Over the past fifty years, environmental issues have dominated political concerns of political actors around the world. Political theorists have begun to address these novel issues, critically analyzing the dramatic transformations of people's relationships with the environment. Yet much of this emerging environmental political theory relies upon an understanding of environmentalism where "nature" and "society" are conflicting, opposite terms: nature is a collection of passive, mechanical objects and processes that must be saved and protected by a society that consists of active, political human subjects. This predominant understanding of environmental questions restricts political participation to humans only, ignoring the activities of nonhumans involved in shaping political outcomes.
This dissertation challenges the framework of understanding environmental political question through the lens of nature against society, human against nonhuman. The first chapter asks what it would mean to understand the activities of environments of humans and nonhumans as political, and by examining what a politics composed of environments looks like. In doing so, I question the centrality of the human being to politics, focusing attention on the attachments to nonhuman entities that make possible the activities of what have appeared to be discrete human political actors. The second chapter turns to the concept of immanence as a means of theoretically conceptualizing environments as actors composed of various beings. Drawing inspiration from science studies scholars Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers, the third chapter develops the concept of "cosmopolitical practices" to represent a redefined politics in which the actions of environments can be theorized and exercised together. Cosmopolitical practices, the sets of activities involved in the political organization of a shared cosmos of beings of all sorts, offers an understanding of agency in which environments participate in the contested political practices that create our shared conditions of existence. The final chapter combines theoretical inquiry with critical analysis of contemporary debates around food, offering an empirical example of cosmopolitical practices in the constitution of resistant food networks. This dissertation reassesses what participates in political practices to force a rethinking of the untheorized activities that nonhumans contribute to seemingly human-only political projects.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2010. Major: Political Science. Advisor: Lisa Jane Disch. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 238 pages.
Nordquist, Michael Andrew.
Environmental participation: immanence, cosmopolitics, and the agency of environmental assemblages..
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