RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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297 Ecosophical Geographies (1): Self and Nature
Affiliation History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Robert Shaw (Durham University, UK)
Gerald Taylor Aiken (University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)
Chair(s) Gerald Taylor Aiken (University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)
Timetable Friday 29 August 2014, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room RGS-IBG Sunley Room
Session abstract This session investigates the co-production at one of Geography’s most fundamental boundaries: the natural and the social. Multiple differing perspectives have explored ‘ecosophical’ approaches to understanding this co-production, with so far limited engagement from geographers and geographical research. While the term ‘ecosophy’ is broadly conceived, all the approaches concerned emphasise the co-production of human and non-human beings, with an ethical relationship of mutual care towards the natural and social worlds together emerging from this. This session explores what ecosophical theories could bring to geography, drawing from a variety of different areas of thought which have taken the label ‘ecosophical’, ranging from the work of Guattari (after Bateson), through to the deep ecology of Naess and others.
Linked Sessions Ecosophical Geographies (2): Environments and Systems
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
(Re)imagining Reality: Towards Sustainable Human-Nature Relations
Jeppe Dyrendom Graugaard (University of East Anglia, UK)
Over the last decades, environmental scholarship has explored both the power and the limits of ’nature’ and ’society’ as an explanatory framework for understanding history and social change. In various disciplines the division of the human and natural sphere has given way to seeing humanity and nature as interconnected, interdependent and entangled. At the same time, environmental science is showing how the nature and scale of the sustainability challenge is striking at the foundation of modern complex societies: 'sustainability' can no longer simply be about finding ways to improve the efficiency or functioning of modern societies, rather it is about the relations that humanity sustains with more-than-human nature. Recasting the sustainability challenge as onto-epistemological, opens the door to engaging with ways of thinking about human-nature relationships that see 'nature' as something which humans act through and which is intrinsic to the development society. This article explores how new forms of living and new identities are enacted by inquiring about the visions, norms and rules that structure human-nature relations as a form of 'environment-making'.
Drawing on theoretical insights from world ecology, radical human ecology, eco-linguistics and complexity science, a framework for understanding transformations in onto-epistemology is discussed. This discussion is then contextualised by empirical examples of envisioning and embodying alternate realities drawn from an in-depth case study of The Dark Mountain Project, a cultural movement which sees the sustainability challenge as one of 'uncivilising' ways of thinking and being. It is shown that the imagination plays a crucial role in enacting new forms of human-nature relationships as this is where a first shift in the relations which constitute the lifeworld takes place. However, the processes of changing worldviews and ways of being challenge the rationalities and values which earlier made sense of the lifeworld. Consequently, it is argued that an ecosophical approach to sustainability must engage with the practical processes in which human-nature relationships are imagined and embodied if it wants to develop transformative practices and theories that build new forms of relationship and community.
Ecosophy and the praxis of radical ecopsychology
Charles Carlin (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
This paper explores points of dialogue between radical ecopsychology (Fisher,2013) and scholarship in environmental and emotional geography. Geographers are engaging a burgeoning body of work that grapples with relational ontologies (Braun,2008; Whatmore, 2002), but scholars acknowledge the difficulty of connecting theorizing to felt experience because they are trying to describe a fundamentally different way of being in the world (Bennett, 2009; Ingold, 2006).
Writing from the dual perspectives of a geographer and a practitioner of ecopsychology, I explore the praxis of radical ecopsychology. I consider how it manages the subjective tension between self and other
and its understanding of soul as immanent to the world. Building on the therapeutic landscape literature (Lea, 2008; Williams, 1999), I argue that ecopsychological practices bridge the divide between nondualist theorizing and the felt experience of “being alive to the world” (Ingold, 2013). The vision fast ceremony (Foster & Little, 1999)—centered
on an experience of fasting alone in a wilderness environment—trains participants to experience psyche as a relational process that extends beyond the human body. Carefully framed wilderness trips provide deeply impactful experiences that illuminate a relational ontology that is otherwise difficult to discern in daily life (Cronon, 1996; Greenway,
1995). Termed “counterpractice,” such experiences provide a foundation for critique and progressive social change rooted in relational ontologies.
Subjectivity, Ecology and Meditation: Performing Interbeing
António Carvalho (University of Exeter, UK)
The main goal of this presentation is to explore the entanglements between technologies of the self (Foucault, 1988) and ecology. I am particularly interested in the ways in which the dual modern self, characterized by Elias as the homo clausus (Elias, 1978) and by Watts as the skin-encapsulated ego (Watts, 1966) can be suspended, eroding the dualism between self and others, human and nonhuman, nature and culture.
In order to address these issues, I will reflect on the ecosophical proposal of the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who actively attempts to intertwine particular technologies of the self – forms of mindfulness – with nondual ways of conceptualizing and enacting human/nonhuman couplings. Based on the analysis of some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s literature, semi-structured interviews with practitioners of mindfulness and participant observation at his monastery, Plum Village, this presentation will investigate some of the aesthetic practices that are deployed to enact the nondual and entangled ontology of Interbeing, sometimes presented as paticca samupada or dependent co-arising (Macy, 1991).
I argue that Thich Nhat Hanh’s project can contribute to enrich our ecosophical and post-humanist imagination by articulating technologies of self with wider social concerns (such as the ecological crisis), challenging the boundaries between ontology, phenomenology, ethics and aesthetics.
Bringing Deleuze and Guattari down to Earth through Gregory Bateson: Guattari’s Ecosophical Subjectivity
Robert Shaw (Durham University, UK)
Perhaps because of their dismissal of him as living “une carrière à l’américaine”, there have been few attempts to explore the relationship between the work of Gregory Bateson and that of Deleuze and Guattari. After providing a broader context of the use of Bateson in their collaborative work, this paper focuses on this relationship by looking, at Guattari’s concept of ecosophical subjectivity, arguing that Bateson is crucial for the ‘ethico-political’ dimensions of this work. This paper concludes by contrasting the ‘geophilosophy’ and the ‘ecosophy’ that Guattari later describes, exploring the connections, tension and relations between ideas which focus on the ‘geo-‘ and ideas which focus on the ‘eco-‘