part of nature and whe<strong>the</strong>r we can<br />

have an economy that works in harmony with our<br />

environment ra<strong>the</strong>r than trying to dominate our<br />

environment, a question which is more in play<br />

than ever.<br />

RM: <strong>No</strong>w, in July 2020, <strong>the</strong> value of our efforts<br />

to engage in a process of envisioning <strong>the</strong> future<br />

is paying dividends, because <strong>the</strong> life of <strong>the</strong> River<br />

Barrow is flourishing as it offers a calm yet wild<br />

escape during <strong>the</strong> pandemic.<br />

AM: In 2014, Ros and I went to a meeting called<br />

by Carlow man Michael Whelan to discuss his<br />

concerns about <strong>the</strong> plans launched to develop <strong>the</strong><br />

50 miles of towpath along <strong>the</strong> River Barrow into a<br />

gravel cycle track to attract tourists.<br />

I went to a Waterways Ireland open day, run by<br />

<strong>the</strong> people who look after <strong>the</strong> inland waterways<br />

in Ireland. They were promotors of this<br />

development called <strong>the</strong> Barrow Blueway Proposal<br />

which was aimed at attracting National and<br />

European bicycle tourists as <strong>the</strong> new gold. As I<br />

talked to <strong>the</strong> Waterways Ireland team, it was quite<br />

clear that <strong>the</strong>re were numerous flaws in both <strong>the</strong><br />

engineered proposal that <strong>the</strong>y outlined and also<br />

<strong>the</strong> logic behind <strong>the</strong> development. When I saw <strong>the</strong><br />

technical drawings, I could tell I was being lied to,<br />

as <strong>the</strong> details couldn’t possibly match <strong>the</strong> reality<br />

that I knew on <strong>the</strong> ground. That firmed up my<br />

decision to get involved.<br />

RM: I got involved in protecting <strong>the</strong> river because<br />

I grew up a field away and spent my time playing<br />

on <strong>the</strong> towpath, dipping in <strong>the</strong> water, and<br />

collecting wildflowers. These days I reflect and<br />

make art <strong>the</strong>re, so it’s like my studio. My initial<br />

feeling was that I didn’t want to put my head<br />

above <strong>the</strong> parapet. I went for a walk and thought<br />

about how I feel in <strong>the</strong> intimate environs of <strong>the</strong><br />

river, and about <strong>the</strong> magic of seeing a kingfisher<br />

or an otter. It’s my home! I realized if I didn’t get<br />

involved, it would be gone; I would not be able<br />

to complain about it afterwards if I didn’t engage<br />

with <strong>the</strong> politics of <strong>the</strong> situation.<br />

Joni Mitchell’s lyric, “Don’t it always seem to go<br />

that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone”<br />

about <strong>the</strong> horrors of unnecessary development<br />

came to mind, and we adopted <strong>the</strong> slogan<br />

“Don’t Pave Paradise,” adding “Repair, Protect, &<br />

Maintain The Barrow Track” and “Market What We<br />

have.” We went from <strong>the</strong>re.<br />

164 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


C-BUG Survey <strong>the</strong> Barrow Track in Carlow, 2016. Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artists.<br />

AM: Our idea of paradise was not an untouched<br />

place, however; we recognized <strong>the</strong> river was<br />

already a highly-mediated site for human<br />

recreation and industry. From 1700-1794, a huge<br />

investment of labor and finance transformed <strong>the</strong><br />

River Barrow into a navigation system to link <strong>the</strong><br />

South East of Ireland with Dublin using a series<br />

of 26 lateral canals and a towpath 50 miles in<br />

length. The Barrow Track or Barrow Line was in<br />

use as an industrial navigation until <strong>the</strong> 1960s. It<br />

was considered sophisticated technology in its<br />

day during <strong>the</strong> first Industrial Revolution, but now<br />

it’s a local walkway designated as a Special Area<br />

of Conservation, or SAC, under <strong>the</strong> EU Habitats<br />

Directive.<br />

RM: The main trick that Waterways Ireland<br />

were trying was to say that <strong>the</strong> pathway itself<br />

wasn’t part of <strong>the</strong> SAC; instead, it was just <strong>the</strong><br />

access path to <strong>the</strong> SAC. The Special Area of<br />

Conservation was on each side of <strong>the</strong> path, but<br />

did not include it. So <strong>the</strong> walk wasn’t actually<br />

part of that ecosystem at all, it simply allowed<br />

humans and machinery access to <strong>the</strong> SAC. This<br />

rhetorical trick moved beyond separating people<br />

from nature, to fur<strong>the</strong>r segment what would be<br />

defined as “nature”. More importantly, such a<br />

narrative would allow <strong>the</strong> developers to say that<br />

<strong>the</strong> protective umbrella of policies which applied<br />

in <strong>the</strong> SAC did not apply to <strong>the</strong> path, and identifying<br />

this part of <strong>the</strong> problem led us to find ways to<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 165


show <strong>the</strong> towpath was not separate.<br />

AM: One strategy was to highlight that 50 miles of<br />

path translates to 281,653 cubic meters of grass<br />

habitat, as a planning consultant pointed out to<br />

us. On each side of <strong>the</strong> path <strong>the</strong>re is a riparian<br />

