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Unsettling Nature

Ecology, Phenomenology, and the Settler Colonial Imagination
Taylor Eggan
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BUY Cloth · 296 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813946832 · $115.00 · Dec 2021
BUY Paper · 296 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813946849 · $39.50 · Dec 2021
BUY Ebook · 296 pp. · ISBN 9780813946856 · $29.50 · Dec 2021

The German poet and mystic Novalis once identified philosophy as a form of homesickness. More than two centuries later, as modernity’s displacements continue to intensify, we feel Novalis’s homesickness more than ever. Yet nowhere has a longing for home flourished more than in contemporary environmental thinking, and particularly in eco-phenomenology. If only we can reestablish our sense of material enmeshment in nature, so the logic goes, we might reverse the degradation we humans have wrought—and in saving the earth we can once again dwell in the nearness of our own being.

Unsettling Nature opens with a meditation on the trouble with such ecological homecoming narratives, which bear a close resemblance to narratives of settler colonial homemaking. Taylor Eggan demonstrates that the Heideggerian strain of eco-phenomenology—along with its well-trod categories of home, dwelling, and world—produces uncanny effects in settler colonial contexts. He reads instances of nature’s defamiliarization not merely as psychological phenomena but also as symptoms of the repressed consciousness of coloniality. The book at once critiques Heidegger’s phenomenology and brings it forward through chapters on Willa Cather, D. H. Lawrence, Olive Schreiner, Doris Lessing, and J. M. Coetzee. Suggesting that alienation may in fact be "natural" to the human condition and hence something worth embracing instead of repressing, Unsettling Nature concludes with a speculative proposal to transform eco-phenomenology into "exo-phenomenology"—an experiential mode that engages deeply with the alterity of others and with the self as its own Other.

Reviews:


Thoughtful, deeply researched, balanced, and substantive. Eggan’s analysis of the settler colonialist myths of home develops into a profoundly consequential critique of Western humanist culture and European colonial history that should reorient our thinking about our place among other creatures on a threatened planet. The most impressive book of ecocriticism I have read in many years.

Louise Westling, University of Oregon, author of The Logos of the Living World: Merleau-Ponty, Animals, and Language

 
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