Uncommon ground : toward reinventing nature

by William Cronon (Editor)

Hardcover, 1995




New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c1995.

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LibraryThing member bexaplex
Uncommon Ground is an insightful criticism of the American idea of nature. In particular it highlights some of the intellectual pitfalls of the contemporary environmental movement, while suggesting diverse alternatives toward a more pluralistic, humane and productive movement.

I can't write a review of an academic book without a comment about academic style, so here it is: interdisciplinary programs often highlight academia's strict disciplinary constructs. Upon meeting another theory or method, academics say "how fascinating!" and then describe the phenomenon in the language of their own discipline. The Conclusion is a humorous illustration of this; the participants describe their experience of the seminar rather like the fable of the blind man and the elephant - some relished the commonality of thought (the two environmental historians), some the constructive disagreement (women's studies), etc. In this case it doesn't detract in the slightest from the book's message, since each perspective has a voice, but I get a kick out of imagining how the discussions were framed and led.

In reading this book in 2007, I skipped the two essays I had marked in 2002: "Reinventing Eden: Western Culture as a Recovery Narrative" by Carolyn Merchant (boring, unfocused and uninsightful) and "Universal Donors in a Vampire Culture: It's All in the Family: Biological Kinship Categories in the Twentieth-Century United States" by Donna J. Haraway (what the heck is she talking about).

Essay-specific tags:

Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted by Anne Whiston Spirn - Olmsted

Ecology Fragmentation in the Fifties by Michael G. Barbour - ecology, history of science

Whose Nature? The Contested Moral Terrain of Ancient Forests by James D. Proctor - environmental ethics

Nature as Community: The Convergence of Environment and Social Justice by Giovanna Di Chiro - environmental justice

Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations: Rethinking the Relation between the Beholder and the World by N. Katherine Hayles and Toward a Philosophy of Nature by Robert P. Harrison - philosophy
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