ANSO 251 Nature and Society: Decentering Humans


European Enlightenment emerged as a response to Europe’s Dark Ages, a long era in which human reasoning and scientific explanations were condemned. The outcome of this process of “enlightenment” was the separation of humans from nature. Due to this separation, humans were elevated above nature and nature was regarded solely as a passive resource to be controlled and exploited. This destructive human-nature distinction did not remain confined to what was human and what was not. It created categories of sub-humans, which included non-European non-Christian people from the Americas to Southeast Asia, as well as women. What emerged out of enlightenment was a patriarchal system which viewed nature and non-Western people as primitive and exploitable.

In this course we explore this history and its consequences in the past, present, and future. To do so, we will draw on critical approaches to science, political ecology, environmental justice, ecofeminism, indigenous wisdom, critical race theory, and posthumanism. These perspectives not only prepare us to deconstruct the abovementioned dichotomy, but also equip us with analytical perspectives which enable us to imagine a wholistic and inclusionary relationship between humans and non-humans through decentering humans.