verge which should be <strong>the</strong> same size again; this<br />

would amount to 563,306 cubic meters of habitat<br />

forming <strong>the</strong> life blood of <strong>the</strong> river. The riparian<br />

way is <strong>the</strong> connective tissue that allows migration<br />

of species along <strong>the</strong> river corridor, and this is<br />

where <strong>the</strong> bugs live.<br />

These bugs feed <strong>the</strong> fish, birds, and mammals<br />

that make up <strong>the</strong> ecosystem of <strong>the</strong> river. The<br />

plants that are treated as weeds elsewhere in<br />

our environment are allowed to flourish along<br />

<strong>the</strong> path, and <strong>the</strong>y are <strong>the</strong> real bug hotel. This<br />

development reflects <strong>the</strong> wider attitude that<br />

humans have to our environment, that it is<br />

separate from and lesser than our needs. This<br />

calls into question much bigger questions of <strong>the</strong><br />

Anthropocene. We know <strong>the</strong>re’s no environment<br />

which is not affected by humanity anymore, just<br />

like <strong>the</strong> river and towpath, but can we allow space<br />

for <strong>the</strong> rest of nature to flourish along with us?<br />

RM: Continuing to plan <strong>the</strong> future in ways that<br />

make hard distinctions between humans and<br />

nature, as if our actions are without consequence<br />

to <strong>the</strong> whole web of life, is a problem. One of <strong>the</strong><br />

first things we did was write submissions to <strong>the</strong><br />

Carlow County Development Plan to make <strong>the</strong><br />

River Barrow a priority in <strong>the</strong> plan and to note <strong>the</strong><br />

impact ecological crisis might have on our locality.<br />

These additions to <strong>the</strong> policy for our county<br />

became important later as we went through <strong>the</strong><br />

planning process.<br />

AM: After making posters, a petition, and starting<br />

to lobby politically, we worked out that <strong>the</strong> main<br />

barrier was lack of accessibility in <strong>the</strong> planning<br />

process. We had to learn a new language, <strong>the</strong><br />

language of planning, development, and policy, to<br />

become part of that conversation.<br />

RM: We ended up being called C-BUG as a<br />

strategy to get into Carlow Council chamber to<br />

talk about <strong>the</strong> discrepancies we had seen in <strong>the</strong><br />

proposal. One of our main concerns was that<br />

<strong>the</strong> Council adjudicating <strong>the</strong> planning of <strong>the</strong><br />

development had also been involved in <strong>the</strong> idea<br />

for <strong>the</strong> development, which was a conflict of interest.<br />

We were refused a request to present our<br />

research because ano<strong>the</strong>r group with a name<br />

similar had already presented. The Acting Chief<br />

Executive of Carlow County Council said we had<br />

already been heard. To get around this I came up<br />

with <strong>the</strong> name “Carlow Barrow Users Group,” a<br />

really memorable name! A Councilor advocated<br />

for our request and we got in to present our<br />

information to <strong>the</strong> council. Shortened to C-BUG,<br />

our name also has a relationship to gaming<br />

language, where “C-Bug” is a move which allows<br />

<strong>the</strong> player to aim, crouch, and shoot faster; this<br />

was apt as it reflected our tactical approach from<br />

<strong>the</strong> start.<br />

AM: However, we were worried that if we just<br />

got into direct protest we were not going to stop<br />

<strong>the</strong> development, as we had seen <strong>the</strong> Occupy<br />

movement entering <strong>the</strong> conversation too late, and<br />

failing to achieve tangible outcomes with protest<br />

only. We decided instead to use our research<br />

skills that we had developed in art college<br />

with our accumulated local and professional<br />

knowledge to try turn <strong>the</strong> system against itself.<br />

As <strong>the</strong> Carlow Barrow Users Group, or C-BUG, we<br />

166 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


anded ourselves gently and as unmemorably as<br />

possible so <strong>the</strong> construct of an advocating group<br />

could remain fluid. We researched hundreds of<br />

documents, shared <strong>the</strong>m with o<strong>the</strong>r groups and<br />

asked those groups and community members<br />

to share <strong>the</strong>ir information with us. We ended up<br />

getting this open framework going, hoping that<br />

we would be able to affect <strong>the</strong> planning process at<br />

<strong>the</strong> decision stage. We were not going to win this<br />

fight by chaining ourselves to trees but we could<br />

by influencing policy.<br />

RM: We met a man at an event organized to<br />

raise some money and he told us how to go<br />

about doing proper Freedom of Information<br />

(FOI) letters. He explained that we had to FOI<br />

everybody who was involved, all <strong>the</strong> County<br />

Councils, Waterways Ireland, The Irish Tourist<br />

Board, and any state bodies who might be<br />

involved. We did this and got back a huge volume<br />

of information. We had to go through <strong>the</strong> lot and<br />

cross-reference <strong>the</strong> documents and find <strong>the</strong> bits<br />

people deliberately left out of <strong>the</strong>ir FOI returns.<br />

particularly in relation to <strong>the</strong> environment.<br />

RM: It wasn’t only local knowledge that was<br />

being ignored. In <strong>the</strong> FOI material, one County<br />

Council had included an engineer’s report from<br />

<strong>the</strong> steering committee that none of <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

