Every blog has its reason for being. The idea behind this one was originally to serve as a forum for thinking in and around the Environmental Thought and Culture Graduate Concentration, which I coordinate at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont.
But that idea mutated as I realized that there isn’t yet a place that acts as a forum for a kind of alternative tradition of thinking about nature, culture, process, politics, and the spiritual (in the broadest sense of the word) that William Connolly calls “immanent naturalism” and that he, among others, associates with innovative activity in environmental and political theory and activism today. That’s part of the inspiration for this blog, so some of the thinkers and ideas that make up that loose “tradition” may be popping up a lot, if not in person at least in reference.
(For definitions of terms used here, see “Immanence” and the other links under “About” at the top of the right column on the Main page of this blog. Connolly’s own writings on immanent naturalism include sections of Neuropolitics and Capitalism and Christianity, American Style; follow the highlights in the linked book excerpts. The general idea is that the world itself is richer, more mysterious, and more radically open – to change, emergent complexity, and innovation – than we tend to think, and that by opening ourselves to that richness and mystery, we extend our capacities for deepening the experience of life for ourselves and those we interact with. In a sense, immanent naturalism is another term for an earth- and life-embracing ethic that conceives of the universe as fundamentally open and pluralistic, and that refrains from any form of closure including the closure that thinks it’s figured it all out. Connolly writes of being guided by a “visceral gratitude” and “care for a protean diversity of being,” and his various writings work out the implications of what that might mean for politics and culture.)
But the more practical goal of this blog is to be a means of communication about issues at the intersection of environmental, political, and cultural theory, especially in the disciplinary interstices inhabited by such fungal intellectual growths as ecocriticism , political ecology, green cultural studies, eco-poststructuralism, environmental communication, and so on (biosemiotics, geophilosophy, animist liberation theology — invent your own neologisms). Where culture meets nature meets consciousness…
So I think of it as a resource: for grad students, for fellow scholars working in these areas, for lay folks interested in these ideas (the boundary between scholarship and the wider world of public thinking gets ever more more blurred thanks to the internet), and for myself – to keep working and communicating outside of the usual framework of publishing, research, etc. A blog is, understandably, more laid-back, unrefereed, and stream-of-consciousness than other forms of intellectual work, so this one may get bulletin-boardy and diaryish, or just inactive, at times.
A blog also, like an idea, is only successful to the extent that it grows, connects, germinates, and takes on a life of its own. This one will start out as just me posting, and we’ll see what happens next. The internet is littered with the detritus of dead blogs and broken links, and if this one goes that route, so be it. But hopefully it won’t.