"More-than-human" as a Rhetorical Move: Tracing and Operationalizing Terminology

Authors: Melissa Parks*, The University of Utah
Topics: Environmental Perception, Communication, Anthropocene
Keywords: more-than-human, explication, ecoculture, place relations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Scholars in many areas emphasize the importance of undoing dualisms in dominant Western ideologies. The nature-culture divide specifically is under scrutiny in ecologically-focused spheres, as it is problematic for its perpetuation of anthropocentric systems of thought, which dictate destructive human relations with the planet along with a number of other damaging hierarchies. This essay focuses on one attempt to discursively disrupt the nature-culture dualism through the use of the term more-than-human by David Abram and many scholars who have built on his work. While the term is not without scholarly critique, it creates new imaginings in ecocultural scholarship and understandings of place, space, and nature. I explore extant theory to explicate the term more-than-human, exploring current usages in and across disciplines, and theorizing productive operationalization possibilities of the term in future research. I argue that the term more-than-human rhetorically operates in a number of ways. It decenters the human and opens up possibilities for nonhuman agency; it illustrates nature as an ecosystem rather than an anthropocentric hierarchy; and it disrupts discursively dominant dualisms, particularly the nature-culture divide. Future operationalization includes inter- and multidisciplinary collaboration, bridging gaps between scholarship and lay communities, contributing to developing fields such as ecocultural communication and queer ecologies, and opening up possibilities for place relations and ecocultural methodologies.

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