County Councils or State Agencies involved had<br />

included. This engineer said “The project uses<br />

<strong>the</strong> U.K. provision for cyclists which is generally<br />

taken as <strong>the</strong> worst benchmark in Europe. It<br />

seems somewhat bizarre that <strong>the</strong> worst in Europe<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r than <strong>the</strong> best should be <strong>the</strong> model for<br />

Ireland.” The engineer was an avid cyclist, and he<br />

flatly said German cyclists aren’t going to come<br />

to use a substandard cycle track, based on U.K.<br />

Sustrans specifications, and this development<br />

will not increase use by general cyclists ei<strong>the</strong>r. He<br />

particularly highlighted that data on <strong>the</strong> habits of<br />

female cyclists show <strong>the</strong>y want to cycle side-byside,<br />

and this development wasn’t wide enough.<br />

It really questioned <strong>the</strong> premise of accessibility<br />

being touted for <strong>the</strong> development, leading us to<br />

question what <strong>the</strong> actual goal of <strong>the</strong> project was.<br />

AM: Through <strong>the</strong> FOI process, we got <strong>the</strong><br />

feedback from <strong>the</strong> surveys Waterways Ireland<br />

had carried out at <strong>the</strong>ir open days and online<br />

questionnaires from interested parties.<br />

Waterways Ireland had published in <strong>the</strong> newspapers<br />

that <strong>the</strong> local community were fully in<br />

support of <strong>the</strong>ir plan. When we studied <strong>the</strong> raw<br />

survey responses we could see that 83% of <strong>the</strong><br />

people surveyed online and questioned at <strong>the</strong><br />

open days had put in negative comments about<br />

<strong>the</strong> plan. These surveys were just a tick box<br />

exercise ra<strong>the</strong>r than any kind of influential collection<br />

of data that would alter <strong>the</strong> development.<br />

This type of tick box was repeated again and<br />

again when it came to <strong>the</strong> planning document,<br />

AM: There were many problems that were<br />

highlighted in <strong>the</strong> engineer’s documents, from<br />

<strong>the</strong> surface proposed to <strong>the</strong> cost of maintaining<br />

this surface. Fur<strong>the</strong>r, it would take <strong>the</strong> ecosystem<br />

seven years to recover from installing a surface<br />

that would at a maximum survive 10-12 years.<br />

Moreover, it would only last that long if <strong>the</strong><br />

river didn’t wash it away when flooding. In our<br />

presentation to Carlow County Council, we made<br />

graphs and showed photos of <strong>the</strong>se flaws and<br />

of <strong>the</strong> false survey information from <strong>the</strong> public<br />

engagement process but got little reaction from<br />

<strong>the</strong> Council Executive.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 167


Above | The River Barrow towpath 2020. Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artists.<br />

Planning Inspectors Report: “[I]t cannot be<br />

concluded beyond reasonable scientific doubt that<br />

sections of <strong>the</strong> proposed development proposed to<br />

be developed with an unbound surface within an<br />

identified flood zone, individually or in combination<br />

with o<strong>the</strong>r plans or projects, would not have an<br />

adverse effect on <strong>the</strong> integrity of <strong>the</strong> River Barrow.“<br />

RM: I found <strong>the</strong> original specifications for <strong>the</strong><br />

towpath in <strong>the</strong> local library, in a book written by<br />

<strong>the</strong> engineer William Chapman in 1789, titled<br />

“Ways of Perfecting <strong>the</strong> Barrow Navigation”. It<br />

detailed <strong>the</strong> trials and tribulations of engineering<br />

and building <strong>the</strong> navigation system, specifically<br />

<strong>the</strong> towpath, which took one hundred years<br />

to complete. It was designed so that even if it<br />

flooded a number of times a year, <strong>the</strong> surface of<br />

spit sod would survive. The grass surface was an<br />

engineering decision to mitigate against flooding,<br />

and it also held <strong>the</strong> banks toge<strong>the</strong>r, which were<br />

made of a special clay called “puddle.” It obviously<br />

worked, as <strong>the</strong> towpath was <strong>the</strong>re 250 years later<br />

with little maintenance.<br />

Our research showed that <strong>the</strong> change of surface<br />

from grass to gravel that Waterways Ireland’s<br />

plan advocated wasn’t just an aes<strong>the</strong>tic change,<br />

it would adversely affect <strong>the</strong> integrity of <strong>the</strong><br />

structure. Technical experts say you shouldn’t<br />

put a gravel-type of surface in an area prone to<br />

flooding; it gets dirty and slippery when it rains,<br />

and it will wash out into <strong>the</strong> river when it floods.<br />

We were able to show <strong>the</strong> problems created<br />

by documenting a section of gravel path that<br />

Waterways Ireland had laid one year previously,<br />

which had to be maintained and changed a<br />

number of times; it was still in bad shape. Apart<br />

from cutting, grass doesn’t need heavy maintenance,<br />

and it recovers quickly after flooding.<br />

Planning Inspectors Report: “The submissions<br />

by Art Mooney and Rosalind Murray note how <strong>the</strong><br />

original design of <strong>the</strong> towpath was undertaken to<br />

take account for <strong>the</strong> flooding and was designed<br />

168 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


with a 12” spit sod surface that is hardwearing and<br />

resilient to flooding. The design is contended to be<br />

optimal in terms of a durable hardwearing finish.”<br />

AM: Importantly, Waterways Ireland said redlisted,<br />

or endangered, species like otters and<br />

kingfishers did not live in <strong>the</strong> bank of <strong>the</strong> towpath,<br />

but we compiled <strong>the</strong> data from <strong>the</strong> community<br />

showing where <strong>the</strong>y lived along <strong>the</strong> path, facing<br />

