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How do we understand the agency and significance of material forces and their interface with human bodies? What does it mean to be human in these times with bodies that are inextricably interconnected with our physical world? Bodily Natures considers these questions by grappling with powerful and pervasive material forces and their increasingly harmful effects on the human body Drawing on feminist theory environmental studies and the sciences Stacy Alaimo focuses on trans corporeality or movement across bodies and nature which has profoundly altered our sense of self By looking at a broad range of creative and philosophical writings Alaimo illuminates how science politics and culture collide while considering the closeness of the human body to the environment


10 thoughts on “Bodily Natures

  1. says:

    Wow Stacy Alaimo’s Bodily Natures is one of the most exciting books I’ve read in a long time She argues that we need to reassert a consideration of matter and the materiality of human bodies and the “ than human” world into our analysis She advances “trans corporeality” as the basis for a post humanist environmental ethics which understands the human as “always intermeshed with the than human world” 2 She argues that dealing with matter and bodies is necessary to feminism’s successful attack on biological determinism In this way I could see a direct line from Alaimo’s arguments in her earlier work Undomesticated Ground In Undomesticated Ground Alaimo argues that rather than separate women from nature reinforcing a separation of culture and nature many feminists have negotiated and contested an essentialized relationship between women and nature from the space of nature seeing it or using it as an undomesticated place from which to escape gender confines and create new ways of being Here she argues that rather than oppose the material and the cultural we need to grapple with the material in a way that undermines the very line between them and instead recognizes the interconnections between them I thought Alaimo did this most convincingly in her first chapter which looks at class the body and environmental justice to interrogate the possibility of a “proletarian lung” She offers a passage from Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins’s Biology under the Influence that I found incredibly compelling “Racism becomes an environmental factor affecting adrenals and other organs in ways htat tigers or venomous snakes did in earlier historical epochs The conditions under which labor power is sold in a capitalist labor market act on an individual’s glucose cycle as the pattern of exertion and rest depends on the employer’s economic decision than on the worker’s self perception of metabolic flux Human ecology is not the relation of our species with the rest of nature but rather the relations of different societies and the class genders ages grades and ethnicities maintained by those social structures Thus it is not too farfetched to speak of the pancreas under capitalism or the proletarian lung “Alaimo 27 28 In this chapter she looks at the writing of leftist authors Meridel Le Sueur and Muriel Rukeyser She then looks at the role of the expert and the environmental justice advocate in a risk society to read invisible threats in works such as Ana Castillos So Far From God and Percival Everett’s Watershed Her fourth chapter takes up what she calls the “material memoir” to look at writing by authors like Audre Lorde and Sandra Steingraber by suggesting the way the self and the material self is transformed by the toxic interchange between our bodies and the environment As she explains “rather than dismissing Lorde’s insistence on the actuality of her own flesh as essentialist it may be revealing to examine how she traces her bodily immersion within power structures that have real material effects” 86 I especially loved the way Alaimo took the work of Conevery Bolton Valencius and Linda Nash on nineteenth century understandings of bodies and the environment to argue that in a post Silent Spring world we have begun to recognize the permeability of our bodies with the environmentChapter Five takes up multiple chemical sensitivity and Chapter Six takes up genetic discourses in contemporary science fiction It is in this final chapter that Alaimo most directly makes her argument for the posthuman environmental ethics based on transcorporeality


  2. says:

    Trans Corporeality and Environmentalism Because trans corporeality brings the human body into focus it is possible to charge that it reinstalls anthropocentrism Jhan Hochman for instance would probably condemn trans corporeality as another sort of “creeping metonymy” in which “culture invades nature by calling itself natural or part of nature” 171 Hochman asserts that “what nature needs is not a bond with culture but a separation or divorce some autonomy at last some protection through ‘shelters’ preserves offering sanctuary from culture’s constant battering and stalking”