Healing, resistance, transformation: Evolving intimacies in the age of climate change

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2023-05
Authors
Gross, Cara
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Burke, Briana
Sivils, Matthew W
Menefee, Charissa
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English
Abstract
The "Anthropocene" is the term that many scientists and humanities scholars have dubbed the current era of climate change: a new geological epoch in which human activity has become a profound geologic force, warping, shifting, and becoming embedded in Earth’s weather, atmospheric, and life systems. Western stories about the Anthropocene, from environmentalist discourses to “cli-fi” literatures, typically characterize it with death, destruction, and scarcity, painting the humanity as innately damaging to the other-than-human environment and positioning humans and the planet as incapable of coexisting. This thesis centers stories of human interconnectedness with the nonhuman environment to argue that human-environmental relationships can be reshaped to convert the Anthropocene into an era of mutual, reciprocal flourishing, abundance, and care. I use "uncanny intimacy," a term from Amitav Ghosh's 2016 book The Great Derangement, as well as intimacy itself, as the vectors for my analysis. First, I examine uncanny intimacy between humans and nonhuman animals in Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake and Ted Chiang's short story "The Great Silence," notably Alex the parrot, who figures prominently in both stories, to show how these works advocate for dismantling the anthropocentric scientific hubris that causes the Anthropocene in the first place. I moreover analyze instances of uncanny bodily harms and intimate abuses that reverberate between humans and nonhuman animals due to the modern meat production system, as well as restorative interpersonal and human-animal intimacies that subvert this system, in Ruth Ozeki's novel My Year of Meats. Ultimately, I find that intimacy between humanity and the other-than-human environment is inescapable, and that while this intimacy has the capacity to cause destruction and abuse towards humans and nonhumans if wielded improperly, intimacy can also be a cite of the healing, reform, and transformation that the Anthropocene requires of humanity.
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