<strong>the</strong> river or <strong>the</strong> back drain. Waterways Ireland<br />

said that <strong>the</strong> river did not flood often, that canals<br />

did not flood at all, and when it did flood <strong>the</strong><br />

current wasn’t strong enough to wash out <strong>the</strong><br />

surface. We got photographs and video from<br />

<strong>the</strong> public of flooded canal sections where <strong>the</strong><br />

fast-flowing water gobbled up <strong>the</strong> banks in<br />

frighteningly short time. Ironically, at one point<br />

during <strong>the</strong>ir work to fix a test stretch of <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

gravel surface which was barely installed a year<br />

before, <strong>the</strong>ir large equipment got flooded in.<br />

RM: During <strong>the</strong> process, Waterways Ireland said<br />

and wrote that <strong>the</strong>y were <strong>the</strong> experts with <strong>the</strong><br />

information that this proposal should be judged<br />

by. They circulated information bites called<br />

“Barrow Facts” on <strong>the</strong>ir own social media. They<br />

also put <strong>the</strong>se “facts” out through <strong>the</strong> local tourist<br />

board. Barrow Fact #1 said “The Barrow Way has<br />

a manmade surface” and this was accompanied<br />

by an old black and white photograph to prove<br />

<strong>the</strong> towpath was always paved. However, one<br />

local sat up all night searching provenance for<br />

<strong>the</strong> image online and found it was not a historic<br />

photograph of <strong>the</strong> River Barrow, it was a recent<br />

photograph of a historic re-enactment taken<br />

on Devon’s Great Western Canal in <strong>the</strong> U.K. and<br />

doctored to look old. This debacle ended up in <strong>the</strong><br />

national and international press.<br />

One thing we did as C-BUG was to issue a<br />

rallying cry that community knowledge should be<br />

counted as “expert” data; “We are <strong>the</strong> experts!”<br />

For four years people sent us photographs<br />

and information through a Facebook page that<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 169


Michael Whelan set up called “Save <strong>the</strong> Barrow<br />

Track.” We received documentation of flooding,<br />

path widths, potholes, wash outs and breaches<br />

along <strong>the</strong> towpath, species that were present and<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir numbers, and a whole range of information<br />

which we re-shared, and also compiled it in our<br />

numerous planning objections. We also digested<br />

<strong>the</strong> quality of information and provided planning<br />

language for people to include in <strong>the</strong>ir own<br />

planning objections to development.<br />

AM: Waterways Ireland tried to say that<br />

objections in <strong>the</strong> community were coming<br />

from an “elite” group, but <strong>the</strong> truth was very<br />

different. The river is a truly democratic space,<br />

used more by people who may not be in regular<br />

employment, <strong>the</strong> elderly or retired, people<br />

recovering from illness, old and new nationals,<br />

as well as visitors, fishers, boaters, cyclists, and<br />

people who love walking. The fact that we as<br />

C-BUG were able to make connection between<br />

different users was <strong>the</strong> reason we were able to<br />

win.<br />

RM: C-BUG worked with “Save <strong>the</strong> Barrow Track”<br />

in <strong>the</strong> north of <strong>the</strong> county with a large online<br />

community through Facebook, “Save <strong>the</strong> Barrow<br />

Line“ with Olivia O’Leary, Cliona O’Connell and<br />

a whole community in <strong>the</strong> south of Carlow, and<br />

with many o<strong>the</strong>rs inside and outside our own<br />

county. With <strong>the</strong> work of all <strong>the</strong> groups, we got<br />

over 700 objections lodged into our local County<br />

Council, which is <strong>the</strong> highest recorded number of<br />

Right | The River Barrow towpath<br />

flooded at Carlow Town,<br />

Ireland, 2018.<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artists.<br />

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<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 171


172 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


objections to any plan in <strong>the</strong> county, by far.<br />

AM: At one stage, we also needed to get support<br />

from experts to verify <strong>the</strong> local knowledge. We<br />

managed to get planning consultants who helped<br />

us highlight what was relevant and gave very<br />

important game-playing advice and insights.<br />

We were helped by hydrologists, environmental<br />

scientists, and ecologists, locally and nationally.<br />

“Save <strong>the</strong> Barrow Line” had ano<strong>the</strong>r group<br />

of experts, and we were able to cross-pollinate<br />

information in <strong>the</strong> objections.<br />

RM: Scott-Cawley, who are considered one of <strong>the</strong><br />

top environmental consultants in <strong>the</strong> country,<br />

came on board to help us with a report. The<br />

ecological details in this report backed up <strong>the</strong><br />

information that local people said, regarding <strong>the</strong><br />

many endangered species in <strong>the</strong> SAC, including<br />

red-listed species like <strong>the</strong> otter, whorl snail, pearl<br />

mussels, and <strong>the</strong> kingfisher.<br />

The ecological report also highlighted<br />

that Waterways Ireland’s surveys for <strong>the</strong><br />

Environmental Impact Statement were not<br />

sufficient. Parts of <strong>the</strong> river system had not been<br />

surveyed, some were desktop or old surveys,<br />

some had been done at <strong>the</strong> wrong time of year,<br />

and <strong>the</strong>y did not use correct methodologies.<br />

Their surveys were <strong>the</strong> foundations of claims<br />

that red-listed species were not abundant, and to<br />

deliberately deny that most of <strong>the</strong> non-human life<br />

Left | Piles of stone in <strong>the</strong> SAC<br />

intended for resurfacing <strong>the</strong> River<br />

Barrow towpath at Carlow,<br />

Ireland, 2017.<br />

Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artists.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 173


