Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations [New ed.] 9781443859714

Indian ecocriticism has not yet adequately demonstrated the applicability of ecological/deep ecological/tinai principles

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Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations [New ed.]

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Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations

Edited by

Rayson K. Alex, S. Susan Deborah and Sachindev P.S.

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations, Edited by Rayson K. Alex, S. Susan Deborah, Sachindev P.S. This book first published 2014 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2014 by Rayson K. Alex, S. Susan Deborah, Sachindev P.S. and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-5971-0, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-5971-4

Dedicated to tiNai, formerly known as OSLE-India


List of Images .............................................................................................. x List of Tables .............................................................................................. xi Foreword ................................................................................................... xii Richard Kerridge Acknowledgements ................................................................................. xvii Introduction ................................................................................................. 1 Rayson K. Alex Section I: Ecocriticism and Cinema Chapter One ............................................................................................... 12 Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema Rayson K. Alex Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 34 Directing the Weather, Producing the Climate Patrick D. Murphy Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 49 Spectators to Future Ruin: Ecological Representations and their Consumption Simon C. Estok Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 66 Exploring Ecocriticism in Australian Film and Television Studies Susan Ward and Kitty Van Vuuren Chapter Five .............................................................................................. 85 Comic Complexity in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax: Seuss’s Tragic Ecoclassic Morphs into Feature-length Animated Comedy Deidre Pike



Chapter Six ................................................................................................ 97 An Affective Turn: The Rhetorical Triangle in The Cove Yalan Chang Chapter Seven.......................................................................................... 114 Ecological Representations of Irish Films Patrick Brereton Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 131 Tribal People on Screen: Ecological Representation in Documentaries Rayson K. Alex Chapter Nine............................................................................................ 141 Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness Sachindev P. S. Chapter Ten ............................................................................................. 157 tinai Reading of the Film Godavari Samuel Moses Section II: Ecocriticism and Culture Chapter Eleven ........................................................................................ 170 Authorship in the Light of tinai Nirmal Selvamony Chapter Twelve ....................................................................................... 189 Ecoethics and the Evolution of an Ecoartist: Saving Threatened Species Lynne Hull Chapter Thirteen ...................................................................................... 204 Politicizing Indigenous Knowledge Conservation Practices: The Dynamics of Using Open Source Media to Preserve Indigenous Cultures Padini Nirmal Chapter Fourteen ..................................................................................... 222 Eating Out of Your Hands: Food Blogging as Transecological Phenomenon S. Susan Deborah

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


Chapter Fifteen ........................................................................................ 241 Ubuntuism in the Proverbs of the Maragoli Community in Western Kenya Nabeta Sangili Contributors ............................................................................................. 258 Index ........................................................................................................ 263


3-1. Accessorizing of animals, because it implies an ethical disregard, is one variety of ecophobia in play 3-2. It starts at an early age, as this little girl with her toy dog in a bag shows 8-1. The represented moving out of the community in the first and second categories 8-2. The represented moving circularly within the community in the third category 9-1. Shankaran and Manjushree in Yab-Yum position with the TaradeviBuddha statue in the background 9-2. An intimate moment between Shankaran and Jack 9-3. Shankaran with the dead peacock 9-4. Tribal people at the demonstration area 9-5. Close-up of tribal persons 9-6. Procession carrying the Buddha statue 12-1. Desert hydroglyphs 12-2. Raptor roosts 12-3. “Lightning” raptor roosts 12-4. Close-up of raptor roosts 12-5. Ecozone projects 12-6. Floating islands 12-7. Site projects 12-8. Lagoon sculpture, Punta Laguna, MX 12-9. “Polar platform” proposal 15-1. A view of the ecosystem surrounding the river Izava in Mudungu village 15-2. Invaded land at Givudianyi Village 15-3. Evembe in Itengi Village 15-4. The only mature Mtembe tree in Givudianyi Village


1-1. Comparison of definitions of ecology 1-2. Comparison of definitions of ecocinema 15-1. Summary of the analysis


One of the strongest themes in ecocriticism at present is the need for a perspective informed by postcolonial criticism. It is also observed, rather less frequently, that postcolonial criticism needs an environmentalist and ecocritical perspective. Recent books that have explored the relationship between these two schools of political criticism include Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin’s Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment, Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee’s Postcolonial Environments, Bonnie Roos and Alex Hunt’s Postcolonial Green, Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley’s Postcolonial Ecologies and Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. These books have brought Western literary ecocriticism into contact with the foundational political and philosophical ideas of postcolonialist environmentalists and ecofeminists such as Vandana Shiva, Arundhati Roy, Ramachandra Guha and Juan Martinez Alier. Postcolonial ecocriticism has broadened the focus of the ecocritical movement and confronted it with some global political realities. What should the relationship be, these critics have asked, between the preservationist concerns of enthusiasts for wild nature and the environmental justice concerns of poor communities? How can a new preservationist love of wild nature differentiate itself sufficiently from the colonialist traditions? At the same time, postcolonial critics are asked how can they give due recognition to environmental dangers, including the threat to biodiversity, while remaining careful that Western environmentalism should not impose Western cultural preferences. Rob Nixon has memorably formulated the challenges for both forms of criticism. Western ecocritics, in what is now seen as “first wave” ecocriticism, often seemed to assume that the preoccupations of Deep Ecology—the concern with wilderness preservation, especially—could simply be transferred “from a supremely rich, lightly populated, overconsuming, overmilitarized society like the United States to densely populated countries (India, Nigeria, Indonesia) where significant peasant communities subsisted off the land” (Nixon). Postcolonialism has had much to teach ecocriticism about the historical relationship between

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


preservationism and colonialism, and the continuing cultural legacy of that relationship. Postcolonial critics, however, should not assume that environmental concern is always suspect in this way. Environmental problems are real and urgent, and concern with them comes also from some of the poorest non-Western communities. “Any lingering postcolonial dismissal of environmentalism as marginal to ‘real’ politics is belied by the proliferation of indigenous environmental movements across the global South.” Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations appears at a very interesting moment, therefore. Some of the old oppositions are receding. Postcolonial ecocriticism has posed questions that need new answers: different answers from different parts of the world. This fascinating collection of essays provides some Indian answers and situates those answers alongside developments elsewhere. It develops the relatively new field of the ecocritical study of film and filmmaking. The collection moves from discussion of some of the general questions ecocritics ask about film to critique of particular examples from India, North America, Australia and Ireland. In each case, the essay analyses the cultural and ideological history that shapes the environmental content. Patrick D. Murphy notes, for example, that the post-apocalyptic ecothriller Waterworld reproduces “a standard cowboy Western plot of a drifter who gets caught up in homesteaders’ failed defence against bandits and finds himself compelled to take on ever-increasing responsibility for others.” Murphy also identifies a fundamental problem of representation faced by environmental art of all kinds. Quoting Sean Cubitt’s observation that “Ecological thinking places the emphasis on the priority of systems over nodes,” Murphy observes that movies have great difficulty in representing systems. Movies, he says, “tend to be paradigmatic rather than syntagmatic in their focus”; they “emphasize nodes as literally specific, or as metaphors and similes rather than as synecdoche.” They have difficulty in pulling back from the immediate situation and story to make visible the larger, open-ended spatial and temporal system of ecological relationships that play a determining role in the story: the set of relationships that Timothy Morton calls “the mesh.” Television miniseries, too, though they usually have more time available than feature films, “tend to depict the crises through a series of very tightly portrayed individuals or small groups, again emphasizing nodes over systems.” For some ecocritics—Timothy Clark, for example—environmental threats necessitate a change, of emphasis at least, from “the foundational assumption of liberal thought”—the assumption that “a human being is an essentially private, atomistic and apolitical individual” (Clark). The



Western liberal version of selfhood emerged as consumer society, a society whose ethical and cultural norms rest on the assumption that endless economic growth is desirable and possible. Perceptions of environmental crisis challenge this assumption, both in terms of practical questions of economic policy and social justice, and in terms of the reconception of selfhood that these problems require. This reconception is necessary because ecological processes consist of forces too large to be fitted into the time frame of conventional realism—the time frame constituted by realistic plot and “character”—and events too small to register as conventionally dramatic: events such as the leaving on or turning off of a light. Like Morton, Clark calls for a shift of emphasis in the way we imagine the self, from the self as an atomized individual with hard boundaries to a self always already in the process of producing the world and being produced by it, a self through which the world flows, a self that is as conceptually inseparable as it is materially inseparable from the larger ecosystem that sustains its physical body. In Cubitt and Murphy’s terms, that is a shift of emphasis from node to system. Ecological perception dissolves unifying notions of selfhood and strong dualistic separations between culture and nature, subject and object, or human and nonhuman. Instead of these hard selves and boundaries, we have shared ancestry, co-evolution, system, process, energy flow, hybridity, actor-networks, post-humanism, symbiosis, biosemiotics and the continuous mutual constitution of self and world: the system of relationships that Timothy Morton calls “the mesh” and New Materialist theorists call “distributed agency.” The difficult trade-off here is between the perceived need to find new experimental forms that foreground this open-ended systemic aspect of ecological processes—artistic “hyperobjects,” in Morton’s terms, to reflect the hyperobject that is the biosphere or climate change—and the need to use well-established cultural genres that reach mass audiences. Addressing this dilemma is an important task for ecocriticism in every cultural context. Culture and Media begins to set out some Indian approaches. Susan Ward and Kitty van Vuuren note that in Australian ecohorror movies there is both a continuation of traditional colonial fears about the hostile terra nullius of the interior and a new set of allegories for the disastrous capacity of wild nature to exceed human control; the two elements are related in ways that give ecocritics pause. Ward and van Vuuren also track the ecological elements and ideologies to be found in Australian television soap operas and in the children’s television series dirtgirlworld. Pat Brereton, surveying Irish films with environmental themes, finds a similarly complex relationship between the tradition of

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


Romantic conservatism in the representation of Irish landscapes and rural life and the emergence in more urban cinema of a new ecological awareness. Kathryn Yalan Chang’s discussion of The Cove, Louie Psihoyos’s campaigning documentary about Japanese dolphin fishing, a film that has had considerable policy consequences, explores tensions between different ethical obligations: the obligation to protect animals from cruelty and the obligation to respect diverse cultural traditions that are easily scapegoated by a society committed on a much larger scale to less visible industrial cruelty. Yalan Chang acknowledges the difficulty posed by the cultural argument while refusing to allow it to trump the cruelty argument. Her essay is a fine example of the complex negotiation that a cross-cultural postcolonial ecocriticism involves. These chapters, along with Simon C. Estok’s warning about the propensity of commercial cinema to use environmental crisis as mere dramatic backdrop for conventional plot and Deidre Pike’s optimistic account of the 2012 3D animated adaption of Dr Seuss’s The Lorax, provide a useful frame—a context of ecocritical questions—for the centre of the book, the ecocritical discussion of Indian film and its genres and techniques. The most distinctively Indian formulation of these questions offered by the book is what Nirmal Selvamony and Rayson K. Alex call tinai criticism, based on the Tamil Dravidian concept of tinai, the founding principle of pre-caste society in Tamil Nadu, defined by Selvamony as an “organism-like society,” constituting a “ground of existence” that unites human and non-human elements, culture and nature. This conception of relationship to land, and all forms of life in that land, is the one that makes land sacred, in the tinai sense of the term used by Alex. Selvamony gives an account of how authorship must be conceived in tinai criticism as communitarian more than individual, with the community including the non-human as well as the human. Authorship is thus attributed to place, ecosystem and history, as well as to the human community and the human individual. Selvamony and Alex demonstrate the potential of tinai to be an ecocritical idea, consonant with the reconception of selfhood advocated by Clark. K. Samuel Moses Srinivas takes the idea further out of its usual cultural space, when he uses it to provide the conceptual framework for a reading of a Telugu film made in 2006. Other contributors who do not use tinai as a conceptual foundation are nevertheless exploring similar ground: looking for principles of selfhood and authorship that emphasize the individual’s embeddedness in community and ecosystem. In an important essay discussing the creation of Digital Community Archives as a cultural resource for indigenous tribal



cultures, Padini Nirmal presents an impressive example of the use of digital technology to create a new communal meeting place and archive place that may help to preserve a traditional cultural commons threatened by other contemporary developments. The example overturns expectations that traditional indigenous culture and technological modernity will be in opposition. Indigenous knowledge is thus able to “transcend the geographical limits of the nation situated in the global south and reach those in the global north (and sometimes travel within the south, back to the south and around the world).” With this new power to travel, and to make visible the global ecological and commercial relationships implicated in what Rob Nixon calls “slow violence”—the violent effects, in other parts of the world, of Western consumerism—indigenous communal knowledge is able to pose a challenge to the Western institution of intellectual property that is so menacing to these indigenous communities. Nirmal does not refer to tinai, but her broad argument is similar to that of Alex, Selvamony and Moses. P. S. Sachindev implies a similar sense of potential in his discussion of the banned film Papilio Buddha; in this case, potential is not realized, Sachindev argues, since the film’s main symbol has not been drawn from the culture of the Dalit community whose plight is the film’s subject matter and that community is not given a voice by the film. Negotiations between indigenous culture and the global networking made possible by the internet are also explored by Susan Deborah in her discussion of food blogs. Nabeta Sangili supplies an African perspective: he too explores the significance of ecological knowledge in certain indigenous cultures, looking at the presence of trees and plants in the normative proverbs of the Kenyan Maragoli people. Lynne Hull, an ecoartist, finds new ways of sharing authorship with the natural world; she designs sculptures that will be used as habitat by wild animals and birds, and positions them where they will be of most use, so that the animal, benefiting from the artwork, completes the work with its presence. Culture and Media is a richly various collection of essays, yet one that has shared aims and concerns running through it. This is exciting and fascinating material, and a significant contribution to Indian ecocriticism.


The editors thank all the contributors for complying with our requests and answering our queries from time to time with diligence and patience. We would like to express our thanks to Prof. Richard Kerridge for graciously consenting to write the Foreword to the book. We express our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. T. Jayaraman for voluntarily offering to copy-edit the essays. His keen eye and dexterity saved us many sleepless nights. Alongside him we also gratefully acknowledge the hard work and time put forth by Ms. Lincy Ann Mathew who style-edited the essays and embellished their readability. Mr. Christopher Pipe helped us with the final edit. We are indebted and grateful to the tiNai (formerly OSLE-India) family which has enabled to strengthen our foundation in Ecocriticism and also gave us the freedom to initiate Ecomedia, an offshoot of tiNai. A special word of thanks to Dr. Nirmal Selvamony, founder and president of tiNai who introduced us to Ecocriticism and supported all our crazy ideas and projects. His guidance and support throughout the process of this book has helped us immensely. The editors wish to thank Dr. Swarnalatha Rangarajan for her consistent encouragement and enthusiasm towards our book project and related endeavours. Her contagious sunshine always brought a cheer to our tired spirits. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our friends and well-wishers in Madras Christian College, Central University of Tamil Nadu and Birla Institute of Technology and Science-Pilani, K.K. Birla Goa Campus (BITS-Goa), namely, Prof. Meenakshi Raman (Head, Department of Humanities and Management, BITS-Goa), Mr. Irshad P.S. and Ms. Christina Peter. We like to place on record the kind help rendered by Dr. Chia-ju Chang, Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York, by means of encouragement, support and finding publishers and contributors for the book. We are immensely grateful to Amanda Millar, Carol Koulikourdi and Soucin Yip-Sou, Administrative Staff, Cambridge Scholars Publishing for leading us through the formalities of this book project.



This project would not have seen the light of the day if not for the seeds sown in the form of ideas by D. Samuel Johnson and Samuel Moses K. on a rainy day in the Madras Christian College campus. Rayson K. Alex S. Susan Deborah Sachindev P.S.


Shifting the Focus from Global to Glocal Ecocritics might apophatically agree that ecocriticism confronts anthropocentrism. They, however, might take different positions— biocentric or ecocentric. The critical approaches on ecoart, be it film, painting, architecture or sculpting, are not very different from one another. The primary concern of ecoartists and ecoart critics (including ecocinema critics)—which ever their medium may be—is to create and analyse art that places other life forms, land and earth in foci. When shifting focus, many exciting things come about in ecocriticism. Some examples of paradigm shifts in ecocriticism are human to animal, literary to cultural, print to new media, psychology to ecology and postcolonial to ecopostcolonial. The perspectives of and on “the other” gain significance in such a circumstance and come under the spotlight. Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations is one such effort in yoking together some of these perspectives in a glocal context. However, the volume should be considered an addition to the existing body of ecocritical academia in India and the populace at large. Cultural discourse in ecocriticism has a long-drawn history. It probably could be traced back to the duality of the nature-culture debate. Though such debates have been instrumental in placing ecocriticism in specific literary, political, cultural and social contexts, use of cultural texts to apply ecocritical or ecological principles has not been canonized in ecocritical academia. The consideration of music, drama and other arts, festivals, oral traditions, third gender expressions, expressions on caste and cinema, pottery, cooking, blogging and other crafts as analytical texts is a comparatively recent trend in ecocritical study. This diversification of ecocriticism is the outcome of the aforementioned paradigm shift.



Ecocriticism to Ecocriticisms In the plenary session held at the end of the National Conference on Towards Indian Ecocriticism organized at Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur, in 2011, a participant commenting on the theme of the conference remarked, The diversity of the geographical, ideological, cultural, religious, linguistic aspects of over 5000 communities in India should be a possible ground for various forms of “Indian” ecocriticism. It would be proper and timely to refer to ecocriticism as ‘ecocriticisms’ when it is applied in the context of such a diverse country as India. (Elamparithy)

The point that Elamparithy was making was that ecocriticism should diversify in terms of texts and themes, crossing the boundaries of regions, locations and people involved in critical analysis. Murphy (64-74) discusses this idea by calling it “transnational” ecocriticism, thereby determining the differences in “gender,” “cultural multiplicity” and “plurality”. However, Elamparithy’s point seems to focus not necessarily on the national or the regional boundaries that ecocriticism could cross but the canonical acceptance that the various forms of ecocriticism should possess and thus he thrusts on the shift from ecocriticism to “ecocriticisms.” There is another side to this idea, though. Transnationalism is usually seen in the context of migration, displacement, hybridity and diaspora. In one respect or the other, all organisms have migrated or displaced and are therefore hybrid and diasporic. So this “canonical acceptance” of a local concept needs first to be localized before its conscious or unconscious transportation or transformation to another land. It is easier to accept “one” than “many.” Moreover, the terminology also needs clarity and careful coinage while the reference might be merely to “translocalism” or “transregionalism” and not necessarily “transnationalism.” On a not entirely different note, how could this kind of a model work? Can local ecocritical issues strictly be local? How would we separate global issues from the local? For instance, climate change is a worldwide phenomenon which has adversely affected all local areas. One way or the other, there is tension between the corresponding global and the local issues (Nayar). Such complexities need to be tackled in this shift from ecocriticism to “ecocriticisms.”

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


tinai: Towards Glocal Ecocriticism Nirmal Selvamony’s tinai criticism is a bold initiative towards such a kind of ecocriticism in India. It is a local and a global concept, in the simplest terms, an indigenous way of looking at the land and its people from natural, cultural and supernatural perspectives. Acknowledging its origin from the social order of the early Dravidian people, it retains its local and regional flavour. However, tinai is not merely a parochial theory of the South Indians but has been acknowledged and used by ecocritics outside the country, making it a “canonically accepted” concept. In an interview, Scott Slovic says, there’s a concept called tinai, and this is a kind of indigenous notion of ecology that has very practical aspects to it …. I think we can learn a lot from the unique perspectives in different parts of the world. We may well find a lot of common ground but we may find regional, cultural, religious particularities in different parts of the world and it’s really important for us to recognize those and there’s no simply one solution to every kind of cultural and environmental problem: solutions may be different … (Romero 77-78)

The well-appreciated transnational effort in ecocriticism makes such concepts useful in offering different theoretical platforms and solutions to world ecocriticism, exalting them to a global context. tinai attaining a global identity while retaining its local flavour is a concept that is global and local at the same time. tinai, thus, is a glocal concept. This volume offers a variety of glocal perspectives from countries like Australia, America, Ireland, South Korea and Africa. Among these ecocritical engagements, the African concept of ubuntuism and the Indian concept of tinai stand apart for their glocal nature.

Literary to Cultural and Media Ecocriticism The use of cultural texts in analyses is a result of the aforementioned paradigm shift. The corollary of this advancement, though, is the inclusion of lifestyles, social orders and cultural expressions and impression; mere thematic study becomes insufficient in this case. Deep engagement in cultural ecocriticism calls for equal importance in bringing form and content in the purview of ecocritical analyses. A conscious attempt is made in the essays in this volume to realize this responsibility. A few essays on cinema in the volume give equal importance to the technicalities



(camera, videography, editing and sound) of the analysed films as well as to their themes. A major portion of the book is devoted to essays on cinema. Ten essays in the volume analyse feature films, animation films and documentaries dealing with environmental themes. Ecocinema criticism is still in its infancy with only a handful of critics working in the field. There are not many ecocritical anthologies on cinema available in the international marketplace. Many academicians do not see cinema as worthy of academic discourse. Some of them opine that cinema is not a serious medium for engaging with ecological or environmental issues. This attitude towards cinema has kept the medium away from serious ecocritical engagement as well. However, one cannot deny the relevance of visual media in today’s world. Therefore, a keen effort was made to encourage contributors to write about cinema. Such agreements and disagreements on the potential of cinema are evident in some of the essays included in the volume. The argued ecocritical and cinematic issues in the essays are (1) depiction of reality, (2) limitation of length, (3) exaggerated facts, (4) fiction as a representation or misrepresentation, (5) representations of people and land in cinema, (6) ecological cinema production, (7) the conflict between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism and (8) defining ecocinema. The denial of anthropocentrism in ecocriticism is probably a search for an original reality—a closer relationship with the environment. Ecocritics are often seen trying to bring this reality into the light by their critiquing and analyses. Love (1) says, “Environmental and population pressures inevitably and increasingly support the position that any literary criticism which purports to deal with social and physical reality will encompass ecological criticism.” It makes more sense if said the other way—any engagement with ecocriticism would inevitably deal with the physical reality of society and its culture. In that sense, Glotfelty’s definition, “the study of the relation between literature and the physical environment” (xviii) and Garrard’s call to ecocritics “to recognise that there are serious arguments about the existence of the problems, their extent, the nature of the threat and the possible solutions to them” (5) invite attention to the present reality—the reality of ecological crisis, ecological relationships, ecological representations, ecological alteration, ecological consciousness, ecological citizenship, ecological sensibility, ecological modernisation and ecological knowledge. Today ecocritics would say, “let us not harp on the past and cry about the future instead worry about the present.” The focus on the present, needless to say, has a vested interest—an ecological earth, which might be an activistic agenda for future. The “change” aspect in

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


ecological activism would positively be “realized” with a holistic understanding of ecology. In February 2013, I attended an interactive session consisting of “interdisciplinary academicians” aimed at creating an action plan for climate change in an academic institution. The discussion largely centred on the use and benefits of nanolubricants. The discussion failed to address the humanistic, environmental, local and global perspectives on climate change. Such atomistic discussion might be useful from a technological perspective but might not be culturally and socially relevant as it fails to initiate a holistic ecological understanding of the earth. Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations, however, is only an attempt towards the holistic understanding of place, people and culture.

