A quick excerpt from a note to a colleague who studies Dewey and political ecology …


Another very exciting and productive direction for Dewey!
-via Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter
you MUST read Vibrant Matter. MUST. Especially for how you’re re-purposing Dewey …

What Bennett is trying to do is link ecophilosophy and vital materialism, as a means of articulating a political ecology (in Latour’s vein of how political ecology ought to occur). What I really respect is Bennett’s questioning and literal purposing of political ecology (she asks questions like “What is the difference between an ecosystem and a political system? Are they analogs? What is the difference between an actant and a political actor? Does an action count as political by virtue of its having taken place “in” a public? Are there nonhuman members of a public? What … are the implications of a (meta)physics of vibrant materiality for political theory? (94))
What’s most pertinent about all of this to Dewey, though, is her use – her re-purposing … She writes, “I use (and stretch) John Dewey’s model of a public as the emergent effect of a problem to defend such an idea … (xviii)” “… in [Dewey] the analogy between an ecosystem and a political system is fairly strong and the gap between action and political action relatively small. Key here is Dewey’s notion of the generative field that he calls “conjoint actions” … Dewey’s theory leaves open the possibility that some of the acts of conjoint action originate in nonhuman (natural and technological) bodies” (95).
After reading the Preface, I decided to focus first on chapter 7, “Political Ecologies,” which is where Bennett maps Dewey with Darwin, as a means of articulating what agency means (for nonhuman life (like worms) and objects) as a way of segueing into political participation and, therefore, Dewey. Pages 100-104 are the most detailed (from what I can tell at this point) for her explanation of how to re-purpose Dewey as a way of answering what “… worms and trees and aluminum … say about political participation” (100); essentially, as a way of articulating how a political ecology can be practiced (i.e. if we understand “Dewey’s account of a public as the product of conjoint action … as a picture of a political system that has much in common with a dynamic natural ecosystem” (103) …

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About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

One response to “A quick excerpt from a note to a colleague who studies Dewey and political ecology …

  • michael-

    Hey Karen, great blog: I love your passion for pursuing important questions.

    I noticed you are really into Jane Bennett’s outstanding book Vibrant Matter. I have a few posts on her work you might be interested in here, here and here – if you get time to check them out.

    All the best,

    Michael.

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