Above | Resurfacing of <strong>the</strong> Barrow Track by Waterways Ireland without planning permission or<br />

Appropriate Assessment at Rathvinden Lock Carlow, 2017. Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artists.<br />

that locals encountered daily was hardly present.<br />

The report clarified a number of o<strong>the</strong>r important<br />

issues, including <strong>the</strong> potential negative impact on<br />

aquatic life from abundant particle wash off from<br />

<strong>the</strong> path entering <strong>the</strong> waterway. The proposed<br />

plan was particularly hard on <strong>the</strong> red-listed otter.<br />

Scott-Cawley highlighted that <strong>the</strong> Barrow Blueway<br />

plan specified otter holts would be dug out of <strong>the</strong><br />

bank of <strong>the</strong> towpath as a way to protect otters.<br />

This is a huge issue because otter have extra<br />

protection in a SAC, but <strong>the</strong>y have to have <strong>the</strong><br />

right address to make use of it. Digging out otter<br />

homes and moving <strong>the</strong>m outside of a SAC is a<br />

direct violation of SAC policy and <strong>the</strong> EU Habitats<br />

Directive.<br />

Planning Inspectors Report: “The impact on<br />

otter during construction is likely to be localized but<br />

intense and <strong>the</strong> loss of couch sites and disturbance<br />

and <strong>the</strong> loss of cover vegetation may force otters<br />

to move to less optimum resting sites that could<br />

impact on breeding success. Disturbance during<br />

<strong>the</strong> operational phase could result in <strong>the</strong> species<br />

moving outside of <strong>the</strong> SAC and failing to meet <strong>the</strong> site<br />

objectives.”<br />

AM: There were clearly o<strong>the</strong>r deficits between<br />

174 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>the</strong> desktop study and <strong>the</strong> reality of what was on<br />

<strong>the</strong> ground. Ros and I went out with measuring<br />

tapes and measured a section along <strong>the</strong> 50 miles<br />

of towpath for widths and compared <strong>the</strong>m to<br />

<strong>the</strong> maps Waterways Ireland had entered with<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir planning submission. They were saying<br />

parts of <strong>the</strong> towpath were six meters wide, but<br />

by our direct measurements, those same places<br />

were only three meters wide. This may seem<br />

trivial but <strong>the</strong> point was that <strong>the</strong>y needed 4.8<br />

meters of width to fit in <strong>the</strong> riparian ways on each<br />

side and a track to accommodate all users. The<br />

Barrow Blueway Proposal deliberately fudged <strong>the</strong><br />

numbers because <strong>the</strong> heritage walkway wasn’t<br />

able to meet this development standard. We<br />

were able to give this information to our expert<br />

for reports because we couldn’t fund <strong>the</strong>m to<br />

do surveys. We knew that if we could highlight<br />

this <strong>the</strong> planning inspector could not ignore <strong>the</strong><br />

deficit. The final decision acknowledged this as<br />

a major issue that would cause conflict between<br />

users.<br />

Planning Inspectors Report: “it is considered that<br />

<strong>the</strong> development as proposed has <strong>the</strong> potential to<br />

result in significant negative impacts on population<br />

and human health arising from potential conflicts<br />

between users.”<br />

RM: In <strong>the</strong>ir plan, Waterways Ireland said a<br />

gravel path would have minimal impact on <strong>the</strong><br />

visual amenity, but <strong>the</strong>y didn’t include renders<br />

of visual impacts for <strong>the</strong> important views. Using<br />

photoshop, we showed <strong>the</strong> impact on <strong>the</strong>se<br />

views. I also added a gravel path to a painting<br />

by William Constable from 1816, called “Flatford<br />

Mill Suffock, Scene on a Navigable River,” to<br />

fur<strong>the</strong>r visualize <strong>the</strong> EU Landscape Directive’s<br />

idea that all “landscape” has value whe<strong>the</strong>r it is<br />

considered ordinary or outstanding, and that this<br />

value is both living and cultural, thus bound with<br />

memory and time. Asking if <strong>the</strong> addition of this<br />

gravel path to <strong>the</strong> Constable painting changed our<br />

estimation of its value was a way to show that <strong>the</strong><br />

entire proposed plan was a farce. The Planning<br />

Inspector’s report acknowledged <strong>the</strong> gravel path<br />

would be a huge change in visual amenity.<br />

Planning Inspectors Report: “In my opinion,<br />

<strong>the</strong> analysis contained in <strong>the</strong> revised EIS under<br />

represents <strong>the</strong> impact that would arise on views…<br />

this under representation derives particularly from<br />

what I consider to be an under representation of<br />

<strong>the</strong> magnitude of <strong>the</strong> change that would be likely to<br />

arise...”<br />

AM: After <strong>the</strong> planning inspector’s decision<br />

on this project, <strong>the</strong> Irish government is now<br />

suggesting we should not allow <strong>the</strong> public to<br />

make submissions about <strong>the</strong> planning of strategic<br />

infrastructure developments. The argument is<br />

that only experts should make those decisions,<br />

without <strong>the</strong> public’s involvement. This idea is<br />

of course supported by experts. What would<br />

have happened if <strong>the</strong> experts employed by <strong>the</strong><br />

