terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2015

Seeking Justice in the Anthropocene: The Shape of Things to Come

by Jodey Castricano

Every living thing affects its surroundings. But it’s said that humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature. Many agree that we've been changing the world around us for millennia although the scale and speed of change in the last 60 years has led scientists to call events since the 1950s the 'Great Acceleration'. Have human beings permanently changed the planet? That seemingly simple question suggests that the so-called Holocene epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age has given way, since the industrial revolution, to the Anthropocene”—that identifies the human species as a force now altering the planet’s biosphere. The Anthropocene, from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”, implicates human-kind in mass extinctions of plant and animal species, the pollution of the oceans and the alteration of the atmosphere, among other serious and even irreversible impacts. As Ben Dibley states, “the notion of the Anthropocene…vividly captures the folding of the human into the air, into the sea, the soil and DNA” (“’The Shape of Things to Come’: Seven Theses on the Anthropocene and Attachment” (139).
In more urgent terms, the human is now seen as “a force imperiling” itself as well as the planet with respect to the earth system and is “an emergence that is simultaneously an emergency” (Dibley 140). Indeed, the Anthropocene is a term increasingly entering public and policy discourses, including those of the humanities and social sciences. But in this regard, the entry into such discourses remains curiously even disturbingly all too familiar because even though the Anthropocene is spoken of in geological terms, at the epistemological and ethicopolitical level it remains wholly faithful to human exceptionalism and the particular antagonisms and nostalgia regarding “the human” in relation to, or distinct from, “Nature.” Indeed, even though the superior-to-nature paradigm is failing it nevertheless struggles to assert the notion of human mastery reminiscent of the Enlightenment, which all along has depended for its vitality on speciesism.
Indeed, contemporary debates about what counts as being human in the context of the Anthropocene take us to the water’s edge regarding the way that this epoch not only remains indebted to the dream of a distinction between the social and natural world but also, and more significantly, remains grounded in a certain violence which, as Derrida points out, is nothing less than “the purely instrumental, industrial, chemico-gentic treatment of living beings” (“Violence Against Animals 73). Of course, Derrida is referring to the “industrial, mechanical, chemical, hormonal, and genetic violence to which man has been submitting animal life for the past two centuries” (“The Animal That Therefore I Am” 26) and reducing it to “raw material”(Dominik LaCapra 161). Indeed, one could argue that in regards to such raw material, the Anthropocene has allowed for the unprecedented subjection of the animal, who, singularly and en masse, is “converted into the analog of particle board” (161). This hyperindustrialized conversion beats at the heart of what Cary Wolfe has called “that fantasy figure of ‘the human” (“’Animal Studies,’ Disciplinarity, and the (Post) Humanities”, 120). Indeed, if anything characterizes this epoch it is the nonrecognition or disavowal of any claims inhering in the other. In this regard, the question of social justice in the Anthropocene is a sticky one that shows itself as being in thrall to liberal humanism but undeniably inextricable from the question of the animal as well as the current, ethical turn to that question which is necessarily grounded in posthumanism. In other words, to seek justice in the Anthropocene means to disengage, however precariously, with the concept of “the human” that, as Wolfe says, “the human falsely ‘gives to itself’” (118), and this can be accomplished only by including the long-disavowed question of the animal and calling into question the speciesism that disavows it.

Jodey Castricano is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, where she teaches in the English and Cultural Studies programs and is a Research Fellow with the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. In English her specializations are in 19th century literature (gothic) as well as in cultural and critical theory. In the case of the latter, her primary area of expertise and ethical concern is in posthumanist philosophy and critical animal studies with extended work in ecocriticsm, ecofeminism and ecotheory. She has presented and published essays in ecocriticsm and critical animal studies and was a member of an International Working Group with the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), which has recently released Normalizing the Unthinkable: The Ethics of Using Animals in Research (http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/Normalising-the-Unthinkable-Report.pdf ) . She is the contributing editor to Animal Subjects: An Ethical Reader in a Posthuman World (Wilfrid Laurer University Press 2008). A second collection of essays in critical animal studies, Animal Subjects 2.0: An Ethical Reader in a Posthuman World Vol. II, of which she is co-editor and contributor, is forthcoming in 2016.

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