mandag 13. februar 2012

Subjectivity and the more-than-human world

Geography has developed into a lively plurality of discourses that speak to a wide variety of social and environmental contexts. Geographers researches diverse topics from regional development to climate changes and pressing social problems. Recent development in geography shows a concern for materiality and hybridity (see Whatmore 2006, Massey 2005). This does not only concern possibilities for integrating physical and human geography but a particular interest in the particular and complex life processes that is found in nature, places, and bodies, in the livingness of the world, the “earthlife nexus” (Whatmore 2006). As Sarah Whatmore argues (2006:601): “The vital connections between the geo (earth) and the bio (life)” are “amongst the most enduring of geographical concerns”. She explains some ways to approach the more-than-human world in geography: 1) the re-animation of matter, 2) the joint co-fabrication of the world by both human and more-than-human “socio-material assemblages”, and 3) the dislocation of subjectivity from “the soul”, or “inside” a human person, to the world, to the “outside”.

These are areas of interest that are very promising. I am interested in understanding the role of subjectivity in human constructions of the matter of nature but I am also interested in the subjectivity of the matter of nature itself. Another way to put it is to ask what happens if we consider subjectivity to be connected to the world, not separate from the world, and which we want to know scientifically, as Evelyn Fox Keller argued many years ago (Keller 1984) through world-openness and dynamic objectivity. These concepts express a relational understanding of subjectivity and objectivity.

What remains problematic is the status of subjectivity in relation to knowing and in relation to “objectivity”. Who is the knowing subject, and who is granted such status, by whom and how? If the more-than-human world (originally a term coined by the American philosopher David Abram, 1996) is granted subjectivity, how can we know this more-than-human world’s “knowing” and presence? On this blog, I have started to explore this presence with reference to concept of place and place-making-processes.