Primitives in the Wilderness: Deep Ecology and the Missing Human Subject

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In Primitives in the Wilderness, Peter van Wyck brings the radical environmentalism known as deep ecology into an encounter with contemporary social and cultural theory. With an eye to critically exposing unexamined essentialist and foundational commitments, the author shows how deep ecology remains profoundly entangled with the very traditions of thought it has sought to overcome. The author critically assesses deep ecology’s relations with the Enlightenment, modernity, systems theory, anthropocentrism, the figure of wilderness and the trope of the primitive, and the imagined promise of posthistoric primitivism. He demonstrates the manner in which deep ecology (and much of contemporary environmental thought) has remained blind to the lessons (and possibilities) of contemporary social and poststructural theory.

Drawing from an array of contemporary theoretical works (including Haraway’s figure of the cyborg and situated knowledges, Deleuze’s conception of an image of thought, Foucault’s panopticon, Trinh on ethnographic authority, Lingis on the “Other,” Torgovnick and Clastres’s work on the primitive and power, and Vattimo’s “weak thought”), van Wyck opens a clearing within which the ecological problematic and the question of the human subject may be rethought.
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About the author

Peter C. van Wyck is a doctoral candidate at McGill University and is currently working on a project concerning the problems of ecological threat, psychoanalytic conceptions of subjectivity, and the burial of nuclear waste.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
186
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ISBN
9781438422732
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Religion & Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A rising ocean. A falling building. A toxic river. Species extinguished. A nuclear landscape. In a world so configured, the state of contemporary ecological thought and practice is woefully--and perilously--inadequate. Focusing on the government's nuclear waste burial program in Carlsbad, New Mexico, "Signs of Danger begins the urgent work of finding a new way of thinking about ecological threat in our time. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad began receiving shipments in 1999. With a proposed closing date of 2030, this repository for nuclear waste must be secured with a sign, the purpose of which will be to keep people away for three hundred generations. In the official documents uncovered by Peter van Wyck, we encounter a government bureaucracy approaching the issue of nuclear waste as a technical problem only to find itself confronting a host of intractable philosophical issues concerning language, culture, and history. "Signs of Danger plumbs these depths as it shows us how the problem raised in the desert of New Mexico is actually the problem of a culture grappling with ecological threats and with questions of the limits of meaning and representation in the deep future. The reflections at the center of this book--on memory, trauma, disaster, representation, and the virtual--are aimed at defining the uniquely modern status of environmental and nuclear threats. They offer invaluable insights into the interface of where culture ends and nature begins, and how such a juncture is closely linked with questions of risk, concepts of history, and the cultural experience of time.
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