State were allowed to make this decision? Our<br />

democratic system is now coming under threat,<br />

which fur<strong>the</strong>r threatens our local ecosystems and<br />

social processes.<br />

The idea of <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene is daunting, which<br />

makes it hard to tackle on a global scale. It makes<br />

people feel powerless. We have advocated for our<br />

environment locally and can only hope that o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

citizens around <strong>the</strong> globe try to advocate for <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

environment. This is one of <strong>the</strong> few ways we have<br />

of re-empowering ourselves.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 175


Planning Inspectors Report: “[W]here <strong>the</strong>re are<br />

issues regarding enforcement or alleged breaches<br />

of <strong>the</strong> planning and development legislation, <strong>the</strong><br />

relevant enforcement authority is <strong>the</strong> Planning<br />

Authority…..From <strong>the</strong> information presented it is<br />

noted that a significant number of locations on <strong>the</strong><br />

route have been <strong>the</strong> subject of resurfacing works<br />

undertaken by Waterways Ireland. The undertaking<br />

of <strong>the</strong>se works and <strong>the</strong> basis under which <strong>the</strong>y were<br />

or were not authorised is a matter for <strong>the</strong> relevant<br />

Planning Authority.”<br />

RM: The River Barrow towpath is already<br />

acknowledged as a top off-road cycle track in<br />

Europe, and with <strong>the</strong> media coverage, it has more<br />

visitors than ever. Despite <strong>the</strong> April 2019 planning<br />

decision against <strong>the</strong> Barrow Blueway Proposal,<br />

recent Carlow County Council documentation<br />

suggests that plans are afoot to develop <strong>the</strong> river<br />

for profit again. I felt despondent thinking that<br />

this situation may yet end up in a European Court,<br />

so I went for a walk by <strong>the</strong> river. I raised my head<br />

out of my thoughts in time to see a kingfisher<br />

flying a low line along <strong>the</strong> water. Later I lucked<br />

out and found a wild bee hive in <strong>the</strong> riparian,<br />

a rare find. C-BUG’s work makes it possible for<br />

wild honey bees to nest in this place which offers<br />

protection, and we can encounter <strong>the</strong>m as <strong>the</strong>y<br />

go about <strong>the</strong>ir business. I don’t envision a future<br />

for human beings as separate from <strong>the</strong> earth, so<br />

as <strong>the</strong> song goes, we won’t know what we got ‘till<br />

it’s gone; for me it’s important to keep at it.<br />

Planning Inspectors Report: “There is no record<br />

on file of actions undertaken by Carlow County<br />

Council with regard to <strong>the</strong> impact of maintenance<br />

activity on <strong>the</strong> towpath.”<br />

RM: I’ve learned that envisioning <strong>the</strong> future<br />

includes becoming involved in <strong>the</strong> creation<br />

of policy and planning, and making sure that<br />

protective policy is implemented. The State isn't<br />

dealing with <strong>the</strong> critical issues of survival, so<br />

tactical advocacy is part of my being a citizen<br />

now. We need to treat <strong>the</strong> earth with respect, to<br />

maintain and protect it, and in doing so we will<br />

give <strong>the</strong> same care to ourselves.<br />

Walking’s New Movements Conference at<br />

University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK. was<br />

organized by Helen Billinghurst, Claire Hind, and<br />

Phil Smith, <strong>No</strong>vember 2019.<br />

Works Cited<br />

An Bord Pleanala. The Planning Inspectors Report ABP 301245-18<br />

REF1718, Waterways Ireland Barrow Blueway Proposal, April<br />

2019.<br />

Chapman, William. The Means of Navigating <strong>the</strong> River Barrow<br />

from St Mullins to Athy, 1789.<br />

Save <strong>the</strong> Barrow Track. https://www.facebook.com/Save-<strong>the</strong>-<br />

Barrow-Track-333743290118418/<br />

SUSTRANS, https://www.sustrans.org.uk/for-professionals/<br />

infrastructure/<br />

Bios<br />

Rosalind Murray meditates on consciousness through a<br />

conceptual image-making and interdisciplinary art practice, and<br />

makes live works for <strong>the</strong> streets of New York, <strong>the</strong> River Barrow<br />

Track in Ireland, and many places in-between. She has exhibited<br />

and performed at The Bowlby International Memorial Conference<br />

(London), New Movements in Walking (Plymouth University<br />

U.K.), <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong> at <strong>the</strong> Taft Nicholson Environmental<br />

