Animate Planet: Making Visceral Sense of Living in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World
Kath Weston is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. A Guggenheim Fellow and two-time winner of the Ruth Benedict Prize, Weston is the author of several books, including Traveling Light: On the Road with America's Poor; Gender in Real Time: Power and Transience in a Visual Age; and Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship.
Introduction: Animating Intimacies, Reanimating a World
The introduction opens with a lyrical dream sequence about the eclipse of modernity, at a time when modernity’s baubles—not least in the form of new technologies—still have the power to entice. Sustainability and Resilience make a cameo appearance as new gods in this opening passage, alerting readers to the need for ways of addressing ecological problems through something other than the invocation of a tired litany of abstracted eco-fixes. Recent scholarship on animacy and intimacy provides the matériel for more complex stories of what is happening to the world, stories that take account of the generative effects of both ecological damage and its proposed remedies. Each ravaged ecosystem, each technological triumph, each bold new synthesis of Nature pulls creatures into new forms of connection, as compelling as any that shadowed futures past. Twenty-first-century animism blurs the boundaries between what used to be conceived as inert ecological “resources” and their erstwhile human “managers.” People begin to speak of their bodies as constituted and reconstituted by pesticides, “good bacteria,” radioactive cesium, and the like, constituents they might formerly have perceived as quite separate from themselves or as emanating from a nebulous elsewhere called “the environment.” In this way of making visceral sense of things, the environment is us. What does that mean for political ecology?