Physical Reality and Transformed Reality It should be noted that “physical reality” and artistic (cinematic) reality are both represented through one medium the partial representation of reality or perspectives of reality is sometimes called “transformed reality.” Robins and Creighton (34) write: “this transformed reality is no longer reality, not even like reality. Now it is this transformed reality which is known. This … however, is self-contradictory, for it declares reality both knowable and unknowable at the same time.” Presumably, reality could be knowable and unknowable and the transformed reality reveals both in a prophetic manner. A painting, a creative expression of an artist, might showcase a physical reality through its artistic expression. This expression might change the perspectives of people, or at least excite them or make them think—an opening to the physical reality. Thus, the commodity of reality is constructed from the physical reality and this transformed reality is vibrant, dynamic and contradictory as Burr claims. The debates surrounding realism and relativism suggest that the term “reality” can imply different contrast poles, with quite different implications. I identified three contrasts to the term “reality”: (1) reality (as truth) verses falsehood; (2) reality (as materiality) verses illusion; and (3) reality (as essence) verses construction.” (Burr 101)

Therefore, the reality depicted in an artistic medium need not be physical reality but can be transformed reality. In fictional cinema, what is depicted is a fictitious reality. In art, it might be an artistic reality. In literature, it might be a literary reality. In each case, the reality is constructed and thus transformed. The transformed reality is a construction of human beings and thus most likely anthropocentric in nature, for example, the auteuristic



films. But even such films might fictitiously deal with a larger environmental issue, making it ecocentric in some sense. As Burr points out, the reality might not refer to a factual and a material reality, but to a constructed one—a transformed reality. However, all films need not be looked at from this perspective alone. Ethnographic films and environmental films are expected to construct a less transformed reality, bringing it closer to “reality.” Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations attempts to continue the discussion on reality in art. The impact of this volume is almost immediate because Indian ecocriticism is still entangled with literary ecocriticism. Essays in Ecocriticism, edited by Nirmal Selvamony, Nirmaldasan and Rayson K. Alex, is the first attempt by Indian academics to publish a volume on ecocriticism. Reviewing the volume, Mark C. Long writes, “The essays also reflect the assimilation of the literary traditions of England and the US, as well as an intellectual history that includes such writers as Martin Buber, Martin Heidegger, John Rawls, and Arne Naess” (190). As the titles explain, Nature and Human Nature: Ecology, Meaning (2008), edited by S. Murali, and Ecological Criticism for Our Times: Literature, Nature and Critical Inquiry (2011), edited by S. Murali and Ujjwal Jana, contain essays critiquing literary texts. U. Sumathy’s Ecocriticism in Practice (2010) “brings out parallels between literary texts and reality and shows how literature serves as a platform to voice environmental concerns” (Kannadasan). The essays in the three volumes of Indian Journal of Ecocriticism, edited by R. Swarnalatha, are also predominantly based on literary texts. There have been attempts by scholars to critique films and other art forms as presentations in conferences organized by tiNai (forum for promoting ecocriticism in India) formerly called OSLEIndia. Responding to the increased interest in media studies in the field of ecocriticism, tiNai formed a group at the beginning of 2009 named the Ecomedia Team, headed by Mr. Watson Solomon, a media expert, and convened by Sachindev P. S., S. Susan Deborah and K. Samuel Moses to study and research on the ecological aspects of such media as print, video, film and the internet. As part of its activities, the Ecomedia Team organized three workshops on Ecology in Tribal Lore (2009) at Madras Christian College; Ecology and Lifestyle (2010) at the Good Earth School, Chennai; and Ecocriticism: Emerging Trends (2010) at Bharati Women’s College, Chennai, using videos and films as texts. In consultation with the Ecomedia Team, a two-semester course titled “Ecocriticism for Integrated Sciences” was introduced in Central University of Tamil Nadu at Tiruvarur, equipping students to analyse films from an ecocritical angle. In the third semester of the course, students were expected to make video-

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


documentaries on pressing environmental/ecological issues in the region. The Ecomedia Team has also done a project with a fund from the World Oral Literature Project, making video-documentaries on the ecological life of a tribal community called Mudugar in Attappady, Palakkad District, Kerala, in Southern India. It is this engagement that enabled the editors to venture into the book project on ecocriticism, media and culture. Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations is the first of its kind from India initiated by Ecomedia Team and it owes this to tiNai. Though the volume distinguishes between ecological and environmental essays, the essays are categorized according to the texts used for analysis, broadly speaking, cinema, other arts and culture. The categories are not watertight compartments; nevertheless, the essays at times thematically overlap one another. Culture, in its broadest sense, is considered to be any intellectual production of an individual or a community espousing visual art, literature, performance, gender, architecture, films, video, internet, family, home, language, market, economy, politics, society, agriculture, environment and so on. In that sense, media are a part of cultural production. However, the editors of the volume give special focus to cinema considering its recent popularity quotient and the outgrowth progress that it has attained in Indian academia. The volume has two sections—Ecocriticism and Cinema, and Ecocriticism and Culture. The first section—Ecocriticism and Cinema—consists of ten essays. Rayson K. Alex’s essay titled, “Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema,” Patrick D. Murphy’s “Directing the Weather, Producing the Climate,” Simon C. Estok’s “Spectators to Future Ruin: Ecological Representations and Their Consumption,” Susan Ward’s and Kitty Van Vuuren’s “Exploring Ecocriticism in Australian Film and Television Studies,” Deidre Pike’s “Comic Complexity in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax: Seuss’s Tragic Ecoclassic Morphs into Feature-length Animated Comedy,” Yalan Chang’s “An Affective Turn: The Rhetorical Triangle in The Cove,” Patrick Brereton’s “Ecological Representations of Irish Films,” Alex’s “Tribal People on Screen: Ecological Representation in Documentaries,” Sachindev P.S.’s “Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness” and Samuel Moses’s essay “tinai Reading of the Film Godavari” use feature-fiction, documentaries and animation films as texts for analysis. Interestingly, the essays—subtly or overtly—discuss the various aspects of the conflict between reality and transformed reality. The second section—Ecocriticism and Culture—has five essays: Nirmal Selvamony’s essay, “Author in the Light of tinai,” Lynne Hull’s “Ecoethics and the Evolution of an Ecoartist: Saving Threatened Species,” Padini Nirmal’s “Politicizing Indigenous Knowledge Conservation



Practices: The Dynamics of Using Open Source Media to Preserve Indigenous Cultures,” S. Susan Deborah’s “Eating Out of Your Hands: Food Blogging as Transecological Phenomenon” and Nabeta Sangili’s “Ubuntuism in the Proverbs of the Maragoli Community in Western Kenya.” The essays read literary, artistic and cultural texts from an ecocritical angle. Probably, the circle of ecocriticism will be complete if the political and economic aspects of the issues dealt with are considered (Nayar). In that sense, the editors do not claim the volume to be a holistic one. However, the essays give neither an economic nor a political account of any of the issues dealt with. To elaborate on this with an example, an ecocritical analysis of a film ideally critiques various aspects of pre-production, production, post-production and the box-office accounts. However, the possibility of an ecoeconomic analysis would probably go beyond it to include the economic aspects of the themes and subthemes. Similar is the case with the political aspect as well. Taking into account the steady growth of the ecocritical scenario in India, Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations strives to give a new direction to the scholars in India (and outside) to have glocal ecocritical perspectives. The volume, the editors believe, will be a small step towards an ecological change. Whether books and ideas can make physical changes is a contestable idea, we are dreamers of an ecocritical world where all literary, cultural, social and political texts and the society itself are guided by ecological principles.

References Burr, Vivien. Social Constructionism. 1995. New York and Canada: Routledge, 2003. Print. Elamparithy, S. “On Towards Indian Ecocriticism.” Central University of Tamil Nadu. Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur, Tamil Nadu State, India. 3 December 2011. Plenary Address. Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism: The New Critical Idiom. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. Print. Glotfelty, Cheryll. “Introduction.” The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Eds. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1996. xviii. Print. Kannadasan, Akila. “Cool Campaigners.” The Hindu 16 June 2011. Web. Long, Mark C. Rev. of Essays in Ecocriticism, eds. Nirmal Selvamony, Nirmaldasan and Rayson K. Alex. Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 2009: 190-191. Print.

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Love, Glen A. Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology and the Environment. Charlottesville and London, 2003. Print. Murphy, Patrick D. “Toward Transnational Ecocritical Theory: The Example of Hwa Yol Jung.” Ecocritical Explorations in Literary and Cultural Studies: Fences, Boundaries, and Fields. UK: Lexington Books, 2009. Print. Nayar, Pramod K. “Re: Ecomedia.” Message to Rayson K. Alex. 24 Jul. 2013. Email. Robins, Edwin Proctor and J.E. Creighton. Some Problems Of Lotze’s Theory Of Knowledge. New York: Macmillan, 1900. Print. Romero, Diana Villanueva. “Reflections on Literature and Environment: An Interview with Scott Slovic.” Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment 1.2 (2010): 77-78. Web. 4 February 2013.



“Ecology” and “environment” are two words that are interchangeably used in various disciplines. These scientific terms are nowadays used in media, technology and humanities to mean something completely different from what scientists mean. When a person from the humanities uses such scientific terms without any scientific orientation, he/she would rationalize it as “interdisciplinarity.” Such a person would justify his/her argument by stating, “we belong to the humanities discipline; we are not scientists.” Apparently, there is an interaction between the two disciplines. But how could a humanities disciplinarian truly justify this interaction between the humanities and the sciences? The present discussion, however, does not propose a divide between the humanities and the sciences but brings us to the ethics of bridging the divide. A commonly used and overused word is “ecofriendly.” Analysing the ethics of the coinage and usage of the word, I guess, will introduce the argument of the essay. A Google search for the word “ecofriendly” will yield a plethora of websites using the word in various ways. The buzz word, used widely in marketing today, gives a false impression to the customer that he/she is involved in saving the environment or at least not harming the environment (ecofriendly). “Ecologically friendly,” “environmentally friendly” and “green lifestyle” are functionally similar terms ostensibly pronouncing a friendly attitude towards the earth or the environment (see “What Is Eco-Friendly” in the References). What does the adverb “ecologically” mean in these usages? Any dictionary would logically connect it to the root of the word “ecology,” defining the word as “with respect to ecology.” The terms, as mentioned earlier, might refer to the earth or the environment, but they seldom refer to the scientific discipline of ecology. At this point, it is necessary to define and differentiate the terms. The endeavour is to clearly articulate that “ecology” and

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“environment” are two different terms and should be used with caution. Analysis of the definitions of ecology will naturally define the term “environment.” Two definitions are given below: the first is the definition proposed by Ernst Haeckel, who originally coined the term in 1866, and the second, a comparatively recent one. … the investigation of the total relations of the animal both to its inorganic and its organic environment; including, above all, its friendly and inimical relations with those animals and plants with which it comes directly or indirectly into contact … (qtd. in Dodson et al. 2) Ecology is the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment. There are two distinct components to the “environment”: the physical environment (comprising such things as temperature, water availability, wind speed, soil acidity) and biotic environment, which comprises any influences on an organism that are exerted by other organisms, including competition, predation, parasitism and cooperation. (Mackenzie 1)

To analyse, it would be a useful exercise to pick out similar ideas from both the definitions. Table 1-1. Comparison of Definitions of Ecology First Definition

Second Definition

Relations Investigation Animal and plants Inorganic and organic environment

Interactions Study Organisms Their environment (the physical and biotic environments) Competition, predation, parasitism and cooperation

Friendly and inimical relations come directly and indirectly into contact

The definitions repeatedly thrust on the idea of “relation” or “interaction.” The relationships are well defined in scientific terms, such as competition, predation, parasitism and cooperation. The definitions point out not only the kind of relationships that the discipline may take into consideration but also the kind of organisms that could involve in the relationship. Any organism, belonging to animal or plant kingdom, could be part of the relationship that an ecologist would study. Now, how is environment connected with ecology? If looked at carefully, the term “environment”


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could be seen used in both the definitions of ecology. Thus, it could be said that the environment is merely a part of ecology. Environment refers to the contextual conditions or the context itself of the organisms in relationship. The distinction between ecology and environment is clearly brought about by the environmental economist, Somashekar. He writes, As opposed to ecology, environment is an anthropocentric concept. This is a concept that allows some primacy to mankind. It puts man at the centre of these complex set of relationships and maps the set via the dependence of man on other living and non-living objects. In that sense, ecology is a very broad concept that encompasses in its ambit all natural relationships. In contrast environment is a concept, not so broad, that is primarily interested in those relationships that mainly affect the existence of man. (657-658)

The distinction between “ecology” and “environment” suggests that the terms ought to be used scientifically. Faulting the general conception of the term “ecology,” Mackenzie writes, “Ecology is purely a scientific discipline” (3). It is at this point that the ethics of the discipline have to be weighed. What are these ethics? The ethics involved in this context are the realization that ecology is a science. Apropos the discussion on the term “eco-friendly,” I do not mean to condemn the coinage of the complex word but I would like to debate the use of the prefix “eco-.” If “ecofriendly” means a friendly attitude towards the environment, why not use the prefix “enviro-” and thus the word “envirofriendly.” The latter prefix appeals to the meaning of the term because what is intended here is to safeguard the environment of human beings—an anthropocentric idea. Nevertheless, it defeats the purpose of the argument if one considers it disciplinary parochialism. In fact, the perspectives that humanities disciplines offer ecology and the scientific perspectives that ecology offers the former disciplines ultimately and unanimously reveal newer dimensions of ecology that both the sciences and humanities are truly concerned with. But one has to be far-sighted when attempting interdisciplinarity; as Gunn remarks, To bring two or more disciplines into significant interaction with one another requires considerable mastery of the subtleties and particularities of each, together with sufficient imagination and tact, ingenuity and persuasiveness, to convince others of the utility of their linkage. Such mastery, and the finesse that must accompany it, is not often acquired quickly or without extensive research and reflection. (239)

Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema


Genre Classification The discussion on the distinction between environment and ecology leads to genre and sub-genre classifications of the popularly known genres connected with environmental documentaries—nature/wildlife and ethnographic documentaries. The methodology of genre criticism is “vulnerable . . . on questions of definition, selection, determining characteristics, and historical progression” (Nichols 107). However necessary it is to define, characterize, analyse and place these genres and sub-genres in historical context, it is beyond the scope of the essay to analyse the categorization in an elaborate manner. Reviewing the criticisms of the genre in cinema, Nichols has overtly stated that the foundation for genre classification is a balanced approach towards “style” (form) and “theme” (content) (108). The categorization of documentaries as the environment and ecology is the major classification that we are concerned with. However, the subcategories, nature/wildlife and ethnographic documentaries would make the former classification clearer and easier.

Wildlife Films and Nature Films Palle B. Patterson defines wildlife films as “films of wild animals depicted in their natural habitat” (46). Stephen Spotte gives a more specific definition; “Wildlife films are stories about animals told by humans . . . A zoo exhibit, having been conceived and executed by humans, now excludes its creators, and the animals themselves—the actors—are alien and voiceless” (94). Spotte differentiates nature films from wildlife by placing it in a broader category. To Spotte, “Nature in the context of nature film should not include behaviour and physiology. (It) refers to nature as “natural scenery with its wildlife—animals, plants, natural catastrophes and phenomena. The highest priority has been assigned to wild nature, untouched by human civilization and culture” (17). “Nature documentaries” and “wildlife films” are generally used synonymously. But when analysing the above definitions, it could be seen that there are differences which make them distinct in a few ways. Both the definitions of “wildlife films” emphasize the vital role of human imagination in wildlife films. Contrary to a creative work, the word “depiction” raises the issue of reality. In the introduction to the essay “Cinema/Ideology/ Criticism” which appeared in Movies and Methods: An Anthology (Vol. 1), Nichols conjures up the aforementioned issue by questioning the “socalled ‘depiction of reality’” (22). He makes it clear that “a depiction” is “the opposite of neutral or true of real” (22). Though wildlife films claim


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to depict the “real” natural habitat of wild animals, how do they “really” represent the animals and their natural habitats? Posing the issue of human construction in wildlife films, Derek Bouse narrates examples from Scientific American, an experiential account of wildlife films by American cinematographer Stacy Woodard. He writes, His candid account details what are, however, scientifically and morally questionable manipulations, like pitting insects of different species against one another on tiny enclosed sets, and then filming their flights to the death. Because of the controlled conditions, he regarded his film stage as a “laboratory,” and the results, therefore, as scientific findings. Although placing a cricket and a wasp together in a cage was not, as Woodard maintained, merely a way of assisting them in “carrying out nature’s brutal process,” it was a significant, if unheralded, expression of the nascent American tradition, although it might well have been loudly protested had he used mammals instead of insects. (126-127)

He narrates another example of the artificial “stage” created for the wildlife shoot of the film Perri (1956), where ten tamed squirrels were let out to interact with a couple of wild ones in a fenced forest (129). The unethical intrusion of human beings into the natural habitat of the animals for the production of wildlife films comes as misrepresentation because the animals are often domesticated and the settings are mostly artificial. There is nothing “wild” or “natural” about the making of such wildlife films. The treatment of the films also exhibits the forced intrusion of human beings. The definition of Spotte throws light on this argument. When Spotte assumes wildlife film as a drama with a plot and a story, he imagines the humans as the story-writers and the animals as the silent actors in a drama thereby affirming that a wildlife film is a fictitious work of art which fails to reveal any true qualities of the animal. Bouse echoes this idea while tracing the history of wildlife films. He says, (Wildlife film) has tended to place more emphasis on dramatic action, on storytelling, and in later decades on the creation of animal characters. In the quest for dramatic action, the American tradition has also tended in the direction of filming in controlled conditions and depiction of dramatic events often constructed in the editing, or even through a bit of provocation or staging. . . . audiences could find (wildlife) films as visually and emotionally compelling as mainstream Hollywood cinema, with as much action and drama, exciting narratives, and engaging characters. (127-129)

The representations of animals (any subjects) in a wildlife film are mostly anthropomorphic (Bouse 130), merely a reflection of human beings

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themselves. Nature film, as Spotte defines, is a broader category which includes films on animals, birds, plants, natural phenomena and catastrophe. Spotte carefully eschews emphatic human interventions in the subject matter of nature films by asserting that nature films should give “highest priority” “to wild nature” that is “untouched by human civilization and culture.” The definition obviously intrudes into the purview of wildlife films. Parenthetically, the issue of who represents is a serious one for it might imply misrepresentations. Apart from this question of “who represents,” there is yet another serious issue of how the representation itself is. The camera, editing, and sound also represent (Alex, “Ecological Representation” 99). Interestingly, here are some technicalities that are widely used in wildlife films which contribute to the representation/ misrepresentation of the subject filmed/in the film: x x x x x x

camera placement—many wildlife shots are routinely obtained through concealment that might otherwise be seen as unethical; camera-to-subject distance—wild animals are often unapproachable, even at considerable distances; choice of lenses—wildlife filmmakers use … telephoto lenses regularly, often resulting in close-ups that give viewers an illusion of close proximity to the subject; artificial lighting—thought by many to provoke unnatural behaviour in night shooting; the utility of sync-sound—most wildlife footage is shot silent with either wild sound or foley effects added later; the selection of which actions to show and which to exclude. (Bouse 121)

Spotte’s visionary caution of human intrusion in his words “untouched by human” should necessarily initiate a biocentric perspective towards representation of wildlife and nature with the effective employment of all the tools aforementioned. Though the subjects of wildlife films are living organisms, nature films would broadly include living organisms and their physical spaces/biosphere/territories. There are other categories of naturerelated films such as “socio-nature,” “adventure-nature,” “television” (Monani 207), “issue-based,” “activism-based” (Alex, “Ecological Representation” 99), “television science documentaries” (Silverstone 378), “wild-animal thriller” (Bouse 127), “informational films about ecology,” “educational films about animals” (Bouse 129) and “blue-chip films” (Bouse 134) proposed by enviro-theoreticians categorizing them according to the subject matter and the treatment of the films. In that sense, all films are “nature films” in some measure. However, these categories of nature


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films (broadly classified) are not largely different from the wildlife films discussed above.

Ethnographic Films and Nature Films Ethnographic films are another set of films which are close relatives of nature films. What is an ethnographic film? “An ethnographic film may be regarded as any film which seeks to reveal one society to another. It may be concerned with the physical life of a people or with the nature of their social experience” (MacDougall 136). In a literal sense, ethnography deals with the sociocultural aspects of a community. Thus, in ethnography, the filmmaker participates with the community in documenting their culture and society. MacDougall says that such a film has a twofold objective: “It does, of course, permit the self-expression of people as they know and understand themselves, but on another level it reveals them to us as they would like to be, and it enables us to approach aspects of their culture of which they are unconscious” (139-140). In ethnographic film production, there might not be a script before the shoot, there might not be a preplanned shoot, there might not be actors but real people, and there might not be high-end cameras; the context of shooting or the need to relate the subject to his/her/its environment and the “nonvisual aspects of a culture— its attitude, values, and beliefs” (MacDougall 144) gain significance. To sum up what is ethnographic film and the process of ethnographic filmmaking, MacDougall writes, While filming, and later in the editing process, he [an ethnographic filmmaker] must be prepared to observe and reveal the texture of human life on a variety of levels: the appearance of a people and their surroundings; their technology and physical way of life; their ritual activities, and what beliefs these signify; the quality of their interpersonal communication, and what it tells of their relationships; the psychology and personalities of individuals in the society; the relation of people to their environment—their knowledge of it, use of it, and movement within it; the means by which the culture is passed on from one generation to another; the rhythms of the society, and its sense of geography and time; the values of the people; their political and social organisation; their contacts with other cultures; and the overall quality of their world view. (146)

The focus that wildlife films give shifts from other organisms and its surroundings to human beings in ethnographic films. It comes as a surprise that ethnographic film, in its definition itself, subsumes the environment though it is in the perspective of human beings. It is apparent that ethnographic films are more anthropocentric than wildlife films. Incidentally,

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ethnographic films are less deceiving than nature or wildlife films because of their open avowal that they are all about human beings.