Humanities Centre (USA), Itinerant Arts Festival (NYC), and at The<br />

Pari Centre for New Learning (Italy), with physicist David Peat.<br />

She was commissioned by <strong>the</strong> Cambridge Arts Council (MA, USA),<br />

for <strong>the</strong> project “Lateral Canal Ahead”, and exhibited in selected<br />

shows at venues in <strong>the</strong> USA, Ireland, <strong>No</strong>r<strong>the</strong>rn Ireland, <strong>the</strong> U.k. and<br />

<strong>No</strong>rway. She is an alumna of Rhode Island School of Design (MFA<br />

Painting), Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, <strong>the</strong> Cooper<br />

Union Residency, and <strong>the</strong> National College of Art and Design<br />

Ireland (BDes Visual Communications). Rosalind has received<br />

176 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


awards from Rhode Island School of Design, <strong>the</strong> Arts Council of<br />

Ireland, Carlow County Council, and ARTLINKS. She is Secretary to<br />

<strong>the</strong> Board of <strong>the</strong> Carlow Art Collection and is curating a series IDIR<br />

(Between) with Art O’Neill Mooney and CAC for 2021.<br />

Art O’Neill Mooney holds a degree in Industrial design and an MA<br />

in Art in <strong>the</strong> Contemporary World from <strong>the</strong> National College of<br />

Art & Design Ireland, where he focused on bio-economics and its<br />

potential in art. Art is also specialist in navigation and wayfinding<br />

and is a founder and director of Artisan a company that designs<br />

and produces wayfinding. He has built numerous art pieces over<br />

<strong>the</strong> years both nationally and internationally. Art is <strong>the</strong> Chair of<br />

<strong>the</strong> Carlow Art Collection, a publicly-owned collection of art held in<br />

trust for <strong>the</strong> people of Carlow Ireland.<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 177


The Center for Post-Capitalist<br />

History<br />

Leah Sandler<br />

Left | Leah Sandler<br />

Helping Hand, 2017<br />

Digitally manipulated image.<br />

Following | Steve Gula, Leah Sandler<br />

The Center For Post-Capitalist History<br />

Remains, 2017<br />

Color photograph.<br />

Images courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

By positing a future catastrophe extrapolated<br />

from our contemporary state of environmental<br />

and political turmoil and presenting a believable<br />

scenario in which capitalism is no longer <strong>the</strong><br />

dominant geopolitical order, <strong>the</strong> Center for<br />

Post-Capitalist History offers a performative<br />

critique of capitalist epistemologies and modes<br />

of production (both economic and political) and<br />

attempts to pierce <strong>the</strong> veil of believability of<br />

capitalist dreamwork by invoking and subverting<br />

signs of authority established within capitalism<br />

itself.<br />

Existing through conceptual and performative<br />

practices, <strong>the</strong> Center for Post-Capitalist History<br />

presents <strong>the</strong> viewer with a thoroughly branded<br />

corporate identity implying <strong>the</strong> existence of a real<br />

institution dedicated to <strong>the</strong> study of history and<br />

material culture after <strong>the</strong> collapse of capitalism.<br />

This groundwork of reality is established<br />

through conceptual and material world-building,<br />

which creates a historical and social context in<br />

which <strong>the</strong> imagined institution exists—a postcapitalist<br />

United States where itinerancy is <strong>the</strong><br />

dominant condition of life due to environmental<br />

and economic catastrophes. According to <strong>the</strong><br />

Center’s parafictional handbook document,<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 179


180 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 181


The Center for Post-Capitalist History, Introductory Video<br />

View here: https://vimeo.com/248067988<br />

which describes <strong>the</strong> organization’s functions, “The<br />

Center for Post-Capitalist History seeks to develop<br />

a methodology of archiving and recording history<br />

that will survive <strong>the</strong> Great Collapse. While we<br />

are no longer able to actively hold and preserve<br />

collections in a traditional sense, our efforts<br />

are focused on developing alternative modes<br />

of recording and understanding history. Our<br />

subsidiary institution, <strong>the</strong> Archive of Scarcity, is<br />

responsible for <strong>the</strong> development of a <strong>the</strong>oretical<br />

foundation to ground our practices in <strong>the</strong><br />

concerns of today’s world.”<br />

The material elements that establish this world<br />

include an introductory video with voiceover<br />

narration that describes <strong>the</strong> institution and its<br />

mission, a detailed handbook explicating a <strong>the</strong>ory<br />

of archiving under exigency, a series of brochures<br />

that explain <strong>the</strong> function of <strong>the</strong> institution in<br />

greater detail, and a lab coat wearable that<br />

functions as a multi-tool for a migrant researcher.<br />

At times, <strong>the</strong>se materials belie <strong>the</strong> universe<br />

of exigency in which <strong>the</strong>y are alleged to exist<br />

within <strong>the</strong> project’s established narrative—for<br />

instance, <strong>the</strong> slickness of brochures printed with<br />

colored inks on high quality paper, <strong>the</strong> presence<br />

of electricity powering a 45” monitor to display<br />

a video, or <strong>the</strong> abundance of printed collateral<br />

would likely not be produced in a post-collapse<br />

world. This contradiction of materiality serves a<br />

dual purpose: it establishes a voice of authority<br />

through <strong>the</strong> language of corporate capitalism<br />

itself, and it encourages criticality of <strong>the</strong><br />

inconsistencies between our use of resources as a<br />

society and our knowledge of <strong>the</strong> effects of <strong>the</strong>se<br />

behaviors on <strong>the</strong> environment.<br />

182 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Above | Steve Gula, Leah Sandler, Here's Our Card, 2017. Color Photograph. Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist.<br />

