Toxic Bodies and Alien Agencies

Ecocritical perspectives on ecological others

Authored by: Serpil Oppermann

The Postcolonial World

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138778078
eBook ISBN: 9781315297699
Adobe ISBN: 9781315297682


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Similar to postcolonial studies, ecocriticism is a heterogeneous field of study that does not correspond to any unified discourse. Although internally varied, ecocritical discourses converge on non-anthropocentric knowledge practices, which entail a consensual focus to address and conceptualize the global environmental crisis in socio-cultural and literary contexts. In the current critical moment, the argument goes, “we cannot encounter the natural untouched or uncontaminated by human remains.” 1 Ecocriticism focuses on this condition of interfaced reality that points to the ways in which culture and nature are closely entwined. Postcolonialism, however, prioritizes an ostensibly anthropocentric vision, exploring cultural models and methods that account for the relations of power in the “discursive division between the First and the Third World, the North and the South,” 2 as well as in the construction of forms of alterity. Although the concept of alterity has been theorized from exhaustive perspectives, postcolonial theory has shown little or no interest in the nonhuman other, whereas in ecocriticism “[a]lterity is always also defined by the nonhuman other.” 3 Given this fundamental difference, one might expect these two fields hardly to intersect, but negotiating this difference in a slowly developing dialogue, they have actually converged with the arrival of postcolonial ecocriticism. 4

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