Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet

Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet

Nigel Clark

Language: English

Pages: 273

ISBN: 0761957243

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The relationship between social thought and earth processes is an oddly neglected part of the social sciences.

This exciting book offers to make good the deficit by exploring how human activity and planetary processes impact upon each other. The book:

• Provides a much needed in-depth inquiry into the volatile relationship between human life and the physical earth

• Considers the social and political implications of consistently thinking of the earth as a dynamic planet

• Asks what we can learn from natural catastrophes and from those who have lived through them

• Offers an inter-disciplinary perspective bringing together insights from sociology, geography, philosophy and earth / life sciences.

The result is a landmark work that will be of interest to readers across the social sciences and humanities as well as environmental studies and disaster studies.












conflagration. Thus, ‘if fire could not exist without fuel, neither would fuels – the planet’s vegetative cover – exist without the evolutionary and ecological presence of fire. Each has directly shaped the other’ (Pyne, 2001: 10). Across the earth’s continental surfaces, wherever there is vegetation under an open sky, Pyne continues, there is the possibility of fire: ‘virtually every environment can burn, and most eventually do’ (1997b: 17). Fire opens densely forested land to sunlight, it

surcharge we add to its mobilizations – or to its obduracy. 26 01-Clark-4110-Ch-01.indd 26 02/11/2010 10:33:05 AM 2 Ways to Make a World: From Relational Materiality to Radical Asymmetry Introduction: excesses of life ‘Life is open to the universe and to itself’, as biologist Lynn Margulis and science writer Dorian Sagan pithily put it (1995: 199). One of the many forces that life is open and responsive to are the threats to its physical environments that are caused by that part of life

against the steely barrier that has kept natural necessity apart from moral–political negotiability for more than two centuries. To speak of heterogeneous things that exude imperatives – and human beings that are receptive to these summons – is to conjure a world in which traffic flows from the dominion of the ‘is’ to the ‘ought’. It is to conceive of a reality in which nature is not only a scene of moral action, but is also a source. It is not just to say that nonhuman things help compose our

chapter, I push this further, suggesting that on our turbulent planet such extraordinary gestures may in fact be quite ordinary (though no less remarkable and wondrous) responses to the equally ordinary ungrounding of the ground, to the ongoing and inevitable un-worlding of worlds. In this sense, the challenges of an innately unstable nature may be one of the most basic and primordial incitements for coming together with others. ‘Community’, as Nancy would have it, ‘is what happens to us –

of the earth, to the periodic ungrounding of its ground. Reckless abandon For Serres then, there is no community that is not enabled, haunted and from time to time commanded by ‘hostile conditions’. That we must take such conditions as an imperative for the renewal of collective bonds has been powerfully restated in the aftermath of Katrina. The problem of how devastated ground – especially in zones that remain significantly evacuated – is to be reapportioned and resettled is a fraught one. There

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