The Arthur questionnaire is a web-exclusive series. Vaguely inspired by Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire, the Arthur questionnaire asks Trent faculty and community members to offer pieces of “reading material” (loosely speaking) that have recently engaged them.
This week’s offerings come from Professor Stephanie Rutherford, who completed the questionnaire on October 23. Rutherford works in Trent’s School of the Environment (ERSC/ERST). Her teaching involves environmental humanities, politics, ethics, and justice. Here’s what she had to offer:
“My research interests centre around human-animal relations, specifically how people’s ideas about wolves have migrated through time and how this impacts their life chances in these lands we now call Canada. I have chosen a variety of readings around this theme.”
Noel Castree, “An official welcome to the Anthropocene epoch – but who gets to decide it’s here?” (via The Conversation)
“The idea of the Anthropocene — that humans have become so intrusive into the biosphere that we actually warrant our own geologic epoch — has become increasingly important to my work in environmental studies as I think about transformations in human-nonhuman relations. This piece by Noel Castree for The Conversation is an accessible introduction to the concept and the debates around it. Whether or not we are actually in a new epoch as defined by geology, I think the concept of the Anthropocene is an interesting way to think about our responsibility to an earth we have fundamentally altered.”
“My work for the last five years or so has been animated by the question of how humans and animals can live well together, especially in the context of the Anthropocene. Bruno Latour takes one stab at this question in this article by admonishing us to love our monsters, to turn away from the fictional purity of either “Nature” or “Culture” and recognized that all of our lives are multispecies muddles. This line of thinking has been particularly important for me in my work on wolf-coyote-dog hybrids, colloquially called coywolves. Coywolves are inevitably in-between animals, upending many of the dichotomies we use to define the world. Within the context of the Anthropocene, part of our job, as I see it, is to embrace these “monsters” and learn how we might flourish together.”
“There has been a move in the social sciences and humanities in recent years toward ‘the animal turn’: scholarship which takes seriously the notion that rather than passive entities, animals have agency and work to coproduce landscapes, histories, and cultures in relationship with other organisms (including humans). I would situate my work squarely within the animal turn as I grapple with the question of how wolves and humans have co-shaped Canada through time. But Kim TallBear’s important intervention reminds scholars that these ideas aren’t new; instead, they are the ideas of people who are “new-to-having-a real-voice-in-the-academy.” In this talk, she says all of this discourse around the animal turn “sounds to me like ‘we are all related’”, a long-held truth of Indigenous knowledge. Indeed, she contends that the recent turn to animal studies leaves out many of the organisms that are included in Indigenous perspectives and that may also be considered lively parts of creation, like trees, glaciers and microorganisms. Kim TallBear’s work is an important caution that even scholarship which imagines itself as having a radical intent can simultaneously colonize Indigenous intellectual traditions.”
“Aldo Leopold, ecologist and environmental philosopher, reminds us that “Wildlife management is comparatively easy; human management is difficult.” This article, which cites this quotation from Leopold, dwells on the problem of human-wolf entanglement in British Columbia. There is no space without humans for coastal wolves on Vancouver Island, so they have learned to adapt to our presence. But this leads inevitably to conflict. MacKinnon’s article in Hakai Magazine poignantly traces the complexities of co-existence for humans and wolves alike.”
“I love this video; I show it in every class and to every person I can. For me, it beautifully highlights in four minutes what I have been trying to put into words for five years: that animals like wolves fundamentally reshape the landscapes of which they are a part. It also has some pretty cute animals in it. ☺”
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