Nature Films and Environmental Films The often used terms in the essay “nature” and “environment” need some thought here to define and classify the genres “nature films” and “environmental films.” Lately, the word “nature” has been used and overused beyond any distinct recognition. But what Noel Castree writes in his book Nature is noteworthy. From a geographer’s perspective, Castree points out that by nature one could mean “wilderness zones,” “forests, mountain ranges, water bodies, deserts” and the “non-human world” (9). Whether human beings are part of nature is a debate that cannot be concluded. Carolyn Merchant’s The Death of Nature ascribes that the “natural” nature (that is, untouched by human beings) is dead because nature is a mere construction of human beings. When Castree considers nature as the landscapes and waterscapes excluding/including human beings, Merchant holds that nature is never natural; it is manipulated by human beings. Thus, the term “nature” could be anthropocentric or nonanthropocentric in its usage. The confusion that the term “nature” possesses due to the generality of its definitions makes it an ineffective term for our purpose. In contrast, as discussed earlier, the environment is an anthropocentric term. However, the non-human world is part of both categories. In that sense, documentary films that are about human beings and their physical spaces are environmental films. Humans are the necessary subjects of such films. The subject of nature films could be anything, a tree, an animal or a landscape. Let us analyse an example to bring out specific features of nature and environmental documentaries. The Truth About Tigers is a forty-minute educational documentary on tigers and their conservation, written and directed by Shekar Dattatri. The first ten minutes of the documentary narrate the story of tigers in the reserved forests of India. The second part of the film informs the viewer of the reasons for the drastic fall of tiger population and issues regarding its conservation. The last part of the film is devoted to the significance of tiger in Indian art, myth and classical texts, thereby asserting the need for conservation. The treatment of the first part stands apart from the rest of the film. The treatment is in the pattern of a wildlife film with a monotonous male voiceover. The first part narrates the territoriality, behaviour, reproduction, intraspecies and interspecies interactions, food patterns and sociability of Indian tigers. There has been a conscious effort to keep away any human interventions from this part of the story. This


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effort, however, has been defeated by the absolutism of the voiceover. Though the sequence of shots narrates a story by itself, the visuals are knit together with words. The story that the voiceover narrates, though, forcefully repeats the visual narration. The non-diegetic sound of a deeppitched male voice is a strong anthropomorphic element in the film. Cliché shots like the tiger running in slow motion, the predatory relationship between deer and tiger, a close-up of the fierce tooth of the tiger, the soothing mother-cub relationship, extreme close-up shots of the piercing eyes of the tiger or the fights of adult tigers are used in the film to create dramatic effects and thereby place the film in a wildlife category. The shots are dramatized using music created by piano, Indian-style flute, tabla, folk drums, violin compositions, Hindustani-style vocals and electronic instruments. The second part of the film uses a somewhat different narrative style—the style of a documentary, giving scientific facts. Photographs, visual interviews, audio interviews, visuals of human settlements and action and slides of written information are lavishly used in this part. Though the voiceover is consistently used in the rest of the movie, its all-powerful status is decentralized by the visual and audio interviews. Thematically, the story of the tigers seems to shift from the tiger perspective to a human perspective, making prominent the idea of environment. If in the first part prominence is given to the tiger and its life, the second part deals with its conservation and the issues faced by it. The third part becomes absolutely anthropocentric and says that the tigers should be conserved for the existence of human generations. The last part of the voiceover evinces this argument: “All they (the tigers) need is undisturbed forests where they can live and breed in peace. All we need to do is provide adequate protection and nature will do the rest . . . It is our sacred duty to do everything we can to prevent its needless extinction and to safeguard it for future generations (human generations).” It could be undoubtedly said that the film could be categorized as a wildlife film and an environmental documentary—the first part contributing to the wildlife category and the second and third to the environmental category. It would be worthwhile to examine the often praised environmental documentary, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005). This is a story of Timothy Treadwell who spent thirteen summers in Alaska with wild grizzly bears. Our concern is to analyse the film using the features of wildlife films inferred by Bouse. Treadwell, the ecowarrior, claimed to have lived for the bears but was eventually killed by them. The voice narration of Herzog is interpretative and informative. But, being the director of the film, he critiques Treadwell, his activities and his objectives, and makes his presence prominently felt through his voice. He

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says, “What Treadwell intended was to show these bears in their natural habitat. Having myself filmed in the wilderness of changir, I found that beyond a wildlife film, in his (Treadwell’s) material lies dormant a story of the astonishing beauty and depth … but in doing so he (Treadwell) crossed an invisible borderline.” Herzog’s hesitance to categorize Treadwell’s materials as wildlife material is notable. He says that there is more depth and beauty in Treadwell’s video documents compared to any wildlife-film footage. What made Herzog categorize Treadwell’s materials as documentary than wildlife? Some of the reasons could be as follows: Camera, visual and related techniques: Treadwell’s use of video cameras for filming bigger animals like bears is challenging. This, however, gives a realistic approach because the camera, at times, is close to the subject filmed. There are also shots of bears accidentally touching the camera. Though Herzog critiques this closeness in proximity as crossing “an invisible borderline,” it should be mentioned that Treadwell, without pretensions, participates in the activities of the bears and the wolves. The camera is never hidden, and it is seen, many a time, that the bears and the wolves are aware of the camera and often respond/react to it. Techniques like a handheld camera, the movements of the camera and use of natural lights and simple light gadgets like torches enhance the realistic features of the documentation. Sound: Extensive use of diegetic sounds makes the film more realistic. One gets to feel the place not only visually but auditorily. Though nondiegetic sounds are used for the film’s dramatic effects, they are not used by muting the diegetic sounds which enhances the biocentric value of the film. Editing: The selection of shots has a philosophy behind it. It clearly brings out the character of Treadwell, characteristics of grizzly bears and wolves, Treadwell’s relationship with the bears, wolves and the place, and interviews and other bites leading to the revelation of the status of bears. Carefully selected shots are arranged without any sophisticated editing effects. Simple cuts of shots and dissolve to black screen are the predominantly used editing techniques in the film. This maintains the simplicity of the editing lending focus to the topic presented. Subtle edits are realistic. Theme: The plot of the film evidently revolves around Timothy Treadwell. The uniqueness of Grizzly Man is its film-within-a-film narration. The “discussion” on bears and foxes merely throws light on the personality of Treadwell. The camera is clearly the eyes of Treadwell who is not the director of the film, whereas the voice of the


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director is in its voiceover. The film follows the viewer through these conflicting perspectives/philosophies. However, both the perspectives/ lines of thought are anthropocentric in nature. The film is obviously an environmental documentary, with the theme of a serious envirophilosophical debate. Conclusively, if the discussed categories are quickly analysed keeping in mind the dichotomy of anthropocentric-biocentric perspectives, it could be determined that wildlife films, nature films and environmental films are all anthropocentric in one way or another. The theme, the presentation, the treatment, the shots, the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds, the sequencing of shots and the editing transitions—either a few of these or all of them help demonstrate anthropocentrism. Therefore, all these categories could be broadly classified as environmental. If so, it naturally opens up another category, probably the other end of the spectrum, that is, the films that expound biocentric or ecocentric perspectives. What are such films? Does such a category exist?

What is Ecocinema? Ecocinema and ecofilm are not very familiar terms in the ecocritical/cinema critical world. They are also not new terms in the field. However, though the terms have no distinct definition, a few ecocritics have initiated the discourse. A couple of books and academic essays have appeared in the market and journal consortiums lately. My modest attempt is to compile the definitions to arrive at a common ground. Some of the prominent definitions/explorations that the theoreticians have attempted are given below: Ecocinema has tended to be defined thematically as “cinema with ecological themes,” i.e., as “environmental films,” or formally as (something like) “cinema that takes ecology seriously.” Following these two trends, good ecocinema might be defined either as cinema that successfully promotes ecological themes or cinema that has ecologically beneficial effects, or that at least minimizes its ecologically harmful effects. But these two approaches neither take cinema nor ecology seriously enough.. . . It insists that eco-film critics need to think through both the film/cinema object (what is cinema and how is it changing in the digital era?) and the eco-subject (what is ecology, and how can both films and their viewers be considered ecological and ecologically?). Proposing that a genuine “ecocinema” requires an engagement with eco/cinema philosophy, it asks what kinds of films might result from such an engagement. (Ivakhiv)

Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema Ecocinema . . . overtly engage(s) . . . environmental concerns … by exploring specific environmental justice issues or, more broadly, by making ‘nature,’ from landscapes to wildlife, a primary focus.. . . ecocinema cuts across genres and modes of production, encompassing fulllength and short fiction, documentary, and experimental films/videos that actively seek to inform viewers about, as well as engage their participation in, addressing issues of ecological import. Thus these films strive to play an active role in fostering environmental awareness, conservation, and political action. Ecocinema also encompasses those films that in a broader, more philosophical way compel us to reflect upon what it means to inhabit this planet: that is to be a member of the planetary ecosystem or “ecosphere” . . . and, most important, to understand the value of this community in a systemic and non-hierarchical way. (Willoquet-Maricondi 9-10) Ecocinema is cinema with an ecological consciousness. It articulates the relationship of human beings to the physical environment, earth, nature, and animals from a biocentric, non-anthropocentric point of view. In the final analysis, ecocinema pertains to nothing less than life itself. Last but not least, . . . ecocinema specifically should be placed squarely within the specific intellectual and socio-historical . . . contexts . . . (Lu 2)

The definitions can be summed up in the table below.


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Second x Engages environmental concerns x Explores environmental justice issues x Focuses on nature, landscape, wildlife x Fosters environmental awareness x Participates in conservation and political action x Engages ecophilosophy x Engages ecosystem, ecosphere x Helps in the understanding of ecocommunities in a nonhierarchical way x Uses various techniques of genres (fiction, documentary, experimental) x Looks at the modes of production


x Possesses and promotes ecological themes x Seriously engages ecology x Should create ecologically beneficial effects x Should engage in ecological, cinematic and ecocinematic philosophy

Definitions of Ecocinema

Table 1-2. Comparison of Definitions of Ecocinema



x Should possess ecological consciousness x Focuses on biocentrism as opposed to anthropocentrism (in relationships between human beings, other organisms and earth) x Should deal with life. It should be placed in its sociohistorical contexts.


Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema


When the first and the third definitions are not comprehensive in the sense that they do not mention the structural aspects of ecocinema, the second definition acknowledges it by merely mentioning the “genre” and “production” of ecocinema. However, thematically, all the three definitions agree on the two following points. 1. Ecocinema should foster environmental/ecological consciousness in the viewers. 2. Ecocinema should engage ecocentric/biocentric/ecological/environmental themes. There are two other points that are common in the definitions: 1. An ecocinema should engage in philosophical discourses (handling the theme seriously). 2. An ecocinema should initiate sociopolitical, conservational engagements. (This might be an effect of environmental consciousness.) The basis of ecocinema, as Ivakhiv puts it, is a reconciliation of the two disciplines, ecology and cinema (interdisciplinarity), to the extent that it “requires an engagement with eco/cinema philosophy.” If the discipline of ecology identifies/studies/analyses/appreciates relationships between organisms or between organisms and their environments, cinema depicts it in its cinematic medium. The “depiction of reality” (Nichols 22) that is attributed to cinema might be contested for various reasons, but a film critic would certainly agree that it has some amount of reality in it as Eskjaer agrees: “Cinema offers a way of looking at the world. This way of looking is an observation of reality, being itself a part of the social world it observes” (117). When one cannot deny the fictitious element that cinema as a structural medium offers, film critics consider documentary as a potential genre in cinema that presents a truer representation of reality. Certain fictional narrative films may possess complex philosophical themes, but documentary by its very nature, as a form that claims to represent reality “truthfully,” raises philosophical questions automatically: given that “truth” is such a fuzzy concept, that our understanding of reality is so subjective, that knowledge is fleeting and contingent, and that cinema is inherently illusionistic. . . . Cinema faced an obstacle to its acceptance as an art form precisely because it began its life as a documenting medium: it produced perfect images of reality automatically. . . . Documentary may have crystallized as rejection of popular cinema’s fictions, but not of its


Chapter One expressive language. From the beginning, documentarians sought to strike a balance between the documentation of reality and its creative transformation. (Walley)

Ecocinema, unquestionably, should represent relationships between organisms in utmost possible reality, minimizing all possible effects of fiction. The three definitions of ecocinema demand an ecological approach/engagement at three levels: conception, production (including postproduction) and viewership. What is the ecological content (conception and production) that the ecocinema proposes to possess? In the definitions of ecocinema, it is proposed that ecocinema should thematically engage in environmental and environmental justice issues. In the context of Indian “ecocinema” (by Indian ecocinema, I mean the films made by Indians that deal with Indian ecological/environmental themes), it could be seen that most of such films are environmental in nature. Films like A Clip from Sudesha (1983) by Deepa Dhanraj and Kardhar Diary (2002) by Krishnendu Bose, discussing the Chipko movement; Silent Valley—An Indian Rainforest (1990) by Shekhar Dattatri, Only an Axe Away (2004) by P. Baburaj and C. Saratchandran and Nila Paranjathu (What the River Nila Said) (2009) by Rayson K. Alex and S. Rajasekar, examining the developmental issues on specific rivers and their environments; Simmering Jharia (1994), Niyamgiri and You are Still Alive (2006) by Suma Josson, addressing issues in coal mining; The Slow Poisoning of India (2004) by Ramesh Menon, A Pestering Journey (2011) by K. R. Manoj and Pachilakkoodu (My Home is Green) (2010) by Sajan Sindhu, narrating the adverse effects of the use of pesticides in agriculture, are all thematically environmental. All these films are more or less concerned with human beings and thus are anthropocentric. The anthropocentrism that we are trumpeting needs some deliberation here. The “centrism” that we are talking about, here, is not due to the involvement of human beings. In fact, a cinema is made by humans for humans and therefore it is pardonable that it is about humans. When the medium is and for humans, is there a possibility of centring the cinema beyond humans? Thus, though my intention is not to undermine the value of such environmental films by saying that they are not “serious” enough, my contention is that they cannot be categorized as ecological films. Then what is ecological cinema or ecocinema? What kind of movies would we categorize as ecological? Can such movies be biocentric/ecocentric? The interrelationship at stake, according to Western ecocriticism, is cultural and natural. But tinai criticism, proposed by Nirmal Selvamony, derived from the Dravidian concept of tinai, offers another dimension to the interrelationship, the sacred (xv). Selvamony writes,

Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema


Ecology has avowedly counted out the sacred for it was not amenable to western scientific study. So, the principles of interrelation on which ecology is based, includes only the physical environment and the organism and not the sacred. Tinai on the other hand, is a nexus which involves all the three. (xv)

The word “sacred” comes up with an undertone of religion and God. The sacredness in this context is land based. In a tribal context, sacredness could be regarded as a fusion of natural and cultural elements. For example, the Jenukurubar (a tribal community in Karnataka) believe that a specific teak tree in Nagarhole forest houses their dead ancestors. Here, the natural tree attains a cultural value and moreover a spiritual value. The spirituality attributed to the tree is evident from its being the abode of the spirits of their dead ancestors. It is not, however, a mere story or a myth but is a “myth alive”—that which translates into their everyday life. It is this sacredness that gives the tree a spiritual value—that which houses the sacred is also sacred. However, the Jenukurubar maintain that the tree should be protected and should be nurtured and its premises should be kept clean (Alex, “Physical Archive” 24-26). In this context, sacredness interconnects the subject to its environment and specifically to land. Thematically, ecocinema, along the lines of tinai, should examine this complex interrelationship between the cultural, the natural and the sacred. I call such documentaries that examine the three-dimensional interrelationship as T-documentaries. “T” stands for tinai. So how is a Tdocumentary different from an environmental documentary? It captures the relationships that human beings share with other organisms and their environment, culturally, naturally and supernaturally. The abovementioned definitions make it clear that the purpose of ecocinema is educational and conservational. Ecocinema is intended to create awareness, appreciate interrelationality and make the viewer act ecologically, whether it amounts to a result or not. It aims to establish an ecological social order based on biocentrism/ecocentrism. Whether ecocinema, in effect, is really capable of such a change/transformation is questionable and such a discussion is beyond the scope of the essay. However, theme is the most important aspect of an ecocinema. This will certainly include the process of conception of the theme and its effective manifestation in an artistic yet educational manner. Conception includes issues like the highlight of the film, its themes, its treatment and its visuals. This pre-shoot planning might or might not lead to a script. An ecodocumentarian might put on the coat of a scientist, artist, ecologist, critic, anthropologist, linguist, engineer and a philosopher to get his/her concept in place by capturing the most effective visuals or all that he/she


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finds appealing in the field. In such a case, documentation or shooting becomes a participatory ecological activity—an ecodocumentation. An ecodocumentarian keeps in mind two aspects of documentary while engaging in the filming process—visual and audio (Rossi). Furthermore, the postproduction also could represent/misrepresent the theme. Postproduction includes visual and sound editing, voiceover, titling, subtitling and insertion of other written information. T-documentary might be a hypothesis, but there are efforts towards its realization. The Story of Mudugar is a twenty-four-minute video documentary introducing an indigenous community, named Mudugar, in Attappady, Palakkad District. This is an anthropological/ethnographical documentary which interconnects the life of the community to their ecology. The treatment of the movie is a unique one narrating the life of Mudugar through their songs. The songs describe the people, their interrelationships with animals, insects, plants, rocks and hills. All the visuals in the documentary—photographs and moving visuals—are documents collected over four years of fieldwork with the community. The documentary begins with visuals of the place, people, musical instruments and rituals—a glimpse of the detailed visuals to follow. The female voiceover, given by S. Susan Deborah, connects and interprets the visuals. It should be noted that the voiceover is not used as an ultimate, all-powerful voice depicting the people, like off-screen wildlife narration. The voiceover is introduced only when there is a need for interpretation or explanation and thus integrates with the interviews and experiential observations in the documentary. Moreover, the voiceover amounts to deep analysis of the three-dimensional relationship of the natural, cultural and supernatural elements reflected in the people’s songs, myths, stories and lifestyle. In the beginning of the documentary, the voiceover introduces the people thus: “Life as myriad forms in the plants, in the animals, in the insects and their spirits. The waters and the rocks, they all have one story to tell (the title, The Story of Mudugar, rolls)—the silent story of an ecological joy.” At a later part of the documentary, the voiceover narrates what water means to Mudugar: “Water as a life-force occupies an important position in the lives of Mudugar as they consider it to be their parent, ancestor and deity.” The viewers then hear a song beginning ethukkethukku vanthaatu makane (Up to what has the water come up, Oh my son!) which narrates the story of a mother sacrificing her only son to the river, keeping her promise to the river. Towards the end of the song, the son is called a deity. In keeping her promise, the voiceover interprets that the mother considers “all living creatures are part of the circle of life.” Though there are some fictitious elements in the documentary film such as the slow motion of the visuals of

Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema


songs, fadeout to black at the end of shots and non-diegetic kuyal (indigenous shawm) para and tavil (percussion instruments) sounds, the movie realistically represents the Mudugar and their spiritual relationship with their land. There are no studio-recorded (any recording at an artificial setting) visuals or sounds in the documentary. Though the documentary does not use the concept of tinai nor does it even mentions the word, the documentary could be classified as a T-documentary. Pennadi (My Mirror is My Door) directed by Leena Manimekalai is a fifty-three-minute docu-fiction which markedly claims that it represents one of the tinai societies. The film recreates the poetess Avvaiyar through the changing culture of the tinai societies. The land represented is Kurinji (the mountains) and the community shown in the film is a mountainous tribe. The communal rituals, dance, lifestyle, love are contrasted with the contemporary individualistic and womanistic perspectives of the present Avvaiyar who chats with her appreciators. The concept of tinai used in a crude form in the film does not distinguish cultures, communities, poetry of the land or the music of the land. When the film fails to bring out clearly the characteristics of tinai landscapes [kurinji (mountains), mullai (shrub jungle), marutam (agricultural land), neytal (littoral) and palai (desert)], it highlights the anthropocentric activities of love (akam) and war (puram). The coalition of akam (that which is part of home, the intimate) with the puram (that which is outside home, war) is the breach of the boundaries of akam, like the modern Avvaiyar who is displaced from home. The community shown in the film is not identified, thereby leaving them to be a fictitious entity. Such a fictitious representation of tinai does not fall under the category of T-documentary because it neither represents tinai nor does it represent documentary. T-documentary is presented as a genre of documentary which introduces the aforementioned three-dimensional relationship of a human community. It calls for a conscious effort from a documentary filmmaker to place his/her theme within the framework of T-documentary. A suppositional frame of the features of T-documentary is given below. 1. Pre-production a) Theme should be community based. (If individual based, the theme should be placed in its cultural context). b) Theme should be land based (the various kinds of land, mountainous, riverine, plains, desertic and littoral) and their features should be considered. c) Ritualistic, mythical, artistic, linguistic, routine aspects of the community in relation to the land should be considered.


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d) Most importantly, the cultural, natural and supernatural elements should be focussed on. e) Participatory scripting (if involved) should be adopted. f) Measures to be taken should use minimal environmental resources like paper, ink, plastic. 2. Production a) Preferably a portable camera should be used for documentation. b) Digital cameras are preferred to avoid the use of tapes that are environmentally hazardous. c) Cameras should capture images in the perspective of the subject. d) Different kinds of cameras should be used for documentation. e) Natural lights are preferred. f) The camera and its related work should present real-life situations. g) Community participation in camera is preferred. 3. Post-production a) Editing should be made simple. b) Visuals should not be manipulated. c) Use of voiceover should be minimal. d) Diegetic sounds should be audible. e) The use of non-diegetic sounds should be minimal. f) Music should be land based (whenever possible, music prevalent in the specific landscapes could be used). Efforts should be made to create music of the specific land. g) Subtitling should be participatory involving the community members. h) The film should be educational/informative/argumentative (entertainment is a secondary/educational style could also be made entertaining). i) The ecological worldview of the community should be brought about clearly The tentative list of guidelines for T-documentarians is comparable with “The Vow of Chastity” proposed by the Dogme 95 filmmakers, Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Soren Krag Jacobsen and Kristian Levring (Yalgin 1). The movement began with the objective of bringing back cinema closer to reality, not necessarily to the extent of the Lumierian style in cinema. After all, Dogme 95 raises the issue of the paradox of reality in fiction. Our concern, at this point, is not with fiction (fiction which represents reality metaphorically) but with documentary (which represents reality directly). However, the aforementioned suppositional

Towards T-Documentary: Critiquing Ecocinema


frame is a pointer towards a different approach in ecological documentary making. The T-documentary is a serious outlook towards the making of an ecological cinema. This outlook could turn out to be a movement, which we could call the T-documentary movement in cinema. The humble attempt to define and distinguish such documentaries urges a change in the outlook towards cinema—an ecological change. It also calls for a responsible filmmaking and viewing.

References Alex, Rayson K. “Ecological Representation in Video-Documentaries on Tribal Communities in South India.” Problematics on Ethnicity, Identity & Literature. Ed. Anooradha Chakrabarty Barua and Hemanta Kr. Nath. Joysagar: The Sibsagar College, 2012. 98-104. Print. —. “Physical Archive: Towards Dynamism and Accessibility.” Folklore Journal of University of Calicut. 1 (2010): 22-33. Print. Bouse, Derek. “Are Wildlife Films Really ‘Nature Documentaries’?” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 15:2 (1998): 116-40. JSTOR. Web. 23Nov. 2012. Castree, Noel. Nature. Oxon: Routledge, 2005. 9-15. Print. Dodson, Stanley I., Timothy F.H. Allen, Stephen R. Carpenter, Anthony R. Ives, Robert L. Jeanne, James F. Kitchell, Nancy E. Langston and Monica G. Turner. Ecology. New York and Oxford: OUP, 1998. Print. “eco-friendly.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. “ecologically.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language. 4th edition. 2003. Houghton Mifflin Company. n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. Eskjaer, Mikkel. “Observing Movement and Time—Film Art and Observation.” Realism and “Reality” in Film and Media. Ed. Jerslev, Anne. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002. 117-138. Print. Gunn, Giles. “Interdisciplinary Studies.” Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures. 2nd ed. Ed. Joseph Gibaldi. New York: Modern Languages Association of America, 1992. Print. “H. S. Bhatavdekar.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 Nov. 2012. Web. Grizzly Man. Dir. Werner, Herzog. Santa Monica, CA: Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2005. DVD. “Indian News Parade.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 15 Oct. 2012. Web.


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Ivakhiv, Adrian J, “Towards an Ecophilosophical Cinema.” Thinking the Form, Flesh, and Flow of the World: Ecoculture, Geophilosophy, Mediapolitics. Immanence. 17 Feb. 2012. JSTOR. Web. 31 Dec. 2012. Kothari, Sweety. “Re: 100 Years of Indian Cinema.” Prasar Bharati. n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2013. Lu, Sheldon H. “Cinema, Ecology, Modernity.” Introduction. Chinese Ecocinema: In the Age of Environmental Challenge. Ed. Sheldon H. Lu and Jiayan Mi. Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 2009. 1-14. Print. MacDougall, David. “Prospects of the Ethnographic Film.” Movies and Methods: An Anthology. Ed. Bill Nichols. Vol. I. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1993. 135-50. Print. Mackenzie, Andy, A. S. Ball and S. R. Virdee. Instant Notes: Ecology. 2nd ed. New Delhi, Mumbai and other places: Viva Books Private Limited, 2002. Print. Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. 1980. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990. Print. Mitu Varma. “Re: Historical Perspective: Films in Search of a Movement.” HimalSouthAsian. 8 Apr. 2009. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. Monani, Salma Basanti. Nature Films and the Challenge of Just Sustainability. ProQuest, 2006. Google Book Search. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. Nichols, Bill. “Genre Criticism.” Movies and Methods: An Anthology. Ed. Bill Nichols. Vol. I. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1993. 107-109. Print. Nitesh Rohit. “Re: Is Anyone Watching-Indian Documentary Pt-2.” Blogspot. 4 Jan. 2009. Web. Patterson, Palle B. Cameras Into the Wild: A History of Early Wildlife and Expedition Filmmaking, 1895-1928, 2011. Google Book Search. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. Pennadi (My Mirror is My Door). Dir. Leena Manimekalai. Chennai: Public Service Broadcasting Trust, 2012. DVD. Rossi, Gregory. “Elements of Documentary Filmmaking.” Youth Media Learning Network. 2009. Web. 3 Jan. 2013. Selvamony, Nirmal. “Introduction.” Essays in Ecocriticism. Eds. Nirmal Selvamony, Nirmaldasan, and Rayson K. Alex. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons and OSLE-India, 2007. xi-xxxi. Print. Silverstone, R. “Narrative Strategies in Television Science—A Case Study.” Media, Culture, and Society, 6 (1984): 377-410. JSTOR. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. Somashekar, Ne. Thi. Development and Environmental Economics. New Delhi: New Age International (P) Limited, 2003. Print.

