Over time, I’ll be posting snippets of work-in-progress here that arise from the two manuscripts I’m currently working on. The first of these manuscripts pulls together cultural case studies I’ve done over the years into a conceptually unified argument for an immanent-naturalist “multicultural political ecology,” while the second examines cinema from this perspective. The first is really more empirical than it sounds, examining a range of developments in the arts and media and specific struggles over “nature” as it’s perceived, defined, imagined, and lived. Some of this is a development from my first book, Claiming Sacred Ground, which examined struggles over nature and landscape at two sites of ecospiritual pilgrimage (Glastonbury and Sedona), but the current book applies this approach to a much broader range of cultural phenomena. A third volume, still on the more distant horizon, will flesh out the implications of “immanentism” for ecological, political, and religious philosophy.
As I’ve stated before on this blog, the term “immanent naturalism” is political theorist William Connolly’s term, and I’m using it a little hesitantly and experimentally, thinking it through as I speak/write, to see if it makes sense and if it might catch on (with me, with others) or not. Part of my hesitation comes from the dualistic implications of “naturalism” (natural versus supernatural or unnatural, naturalist versus idealist, etc.). Connolly’s point, like the Spinozist and Deleuzian traditions he draws from, is that nature includes everything that is. For Deleuze, it’s not just everything that is, but everything that has the potential to be, that is virtually there in the structure of the universe, i.e., the structure of becoming (whether it ends up becoming actual or not). Naturalism, therefore, doesn’t have to only deal with empirically knowable existing things; it can be a matter of recognizing that the world is process, and that the invisible and unknowable (for partial and situated observer-participants like ourselves) is also part of that world. But conceivably, this “immanent naturalist” rubric might fade into others over time – which makes sense, because it’s intended to cover such a broad range of thinking (“social nature,” actor-network theory, autopoietic systems theory, ecosemiotics, embodied cognition, process philosophy, etc.).
Some of these posts will deal with how these different strands of what I’m calling “immanent naturalism” deal with the dualisms of nature/culture, spirit/matter, body/mind, and real/imagined. These aren’t the only dualisms that have bogged down our imagination – think male/female, black/white, East/West, etc. – but they are the ones that keep in place the sticky log-jam of thinking between the sciences and the humanities that will have to be unstuck and unjammed if humans are to deal effectively with the social and environmental challenges that face us. (Now there’s a big claim! But it’s one that underlies everything on this blog, so if you’re not convinced, well, then, so be it…)
As you can guess, the blog, then, is also a way to keep myself working, to keep myself honest, and, perhaps over time, generate some discussion with like-minded (or other-minded) theorists and researchers.