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Accepted paper:

Between the whale and the kauri tree: (Re)scaling the Anthropocene across multi-species encounters


Matthew Adams (University of Brighton)

Paper short abstract:

This paper encourages a radical (re)scaling of the Anthropocene across multi-species relations, via a consideration of the specific and situated intersection of Indigenous Knowledge whale strandings, tree pathogens and mycorrhizal networks in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores and extends what we might consider as in meaningful relation within the profoundly 'scalar project' of the Anthropocene (Hecht, 2018). It considers human-whale encounters in the Anthropocene era and how they might be framed within a posthuman or more-than-human ontology, before making case for a more thorough indigenizing of the Anthropocene. In doing so, I adopt the tools Zoe Todd suggests for employing indigenous ontologies with care and respect: accounting for one's own location; engaging with specific indigenous ontologies; focusing on locally informed responses to in situ challenges; and finally, reading and citing Indigenous scholarship (Todd, 2014). The paper encompasses the phenomenon of mass whale stranding as it is understood within a Māori ontology. It then reconsiders notions of scale by incorporating the forests of Aotearoa New Zealand and the plight of the kauri tree within the analysis, following the anthropogenic spread of a deadly pathogen in recent years. The paper then considers how Māori have approached this 'biosecurity' threat within an articulation of holism; contemplating how Indigenous Knowledge can open up surprising connections between humans, trees and whales, extended further here via a discussion of mycorrhizal networks. It is argued that in approaching specific and situated application of indigenous ontologies in some of its grounded everyday complexity, there is the potential to open up the Anthropocene imaginary to a more radical and ethical biocentric relationality.

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(Re)scaling the Anthropocene