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Spotte, Stephen. Zoos in Postmodernism: Signs and Simulation. New Jersey: Associated University Press, 2006. Google Book Search. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. The Story of Mudugar. Dirs. Rayson K. Alex and Arun Bose. Chennai: Cockroach in Cocktail, 2008. DVD. The Truth About Tigers. Dir. Shekar Dattatri. Tree MMX. 2010. Web. 14 Jan. 2012. Walley, Jonathan. “Lessons of Documentary: Reality, Representation, and Cinematic Expressivity.” Aesthetics (2011): N. pag. JSTOR. Web. 02 Jan. 2013. “What Is Eco-Friendly.” WiseGeek. S. E. Smith. Conjure Corporation. n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. Willoquet-Maricondi, Paula. “From Literary to Cinematic Ecocriticism.” Introduction. Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film. Ed. Paula Willoquet-Maricondi. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2010. 1-22. Print. Yalgin, Emre. “Dogma/Dogme 95: Manifesto for Contemporary Cinema and Realism.” Diss. Bilkent University, 2003. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.


Introduction Certainly in many countries of the world, far more people are exposed to the ideas of climate change and ecological crisis through television and films than they are through novels or nonfiction books. Yet, visual media, although highly emotive, may be the least informative of all genres for several reasons. Because of their brevity, movies almost invariably fail to address ecological issues in any adequate way. By this, I do not mean the time span that they may represent, since they can depict the passage of eons by various devices, such as rapid visual changes, voiceover explanations, or the apparent aging of the characters. Rather, I mean the runtime of a film, which limits the amount of dialogue or data that a movie may contain. Given their time constraints, environmentally oriented films come closest to having a desired inspirational effect and emotional affect when they focus as closely as possible on a single event with periods of waiting filled with analytical dialogue as the crisis that drives the plot unfolds. This relationship occurs especially often in feature films where the plot dictates the unfolding of action and some type of crisis is required for the main characters. The Perfect Storm serves as an excellent example here because viewers are allowed to learn of the meteorological conditions that give rise to the storm while they are also becoming familiar with the individuals destroyed by it. At the same time, this film could not include as much attention to the ecoeconomics of commercial fishing as did the book on which it was based (Cubitt 63-65) because those economic factors would require too much runtime for the elaboration of information that many, if not most,

Directing the Weather, Producing the Climate


viewers would find abstract or uninteresting. As a result, they are merely implied through brief plot-related events, such as the breakdown of the refurbished, rather than new, shipboard ice-making equipment. Feature-length films, which generally run internationally between ninety minutes and one-hundred-thirty-five minutes, can try to offset this problem of the actual runtime of a film by zeroing in on a single event. Such an event could be the matter of a personal tragedy or a particular meteorological catastrophe that affects a particular community. In narrowly focusing, however, environmentally oriented films work against an ecological process understanding of the events they portray, since, as Sean Cubitt notes, “Ecological thinking places the emphasis on the priority of systems over nodes” (137). Movies, in contrast, emphasize nodes as literally specific or as metaphors or similes, rather than as synecdoche. That is to say, they tend to be paradigmatic rather than syntagmatic in their focus: one version of an event may substitute for another rather than an event linked in a causal relationship to a precipitating idea, behaviour or action. Because of the problems posed by the acceptable duration of a mainstream film, television miniseries that have a 50% or longer duration than feature films have a greater ability to combine showing and telling in order to provide a systemic view. At the same time, however, due to relatively low budgets compared with blockbuster movies, such as Avatar, miniseries tend to depict the crises through a series of very tightly portrayed individuals or small groups, again emphasizing nodes more than systems. Moreover, even with the greater possibilities afforded by the long running time of the miniseries, their writers and directors, at least in North America and Europe, tend to capitulate to a Hollywood-style emphasis on pathos and a deemphasis of political critique. They do so by too frequently focusing on the reintegration of the biological nuclear family, which depends on passive reactive behaviour by women, and by portraying the inertia of governments and corporate obfuscation of scientific knowledge as the work of evil individuals rather than fundamental drives of the corporate and government systems of power (see Blackwell and Belmont). Nevertheless, regardless of capitulations and compromises, environmentally aware story lines do have the potential to contribute to increasing public awareness of real environmental issues (see Nisbet). Gill Branston remarks that “For many, the contemporary ultra-high-budget blockbuster is the most unpromising media form of all to evoke in relation to environmentalism” (215). Yet, most viewers will see precisely this type of film. So, rather than simply dismiss them all out of hand, let us consider how their contradictory cinematic, budgetary and consumer orientation


Chapter Two

elements play out in relation to the possibility for changing the climate of public opinion based on portrayals of catastrophically changing the climate.

Forerunners The much discussed English-language twentieth-century films that address human inducement or exacerbation of extreme weather events and climate shifts have been The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Silent Running (1972) and Soylent Green (1973). The Grapes of Wrath, in taking up the cause of homesteading farmers turned into migrant farm workers, emphasizes the effects of agribusiness and weather patterns on the small farmer and sharecropper. Because of its political sympathies, however, the film ignores the destructive practices of those same small farmers as participants in a monocultural agribusiness that intensified the Dust Bowl conditions. Progressive politics alone without adoption of sustainable farming practices would not have saved the “Okies” from drought and soil erosion. The movie, then, emphasizes the need for social justice and political progress highlighted by means of highly effective Soviet-style cinematography, but ignores the need for the development of sustainable agricultural practices and ecologically based decisions on where to farm and how to farm. It also ignores issues of regional and historical weather patterns. Silent Running, like The Grapes of Wrath, focuses on a single hero, Freeman Lowell, but here the focus is on saving nature rather than people (see Murray and Heumann 100-102). Yet, since the entire action of the film takes place on a single spaceship, the movie is unable to show the conditions on Earth that have led to the exile of trees and plants. Thus, ecosystem damage and synthetic urban survival remain abstractions unable to induce strong emotional responses. Further, in order to provide an opportunity for the hero to denounce what has happened through polemics, the screenwriters portray all other human characters as quite satisfied with a fully artificial biosphere. While their minor actions aboard exemplify a technophilia that supports the destruction of nature as a matter of sport, the film does not educate viewers about the anthropogenic destruction of complex ecosystems or the basis for the ecophobia the characters demonstrate. In the end, the hero acts much as a last-man-standing character typical of Westerns and thrillers, a lone voice crying for the garden but with no evident support from any of the folks back home. The final camera shot of the encapsulated garden does evoke a pathetic image

Directing the Weather, Producing the Climate


of the loss of Eden, but one that must surely be more nostalgic and elegiac than agitational. Soylent Green works much better than Silent Running as a cautionary tale, precisely because it is set on Earth and the film provides significant commentary and visual imagery of anthropogenic environmental destruction. In addition, it addresses the environmental threat of human overpopulation, an issue that most environmental organizations, texts and films prefer not to touch. Actor Charlton Heston’s anguished cry at the end of the film, “Soylent Green is made out of people,” may be understood not only as a description of the latest synthetic food product but also as the fundamental problem of environmental degradation (see Murray and Heumann 93-95). Another strength of the film is its portrayal of the overpopulation crisis as one occurring in the United States, rather than in the so-called Third World as was the common tendency at the time of the film’s production. Aggregate rates of consumption are the key issue in carrying capacity, environmental footprints and sustainability, rather than individual behaviour or simply population statistics. The film makes it clear that industrial pollution combined with overpopulation will destroy the biosphere in terms of its ability not only to sustain human life but also to sustain ecological diversity. This film perhaps ought to experience a resurgence of interest now that human beings have increased their numbers from six billion to seven billion in the matter of twelve short years.

Contemporary Feature-Length Films With feature-length films, I want to consider both low-budget and highbudget productions. F4: Vortex (2006) and Ice Twisters (2009) will suffice for the former category. For the latter category, Waterworld (1995), The Day After Tomorrow (TDAT, 2004) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (TDESS, 2008) are worthy of some attention. The low-budget German film, F4: Vortex, opens with scenes of an American tornado, but quickly shifts to a young German storm-chaser named John recently back from the United States in the English dubbing. His observations there put him at odds with the European weather experience that guides the thinking of meteorologists in Berlin. Apparently shaken by the death of another storm-chaser, he has abandoned his scientific fieldwork and returned home to be a corporate weather analyst. Sudden catastrophic events in the countryside, however, draw his attention and he initiates a campaign to get Berlin to adopt an early warning system


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for extreme weather conditions. He links climate change and global warming in his arguments, but his employer focuses on corporate analysis for wealth management rather than social adaptation to environmental changes. Meanwhile, his meteorologist father dismisses his arguments as rantings based on computer models. Thus, the film takes on a common rhetorical strategy of climate change denialists, who argue that all the claims about global warming derive from modelling and theory rather than from field research and accumulated empirical data. And John’s corporation may serve here as a surrogate for such conglomerates as SwissRe, which publishes extensively on climate change and environmental risk in the service of the insurance industry, with a focus on mitigating financial loss rather than on adopting an ecological ethic. The father serves as the standard educated sceptical response to climate change science, focusing on the continuity of the past rather than the discontinuities of the present and the immediate future. The key disaster premise in F4 is the northern movement of tornadoes in Europe as climate change sets in. As such, John's arguments all focus on short-term adaptation. Eventually, strong tornadoes do strike Berlin and the ensuing damage results in the reconciliation of father and son, the adoption of an early warning system for the city and John’s reintegration into the scientific community as he takes a position with the World Meteorological Organization. While the movie supports the science of climate change and provides some productive and understandable dialogue on the subject, it does not address any potential for mitigation and only proposes weak adaptive action in the form of warning sirens. They will not be of much use to people, for instance, without building code revisions in the face of new climate threats. Also, its strong family reunification, feel-good epilogue results in the audience feeling as if the crisis were averted, thereby reducing the likelihood of viewers feeling any sense of urgency about the issues raised or the need to take any kind of personal action. Ice Twisters is a Canadian made-for-TV movie set in the United States that seems more amateurish than F4, especially since it blatantly draws on that film for its special effects ideas. It, however, changes the cause of the catastrophic weather events by having the sudden ice storms result from geoengineering gone awry at the hand of unscrupulous government functionaries. The movie opens with drone rockets released for a field test of cloud creation followed by cloud seeding to produce rain. This action is interspersed with a former scientist turned science fiction writer having a book signing in a small town for his novel Ionosfear, a disaster story about

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climate change. He is coincidentally in the area where the test takes place and, even more coincidentally, he is the former mentor of the junior scientist on the project, Joanne. While the scientists are pure of heart, their funding agent wants to run the tests for the benefit of military weather manipulation, something both the USA and the USSR researched during the Cold War, rather than the drought relief for which they were initially intended. The novelist talks about global warming in terms of CO2 atmospheric build-up, which then causes a runaway effect when the drones get released so that they draw extreme cold air down to ground level. As this artificially induced weather catastrophe heads towards Portland, Oregon, the novelist, the scientist and her assistants work feverishly to find a way to break the chain reaction. Scientist Joanne remarks that “Progress doesn’t fund itself,” and novelist Charlie retorts, “Is this progress?” The movie thereby criticizes the idea that all new technologies are beneficial and proposes that technological intervention in nature can have catastrophic effects. At the end, a technological fix breaks up the runaway weather effect, and Charlie and Joanne form a romantic bond. The movie, however, does raise the spectre that we are nearing the “end of nature,” as Bill McKibben has phrased it, and that the repercussions will be severe. F4 and Ice Twisters present climate change as already affecting us and thereby enter the public debate in that regard with the latter film more clearly positing anthropogenic influence. Neither, however, presents a strong case for immediate action for significant mitigation or adaptation in terms of lasting or irreversible effects, nor does either emphasize the global nature of the crisis. In comparison, climate change set too far into the future, as in novels such as Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin or Mara and Donn by Doris Lessing, tends to diminish the sense of crisis even further and leaves the door open for denial of anthropogenic forcings while accepting the premise of significant ecological alteration. As a result, they may be seen as having a fatalistic quality that is not tragic in the classical Greek sense of that term in which fate is precipitated by a misstep, but rather a nihilistic sense of destiny. Far-future stories work against the kind of tension produced by present-day or very near-future cautionary tales and dystopias. Such is the case with Waterworld, especially as the years pass and fewer younger members of its audience immediately recognize the meaning of the oil tanker’s name that is displayed near the film’s end, Exxon Valdez. Yet, the underlying cautionary element may not be totally lost if the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster of the summer of 2010 is any indication. That comes about because of the Exxon


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Valdez Alaskan oil spill remaining the point of comparison for all other recent oil disasters. As a result, the ship’s name has resurfaced in popular culture and will very likely continue to reappear until oil disasters become so commonplace or so much larger in the frantic years of peak-oil production that it recedes beneath the waves of ever intensifying ecological tragedies. The home movie rental market thus becomes an important factor in considerations of the potential effects of films, whether low budget or not, far beyond the initial viewing audience and in the context of new climatic events or environmental disasters that make their fictions seem more plausible than fantastic. Waterworld relies on a standard cowboy Western plot of a drifter who gets caught up in homesteaders’ failed defence against bandits and finds himself compelled to take on ever-increasing responsibility for others. Likewise, the film relies for its pathos on representations of the sanctity of the nuclear family. Nevertheless, it does so with a popular twist to the comedy ending of so many of these plots. The mariner played by Kevin Costner rejects the siren’s call to settle down and become a land-dwelling family man, even though he has rescued the woman and child and guaranteed their ability to survive and, no doubt, to reproduce in the future. The image of horses running loose on terra firma at the film’s end reinforces the linkage to the Western genre and to the notion of the loner versus settlers. So, what do the ecology, the weather and the climate of this movie have to offer? Viewers have to pay attention to the prologue that sets up the charge of human action generating global warming, which in turn melts the polar ice caps and causes sea levels to rise dramatically and extensively, such that only a little land remains for human settlement. If they ignore or miss this part, they will not understand that the Earth portrayed in the film is not the result of natural processes but of anthropogenic causes. In like manner, although there is presented visually a clear linkage between evil men and reliance on fossil fuels, attention to that may be undercut by the subplot of romance between the mariner and the woman, and the affection the mariner develops for the little girl in the film. There also exists a contradiction about the fate of humanity in the film. While the hero is a gilled mutant, he is also the only one of his kind ever shown in the movie. Thus, when he tells ordinary humans that Homo sapiens is doomed, does the audience know whether it should believe him? Are viewers encouraged, then, to interpret the film as precisely a cautionary tale in which human beings are doomed unless they abandon fossil fuels before fossil fuels abandon them and retreat from overheating

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the planet to the point of melting the poles? Or does this film undercut its own warnings by showing that humans will endure and survive, no matter what they do? The thematic irresoluteness of this film may have contributed to its box office failure, since the ending remains consistent with the Western rather than the dystopic genre. TDAT explicitly raises the spectre of sudden catastrophic climate change in the very near future. Unfortunately, while it increased attention to the issue, it did so by relying on heavy doses of unscientific, impossible events. It is based on the Bell and Strieber sensationalist study, The Coming Global Superstorm, which mixed extreme possibilities based on scientific models with future scenarios playing out in dramatic fashion. The argument for the sudden onset of a new ice age is based on theories about the Younger Dryas period and the interruption of the North Atlantic current. Climate scientist Wally Broecker has advanced this theory most stridently, but never as an overnight phenomenon, and he more recently backed away from claims that the current is already slowing. Yes, the science indicates that climate change can occur suddenly and catastrophically, but, no, it cannot occur in the way portrayed in TDAT. More than any other film, this one demonstrates the runtime limitation problem I identified at the opening of this chapter. To squeeze in the crisis itself and to have the same characters see it coming, observe its occurrence and respond to its after effects, the film has to speed up events and exaggerate their effects beyond any plausibility. This speeding up in part results from the decision to focus on human nodes of reaction over the system of processes. It also results from the decision once more to emphasize family reconciliation and human resilience. Actually, its greatest strength in terms of considerations of climate change comes from its positive portrayal of scientists and the accurate depiction of unheeding and short-sighted politicians, as Matt Nisbet notes. What is particularly of interest with another blockbuster movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, especially for older viewers, is that we remember the original version of the film and realize rather rapidly that the key topic of the film has changed. During the Cold War of the twentieth century, this movie was a film about nuclear war, violence and xenophobia. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it has become a film about human reduction of biodiversity and the poisoning of the planet. Climate change as such is not addressed explicitly in the film, but by 2008, it was likely that one of the aspects of ecocide was considered by many viewers. As a result, scientific explanations of global warming or the impact of pollution on various species needs no elaboration to deepen


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viewers’ concern about the possible ramifications of their actions. This lack of direction is consistent with the original film in its treatment of the threat of nuclear war. One could argue that the rewriting of the reason for aliens to be speculating whether or not to let the human species continue on its miserable destructive way or to purge it for the sake of the rest of the planet is based on an expectation of a general level of awareness of anthropogenic environmental impact. Thus, it is a cautionary tale that can focus not on the causes of the crisis but upon the direct potential outcome of that crisis. In this manner, then, it is much more like Waterworld than TDAT, even though its present-day setting is closer in time to that of the latter film. Of these three major studio films, only TDAT was a genuine financial blockbuster, while TDESS has had sufficient earnings, and Waterworld flopped. While TDAT was marketed more heavily than the other two films, its box office success more likely resulted from other factors. First, the cause of the disaster was more overtly and explicitly tied to climate change as an issue of popular public concern than was the case for Waterworld, while TDESS did not reveal the environmental theme in its trailers. Second, there was explicit promotion and denunciation of the film before it even premiered because of the explicitness of its anthropogenic emphasis and the clear caricature of US Vice President Dick Cheney. Nisbet has analysed this context of public debate and the resulting increase of articles on climate change following its box office success in “Evaluating the Impact of The Day After Tomorrow,” so I won’t reprise that discussion. Nisbet also brings up the point that much of the science presented in the film is inaccurate and also not plausible. The question that needs to be explored as a result of this problem, but beyond the scope of this essay, would be whether or not people attending a Hollywood-produced film actually have high expectations for scientific accuracy or are more likely to accept the constraints of the feature-length duration. If they seek scientific information, then TDAT has to be considered a setback for affecting viewers’ thoughts about climate change. If we consider the main role of a film to be an affective emotive one like any other aesthetic artefact, this film may prove more effective than the other two because viewers bond more with its characters and feel a heightened sense of plot tension. Yet, precisely the aspect of the film that is most affective and thereby bonding of the viewers to the events may also serve to distract attention from the larger theme at hand. The focus on the node of family subtracts

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from attention to system. Further, while the film’s success seems to have had an effect on an increase in news items that year on climate change, there is no evidence that the film or the journalistically reported facts resulted in any significant change in behaviour. As Nisbet notes, “It is very difficult to capture and maintain public interest in the issue. It’s especially difficult for the public to observe the consequences of climate change on a day-to-day basis”. As Cubitt puts it, “Neither apocalypse nor utopia will arrive the day after tomorrow. The process is longer, slower, more banal” (139).

Miniseries It is not possible, of course, for a film to represent the “longer, slower, more banal” with any hope of popular success. Rob Nixon has been addressing this problem more generally as a cultural challenge in his work on “slow violence,” which is worthy of application to problems of cinematic representation. Miniseries, however, at least have the advantage of a longer running time to represent a more varied approach than movies that run for less than three hours. In 2004 and 2005, a miniseries and its sequel appeared on American television, Category 6: Day of Destruction and Category 7: End of the World. These two together demonstrate the combination of strengths and weaknesses for this genre in representing ecological processes and climate change science. In both miniseries, global warming is presented as the culprit behind the events. The films also criticize control of the electricity grid by a handful of companies. As disasters unfold across the Southwest and Midwest in the form of extreme heat and supersized tornadoes, the meteorologists tracking the storms debate the influence of climate change on these weather events. The series makes it clear that audiences should trust the most senior of these scientists, who is nearing retirement and is only in pursuit of the truth, while the sceptical scientist seems driven by ambition and a desire to become an administrator. This senior colleague repeats several times that something is changing our climate and the United States faces a new environmental reality. As a result, two systems threaten to collide over Chicago and destroy the city: the jet stream is pushing southward while a Gulf of Mexico storm spawning tornadoes is pushing farther north than has previously occurred. This possibility has considerably more plausibility than the extremes depicted in TDAT. At the same time, sceptical viewers can consider it a singular event or a coincidence. Category 6 fails to counteract this thinking because it ends by emphasizing problems with the power grid and


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the monopolization of energy by corporations. Thus, the focus is on human ingenuity, as when at the end of the film a main character states, “This time, we can and we must build it better,” rather than on mitigation and a fundamental change in orientation towards anthropogenic climate forcing. Category 7 initially provides a global orientation to the crisis of climate change with super cell storms taking place over France as well as the United States. Nevertheless, the action quickly shifts to Washington, DC, and largely remains there. There is no debate about whether or not global warming is the basic cause of these extreme weather phenomena depicted in a montage style around the world. Rather, the key scientist proposes that something more is pushing this particular cascade of catastrophes. Eventually, the scientist posits that the heat islands created by major urban areas are precipitating super storms because greenhouse gases are destabilizing the mesosphere. The premise of this miniseries seems to be that knowledge about the interaction of climate and weather leads to the recognition that, if we live in a world now changed by anthropogenic pollutants, not only particulate but also thermal, human civilization will have to change to mitigate the worst of climate destabilization and adapt to the changes already being manifested. The miniseries concludes with the view that extreme weather will become the norm, as the key scientist remarks, “until we have undone the damage we have done to our environment.” As a result, despite the simplistic and the sudden solution to the immediate crisis, Category 7 does end with an emphasis on system and process rather than on the nodes of individual actions and family reunification that generate the pathos of the film. Two years after Category 7, British television produced another miniseries that addresses the rising fear in England: the possible inadequacy of the Thames barrier in the face of rising sea levels and intensifying extreme weather events due to climate change. Flood (2007) begins with a North Sea storm surge in Scotland reminiscent of the 1953 storm that produced a 5m-high tidal surge. That historical storm gave rise to the idea of a Thames estuary flood barrier, started in 1974 and completed a decade later, which is being used more frequently in each succeeding decade. The main characters of this miniseries follow the usual pattern of an alienated family. In this case, the son, Rob, who is an engineer and who supported the building of the barrier, is estranged from his geoscientist father, Leonard, who opposed the locating of the barrier at its actual site, as well as divorced from his ex-wife, Sam, who is one of the managers of

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the barrier. These careers allow the characters to engage in some serious scientific arguments that educate the audience. As they and meteorologists engage in arguments about the likelihood of the storm being severe enough to threaten London, they also squeeze in some remarks about global warming and rising sea levels. This information is necessary to make the point that a storm surge in 2007 could be worse than the 1953 surge. Like so many of these disaster movies, as its plot begins to pick up pace, the science and the long-term threats to the Thames watershed population recede giving place to individual struggles to remain above water. The genuine threat to the London estuary region is demonstrated quite graphically and successfully, but the underlying issues that increase the likelihood that the barrier will prove inadequate to protect the 12 million people subject to severe storm surge flooding are largely lost. Predictably, as Flood moves towards closure, viewers are focused not on the vulnerability of coastal and estuary regions subject to a combination of geological subsidence, exacerbated by human development projects, rising sea levels from global warming and more intense and severe storms and rainfall from climate change. Instead, they are directed to focus on family reconciliation, which also includes the common self-sacrifice of the father for the sake of his children. The barrier itself becomes something of a hero as it works to dampen the worst of the storm surge in one direction and help release the floodwaters of excessive rainfall in the other direction. While the location of the existing barrier may not be optimal, the miniseries leaves the impression that perhaps a bigger, better one further downstream may be sufficient for the future. In contrast, the British government has conducted recent studies that cast some doubt on that solution, projecting that subsidence and sea level rise will render the barrier useless within another fifty years. One of the saving features of Flood, however, which deserves mention, is that it shows the scientist as being right, while the engineer and the meteorologists are wrong, thus supporting the larger argument that long-term scientific analysis is more reliable than short-term forecasts. Actually, the best miniseries to take up the topic of climate change is an older one, aired originally in 1993, The Fire Next Time. Set in 2017, it is not a disaster film in the same way as the other miniseries discussed here. There is no single overwhelming event and no single, quick solution. Rather, as appropriate for the representation of climate change, viewers are shown a series of severe weather events and resulting hardships that negatively affect both the primary family and those around them. The conditions of American society portrayed in the miniseries are not likely to


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occur by the date posited, but they are not far from those depicted by many futurists. Rather than having a scientist or some other educated individual as the hero of the action, director Tom McLoughlin chose to use a Louisiana shrimper, Drew Morgan, as his protagonist, a man who begins as a climate change sceptic. As he sees his family business literally disappearing in the form of ever decreasing catches, he expresses nostalgia for the good old days and a belief that they will return. This attitude is reminiscent of much of the simplistic rhetoric of the current American Tea Party movement and science denialists. Everywhere around him, Drew sees the signs of extreme weather and then a hurricane destroys not only his boat but also his home. Eventually, like so many other American refugees, he and his family make their way illegally into Canada; thus the refugee imagery here anticipates the starker version of it in TDAT. While the protagonist never demonstrates a grasp of climate change science, he and other characters do evince a sense of responsibility for the plight of those around them affected by global warming. Along the way, various groups come under criticism in Fire, including a group of end-of-days environmentalists who are engaging in voluntary sterilization to avoid further polluting the planet and wealthy utopian isolationists who have walled themselves off from the rest of the country. One of the highlights of Fire occurs when the family members watch a television show criticizing inaction on climate change “back” in the 1990s when mitigation could have reduced the amount of adaptation that is being required in 2017. At the end of Fire, the family is happily reunited, but McLoughlin takes care to counteract the feel-good family ending that would dissipate any sense of urgency by having the last shot pan up to a sun that looks as if it is growing warmer even as the audience views its expansion across the screen.

