Multispecies Thinking from Alexander von Humboldt to Leslie Marmon Silko: Intercultural Communication Toward Cosmopolitics
AuthorGemein, Mascha Nicola
Native American Fiction
American Indian Studies
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe concept of cosmopolitics identifies a multispecies political practice within the framework of multinaturalism. The dissertation, "Multispecies Thinking from Alexander von Humboldt to Leslie Marmon Silko: Intercultural Communication Toward Cosmopolitics," is concerned with understandings of multispecies relationships, with the human intercultural communication that could prepare for a cosmopolitical practice, and with the ways Native American fiction supports this endeavor. This research draws from Native American literary studies and ecocritical scholarship to illustrate the potential of transdisciplinary thinking about multispecies ethnography, cosmopolitics, and Indigenous paradigms as providing a promising communication zone against the grain of scientific imperialism. It thus traces the development of pluralist and multispecies-oriented thought and its points of connection to Indigenous paradigms from Alexander von Humboldt's Cosmos Studies of the early 19th century to 21st century Indigenous cosmopolitics. First, this study discusses the insights and obstructions to Western pluralist and multispecies thinking in relation to Native American paradigms from Humboldt via 19th century nature writers-Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and John Muir-to contemporary interdisciplinary research. Opening to wide potential with Humboldt's holistic Cosmos Studies, intercultural communication was tempered by the colonial enterprise in the 19th century United States, including a nature-culture dualism and the notion of degenerated, vanishing Indigenous peoples. The resulting conceptual understandings, terms, and attitudes have been influential until today and are what contemporary Native American authors and activists are confronted with when engaged in their work. Detailed textual analysis of exemplary Native American literature outlines how contemporary authors criticize, counter-narrate, and/or integrate Western intellectual traditions. Furthermore, this study outlines 20th and 21st century scientific concepts that refine much earlier ideas, provide helpful terminology regarding Western approaches to Indigenous ontologies and multispecies thinking, and facilitate a new, insightful reading of contemporary Native American fiction as cosmopolitical texts. The analyses of works by Louise Erdrich, Linda Hogan, Louis Owens, and Leslie Marmon Silko demonstrate the value of these works to enhance multispecies thinking and respective political practices. Therefore, Native American literature plays a major role worldwide as an educational and critical tool for an intercultural communication toward cosmopolitics.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
American Indian Studies