The Center for Post-Capitalist History takes on<br />

<strong>the</strong> appearance of a corporate institution and<br />

its subsidiaries, with bureaucratic management<br />

and a somewhat nebulous mission: to transform<br />

<strong>the</strong> body into <strong>the</strong> medium for archival storage<br />

through forensic interpretation as well as <strong>the</strong> use<br />

of tattoos and o<strong>the</strong>r forms of body modification,<br />

in a practice that I refer to as “embodied<br />

archiving.” This proposed reconsideration of<br />

historical archiving attempts to de-center a<br />

narrativized approach to history.<br />

In Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene,<br />

Chtulucene, Donna Haraway provides a series of<br />

arguments criticizing <strong>the</strong> use of “anthropocene”<br />

as a paradigm through which to view our shifting<br />

ecological epoch. Haraway suggests:<br />

“Species Man does not make history. Man plus<br />

Tool does not make history. That is <strong>the</strong> story of<br />

History human exceptionalists tell.”<br />

Haraway’s statements are a recognition of<br />

<strong>the</strong> prioritization of technocratic innovation in<br />

historical narratives produced under <strong>the</strong> cultural<br />

hegemony of capitalism. These are histories<br />

that amplify certain voices and suppress o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

“That History must give way to geostories, to<br />

Gaia stories, to symchthonic stories; terrans do<br />

webbed, braided, and tentacular living and dying<br />

in sympoietic multispecies string figures; <strong>the</strong>y<br />

do not do History.” Haraway’s view makes room<br />

for an interpretation of <strong>the</strong> concept of history<br />

that isn’t limited by human understanding of<br />

geological, cosmic, and o<strong>the</strong>r events that don’t fit<br />

into a particular narrative of history. Maybe <strong>the</strong>se<br />

are events that are invisible to human perception,<br />

yet still affect human society, development, and<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 183


Above | Leah Sandler, Britta Seizums, Survive and Remember, 2017, Digital image (printed on<br />

paper or displayed on a screen with visual sonification) Images courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist


Above | Leah Sandler, Britta Seizums, Carry History With You, 2017, Digital image (printed on<br />

paper or displayed on a screen with visual sonification) Image courtesy of <strong>the</strong> artist


ehavior. How can a narrative view of history<br />

account for <strong>the</strong>se types of events? The Body<br />

Archive might be a place to start: a repository of<br />

information that functions more as a core sample<br />

than as an archive, or a storyteller. Maybe <strong>the</strong><br />

unintentional documents of experience are <strong>the</strong><br />

more accurate ones.<br />

Perhaps we are being forced to contend with <strong>the</strong><br />

idea of this epistemological switch in a very real<br />

and physical way as we become more aware of<br />

our place within an interconnected web of living<br />

organisms. Haraway has asked, “What happens<br />

when human exceptionalism and <strong>the</strong> utilitarian<br />

individualism of classical political economics<br />

become unthinkable in <strong>the</strong> best sciences across<br />

<strong>the</strong> disciplines and interdisciplines? Seriously<br />

unthinkable: not available to think with.” What<br />

happens when we have to rebuild <strong>the</strong> ways in<br />

which we understand <strong>the</strong> world and our place in<br />

it?<br />

Graphic design by Leah Sandler & Britta Seizums<br />

Photographs by Steve Gula<br />

Voice acting and audio engineering by Jared Silvia<br />

Works Cited<br />

Haraway, Donna. “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene,<br />

Capitalocene, Chthulucene.” E-Flux. <strong>Journal</strong> #75. September<br />

2016. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/75/67125/tentacularthinking-anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/.<br />

Accessed 7<br />

June 2020.<br />

Bio<br />

Leah Sandler is an interdisciplinary artist and writer based in<br />

Orlando, Florida. Her work explores knowledge production and<br />

<strong>the</strong> end of capitalism through conceptual practices, sound, video,<br />

and text. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rollins<br />

College in 2014 and a Master of Fine Arts from University of <strong>the</strong><br />

Arts in 2017, and is a contributing Arts & Culture writer to <strong>the</strong><br />

Orlando Weekly.<br />

Website: cargocollective.com/leahsandler<br />

Contact: msandler@uarts.edu<br />

The embodied approach to archiving as proposed<br />

by CPCH’s parafictional handbook might allow<br />

for a view of humans as both conscious writers<br />

of history, as well as inadvertent repositories<br />

of historically important information. As <strong>the</strong><br />

global Covid-19 pandemic continues to stop us<br />

in our tracks, threatening to end our existence<br />

as we know it, perhaps a consideration of <strong>the</strong><br />

interconnectedness of all living organisms as<br />

instigators of history and experience is a relevant<br />

place to begin.<br />

This project was created through a collaborative<br />

effort and non-monetary skill trades between <strong>the</strong><br />

artists.<br />

186 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 187


188 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>


Life After <strong>the</strong> Anthropocene<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> N o 4 189


190 <strong>Mapping</strong> <strong>Meaning</strong>, <strong>the</strong> <strong>Journal</strong>