Conclusion It is fundamentally impossible to represent climate change adequately in feature films and relatively short miniseries due to its complexity and its relatively slow unwinding. Just as in daily life and public debate, it is impossible to prove unequivocally that any single weather event is the result of climate change and not some combination of chance events. Yet, it is an issue of such immensity that at least some moviemakers follow the lead of the many actors who find the crisis necessary to address. Pitfalls, however, litter the path so far trod by those directors who have tackled it in the foregoing movies and miniseries.

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Yet, I would label as outright failures only those attempts that have not contributed in any way to raising awareness of climate change as a genuine social issue. In that sense, none of the films and miniseries I have discussed here fail. They all do draw attention, although to significantly varying degrees, to the subject. The weakest are those that most contribute to a sense of a singular disaster, while the strongest are the ones that present a sense of systemic change and catastrophe. Whether the flawed science works against persuasion that climate change is real or not, a scientifically demonstrable phenomenon awaits quantitative audience reception studies. In the case of TDAT, which is both the film with the worst science and the largest box office draw, evidence indicates that its premiere occasioned elevated attention to the topic in the news for that year, but there is little evidence to demonstrate that either the film or that elevated attention has affected public behaviour. In contrast, various surveys suggest that as the economy has cratered in the United States and elsewhere people have expressed more scepticism, perhaps because they have a greater fear of the financial impact of efforts at mitigation and adaptation than they do of the extreme weather events that it produces. For those of us who have studied the science and find it persuasive, we can only hope that directors continue to tackle this subject that they do so in a variety of ways that they improve the quality and the science of those representations and that audiences respond. The biggest problem is not whether or not any given film or miniseries can persuade an audience, but rather if it can present a compelling story that resists catharsis and encourages audiences to educate themselves beyond the confines of the movie or home theatre, which in turn may lead to responsible action.

References Avatar. Dir. James Cameron. Twentieth Century Fox, 2009. USA. DVD. Bell, Art, and Whitely Strieber. The Coming Global Superstorm. New York: Mass Market, 2006. Print. Belmont, Cynthia. “Ecofeminism and the Natural Disaster Heroine.”" Women’s Studies 36 (2007): 349-72. Print. Blackwell, Bonnie. “A Blustery Day for a Baby: Technologies of Family Formation in Twister.” Camera Obscura 17.1 (2002): 189-214. Print. Branston, Gill. “The Planet at the End of the World: ‘Event’ Cinema and the Representability of Climate Change.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 5.2 (2007): 211-29. Print.


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Broecker, Wally. The Great Ocean Conveyor: Discovering the Trigger for Abrupt Climate Change. Princeton: Princeton Univesity Press, 2010. Print. Category 6: Day of Destruction. Dir. Dick Lowry. MAT IV, 2004. USA. DVD. Category 7: End of the World. Dir. Dick Lowry. Luisa Filmproduktions, 2005. USA. DVD. Cubitt, Sean. EcoMedia. New York: Rodopi, 2005. Print. The Day After Tomorrow. Dir. Roland Emmerich. Twentieth Century Fox, 2008. USA. DVD. The Day the Earth Stood Still. Dir. Scott Derrickson. Twentieth Century Fox, 2008. USA. DVD. F4: Vortex. Dir. Andreas Linke. Maverick Entertainment. 2006. Germany. DVD. The Fire Next Time. Dir. Tom McLoughlin. RHI Entertainment, 1993. DVD. Flood. Dir. Tony Mitchell. Power, et al., 2007. DVD. The Grapes of Wrath. Dir. John Ford. Twentieth Century Fox, 1940. USA. DVD. Ice Twisters. Dir. Steven R. Monroe. Cinetel Films, 2009. Canada. DVD. Murray, Robin L., and Joseph K. Heumann. Ecology and Popular Film: Cinema on the Edge. Albany: SUNY P, 2009. Print. Nisbet, Matt. “Evaluating the Impact of The Day After Tomorrow.” Skeptical Inquirer, 16 Jun. 2004. Web. 5 Nov. 2010. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011. Print. The Perfect Storm. Dir. Wolfgang Petersen. Warner Brothers, 2000. USA. DVD. Silent Running. Dir. Douglas Trumbull. Universal, 1972. USA. DVD. Soylent Green. Dir. Richard Fleischer. MetroGoldwynMayer, 1973. USA. DVD. Waterworld. Dir. Kevin Reynolds. Universal Pictures, 1995. USA. DVD.


Pete Postlethwaite characterizes our time as the “Age of Stupidity,” though it seems perhaps more accurate to see it as the “Age of Spectatorial Complicity,” since it is more confederacy through paralysis than it is stupidity through inaction that characterizes our position as “spectators to future ruin.” Indeed, the very phrase “spectators to future ruin”—coined by Timothy Morton in his recent book The Ecological Thought (2)—itself seems a very adequate description of our current position in global history. With all of the information and information technologies at the fingertips of so many people, and with all of the representations of real and imagined environmental issues in film, on TV, on the Internet, in songs, in courses, in novels, in viral things and so on, it is a wonder that we aren’t all the more engaged in doing the things that we need to do. We continue to drive, to fly to conferences, to eat meat (well, not all of us) and, generally, to consume in the ways that have gotten us to where we are. However, we have just cause to worry not only about our status as consumers but simply as spectators—and hence the pertinence of Morton’s turn of phrase. The marketability of disaster films (documentary and fictional) and their presentations of future ruin they often display offer both depressing and hopeful possibilities. The narrativizing, on the one hand, writes us into positions as spectators with a poor focus. We are passive (and therefore complicit) viewers of our own dramatic decline. No less, though, are these filmic narratives potentially transformative and radical: their narrativizing of important and often complex and abstract material makes vital information available to a broad public. The trick is in motivating us into meaningful action.


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Narrativized science produces fact cerebrally, emotionally and tangibly, but not necessarily in measurable ways—and anyone who has ever loved knows that facts are not always measurable. Clearly one of the problems in the movies that produce us as mere spectators to future ruin is that they develop enchanting little personal stories without a larger script. Even the documentaries and pseudo-documentaries seem to fail through their inability either to address the matter of spectatorship or to escape the limitations of narrative. Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid, for instance, portrays humanity’s lone survivor looking back on media artefacts of our current world and asking questions. We are also looking back. This is a narrative infused with the rhetoric of failure, and the audience is a part of that. The desire that we feel is first a narrative desire (we want to know “what happened”) rather than a desire for activist engagement that the film promotes. The film is in some ways reminiscent of an Arthur C. Clarke story entitled “History Lesson.” In this story, humans are long gone and alien lizards (a bunch of scaly social scientists indeed) from a future visit the remains of the earth and find a bit of film with Disney characters as the only surviving piece of the past. They make grand (but wrong) theories about the importance of those characters in the world now dead.1 Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid takes much more seriously the theme of social scientists trying to get it right but still very much seems to miss the target. Getting it right surely means producing more than spectators at this point in our history. At this point, we are going to have to stop being spectators to our own ruin. Patrick Murphy argues in this volume that films with “environmentally aware story lines do have the potential to contribute to increasing public awareness of real environmental issues” (35), but that it is no less true that these “writers and directors tend to capitulate to a Hollywood style emphasis on pathos and deemphasis of political critique” (35). Moreover, as Murphy maintains, “They do so by too frequently focusing on the reintegration of the biological nuclear family and by portraying the inertia of governments and corporate obfuscation of scientific knowledge as the work of evil individuals rather than fundamental drives of the corporate and government systems of power” (35). A perfect example of this— among many indeed—might be The Day After Tomorrow. In an almost comic acceleration of climate change with equally comic effects—ships negotiating downtown New York City streets—the real story we follow is Professor Jack Hall’s (played by Dennis Quaid) as he treks through the horrors of a clearly oppositional and hostile nature to find his son. There are several issues here: (1) the male hero and the precious male

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subjectivity (the focus of so much of what we are talking about here) is unquestioned—neither the environmentally destructive elements of this massively self-centred ego nor the unsustainability of the ideals it embodies are queried—yet Director Roland Emmerich claims to have wanted to critique the environmental policies of the Bush Administration; (2) the film’s choice of Hall as a hero and of the government as an antihero is in line with Murphy’s comment that a focus on government sidelines our personal involvement with the issues; and, perhaps most importantly, (3) the overall position of the film is hardly pro-environment, or pro-Nature, or pro-world, and it is difficult to imagine how a film that is, in fact, so anti-environment, so ecophobic (and I discuss ecophobia more below) can possibly do any good. Emmerich was very aware of what he was doing, of his portraying Nature as a “bad-guy,” a thing to be fought against, an angry opponent to be feared but finally conquered. He is quoted as having said “I don’t need a monster or a villain. Just the weather” (“The Day After Tomorrow”). One certainly doesn’t want to minimize the good work that this and similar films do, and yet neither should we be naïve about the good work that this and similar films don’t do and the bad work that they do do, the dangerous assumptions they reiterate. Emmerich’s latest film—2012—similarly fails to critique the environmental policies that have caused climate change. Indeed, this ridiculous film (floating with just enough science to be marginally plausible for people who know nothing about plate tectonics) focuses on solar flares that in the film are causing the earth’s core to heat up. The land masses become flooded in a matter of hours, virtually the same time that it took for entire continents to shift thousands of miles in the film. The environment becomes the key antagonist and human ingenuity becomes the solution—a fleet of giant arks in the Himalayas. As with The Day After Tomorrow, we follow a heroic man who is trying to keep his family together. Of course this is fiction, not a documentary. What is particularly interesting and alarming is that even the intended blockbuster documentaries whose intent is clearly to effect change rather than to offer narrative are radical failures. While we certainly may be thrilled to see Leonardo DiCaprio (The Eleventh Hour), Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth) and Pete Postlethwaite (The Age of Stupid) in blockbuster movies on the topic, and while every little bit helps, neither should we be unaware of the work they do with perpetuating some of the problems. It is not a matter of picking holes in the green credentials of the films or of ecocritical conferences (or journals), which is very counterproductive and detracts from the messages that we are all, in theory,


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trying to get across. That sort of distraction is not productive. Rather, in situating how we market our concerns and in looking at the affective ethics that such marketing creates within the context of an age of what Linda Stone has termed continuous partial attention,2 we may potentially move towards less passive spectatorial positions. With all of the information and information technologies at the fingertips of so many people, we seem to have developed something of an attention deficit disorder. As I listen in expectation to talks about directions of the field I work in, one that has worked very well without rigid prescriptions, my mind wanders to paper jams, to the topic of short little attention spans, to Youtube and Twitter (and the fact that we in academia are trending in those directions), to the spate of sound bites that come at us with such frequency and ferocity that phrases such as “continuous partial attention” and “attention deficit disorder” start to make sense, and it becomes easy to understand why Sharon O’Dair is urging ecocritics to “slow down.” Yet while in principle, of course, we may agree, in practice, there is so much work that needs to be done that now—of all times—is not the time to slow down, perhaps it is less a matter of slowing down than using a different vehicle to keep up. Somewhere at or near the helm of this vehicle has to be something that allows us to see better, a kind of Global Positioning System (GPS) for analysing environmental ethics. I have proposed in the past and continue to believe that one such GPS device might be in using the paradigm of ecophobia. Arguably, the ethical assumptions we wittingly and unwittingly carry as we produce and consume environmentalist narratives are as consequential as the latent affective ethics of engagement and activism clearly central to such narratives. Ecophobia is a subtle thing, involved in both the production and the reception of these narratives. We may define ecophobia as an irrational and groundless hatred of the natural world, as present and subtle in our daily lives and literature as homophobia, racism and sexism. Because of the uproar this term has caused (see Robisch), it seems worthwhile here to reiterate some points I have made on the topic in the past and to give a brief history of the term. I first used the term “ecophobia” in my PhD dissertation in 1996. In the same year, and apparently independently, David Sobel uses the term to define what he calls “a fear of ecological problems and the natural world. Fear of oil spills, rainforest destruction, whale hunting, acid rain, the ozone hole, and Lyme disease” (5), though Sobel does not go further in defining the term. Clearly, he uses the term differently than I do—for instance, whereas for Sobel, fear of whale hunting is (by his definition)

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ecophobia, it is clear, as I argue, that whale hunting is a result of ecophobia, of a generalized fear or contempt for the natural world and its inhabitants. Clinical psychology uses the same term to designate an irrational fear of home; in ecocriticism, the term is independent of and in no way derived from the manner in which it is used in psychology and psychiatry. In 1999, Robert van Tine proposed a similar term— “gaeaphobia”—(independently, it seems, since there are no references to his source for the term), which he defines as “a form of insanity characterized by extreme destructive behavior towards the natural environment and a pathological denial of the effects of that destructive behavior” (“Gaeaphobia”). Potentially useful though it is for its identification (sometimes quite mechanical) of attitudes towards the natural environment in terms of pathologies laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), van Tine’s article has not been referenced in any scholarship anywhere that I can find. While this is a bit distressing, van Tine’s scholarship is important nevertheless because it shows that the kind of theoretical articulation I am seeking in defining ecophobia has been recognized as being necessary in the field of ecopsychology. My approach (see “Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness” and Ecocriticism and Shakespeare, wherein I lay out an extended definition of the term), then, while it does not reject ecopsychological analyses of the pathologies behind contempt for the natural environment, is more interested in the confluent approach that examines philosophical underpinnings. The “Theorizing” article is at the centre of a growing debate about the place of theory in ecocriticism, as the responses in ISLE 16.4 attest. In turn, responses to ISLE 16.4 itself had been so intense that by December 2009 Scott Slovic had felt compelled to issue “a call for submissions to a special forum on the broader topic of ‘Ecocriticism and Theory’ that would appear in one of the 2010 issues of ISLE” (“Further Reflections”). The call—though it made absolutely no mention of the two articles that motivated it (Estok’s or Robisch’s), effectively silencing debate about both—appeared in the first issue of 2010 and barely touched the hypothesizing that spurred it. In some ways, we must see what I would call the “ecophobia hypothesis” as a tonic to E. O. Wilson’s “biophilia hypothesis” (the idea that our love of other living things guides our ethical relationships with the natural world). It seems, in many ways, as silly to theorize ecocriticism without discussing ecophobia as it is to articulate feminist theory without discussing sexism. And it is worth repeating that ecophobia (no less than sexism) is a subtle, ubiquitous and marketable thing, one very relevant to our topic here.


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The topic of climate change and environment generally has become an increasingly marketable one, with the Animal Planet/Discovery Channel’s joint production of the CGI (Computer Graphics Interface) series The Future is Wild (2003), Alan Weisman’s 2007 book The World Without Us, the History Channel’s Life After People (January 2008) and the National Geographic Channel’s Aftermath: Population Zero (March 2008). Each, in its own way, tacitly presents an implicitly ecophobic vision of a Nature that will finally conquer humanity, reclaim all of the world and remain long after we are gone. Odd, indeed, it is to see narrative science purportedly “saving the environment” carrying across ecophobia. Marketing environmental concerns has become big business. Narrative science carries and generates both a desire for engagement and a desire for narrative and forgetting. These two seem mutually incompatible, and what is troubling is that the latter seems ascendant. Narrativized science sells books and films—and it does so to audiences with, it seems, increasingly short attention spans. It sells the ideologies which limit those books and films. While potentially a call to arms, therefore, it can also—in terms of activism—result (and seems to be resulting) in virtually nothing. This is perhaps clear in the stunning example of films such as An Inconvenient Truth and The Eleventh Hour, neither of which says a single word about meat.3 In any case, it is doubtful whether the spate of climate change narratives based on science that have bombarded the world over the past several years have had a measurable immediate4 effect, and so it seems incumbent upon us to figure out why. This requires finding out how our assumptions are represented and confirmed in film, and one of the important first steps for us here is to see connections. There are important parallels between ecophobia, on the one hand, and things such as sexism, racism and homophobia, on the other. We continue to see blockbuster movies about heroic heterosexual men with docile and often stupid women trotting after them; we continue to see inadequate representations of Asian-Americans in film; we continue to see homophobia, racism and sexism in filmic narratives that confirm what the mainstream audiences want to think. No less is it true of the role and function of ecophobia than of homophobia, racism and sexism in much of the media ostensibly about “saving the planet.” The narrative object remains distant, and the audience does not want to hear about how personal this “environmental crisis” stuff all is, that it might, for instance, require us to change what we put into our bodies. When Peter Brooks thus explains narrative desire as a “desire for the end” (104), we know that “the retrospective knowledge that it seeks” (94) is one of confirmation. Al

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Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Eleventh Hour are part of this docudrama genre, this narrative science spewing out a lot of very good information, yet also “confirmational” in the sense that Brooks describes. And I do not personally know anyone who has stopped eating meat—or stopped driving or stopped flying to conferences—because of these movies. If Patrick Murphy is correct and movies do capitulate to a Hollywood style emphasis on pathos, then it is because this is what sells. Like all narratives, filmic narrative seeks an audience. Perhaps we need to also remember that narrative, as a form, is ethically uncommitted to environmentalist praxis and seeks simply the retention of an audience; it is the content, of course, that expresses ethical commitment. Within a system of business built on selling as much as possible to as many as possible, however, form and content must, it seems, often come together if the narrative is to sell. It wouldn’t do for Al Gore to advocate for and succeed in stopping the use of fossil fuels. The system would grind to a halt. Perhaps it wouldn’t do for him to use his voice to shut down the meat industry either. At any rate, capitalism and environmental ethics seem in many ways incommensurable. The system needs varieties of ecophobia (fear of bugs or loathing of bodily odours or ethical disregard for animals, for instance) in order to continue functioning, and it is probably this that explains why, in spite of the enormous investments in ecologically progressive narratives, not much is changing (Figs. 3-1 and 3-2). In a movie such as Wall-E, we quickly see that the environment and the problems that we have caused in it function as a kind of a backdrop to the main story, which is a kind of bizarre boy (Wall-E) meets girl (Eve) love story, robotic and sanitized and without all the exchanges of precious bodily juices. The movie is set hundreds of years in the post-apocalypse future, with humans living in protected arks (spaceships, actually), the earth now abandoned to the machines and roaches that continue to clean it up. The humans are now morbidly obese from their centuries of sedentary existence and their lives of inaction and consumption (spectatorial and culinary). The movie, incidentally, ranks first in Time magazine’s “Best Movie of the Decade,” and considering its grim apocalypticism, it does nothing to motivate changes in the ethics of our relationships with the natural environment. Nor, in fact, is it really the intent of the movie to do so: it does not seek to clarify or inform but to produce a paying viewer, and an engaged viewer is counterproductive to this goal. What is required and produced is a viewer with a kind of spectatorial inertia and, therefore, complicity.


