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14 Corporeal Fieldwork and Risky Art: Peter Goin and the Making of Nuclear Landscapes

Serenella Iovino Indiana University Press ePub

Cheryll Glotfelty

IT MAY GO without saying that a landscape photographer must do fieldwork. How can you take a picture of a place without being there? But this very presumption of physical presence tends to obscure the role of fieldwork in landscape photography, a process that resonates strongly with the material turn in ecocritical theory. Photographer Peter Goin (b. 1951) has devoted more than thirty years to photographing altered landscapes in America, documenting the legacy of human actions on the land. Author of more than a dozen books and recipient of numerous awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Goin has done projects on Meso-American ruins in Central America, abandoned sections of the Erie Canal, engineered beaches along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, artificial swamps in the American South, ancient petroglyphs in Nevada, postmining landscapes of North America, California agriculture, the architected wilderness of Lake Tahoe, and the U.S.-Mexico borderline. All of these projects involved rigorous fieldwork that is beyond the scope of most people. Goin is persistently and perhaps perversely drawn to abandoned, neglected, forbidden, and condemned landscapes as he bears witness to the places that our culture sweeps out of sight, out of mind.

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1 From Ecological Postmodernism to Material Ecocriticism: Creative Materiality and Narrative Agency

Serenella Iovino Indiana University Press ePub

Serpil Oppermann

THE CONCEPTION OF physical reality within the framework of ecological postmodern thought and the nature of the material world described by quantum theory have recently been given new life by the emergence of the new materialist paradigm. The radical revisions of our ideas about the description of physical entities, chemical and biological processes, and their ethical, political, and cultural implications represented in recent discourses of feminist science studies, posthumanism, and the environmental humanities have also occasioned considerable interest among ecocritics, leading to the emergence of material ecocriticism. Proposing that we can read the world as matter endowed with stories, material ecocriticism speaks of a new mode of description designated as “storied matter,” or “material expressions” constituting an agency with signs and meanings. The idea that all material life experience is implicated in creative expressions contriving a creative ontology is a reworking of ecological postmodernism’s emphasis on material processes intersecting with human systems, producing epistemic configurations of life, discourses, texts, and narratives. Because ecological postmodernism perceives matter equipped with internal experience, agentic creativity, and vitality, it is important to acknowledge it as one of the roots upon which material ecocriticism constructs its theoretical premises, as this chapter aims to show.

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18 Spirits That Matter: Pathways toward a Rematerialization of Religion and Spirituality

Serenella Iovino Indiana University Press ePub

Kate Rigby

IN ENTITLING MY contribution to this postscript “Spirits That Matter” (with thanks to the editors for their inspired suggestion), my intention is not to oppose something immaterial called “spirit” to the materiality of “the body,” as might be implied for those readers who hear in this phrase an allusion to Judith Butler’s influential Bodies That Matter. On the contrary: my implied divergence from Butler moves, rather (in company with other new materialists), in the direction of a more thoroughgoing materialism than that which is entailed in Butler’s discursive constructivism. As Karen Barad has observed, Butler’s model of discursive performativity accords too much power to the word and does not allow sufficiently for the contribution of nonhuman agency to the world’s becoming (“Posthumanist” 122–28). The kind of materialism that I wish to advance here, however, is one that diverges from the secularism of both Butler and Barad, in that it affords an opening toward questions, and practices, of ecomaterialist religion and (for want of a better term) “spirituality.”

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7 When It Rains

Serenella Iovino Indiana University Press ePub

Lowell Duckert

Does life only make sense as one side of a life-matter binary, or is there such a thing as . . . a life of the it in “it rains”?

—Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter

RESPONDING TO HIS country’s record rainfalls in the beginning of the twenty-first century, British journalist Brian Cathcart seems to bring more of it. Rain makes a dreary forecast: “It is only when things go wrong that our dim consciousness of scientific meteorology rises to the surface” (66). French sociologist of science Bruno Latour would diagnose this tendency as “blackboxing.” Focusing only on the success of a scientific or technological apparatus paradoxically renders “the joint production of actors and artifacts entirely opaque” (Hope 183).1 When a meteorology machine runs smoothly, it produces factual climates that we can reasonably predict and accurately monitor. But an error (like an overflowing levee) exposes the box’s inner complexities. For Cathcart, scientific analysis provides a false sense of security. We are to make a “managed retreat from the assumptions that science has the answers, that even if the price is high we can always buy protection, that we can cope with downpours and their consequences” (95). What are our options, then? If we cannot build better shelters, we cannot put off contemporary matters of concern like drought or acid rain, either. Arguing against inevitable catastrophe, Cathcart believes that only a “new humility” can shake our egocentric delusions of domination (89). Simply put, “there is no such thing as getting above the rain” (95).

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19 Mindful New Materialisms: Buddhist Roots for Material Ecocriticism’s Flourishing

Serenella Iovino Indiana University Press ePub

Greta Gaard

IT IS SATURDAY-MORNING yoga class at the Minneapolis Midtown YWCA. A diverse group of practitioners assembles, varying in ages, genders, classes, races, sexualities, and nationalities, all gathered to practice an hour of mindful yoga. In Pali (the language of the Buddha), “yoga” means “to join” or “to unite,” and its practice involves joining attention to movements involving the body, the breath, the mind, and the larger interconnectedness of all beings. We begin with sun salutation and end in a position familiar to those who have seen the most common depictions of the Buddha, seated in yogic meditation. Joining body ecology with spirit ecology, we bring our attention to the breath, a flow of matter that is exchanged among our many bodies in this enclosed room, and beyond this room as well. Breath is one of the many “flows” that illustrate our interbeing and invite us to embark on a journey of mindfulness wherein the illusion of a separate self is revealed.

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