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Re-Animations: Instinct and Civility after the Ends of 'Man' and 'Nature'

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Abstract:

The cultural boundary separating 'man' from 'nature,' and humans from nonhuman animals, has been supported by a shifting and unstable array of discursive devices. Modernist and scientific discourses of nature and animality, I argue, have served as a kind of 'orientalism,' enframing a realm of otherness that awaits –and requires – colonization by superior, rational 'man.' For both scientific modernists, however, and their romantic anti-modernist critics (including many latter-day environmentalists), nature represents an originary realm, one which is both earlier than and prior to culture. Rather than seeing nature as the repressed other half of civilization, I argue that it is continuity, or an 'original hybridity,' which constitutes the 'Real' that has been repressed by the conceptual and political practices of modernity. Drawing on work in actor-network theory, ecological psychology, and the biology of cognition, I propose the figure of the 'anima(l)' as a key to a more genuinely post-modern, socially and relationally co-constituted nature-culture in which sociality/civility is intertwined with the 'wild' and the 'instinctual,' language with bodily desire and polyvocality, identity with difference, and the human with the unhuman.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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