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Living in an age of spectatorial complicity means having such blurred boundaries between the various kinds of our narratives that render us unable to distinguish fact from fiction—and also, to a great extent, unable to really care. Late in the evening of September 11, 2001, I was finishing up my emails with the TV minimized in a small corner on the top left of my monitor. From my vantage point in Seoul, what appeared on my screen brought me to a pause. It looked like an interesting movie, but before long, I returned to my emails. There was far too much news reportage, and I thought that the director should have done a better job editing. I wrote a bit more, occasionally looking up and suddenly remembered that I had had the channel on CNN. And so I quickly clicked through other channels. The Korean stations were showing the same images—and then the second plane hit. I realized that I was “watching a tragedy unfold” (to borrow a phrase that so many have used since the event). Ushered through the terror of imminent computer catastrophe (see Di Leo and Mehan on Y2K) and quickly followed up with surreal clips on the World Wide Web of Hollywood-movie-style explosions in downtown New York and of entire cities (East and West) collapsing to unprecedented storms and tidal waves, the twenty-first century has us confused, beleaguered by images of tragedy and terror, yet perversely savvy to the kind of stunt Orson Welles pulled in 1938.5 Worse, we’ve become somewhat dulled. The “kicks,” to borrow a phrase from Paul Revere and the Raiders, “just keep gettin’ harder to find.” Fact and fiction keep getting more and more graphic. With fiction becoming more realistic, fact becomes less plausible, less shocking and less urgent. Even so, tragedy and terror just keep adding up. Terror and tragedy have much in common. This is not a new idea. Aristotle argued that the plot of a tragedy “ought to be constructed that, even without the aid of the eye, he who hears the tale will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place” (49). The events of September 11, 2001 achieved this, simultaneously fulfilling Aristotle’s definition that tragedy must “imitate actions which excite fear and pity, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation” (45). It is not simply that terror and tragedy both attract and repel, that both compel “us to approach with sympathy and recoil with alarm” (Douglas-Fairhurst 62), that both exploit our aversion towards unpredictability, that both stimulate our distaste for violence against our own agency and that both present unequivocal notions of right and wrong: they both also assert assumptions about the positions, about what and where we are in relation to other things and concepts. If tragedy has traditionally been about the fall of an individual, then no less

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has it had implications that radically transcend the individual: life goes on, and as Raymond Williams explains, “the life that is continued is informed by the death; has indeed, in a sense, been created by it” (56). The move away from a focus on the tragic protagonist, long in the making, is towards a no less hubristic site of troubled individuality: the tragic group. For 9/11, this group was “Americans.” We have moved, it seems, from watching the troubled site of third-person individuality falling horribly: it is a firstperson plural that we now watch. Still, though, we watch. Indeed, we watch more than ever now. If one of the things 9/11 did threaten or threatens to do is to bring about a “dislocation from First World privilege” (Butler xii) for America, then it is certainly not the only thing: there is a larger and more pressing dislocation, one that also roils in tragedy, becoming increasingly clear post-9/11, one larger than American exceptionalism, and this has to do with the relative positions of humanity in the world. It is one thing for a group of people to question the privileges that another group sees as its right; it is quite another matter, though, for religious extremists to categorically exclude an entire nation from the privileges that human beings regard as their right. But what, then, of Nature itself? Nature does not take notice of these perceived privileges human beings regard as their right—whether these people are Americans, Japanese, religious extremists or Canadians. The whole question of human exceptionalism emerging through Sandy or Sendai or any number of other natural disasters tells the world that we humans—the whole bunch of us—are nothing. The creeping fear in tragedy is that Lear is right and that “man’s life is cheap as beast’s” (2.4.267). The creeping reality is that we are too fat and indolent to give a shit. We tend to forget—would like to forget—many inconvenient truths. We tend to believe—would like to believe (notwithstanding the increasingly first-person plural realities of our narratives)—that the ontological realities outside us are somehow not personal, that we are somehow not part of and not in discourse with them. We tend to forget— would like to forget—that our conjugal relationships with toxic lifestyles and practices are here, among us, the readers and the contributors to this book, and indeed among all of us. Our participation in toxic lifestyles, our enmeshment with matters of death, pain and suffering, is something that we’d like to have an ethical exception for. We do a pretty good job of falling into a sense of toxicity amnesia and eco-exceptionalism because we’ve created regimes of displacement that allow us distance from matter. Perhaps we’ve become so blinded by the enormity of what we do, the theft without compensation, the wholesale robbery on an enormous scale, the


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aggravated violence and torture, the colossal profit we take from the world,6 that we’ve simply lost perspective on our capacities. Cormac McCarthy’s Anton Chigurh comes to mind. Psychopath or not, it seems that he has it right in saying that “The prospect of outsized profits leads people to exaggerate their own capacities in their minds. They pretend to themselves that they are in control of events where perhaps they are not” (McCarthy 253). They are us, and we’ve become stupid. We overestimate our abilities, as David Ehrenfeld so poignantly explains: Now, when the suspicion of limits has become certainty, the great bulk of educated people still believe that there is no trap we cannot puzzle our way out of as surely and noisily as we blundered into it. Visions of utopia still jostle one another in the tainted air, and every fresh disaster is met with fresh plans of power and still more power. (12)

We have become stupid. It is understandable why Pete Postlethwaite would say that we are living in the Age of Stupid. It seems that “the market” has come to dominate everything. At the 2009 ASLE conference in Victoria, BC,7 at the first of the two “Soul Food” sessions chaired by Sharon O’Dair, after an increasingly heated Q&A period, I asked the speaker—Andrew Battista—in exasperation, “well, if you’re not here because you want to change things, then why are you here?” His immediate reply seemed to astonish everyone in the room: “I’m here ’cause I want a job. I do ecocriticism because there’s a market for it.” It had long been a concern of mine that things would come to this. In a debate with Leo Marx at the 2003 ASLE in Boston, Lawrence Buell said, “I’m sure there’s no one here” for professional advancement—without even a hint of self-parody or insincerity—and I thought, “You must be kidding?” He has, since then, modified his comment somewhat, suggesting that professionalism may, in fact, be a reason why people do ecocriticism, but that there has to be more to it than that: “criticism worthy of its name,” he explains, “arises from commitments deeper than professionalism” (97). When Battista went on to defend his position, of course, I had to admit that it is a good thing for ecocriticism to have achieved enough scholarly acceptability that Shakespeareans now embrace rather than reject out-ofhand green activist approaches; it is a good thing for ecocriticism to have achieved enough attention that ecocritics will actually be able to find employment; and it is a good thing to have more people doing more and more diversified work and for there to be a market for this work. Yet, at the same time, there are the Battistas, and O’Dair is not alone in her

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worries: fellow Shakespearean Annabel Patterson asks, “To what end” (10) we do what we do, and it is difficult to avoid the feelings of “ecodespair” Scott Slovic mentions in his Foreword to The Greening of Literary Scholarship. If ecocriticism is to be more than professional exhibitionism and intellectual masturbation, then it must connect with the world outside the text in some meaningful way. It is a truly fine and excellent thing that environmental narratives have become so very marketable and within academia that ecocriticism has itself also become hot and marketable. The flooding of the market with disaster movies, apocalyptic narratives of our own self-destruction, documentaries and so on offers up both threats of relegating the material world to mere spectacle and commodity to be consumed by passive viewers (and to maintaining it as such), on the one hand, and, on the other, offers opportunities for action and engagement. For the latter to happen and for the former to stop happening, several things are going to have to change. One of these changes has to do with how we organize our genres. In times like ours when the natural environment increasingly intrudes into the affairs of humanity in ways increasingly understood in terms of terror, expanding the definitional range of tragedy to accommodate nonhuman agency will allow us to see the world more accurately. Tragedy is not the sole domain of humanity: “Rather than limiting tragedy to an artistic genre—written by a playwright and performed on stage—it is helpful to loosen up these criteria, giving it much broader scope. For tragedy does not always hinge on human authors and human victims” (Dimock 68). The collapse and derogation of the natural environment are a tragedy in themselves; our being dislodged and our troubled individuality are surely tragic too, but the fall of that bigger body of which we are a part—the fall of Nature—is a tragic one. The question is not whether Nature will survive: it will, but diminish. The question—if we may borrow a line from Robert Frost—“is what to make of a diminished thing” (Frost 118).8 Theorizing tragedy (which is beyond the ken of this paper) for the modern world is very necessary. Theorizing tragedy to address the diminishing of Nature (a diminishing that is itself a direct result of ecophobia) is an act of political engagement. Implied here, therefore, is also the need for recognizing the urgency of activist engagement among academics: “It no longer seems responsible for theorists to engage in apolitical analysis,” Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Uppinder Mehan argue, “there is an obligation to take theory out of the classroom and the library, and to bring it into the public arena” (18, 20). Moreover, it is not enough merely to know things or simply to teach things. Knowledge, in itself, is not enough. If it were, then there would be


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a lot fewer smokers in the world. The environmentalist movement shares many things with the antismoking movement. It is hindered by mammoth companies (most notably oil companies, meat production companies and agriculture companies) that benefit from unsustainable lifestyles. Hired researchers blow smoke in our eyes about the causes of climate change and environmental degradation being outside our influence, no less than tobacco companies have blown smoke in people’s eyes about how smoking was not the cause of cancer, was not harmful and was actually beneficial in many ways (“Watch your nerves … let up—light a Camel,” a cigarette advertisement ran in the 1930s), having spent years and years and billions of dollars in the process. In North America, fifty per cent of the men and thirty-three per cent of the women smoked in the year that I was born; eventually, however, people did finally get it that tobacco was deadly. It took various kinds of legislation against smoking, and many people saw such legislation as an infringement on personal liberty. It took appeals to emotion, to reason and to financial sensibility. It took a broad-based change in ethics. It took sacrifices. It took years. And when the tobacco industry was thriving, no one would have thought it possible or ethically defensible to bring these behemoths down. Many people would have lost work, and anyway, there was little felt need for shutting down these businesses. We flatter ourselves as academics on our abilities to produce and dispense knowledge, as if this were enough. Marketing narratives, and the knowledge that such narratives produce, however, simply aren’t enough to make change. The average smoker is testament to this. If those behemoths that seemed so unassailable have been overwhelmed to some degree, then it was through an enormous amount of effort, not simply through the dissemination of knowledge. If knowledge were enough to cause change, then we’d have problems explaining the average air passenger, or driver of a car, or meat eater—indeed, my own presence at many conferences. The question is simple: what will it take to make change? The answer is disturbing. As with the movements against tobacco industries, it will contain various kinds of legislation against things that we like doing, and these legislations many people will regard as an infringement on personal liberty. It will take appeals to emotion, to reason and to financial sensibility. It will require a broad-based change in ethics. It will require sacrifices. It will require serious analysis of the role and function of our changing media. And it will take years. We may not have as many years as we need. We may indeed now be doomed to remain spectators to our ongoing ruin.

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Fig. 3-1. Accessorizing of animals, because it implies an ethical disregard, is one variety of ecophobia in play (photo by Simon Estok).

Fig. 3-2. It starts at an early age, as this little girl with her toy dog in a bag shows (photo by Simon Estok).


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Notes 1. I am indebted to biomedical laboratory technologist Vincent J. Lee of St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, for this reference. 2. Stone explains that To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention— CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, anyplace behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. 3. As an aside (and one doesn’t want to seem preachy), we might note that meat is not good for the environment and that it is odd that these films don’t mention this fact. There is, as is very well documented, enormous waste and inefficiency in meat, milk and egg production in terms of the energy input to protein output ratio, compared with the energy required to produce protein directly from vegetables. There is also an enormous and similarly welldocumented waste of water in such processes. The impact of meat on climate change, however, has only recently caught the attention of the UN, which has singled out beef production as a key contributor to greenhouse gases. An online report posted by Ecofont mentions that a cow produces more greenhouse gases (methane, in particular) a day than a 4X4 SUV and that “Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 20 times worse for climate change than CO2 emissions.” There is indeed a growing consensus that a vegetarian (or, better yet, a vegan) diet is good for the environment. See “Eat Less Meat,” 28 October 2008. . 4. The urgency of the problems we have created obviously requires immediate action. This is not, however, to devalue the importance of the longer time-scale changes, the extensive intellectual shifts that must occur at a popular level before we can produce any meaningful and lasting changes in our relationships to the world around us. 5. On October 30, 1938, Welles narrated a radio programme that simulated news reports and told of an invasion by Martians. Many believed the report to be factual, and there was widespread public panic. 6. I write intentionally mimicking Conrad’s description of colonial racism because seeing and theorizing connections (such as we find between racism and ecophobia, or between homophobia and ecophobia or between misogyny and ecophobia) are a vast business. Ecophobia is a big thing. Ecophobia is a spectrum condition. No less are sexism, homophobia, racism, classism and speciesism. We all stand somewhere in these spectra, and it is good if we see where we stand. Then we can act.

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7. This and the following paragraph appear in my book Ecocriticism and Shakespeare (49). 8. The title of the third biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE)—“what to make of a diminished thing”— is the final line of Robert Frost’s “The Oven Bird.”

References 2012. Dir. Roland Emmerich. Columbia Pictures, 2010. Film. Aftermath: Population Zero. Cream Productions. The National Geographic Channel, 2008. Television. The Age of Stupid. Dir. Franny Armstrong. Spanner Films (Dogwoof Pictures), 2009. Film. Aristotle. The Poetics of Aristotle. Trans. S. H. Butcher. London and New York: Macmillan, 1898. Print. Bowles, Scott. “‘The Day After Tomorrow’ Heats Up a Political Debate. Storm of Opinion Rains Down on Merits of Disaster Movie.”USA Today 26 May 2004. Web. 31 Dec. 2012. Brooks, Peter. Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative. New York: Vintage, 1984. Print. Buell, Lawrence. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. Print. Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London and New York: Verso, 2004. Print. Clarke, Arthur C. “History Lesson.” Expedition to Earth. New York: Ballantine, 1949. 34-9. Print. The Day After Tomorrow. Dir. Roland Emmerich. Twentieth Century Fox, 2008. Film. Di Leo, Jeffrey R., and Uppinder Mehan. “Introduction—Theory Ground Zero: Terror, Theory and the Humanities after 9/11.” Terror, Theory and the Humanities. Ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Uppinder Mehan. Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities, 2012. 11-32. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. Dimock, Wai Chee. “After Troy: Homer, Euripides, Total War.” Rethinking Tragedy. Ed. Rita Felski. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2008. 66-81. Print. Douglas-Fairhurst, Robert. “Tragedy and Disgust.” Tragedy in Transition. Ed. Sarah Annes Brown and Catherine Silverstone. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. 58-77. Print. Ecofont. “Tuesday, 28 October 2008—Eat Less Meat.” Web. 1 Jan. 2013. Ehrenfeld, David. The Arrogance of Humanism. Oxford and New York: OUP, 1978. Print.


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The Eleventh Hour. Dir. Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen. Warner Independent Pictures. 2007. Film. Estok, Simon C. Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print. —. “Foreword.” The Greening of Literary Scholarship. Ed. Steven Rosendale. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2002. vii-xi. Print. —. “Theorizing in a Space of Ambivalent Openness: Ecocriticism and Ecophobia.” ISLE 16.2 (2009):203-25. Print. Frost, Robert. The Poetry of Robert Frost. Ed. Edward Connery Lathem. New York: Henry Holt, 1979. Print. The Future is Wild. Prod. Jo Adams Television. BBC Two, 2002. Film. An Inconvenient Truth. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Paramount Pictures, 2006. Film. Lee, Vincent J. Personal communication. Skype IM: veejaylee777. 21 Oct. 2009. Life After People. Created by David de Vries. The History Channel, 200810. Television. McCarthy, Cormac. No Country for Old Men. New York: Vintage, 2007. Print. Morton, Timothy. The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010. Print. Murphy, Patrick. "Directing the Weather, Producing the Climate." Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations. Ed. Rayson K. Alex, S. Susan Deborah and Sachindev P. S. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014. This volume. O’Dair, Sharon. “Slow Shakespeare: An Eco-critique of ‘Method’ in Early Modern Literary Studies.” Early Modern Ecostudies: From the Florentine Codex to Shakespeare. Eds. Ivo Kamps, Karen Raber, and Thomas Hallock. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 11-30. Print. Patterson, Annabel. Shakespeare and the Popular Voice. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989. Print. Paul Revere and the Raiders. “Kicks.” By Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Midnight Ride. Columbia Records, 1966. LP. Planet of the Apes. Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner. Twentieth Century Fox, 1968. Film. Rizvi, Samad. “Wall-E Named Best Movie of the Decade by TIME.” Web. 1 Jan. 2013. Robisch, Kip. “The Woodshed: A Response to ‘Ecocriticism and Ecophobia.’” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 16.4 (Fall 2009): 697-708. Print.

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Shakespeare, William. King Lear. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd Edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 1297-1354. Print. Slovic, Scott. “Re: Further Reflections.” Message to the author. 6 Dec. 2009. E-mail. Sobel, David. Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. Great Barrington, MA: Orion, 1996. Print. Stone, Linda. “Linda Stone’s Thoughts on Attention and Specifically, Continuous Partial Attention.” 2005-7. Web. 31 Dec. 2012. van Tine, Robert. “Gaeaphobia: Ecophobia, Ecomania and ‘Otherness’ in the Late 20th Century.” From Method to Madness: Five Years of Qualitative Enquiry. U of the Witwatersrand: History of the Present P, Department of Psychology, 1999. Web. 2012. Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us. New York: St. Martins, 2007. Print. Williams, Raymond. Modern Tragedy. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1966. Print. Wilson, Edward O. “Biophilia and the Conservation Ethic.” The Biophilia Hypothesis. Ed. Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993. 32-41. Print.


Climate change is the consequence of complex, cultural, political as well as physical processes; hence, climate change is not “a problem” to be solved but a condition in which we are enmeshed (Hulme). The Australian Government recognized this in 2009 when it issued an “action plan” titled Living Sustainably, which advocates a transformative approach to Australian culture through education involving whole-of-institution engagement, including changes to curricula targeting all levels of education, from early childhood through to universities (Commonwealth of Australia). Yet, for the most part, it is business as usual. When the authors of this chapter conducted a search of the website in 2012—a site maintained and developed as a joint initiative by the Australian Government, the Australian Learning and Teaching Council and the University of Western Sydney—the results revealed 1269 courses and subjects that dealt with sustainability across all academic disciplines. When the search was confined to the arts, humanities and social sciences, however, we obtained the following results: “environment” (19), “sustainability” (6), “sustainable development” (1), “green” (0), “environmental communication” (0) and “ecocriticism/eco-criticism” (0). This outcome suggests that climate change is still primarily perceived as “a problem” for the sciences alongside planning and policy, and business disciplines that engage with the human management of environmental resources.1 When the processes of communication are scrutinized, it tends to be in the context of journalistic practice and its consequence in translating climate change science to the general populace. In cultural and media studies, on the other hand, critical concerns still largely centre upon ideological themes of power, gender and race. Presented below are the results of a survey2 conducted in 2012 that collated Australian responses to climate change across academic disciplines

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concerned with news media, film and television, and literature. This enquiry was based on the belief that to address climate change we also need to nurture an environmental imagination and sense of ecological citizenship that will enhance societal change towards a more sustainable future. Both factual and fictional narratives are not only integral to the dissemination of climate change science; these communicative processes are vitally significant for the way they contribute to the shaping of everyday realities. In the interests of brevity, we present our results obtained in the field of film and television studies only, an area where ecocritical endeavours are apparently still to find a footing in Australian scholarship. International texts in this field predominantly focus on Hollywood cinema.3 Pat Brereton, for example, in his book titled Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema argues that there are many incidences within Hollywood mainstream cinema that demonstrate a powerful sense of longing for new kinds of human/nature relationships. He brings attention to Hollywood’s employment of utopian (and dystopian) fantasies that are underpinned by this receptivity to the natural world, suggesting that these fantasies retain potency because they counteract the distresses of modern living. Some films are explicit in the articulation of an ecological consciousness (relevant case studies in the book include Dances with Wolves 1990 and Medicine Man 1991); others are more subliminal (for example, Thelma and Louise 1991 and Titanic 1997) via the depiction of nature as sublime—“a visual excess”—that encourages an emotional response that exists outside and apart from the cognitive reading of narrative (13). It is in this book that Brereton presents his ecocritique of the Australian film Dark City (1998) suggesting that the film’s resolution demonstrates an environmental sensibility when the lead protagonist wrests control over the collective imaginary and restores some semblance of nature (in the form of the beach) as succour to what is otherwise a meaningless, imprisoned existence within the confines of a noir metropolis (191-194). As Australian readers, we find Brereton’s interpretation of Dark City disquieting. Our first impression of the film interpreted these allusions to the beach as a coded reference to the predominance of urban population centres that fringe the Australian coastline and consequently to the centrality of “the beach” in Australian popular culture,4 in what is otherwise a de-territorialized science fiction fantasy made for global audiences. As indices of nationality, landscapes are usually discussed in this context of national identity and, more recently, in terms of the need to reconcile white/indigenous relations by positing landscape as the historical


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site of brutal colonial transgressions (Collins and Davis). In Australian national cinema, rural landscapes are central to settler myths of belonging or not belonging, as either an empty space to be civilized (as in earlier frontier mythologies where the Australian bush becomes the founding experience that tempers an essential Australian character) or as a foreign alienated space where nature is presented as a threatening, untameable force. So far we are yet to see a sustained ecocritical analysis of Australian cinema in the vein of Brereton’s book, though there are no doubt many Australian films and television dramas that are open to critique from perspectives informed by climate change or environmentalism. This does not mean, however, that there are to be found many examples of Australian cinema that confront the Australian reality of fragile, ecological processes under stress and biodiversity decline due to human (white) exploitation. One exception is The Hunter (2010) directed by Daniel Nettheim. This adaptation of Julia Leigh’s novel of the same name explicitly addresses a sense of loss from species extinction—specifically the extinction of the thylacine or Tasmania Tiger. Experimental filmmaker Rolf de Heer is another who has foregrounded ecological themes and is discussed below. But these filmmakers are the exception rather than the rule. One of the reasons that provoked this study was to address what appears to be this great disparity between the symbolic domain of cinema and television drama in the way texts imagine our continent and nation, and the grim realities of our environmental crisis. As Lawrence Buell suggests, “environmental connectedness requires acts of imagination not at one stage alone but three: in the bonding, in the telling, [and] in the understanding” (17). Thus, ecocriticism is an essential part of the collective struggle to imagine the world in new ways, or as Buell suggests, to break the bonds of “habitually foreshortened environmental perception” (18). Thus, the aim here is to highlight the few examples of Australian ecocriticism that have focused on the cinematic and televisual expression of human/nature relations, and to survey the critical approaches that these ecocritics have employed.

Critical Perspectives on the Representation of Nature The shared agenda of ecocriticism is to promote an environmental consciousness that incorporates new ways of imagining the place of human relations within natural ecological processes, so logically an extension of this thinking is to focus on how “nature” is represented in audio-visual narratives. Unsurprisingly, our findings in ecocriticism

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contain examples that develop their analytic framework from the work of Australian ecofeminist Val Plumwood who proposes that an ecohumanities perspective is necessarily founded “on two interconnected tasks—resituating humans in ecological terms and non-humans in ethical terms” (89). Her philosophical critique of Western culture identifies a prevailing anthropocentrism that denies our ecological embeddedness by creating a split between the natural and the human world. The problematic, gendered dualisms of human/animal, male/female, reason/emotion, civilized/primitive originate from this “human/nature dualism” characteristic of Western culture. By this reasoning, an ecological sensibility necessarily demands the overthrow of rationalist patriarchal values that separate the category of “man” from the other (in this case, animals) in favour of “an ethics of care” and is thus identified as inherently feminist because it is founded on emotionally based values that have traditionally been regarded within rationalist discourses of modernity as feminine and therefore inferior. Leonie Rutherford applies this reasoning to the animation aesthetics employed by feminist animators Lucinda Clutterbuck and Sarah Watts who created the children’s animated series The Web. The series is described by Rutherford as “an example of science communication, a quasi-documentary exploration of geography, habitat, culture and behaviour, tracking the fate of species threatened with extinction in various historical and cultural contexts” (130). She notes the way in which these animators’ stylistic experimentation in abstraction and artistic impressionism challenges conventional animation practices in the representation of nature by being neither “conservative narrative moves of realist, natural history documentary, or the comic anthropomorphism of orthodox cel (celluloid) animation featuring non-human characters” (129). By employing a particular aesthetic and non-narrative design, these animators have encouraged self-reflexivity and a privileging of the emotions and senses by focusing attention on the grace, form and power of each animal, its intimate connection with the environment, and its interaction with the human world. Similarly, D. Bruno Starrs’ celebration of the auteur in the work of Australian experimental filmmaker, Rolf de Heer, identifies a characteristic capacity of de Heer to be “attuned to the maternal feminine” by “gently evincing and amplifying the voice of the disadvantaged and marginalized” as opposed to the typical default position defined by male subjectivity (150). His film, The Quiet Room, foregrounds the mute protest of a child against her warring parents using a stream-of-conscious voiceover. Dance Me to My Song, a filmmaking collaboration with cerebral palsy sufferer Heather Ross, deals with life experiences defined


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and limited by severe physical disability. Alexandra’s Project plays out the retribution of a subordinated wife in an unhappy marriage. In Ten Canoes, de Heer facilitates the cinematic expression of aboriginality in the first Australian film to be entirely filmed in Australian indigenous languages. In the film The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, based on Luis Sepulveda’s novella Un veijo que leia novelas de amor, Starr suggests de Heer remains true to this sensitivity in his adaptation of Sepulveda’s ecological morality tale. In the film, the key protagonist becomes assimilated into the culture of the local tribe contrasting this imagery of local indigenous traditions in ecological harmony against the more discordant imagery of greed, violence and exploitative dealings with nature acted out by colonial invaders. De Heer’s adaption employs the devices of an unseen female narrator who “positions the viewer via an identifying stance with the feminine” (150) and a soundtrack that emotionally intensifies the sounds of Amazonian jungle and the old man’s voice as he revels in the simple pleasures of his love stories. In an earlier publication, Starrs identifies de Heer’s concern for the environment in his films Epsilon and Dr. Plonk, noting that both films are commenting on humankind’s self-absorbed march towards self-extinction, making substantial contributions to “the genre of eco-warning,” The former uses relentless harangues from both an extraterrestrial antagonist and a grandmotherly narrator to bully the audience into acceptance of the threat their lifestyles present to the future of the planet and humanity, whereas the latter uses slapstick comedy and references to the apocalypse so unremarkable they may even pass unnoticed by an audience engrossed in the physical humor. (1)

In Epsilon, an alien in the guise of a beautiful woman accosts the ecohero as he camps alone under the stars, in some remote outback Australian location, to lecture him over the ecologically destructive actions of the human world. In this film, de Heer juxtaposes “sublime landscapes and awe-inspiring imagery of nature” with the polluted and degraded landscapes of human habitation to “serve a conservationist function by changing the spectator’s consciousness about the environment” (5). In the black and white, silent film Dr. Plonk, the ecohero is a scientist and inventor who time-travels to the future—2007—to collect evidence that will substantiate his predictions of the earth’s catastrophic ending, only to find the earth’s inhabitants fixated by their television screens and oblivious to their impending doom. Starrs suggests that de Heers’ Chaplin-esque use of pathos and slapstick comedy typical of early silent cinema is his attempt to makeover the heavy-handedness of the first film by adopting a more

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subtle allegorical reference to humankind’s mindless march towards planetary extinction. While ecocritics Rutherford and Starr have taken this notion of an essential feminist stance as their reference point in identifying these ecological messages, there are other ecocritics that adopt different modes of approach, seeing an ecological consciousness as evidence of a political and cultural maturity in Australian consciousness. Catherine Simpson, for example, expands from Collins and Davis’s assertion that Australian cinema particularly from the early 1990s shows evidence of a significant paradigm shift in the Australian national psyche that has gathered momentum since the watershed 1992 Mabo decision where the High Court refuted the claim of terra nullis that legitimated white European occupation. This historical event has provoked a revaluation in thinking about “identity, the land, and belonging in Australia” with the nation reassessing its “founding myths” (Collins and Davis 78), concurrent with a growing empathy towards indigenous subjectivities at the Australian box office. Thus, “post-Mabo social imagery” is indicative of a nascent, though nonetheless fraught, postcolonial national identity. Simpson, however, takes this further, suggesting that this reconciliation between white and indigenous Australians also permits the potential for an environmental awareness—an ecopostcolonial consciousness—that moves away from the dominant European notion of landscape “which implies an imperial gaze over and possession of the land” towards an engagement with the indigenous concept of Country that acknowledges a “mutually constitutive relationship” in terms of people’s attachment to place (Simpson 90). While falling short of “environmental filmmaking,” she argues that Baz Lurhmann’s Australia illustrates this potential in the expression of pluralist attitudes and responsibilities towards Country from white and indigenous perspectives, leading to “an evolving concept of nature” that offers prospects for “healing and reconciliation” in the future (92). In another article—“Australian eco-horror and Gaia’s revenge: animals, econationalism and the ‘new nature’”—Simpson takes this proposition further turning her focus to a strand within the film genre of Australian gothic in which animals turn feral and “wreak revenge on humans who have done them injustice”—Long Weekend; Razorback; Dark Age, Howling III: the Marsupials; Rogue; Black Water; and Dying Breed (43). These films, she suggests, are indicative of an ecopostcolonial consciousness in their expression of an environmental ethic. She argues that these monstrous animals in their demonstrated resilience to anthropocene forces of destruction expand beyond the typical


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“postcolonial anxieties” of a settler culture disturbed by a sense of dislocation and uncertainty in their relations with Australian natural environments. These narratives fundamentally challenge the notion of “human mastery over nature” (45). In a similar vein, Anthony Lambert notes how Australian cultural and political contexts—in particular, the “environmental turn” in federal policy of the mid-2000s concurrent with intolerant attitudes towards asylum seekers—are inflected through the Queensland production Unfinished Sky. Identifying these issues as endemic sources of anxiety for Australian society, Lambert identifies a sense of these preoccupations through the cinematic narrative by tracing its initial position of indifference (if not intolerance) towards the plight of political refugees and to the environment, to a resolution in which a lonely and suicidal farmer, John, develops a romantic attachment to an Afghan refugee, Tahmeena, enabling her transformation from illegal and outsider status to become “the good migrant that gives and contributes without expecting, taking and draining” (190). In the process, the farmer experiences an emotional catharsis, becoming more sensitized to the beauty of his immediate rural environment, and thus this “reanimation of heterosexual desire holds ecologically fertile, regenerative consequences for the Australian environment” (190). In reflecting back on these examples of ecocriticism, what is common to these readings (perhaps with the exception of Dr. Plonk) is a collective response to the potency of landscape vistas and nature extraordinaire, in which sensory excess invites these kinds of ecological interpretations. Even Australia’s version of gothic horror turns on this axis of nature’s innate ability to provoke a visceral response. In discussing the power of TV celebrity conservationists such as Australian naturalist Steve Irwin, Dan Brockington notes how these screen personalities have earned their celebrity status through this capacity to appease universal desires for intimacy with wild forms of nature that are inaccessible to most people. Nevertheless he questions the political potential of an environmentalism based on a love for representations of nature as opposed to more grounded experiential form of environmentalism where individuals derive meaning, pleasure and identity from their experiences of the natural environments in which they live, and from which they come to understand as vulnerable to localized economic, social and political forces (552). Brockington suggests that, while celebrity conservation as second-order environmentalism has its place by supporting political processes that support conservation measures, it is still a form of environmentalism that stems from the “Western wilderness ethic” which values an imagined construct of

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untamed nature existing in peripheral spaces that are being gradually eroded by undefined and unquestioned forces of modernization. He suggests this form of environmentalism is limiting because it is “predicated on a separation of nature and culture” and consequently distanced from local contexts (556). By the same token, we question whether ecocritical endeavours should also be mindful of this tendency to focus solely on the representations of the rural and “wilderness” because this predisposition too may be culpable in supporting a tendency to separate nature from culture by assuming that insights into human/nature relations can only be found in representations of so-called wilderness spaces or the spaces on the periphery of human civilization. Not wishing to ignore the significant proportion of Australian cinema and television drama that represents exclusively urban environments, we looked for approaches in ecocriticism that attend to urban contexts.

Exploring Urban Contexts Commenting from a US perspective, Andrew Light observes a disturbing anti-urban bias in environmental thinking, claiming that, rather than perpetuate this tendency to view nature and culture as opposites, the city needs to be understood as an important site for social practices in sustainability, environmental education and ecological citizenship. It is only by turning to the city “as a source of environmental value” that we can address the central and necessary importance of urban ecological renewal (8). Accordingly, Australian geographer Aiden Davison notes that from the latter half of the 20th century, Australian intellectualism has had its own manifestation of the “urban blind spot” in the guise of a strong anti-suburban bias. In academic post-war critiques of Australian cultures, the suburbs are depicted as sites of banal, petit bourgeois pretensions, crass consumerism and aesthetic ugliness, representing in some cases a form of financial and cultural entrapment. The Australian film Muriel’s Wedding, for example, is an exemplar in this kind of mocking celebration of the “ugliness” and “ordinariness” of Australian suburban culture (O’Regan 243-250). During the 1970s, Davison claims that these “antisuburban energies shifted from aesthetics to politics” provoking a number of social movements that “denounced suburban ideals as sources of sexism, racism, classism, consumerism and anti-environmentalism” (5). The consequence of such thinking was the assumption that all suburban forms of life were inherently unsustainable and the antithesis to nature conservation objectives, ignoring the ways in which versions of nature continue to exist in various city and suburban spaces. Nonetheless, this


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anti-urban bias became a significant force motivating tree-change migrations (from the 1970s to today) leading to various counterculture settlements springing up in the more verdant rural spaces of Australia (Munro-Clark). Given these inherent biases in ecocritical analysis, the examples of ecocriticism that do address urban contexts identified here are more varied in their critical approach. One example we found that considers the representation of Australian suburban existence in Australian cinema is one by literary critic Robert Dixon. His evaluation of the Australian film Bliss—based on Peter Carey’s novel of the same name—clearly demonstrates this anti-suburban bias in his oppositional stance to the excesses of commodity materialism endemic to the Australian urban lifestyle. While this critique is not explicitly grounded in environmentalism, he applauds the film’s oppositional, satirical treatment of advertising, American consumerism (particularly in the guise of fast food franchises), and commodity culture. Furthermore, he expresses dissatisfaction with Lawrence’s film (and Peter Carey’s original book) in the way this satirical treatment of Australian suburban life fails to address the inherent tension in being ultimately that which the script/book satirizes, a capitalist commodity created for mass consumption. This textual flaw, he argues, is further compounded by a narrative slide into what he refers to as a “romantic retreat into pastoral” (293). In this he refers to the concluding section of the narrative where the key protagonist Harry Joy, an advertising executive, retreats from the city and his morally corrupt career and lifestyle to find his spiritual redemption in a counterculture settlement on east coast Australia. By taking such a position, Dixon has failed to acknowledge the ways in which Australian counterculture movements have rejected the consumer values of their suburban counterparts. It is these counterculture lifestyle movements that have stood in the frontline of environmental protests in Australia and pioneered alternative technologies grounded in perceived obligations to live in harmony with the natural environment (Wilson), though it is only more recently that this contribution has been recognized in the context of climate change anxieties (Ward and Van Vuuren; Ward and Coyle). For the majority of Australians, however, life in the suburbs continues, and will continue to be, the norm in the 21st century; though, as Davison suggests, this does not mean that we are all in denial of climate change or fail to harbour aspirations for more intimate relations with native wildlife. Australia, as elsewhere, has its followers in urban permaculture, nature restoration projects, backyard nature practices and ethical consumerism. Accordingly, Susan Ward questions ecocritics’ preoccupation with

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mediated perceptions of nature when it is Western culture’s “middle-class standards in material consumption produced through a system of global corporate capitalism” that are largely responsible for our ecological crises. This essay advocates an expansion in ecocritical engagement that takes note of developing shifts in the media industries that form and take shape in response to climate change conditions. Her industrial case study on Australian/Canadian co-production dirtgirlworld (a children’s live action/animated series) is based on conversations with the producers drawing attention to their environmental activism in textual messages and industrial practice. The essay demonstrates how the producers of dirtgirlworld have used their contractual arrangements in ecobrand management to ensure that merchandise licensed under the dirtgirlworld brand is also ecofriendly. A “brand guardian” is employed to interrogate production chains in the processes and products used in the development of the children’s series for solutions that reduce their carbon footprint and to interrogate the practices and supply chains of their business associates on the pretext of protecting the dirtgirlworld brand. Accordingly, the textual messages of dirtgirlworld are explicitly environmental in design. Inspired by a lived experience in rural counterculture movements, the producers’ aim is to inspire imaginative play that involves interacting with nature in the insect and small animal life of the garden, nurture more sustainable lifestyles such as growing your own food and prompt creative activities that use recycled materials. Through a combination of musical performance and “simple whimsical stories,” the programme offers instructions on activities such as “composting” and “farming worms.” It is also infused by a form of animal ethics that suggests “humans have a responsibility to coexist harmoniously with the various critters found in the garden” through instruction on “their role in the local ecology,” highlighting “the marvel of their existence” and “by giving non-human species appealing human characteristics” (30). Ward links the actions of these producers to social movements in Australia, New Zealand and the United States where the screen industries are encouraged to adopt ecological responsibilities in their production practice. In New Zealand, this includes guidelines for screen producers on how they might green their screen content (33-34). She also alludes to the growing significance of developing audio-visual markets for green content, as evident in thriving networks of film festivals dedicated to environmental film, distribution practices such as the bundling of appropriate programme material in celebration of Earth Day, and to the establishment of niche channels such as Discovery’s Planet Green. The fact that production funding for dirtgirlworld has been predicated on


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distribution guarantees from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and BBC Worldwide suggests that this ethical stance towards the environment conforms to emerging normative expectations in regard with “quality” content for children’s programming. Tania Lewis and Francis Bonner also bring to attention innovations in lifestyle television that have responded to this trend constructing the viewer as an environmentally conscious consumer, arguing that lifestyle programming can represent “an important space where ethical and moral questions concerning the relationship between the privatised citizen and the broader community are played out” (Lewis 227). By dealing with the consumption practices of ordinary people, lifestyle programmes such as Carbon Cops, Eco House Challenge, Cool Aid: The National Carbon Test, green themed editions of Better Homes and Gardens and the morning television programme Sunrise have provided useful information along with encouragement to adopt ethical choices in consumer practice by focusing on “environmental hotspots” such as waste, water, energy and transport. As Lewis points out, “regulating one’s consumption and embracing the necessary inconveniences of green modes of living are offered up as middle class virtues to which we all aspire” (238). In the latter article, Lewis discusses a more unconventional “reality” programme—Guerrilla Gardeners—aimed at the “youth” audience, which she claims promotes a form of urban activism and green citizenship by encouraging the reclamation and transformation of neglected public space into green spaces, thereby offering a positive message in its visions of sustainability and collective activism. Similarly, Bonner posits significance in the growing uptake of organic and permaculture methods in gardening programmes (particularly in the ABC’s Gardening Australia) in her chapter on “Lifestyle Television: Gardening and the Good Life.” We found that this capacity of television to illustrate shifts in mainstream values and attitudes was also investigated in an early research study conducted by Rissel and Douglas. As public health scientists, these authors focused on the role of television drama and specifically soap operas, in mediating environmental issues and codes of behaviour. Their content analysis (designed from a media effects perspective) is based on scene breakdowns and a frequency count of environmental depictions identified across a twelve-week capture of soaps screened in each evening’s prime time period. It was the first study of its kind in Australia, although there had been similar more comprehensive studies of the US television mediascape.5 Taking the results of this study as a benchmark, a contemporary study was carried out by Van Vuuren, Ward and Coyle to

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determine how and to what extent environmental values and issues are normalized in contemporary programmes of Neighbours and Home and Away—two soaps that were part of the original survey. Both programmes are typical of Australian soaps in their idealized depiction of urban communities; in Neighbours, the community is defined by a suburban street, Ramsay Street, Melbourne, whereas Home and Away depicts the fictional seaside community of Summer Bay. This contemporary study captured and analysed twelve weeks of programming screened within the same ratings period as the original survey. The results of the contemporary survey concluded that scenes with environmental depictions had risen significantly for Neighbours, with a fourfold increase from 6 per cent in 1990 to 23.3 per cent in 2011. By contrast, Home and Away revealed a small reduction in the proportion of scenes with environmental depictions, from 1.9 per cent in 1990 to 1.4 per cent in 2011. The environmental issues depicted in these programmes had also changed. Rissel and Douglas found that issues relating to animal welfare made up nearly half of all the environmental depictions (43.8 %) in 1990, whereas, by contrast, this issue was almost non-existent in the contemporary study. The largest sample of depictions—24.3 per cent of the total designated as environmental scenes recorded in Neighbours— actually dealt with the establishment of a “community garden” by one of the main characters, Sonia, as a narrative thread that extended over the duration of the three-month sample. Beginning in the second week, this thread starts as a volunteer “school kitchen garden” project established on vacant council land, becomes the subject of some controversy in the local community paper, then the object of Sonia’s aspirations to change the community garden into a nursery and viable business concern to ensure the financial sustainability of the community kitchen garden project. There were also instances in Neighbours that directly referenced climate change in conversations such as a medical doctor riding to work on his push bike because of the benefits “for health and the environment.” Home and Away on the other hand was far more conservative. The only character to espouse sustainability measures was “an emotionally needy beautician” who became “distraught over the outcome of a tarot card reading” thereby stereotyping pro-environmental behaviour as “overtly feminine” and emotionally irrational. These authors also brought attention to the depiction of landscape in these programmes. Both programmes owe their longevity to international markets, especially the UK where both programmes are screened back to back, five days a week on the same channel. The advent of digital technology, high definition and large plasma screens has placed new


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emphases on the image and particularly landscape as a form of aesthetic enhancement. In Home and Away, this was particularly evident in expansive aerial shots that depicted the coastline as a way of accentuating geographic specificity in line with Australia’s positioning as an exotic beach location to be appreciated and consumed as visual spectacle. As suggested by Macnaughten and Urry, any deeper awareness or spiritual affinity with the ecology of place is “displaced by visual appearances and surface features” (117). In Neighbours, however, the construction of place is markedly different in “the insertion of lush and leafy backdrops enhanced by closeups of garden plants, flowers, birds and insects, and overlaid with a soundtrack of birdcalls” that collectively accentuates geographic specificity. However, this focus on “the miniscule elements of nature also enables a brief contemplative space for the viewer as a lover of nature.” Elements of biophilia, or a love of nature, cropped up elsewhere in the storylines of Neighbours. “Sonia’s passionate commitment to the community garden stems from her love of growing things. A dying man’s last moment of pleasure is in sighting a pair of kookaburras in the hospital grounds.” While biophilia may be a fundamental precondition to environmentalism, none of these images in Neighbours (nor those of Home and Away) were coded as environmental in the context of the survey,6 though the authors noted that in the case of Neighbours especially, there was a deliberate ambiguity “to avoid didacticism” that nonetheless enables viewers to apply their own sensitivities towards the environment and environmental issues. Both programmes, however, did demonstrate an awareness of green consumerism. In Neighbours, more than 50 per cent of scenes coded as environmental were categorized “green consumerism,” referring to the presence of “green” reusable polypropylene shopping bags, or so-called “green” cleaning products that, while incidental to the plot, nonetheless demonstrated the degree in which these “green” issues have become normalized and uncontested in both programmes. While Home and Away rated poorly in terms of depicting significant environmental scenes, it did nonetheless use indices of responsible environmental behaviour (such as recycling and the use of green shopping bags) as positive character traits. The only characters seen in the whole twelve weeks of Home and Away to either use plastic bags to carry home the groceries or litter the environment were malevolent characters. The authors conclude that these “indices of consumer awareness” appear to function “as another element to the suite of character traits that define typical middle class values.” What is not evident in both programmes’ depiction of suburbia, however, are sustainability measures such as compost bins (except in Neighbours’

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community garden), water tanks or solar panels. The article also questions the appropriateness of some aspects in the original Rissel and Douglas analysis giving suggestions in their conclusion on how the methodology can be improved.

Conclusion The literature survey above represents the outcome of a comprehensive search for ecocritical texts from Australian researchers in the field of film and television studies. It excludes film reviews such as Shweta Kishore’s descriptive prose on Tom Zubrycki’s documentary The Hungry Tide and Nicole Starosielski’s substantial ecocritique of the Australian inspired animation feature FernGully: The Last Rainforest on the basis of her US place of residence. The results are disturbing, considering that we live in an age of environmental crises. For one, it suggests a complete lack of awareness of humanities’ critical role in re-evaluating our relations with the natural environment, and a consequential lack of self-reflection on popular culture that is considerably supported by the Federal Government through content regulations, tax incentives and/or direct investment subsidies on this basis of its role in telling Australian stories. We could speculate that this lack of interchange between Australian producers of popular culture and critical theory in Australian screen culture (particularly at the level of tertiary training) stymies a necessary reappraisal of the symbolic dimensions by which we imagine our nation. Ecocriticism has a role in informing political and personal actions, but ecocriticism also needs to be reflective of its own methodologies. If we are to have these conversations with our cultural producers, then are concepts such as anthropocentrism useful when popular culture is essentially an anthropocentric system of representation? The language of audio-visual texts is structured through characters’ points of view; our narratives are based on interpersonal relations—notions such as romantic love, fidelity and the desire for self-determination, as well as individual sensibilities towards nature and the animal world. To pursue this objective of an environmental awakening, we need, if not new genres in representative practice, a morphing of established genre forms that expand on our capacity to imagine the world. To espouse an environmental imagination, we require new states of awareness, new sets of values (including green consumerist principles that interrogate the invisible links in the production chain that connects us to the natural world) as well as structures of feeling that validate our visceral connection with the non-human world.


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Certainly this nature/culture divide continues to exist. At an institutional level, it means that climate change is largely perceived to be a problem for the sciences or for disciplines that manage environmental resources, and environmentalism tends to be thought of in the context of conserving our biodiversity, and what remaining rural habitats we have, to legislate for nature reserves where there is minimal human coexistence, ignoring the urban spaces where more resilient forms of nature continue to exist. In the humanities, it directs scholarly attention to depictions of nature and community relations within a natural or rural context, searching hopefully for text-based evidence that indicates we are becoming more sensitive to our place within the natural world. It still needs to come to terms with the notion that the city is equally important in this bid for sustainability—and that screen culture in its capacity to resonate with audiences has an important role in defining how this urban existence is represented and defined.

Notes 1. Although few sustainability programmes and courses are available to the humanities, we are aware of some omissions, for example, Griffith University offers a Bachelor of Arts (Environment), the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Southern Queensland has for several decades offered a compulsory subject in environmental communication to its undergraduates, and Kitty van Vuuren has taught an elective in Communication and the Environment for several years in the School of Journalism at the University of Queensland. 2. This study was part of a project titled “Theorizing Climate Change Narratives for the Humanities” funded by The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute (2011-2012) and awarded to Kitty Van Vuuren, Susan Ward and Deborah Jordon. 3. These are Hochman, Jhan. Green Cultural Studies: Nature in Film, Novel, and Theory. Moscow: University of Idaho Press, 1998. Print; Ingram, David. GreenScreen: Environmentalism and Hollywood Cinema. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000. Print; Cubbitt, Sean. Eco Media. Amsterdam: Rodolpi, 2005. Print; Brereton, Pat. Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2005. Print; Murray, Robin Land Joseph K. Heumann. Ecology and Popular Film: Cinema on the Edge. Albany: Suny Press, 2009. Print. 4. See Fiske, John, BobHodge and GraemeTurner. Myths of OZ: Reading Australian Popular Culture. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1987. Print. 5. These are McComas, Katherine, James Shanahan and Jessica S. Butler. “Environmental Content in Prime Time Network TV’s Non-News Entertainment and Fictional Programs.” Society and Natural Resources 14 (2001): 533-542. Print; Shanahan, James, Michael Morgan and

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MadsStenbjerre. “Green or Brown? Television and the Cultivation of Environmental Concern.” Journal of Broadcasting and Social Media 47.2 (1997): 305-323. Print; Shanahan, James, and Katherine McComas. “Television’s Portrayal of the Environment: 1991-1995.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 74.1Spring (1997): 147-158. Print. 6. To label these images as environmental is problematic, not least because it fails to recognize that the construction of these urban landscapes also involves unsound environmental practices such as the introduction of invasive plant species.

References Alexandra’s Project. Dir. Rolf de Heer. Palace Films, 2003. Film. Better Homes and Gardens. Network Seven, 1996- . Television. Black Water. Dirs. David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki. AV Pictures, 2007. Film. Bliss. Dir. Ray Lawrence. New World Video, 1985. DVD. Bonner, Francis. “Lifestyle Television: Gardening and the Good Life.” Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction. Ed. Tania Lewis and Emily Potter. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. 231-43. Print. Brereton, Pat. Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2005. Print. Brockington, Dan. “Celebrity Conservation: Interpreting the Irwins.” Media International Australia 127 (2008): 96-108. Print. —. “Powerful Environmentalisms: Conservation, Celebrity and Capitalism.” Media, Culture and Society 30.4 (2008): 551-68. Print. Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and the Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2009. Print. Carbon Cops. December Films and FremantleMedia, 2007. Television. Collins, Felicity, and Therese Davis. Australian Cinema After Mabo. Cambridge, New York, Cape Town: Cambridge UP, 2004. Print. Commonwealth of Australia. “Living Sustainably: The Australian Government’s National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability.” Canberra: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Government, 2009. Print. Cool Aid: The National Carbon Test Network Ten, 2007. Television. Dance Me to My Song. Dir. Rolf de Heer. Palace Entertainment Corporation, 1998. Film. Dances With Wolves. Dir. Kevin Costner. Tig Productions, 1990. DVD. Dark Age. Dir. Arch Nicholson. F. G. Film Productions, 1987. DVD. Dark City. Dir. Alex Proyas. New Line Cinema, 1998. Film.


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Davison, Aidan. “Australian Suburban Imaginaries of Nature: Towards a Prospective History.” Australian Humanities Review: Eco-Humanities Corner 37 (Dec. 2005). Web. 16 Nov. 2011. Dirtgirlworld. Mememe Productions, 2009. Television. Dixon, Robert. “Peter Carey’s and Ray Lawrence’s Bliss (1985): Fiction, Film and Power.” Studies in Australasian Cinema 3.3 (2009): 279-294. Print. Dr. Plonk. Dir. Rolf de Heer. Palace Films, 2007. Film. Dying Breed. Dir. Jody Dwyer. Hoyts Distribution, 2008. Film. Eco House Challenge. Prospero Productions, 2007. Television. Epsilon. Dir. Rolf de Heer. Miramax, 1994. Film. Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. Dir. Bill Kroyer. 20th Century Fox, 1992. DVD. Gardening Australia. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1990. Television. Guerrilla Gardeners. Cordell Jigsaw Productions, 2009. Television. Home and Away. Channel Seven, 1988. Television. Howling III: the Marsupials. Dir. Philippe Mora. 20th Century Fox, 1987. Film. Hulme, Mike. Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Print. The Hungry Tide. Dir. Tom Zubrycki. Flame distribution, 2011. Film. The Hunter. Dir. Daniel Nettheim. Madman Entertainment, 2010. DVD. Kishore, Shweta. “The Hungry Tide.” Metro 171: 72-75. Print. Lambert, Anthony. “Modern Cinematic Encounters: Border Crossings and Environmental Transformation in Some Recent Australian Films.” Studies in Australasian Cinema 5.2 (2011): 185-92. Print. Lewis, Tania. “‘There Grows the Neighbourhood’: Green Citizenship, Creativity and Life Politics on Eco-TV.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 15.3 (2012): 315-326. Print. —. “Transforming Citizens? Green Politics and Ethical Consumption on Lifestyle Television.” Continuum 22.2 (2008): 227-240. Print. Light, Andrew. “The Urban Blind Spot in Environmental Ethics.” Environmental Politics 10.1 (2001): 7-35. Print. Long Weekend. Dir. Colin Eggleston. Synapse Films, 1978. Film. Macnaughten, Phil, and John Urry. Contested Natures. Theory, Culture and Society. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage, 1998. Print. Medicine Man. Dir. John McTiernan. Hollywood Pictures, 1991. Film. Munro-Clark, Margaret. Communes in Rural Australia: The Movement Since 1970. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1986. Print.

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Muriel’s Wedding. Dir. P. J. Hogan. Miramax, 1994. Film. Neighbours. Prod. Richard Jasek. Grundy Television, 1985.Television. The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. Dir. Rolf de Heer. Madman Entertainment, 2001. Film. O’Regan, Tom. Australian National Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. Print. The Quiet Room. Dir. Rolf de Heer. 20th Century Fox Video, 1997. Film. Plumwood, Valerie. Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. London: Routledge, 2002. Print. Razorback. Dir. Russell Mulcahy. Warner Bros., 1984. Film. Rissel, Christopher, and William Douglas. “Environmental Issues as Prime Time Television.” Media Information Australia 68 (1993): 86-92. Print. Rogue. Dir. Greg McLean. Dimension, 2007. Film. Rutherford, Leoni. “(Pan-)Animal Magics: Ecofeminist Ethics and Aesthetics in the Web.” Metro 141 (2004): 128-133. Print. Simpson, Catherine. “Australian Eco-Horror and Gaia’s Revenge: Animals, Eco-Nationalism and the ‘New Nature’” Studies in Australasian Cinema 4.1 (2010): 43-54. Print. —. “Shifting From Landscape to Country in Australia After Mabo.” Metro 65 (2010): 88-93. Print. Starosielski, Nicole. “‘Movements That Are Drawn’: A History of Environmental Animation from the Lorax to Ferngully to Avatar.” The International Communication Gazette 73.1-2 (2011): 145-163. Print. Starrs, D. Bruno. “An Avowal of Male Lack: Sound in Rolf De Heers the Old Man Who Reads Love Stories.” Metro 156 (2008): 148-153. Print. —. “Filmic Eco-Warnings and Television: Rolf De Heer’s Epsilon (1995) and Dr. Plonk (2007).” Forum: The University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture and the Arts 5 (Autumn 2007). Web. 23 Jan. 2013. Sunrise. Network Seven, 2003- . Television. Ten Canoes. Dirs. Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr. Palace Films, 2006. Film. Thelma and Louise. Dir. Ridley Scott. Pethe Entertainment, 1991. DVD. Titanic. Dir. James Cameron. Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, 1997. Film. Unfinished Sky. Dir. Peter Duncan. New Holland Pictures, 2007. DVD. Van Vuuren, Kitty, Susan Ward and Rebecca Coyle. “Revisiting the Greening of Prime Time Television Soap Operas.” Media International Australia 146 (February 2013): 35-48. Print.


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Ward, Susan, and Kitty Van Vuuren. “Belonging to the Rainbow Region: Place, Local Media, and the Construction of Civil and Moral Identities Strategic to Climate Change Responses.” Environmental Communication. N.d. TS. Collection of Essays, Australia. Ward, Susan, and Rebecca Coyle. “"Envisaging Environmentalism: Foregrounding Place in Three Australian Eco-Media Initiatives.” Transnational Ecocinemas: Film Culture in an Era of Ecological Transformation. Ed. Pietari Kaapa and Tommy Gustafsson. Bristol: Intellect Press, 2013. Print. Ward, Susan. “dirtgirlworld: corporate social responsibility and ethical consumption in the world of children’s television programming.” Media International Australia 145 (2012): 29-38. Print. The Web. Dirs. Lucinda Clutterbuck and Sarah Watts.1993-1994. DVD. Wilson, Helen. Belonging to the Rainbow Region: Cultural Perspectives on the NSW North Coast. Lismore: Southern Cross U, 2003. Print.


“For Seuss, wild nature is a paradise, industry is a malignant cancer and heroes take a stand.” —Emma Marris, “In Retrospect: The Lorax,” 149. “There is a very different story that can be told about human history, one that embraces our agency, and that is the story of constant human overcoming. Whereas the tragic story imagines that humans have fallen, the narrative of overcoming imagines that we have risen.” —Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, 150.

Diverse communication strategies differentiate Dr. Seuss’s tragic ecoclassic book for children, The Lorax, and the 2012 blockbuster 3D animated comedy based on the book. This essay examines these two popular media through the theoretical lens of literary ecologist Joseph Meeker (The Comedy of Survival), who argues that a “comic mode” of discourse more closely resembles natural evolutionary processes and comedy provides a useful model for environmental discourse. More contemporary writings by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger (Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility) also suggest that ecocautionary tales propose a fallen view of humankind rather than offering a vision for decisive human progress on ecological issues. The title character of Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book, The Lorax, is an ecological Jeremiah, a mustachioed doomsayer who “speaks for the trees.” The tale unfolds over 72 brightly illustrated pages, taking readers from a


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blissful nature paradise to an industrial wasteland. As ecological devastation progresses, the Lorax nags the entrepreneurial factory-building Once-ler about the dire consequences of his careless business plan. The Lorax, described as “shortish, oldish, brownish and mossy” and who speaks “with a voice that’s sharpish and bossy,” however, merely annoys the Once-ler. To the Lorax’s repeated predictions of doom and gloom, the Once-ler replies, “All you do is yap, yap and say, ‘Bad, bad, bad, bad.’” The simple dualism—nature good/industry bad—of Seuss’s tale for children captures the simplicity of the environmental discourse of the 1970s. The tragic tale wags a rhyming cartoon of a finger at greedy humankind, who are guilty of greed, exploitation and environmental destruction. As the tale ends, the reader—“you”—receives the charge of one last tree seed. There is one final chance at the salvation of the environment, biodiversity and the human species—and it is in your hands, young children. That is a heavy responsibility. In stark contrast, the 2012 feature-length 3D animation Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax departs wildly from the book. The quest of an unlikely comic hero named Ted, invented for the movie version, set to the catchy tunes of a contemporary soundtrack, complicates the Manichean simplicity of Seuss’s original tale. Concurrently, the movie exemplifies a new glitzy green message with mass appeal. The underlying message—trees play an important role in the lives of humans and the greater world—is not eclipsed but accented by the comedy. Subtracting the dire immediacy from the narrative strengthens the appeal of its themes. The story of The Lorax, in both the book and the movie, offers a glimpse into the ecology of popular culture, past and present, a communications realm being explored by an increasing number of ecocritical cultural and literary scholars.

Ecotragedy and The Cautionary Tale Dr. Seuss’s environmental classic book, The Lorax, and the movie made in 2012 both operate to create a broad awareness—and even some controversy—about the impact of deforestation on an entire ecosystem. The two media, however, accomplish this purpose through different modes of discourse, exemplifying the disparate usefulness of what literary ecologist Joseph Meeker in The Comedy of Survival (1974) would call the tragic and comic modes. Meeker’s work represents one of the earliest fusions of ecological sensibilities with literary criticism. In his book, Meeker contends that tragic discourse modes lead to practices that are environmentally exploitive, while a comic discourse promotes adaptation and accommodation or living

Comic Complexity in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax


sustainably within an environment. A Western legacy of tragic discourse leads to tales of brave humans, highly moral, overcoming difficult odds to succeed in the end. Meeker notes the relationship between the anthropocentrism of tragic discourse and the humanistic hubris that has led to environmental devastation (carelessly exploiting nature to advance human agendas). Conversely, Meeker suggests that a comic literary mode promotes a view of life in which humans endure through humility and adaptation to environmental conditions while a tragic view positions humans as warriors in a battle for power that involves the destruction or sublimation of obstacles. In calling for cultural and artistic narratives that are “consistent with a diverse and stable natural ecology” (xx), Meeker argues that nostalgia for a more primitive human existence does not solve the problem. “The way out of environmental crisis does not lead back to the supposed simplicity of the cave or the farm, but toward a more intricate form of living guided by a complex human mind seeking to find its appropriate place upon a complex earth” (xx-xxi). What is useful in life, art—and by extension, cultural criticism—it seems, might be a balanced approach that acknowledges human shortcomings and celebrates the species’ successes. Seuss’s book operates in tragic mode. A central character, the Onceler, makes a poor choice that leads not only to his commercial failure and dismal existence but also to environmental devastation. At the beginning of Dr. Seuss’s book, the reader is introduced to the entrepreneurial Onceler, who uses the tufts of Truffula trees—“softer than silk”—to craft an allpurpose garment called the Thneed. Buoyed by Thneed sales, the Onceler’s operation thrives and grows. The Lorax’s repeated cautions about the impact of industrialization on nature do not slow commercial progress. Warnings fall on the deaf ears of capitalistic greed until the very last Truffula tree falls down with an ominous chop. The Lorax has not saved the forest or the myriad of creatures that live there, from the brown Barba-loots to Humming Fish and Swomee Swans. By the book’s end, the creatures are sent off, sick and starving, the sky is “smog-smuggered” and the Lorax evacuates through a bright hole in the otherwise grungy sky. All that is left in the post-apocalyptic landscape is a “small pile of rocks with the one word, Unless” (Seuss 59) and the hope that someone—you!—will come along and plant the last Truffula seed. The two central characters Seuss invents for his children’s book depict polarized environmental discourse, the battles between tree sitters and logging companies, between nature and culture, between good (tree sitters and nature) and evil (logging companies and culture). It is what Nordhaus


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and Shellenberger might call an “environmentalist cautionary tale” (131), a category into which the authors place such books as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1967), James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia (2006) and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006). Nordhaus and Shellenberger argue that these tales, though intended to provoke awareness and change, can have an opposite effect, “provoking fatalism, conservatism, and survivalism among readers and the lay public [rather than] the rational embrace of environmental politics” (131). By the end of Seuss’s book, an entire ecosystem has been wiped out. The now stoic Once-ler accepts this landscape as the consequences for his wanton ways and unsustainable development. “The eco-tragedy narrative imagines humans as living in a fallen world where wildness no longer exists,” write Nordhaus and Shellenberger, “and a profound sadness pervades a dying earth. The unstated aspiration is to return to a time when humans lived in harmony with their surroundings” (134). The Lorax is a tragic hero, a valorous voice for what is noble and right—in this case, ecological balance. Seuss’s treatment of the character, however, reveals what might be the author’s awareness of the futility of cautionary tales, the ineffective communication modes of a whining ecological activist who “speaks for the trees.” The Lorax is cranky and self-righteous, not open to discussion, and so not exactly sympathetic. “Seuss understood, even back then, the limits of gloom and doom,” writes Emma Marris in a 2011 Nature magazine retrospective. “Nevertheless, Seuss clearly had great affection for his impassioned little nag, as do the book’s legions of fans” (Marris 149). Of course, the Lorax’s warnings turn out to be accurate after all, as the book reveals. The doom and gloom happen. Careless resource exploitation led to a compromised environment, hostile to all living creatures. Marris writes that she was not sure whether she wanted to introduce her young daughter to Seuss’ book. She calls the book “gloomy.” “The final image—of the Truffula seed hurtling into a tiny pair of hands—puts a lot of responsibility on small shoulders” (Marris 149). Meeker describes key differences between tragedy and comedy in literary works, differences that lead to distinctly disparate perspectives regarding the environment and vastly differing solutions to ecological problems. Tragic discourse can be traced to exploitive attitudes and inevitable practices as humans overcome the odds (at times, battling the forces of so-called nature itself) to succeed in the end; a comic discourse promotes adaptation and accommodation or living sustainably within an environment. Tragic tales are anthropocentric, chock-full of humanistic hubris of the sort that might lead to the careless mismanagement of

Comic Complexity in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax


resources to advance human agendas. The Once-ler’s tale is of this rags-toriches variety, and the story’s sad ending might be suggestive of nature’s unwillingness to adapt to culture, that is, an economically productive business model. In tragic discourse, nature might be viewed as one obstacle that must be harnessed or made to come into line with human needs and desires. Humans are large and, at their best, in charge in tragic discourse, think Odysseus or, in contemporary culture, Rambo with a machine gun, fighting for the good guys. Seuss’s book ends with what could be considered a funeral. The Onceler, made a tragic figure by his own poor choices, suffers an eternity under the smog-smuggered stars. While the Lorax escapes into the heavens through a hole in the grey smoggy sky, the Once-ler remains to face the mess. The driving metaphor for tragic discourse is warfare, Meeker notes, and because “its strategy is a battle plan designed to eliminate the enemy,” tragic tales end with events that signify funerals. In the book, oddly enough, it is nature that has been killed, an innocent bystander in a misguided war for profits. When the ecological balance is destroyed, no winners emerge. The Once-ler can no longer operate a business, a natural habitat is ruined, all living creatures have fled and the air is barely breathable. Redemption is possible, of course. Through the telling of his story, the Once-ler finds a way to construct hope from what the Lorax leaves behind, “a small pile of rocks with the one word, Unless” and one last Truffula tree seed. Until the moment of the storytelling, the Once-ler has not been optimistic in facing the post-apocalypse. Not until—that is, “you”—the reader comes along and receives the charge of saving the world and coaxing back the Lorax and “all his friends.” This action plan, however, does little to mitigate despair, and it is an overwhelming message to pass on to our progeny. Yes, we oldsters broke the planet. It is up to you youngsters to fix it. No wonder Marris questions whether or not she will read this to her daughter. The Lorax’s tragic message was not, by any means, a non-starter. In fact, the book has proved immensely popular for 40 years, selling millions of copies and making top book lists created by librarians and educators. Arguably, the book has reached a broader swath of humanity than many other environmental classics, including the aforementioned Silent Spring. Millions of children learned about their daunting role as reforesters from the Once-ler’s guilty confession that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (59) That has been a call to environmental action for more than four decades.


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Danny Devito’s Lorax The Lorax, book version, has been so popular that it was only a matter of time before the Lorax followed in the footsteps of other popular Seuss characters like the Grinch and Horton and became a Hollywood blockbuster film. The narrative of the 2012 blockbuster 3D, CGI (computer-generated imagery) animated Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, however, departs dramatically from that of the book of which David Edelstein of New York Magazine writes, “It’s agitprop, with no surprises and a title character—a mysterious creature who ‘speaks for the trees’—that even Geisel seems to find a pain in the ass” (“Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax”). The movie’s agitprop is easier on the eyes and the psyche, and it is rendered in 3D on the big screen. A new juvenile protagonist, Ted Wiggins, is cut from whole cloth, unsubtly named after Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. Enjoying a basically carefree life in a plastic-coated suburb named Thneedville, Ted is motivated to find a tree. But his drive is not heroic or noble. He is simply pursuing the affection of a coveted female, Audrey, named after Seuss’s wife and voiced by Taylor Swift. He is a child, reckless and occasionally clumsy, not a skilled warrior. He does not fight alone but finds help in an idealistic teen girlfriend, an aging grandmother—and even the long-repentant Once-ler, who lives outside of the Thneedville. Ted is a comic hero, of the sort described by Meeker. While a tragic hero might suffer or be killed for his principles, the comic hero stubbornly plods on. He may compromise morals and ethics. He may run rather than confront a threat directly. But in the end, the comic hero bumbles through conflicts. He survives and even thrives. “At the end of his tale he manages to marry his girl, evade his enemies, slip by the oppressive authorities, avoid drastic punishment, and stay alive” (Meeker 24). Comic discourse, Meeker writes, promotes a view of life in which humans survive and adapt, with some humility and appreciation for environmental interconnectedness. Meeker calls these cultural and artistic narratives that are “consistent with a diverse and stable natural ecology” (xx). Enter Hollywood and a profit motive. Tragedy does not sell—not for a blockbuster movie. What kinds of movies do audiences like? Screenwriter Sue Clayton analysed blockbuster movies and came up with a blueprint for movie success that includes action (30 per cent), comedy (17 percent), good-versus-evil themes (13 percent), love/sex/romance (12 percent), special effects (10 percent), a plot (10 percent) and music (8 percent) (qtd. in Potter 189). So Seuss’s tale is transformed into an actionpacked CGI musical—in 3D!—with all of the above attributes in

Comic Complexity in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax


corresponding proportions. The Lorax, now narrating the tale, admits at the movie’s start, “There’s more to the story than what’s on the page.” To offset the tragedy of the Once-ler, screenwriters introduce a new character, the boy Ted (voiced by Zac Efron). Ted is a normal hormone-driven teenager. His desire to learn the history of trees—and figure out how to obtain one—is motivated by pure self-interest. He wants to earn the appreciation and love of a young woman who is enamoured with the idea of trees. The end of the movie version will not be a funeral but a wedding—or at least the promise of one, a satisfying relationship between a teenage boy and the Taylor Swift (who voices Audrey) of his dreams. Meeker’s comic hero does not struggle with noble ideals and humanistic ethics but muddles through life humbly restoring balance while seeking joy. When Ted finally meets the legendary Once-ler, he shows only a modicum of respect for the elderly creature’s wisdom. He urges the Once-ler to get to the point of the story. Ted is impatient, young— motivated by the potential to mate and thus ensure the survival of the species. Meeker also suggests that the comic mode resembles natural processes and modes of living. “Evolution,” he writes, “is just such a shameful, unscrupulous, opportunistic comedy, the object of which appears to be the proliferation and preservation of as many life forms as possible without regard for anyone’s moral ideals” (35). Meeker argues that problems like global warming and deforestation are not the results of the moral error of an individual. “Oedipus caused the pollution of Thebes by his sinful murder and marriage, but who causes the pollution of New York?” Meeker asks (35). “What was rotten in Denmark could be remedied by Hamlet but who will take responsibility for what is rotten in Chicago?” (35). Along the same lines, a tragic hero does not suffer more or less than others due to environmental degradation. Both environmental guilt and the consequences of ecological carelessness are collective, “distributed unevenly among the people now living and those who have lived before” (58). The movie’s content exemplifies adaptation from the tragic to comic mode. The movie’s form itself is also noteworthy, CGI contributing to a narrative form that has evolved for a visual, media savvy audience. The Thneedville depicted in the 3D movie is as eye-catching as a theme park in the opening scenes. At first, eclipsed by the Disneyland ride through town, its humorous absurdities are barely evident—a glowing green infant, inflatable bushes, trees that require batteries and a truck that delivers breathable air. The depiction of this CGI universe seems ready to become an interactive video game.


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The Lorax, voiced by the U.S. comedian Danny DeVito, narrates, describing the town as “plastic and fake and they liked it that way.” Thneedville is a “town without nature, not one living tree.” It is a town where “everyone’s happy,” and indeed, the animated scenes show no apparent poverty, sickness or disease—other than the green glowing infant (who looks energetic) and what appears to be a radiation exposure problem, quite normal. Everyone is happy in Thneedville—with one catch. An entrepreneur named Mr. O’Hare makes his fortune selling clean air to the townsfolk. It comes in bottles that look not unlike the bottled water sold, now, around the planet. “Our research shows if you put something in a plastic bottle, people will buy it,” an O’Hare employee states early in the movie. Such clever one-liners, obviously intended for the adults in the audience, lighten the mood of the environmental message. The screenwriters kick off the plot by establishing Ted’s romantic motivations. In the first scene, Ted succeeds in flying a remote control gizmo into the backyard of a girl he admires, Audrey. When she lets him in to retrieve the electronic toy, she shows him her artwork—a large mural of Truffula trees. Since the town does not have any real trees or natural green foliage of any sort, Audrey has to explain to Ted what she has painted. “What I want more than anything is to see a real live tree growing in my backyard,” she says. Ted responds enthusiastically. If a guy were to obtain, say, a tree for her, how would she feel about that guy? “I’d probably marry him on the spot. Does that sound crazy?” Ted does not think this sounds crazy. His quest is established. He discusses the topic of trees later with his mother and grandmother as the family ingests food in the form of colourful gelatinous blobs. Ted’s mother expresses astonishment about any desire for a natural tree when the family already owns the latest and greatest electronic tree—the Oak-o-matic. She grabs a remote control and demonstrates the Oak-o-matic’s ability to shift through the seasons: “Summer, autumn, winter, and disco!” The tree flashes and mom dances. “You’d rather have some dirty messy lump of wood that just sticks out of the ground and does what? I don’t even know what it does.” Mom urges Ted to dance with her. An idea that might seem abhorrent to a nature lover—a disco tree!—presents itself and yet our distaste is tempered by the laughter. The audience understands that the movie-makers are not endorsing a happy future filled with eTrees but rather than feel condemned the audience laughs at the absurdity, the tree irony. When Mom leaves the room, Ted’s grandmother explains how Ted can learn more about trees and possibly obtain one. He must leave town and visit the Once-ler. As Ted leaves the sparkling clean interior of

Comic Complexity in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax


Thneedville, the audience sees the external costs of the internal landscape. Outside the city, the landscape is post-industrial grey. Pipes are shown dumping what Seuss’s book called “gluppity-glupp” and “schloppityschlopp.” The sky is dark with soot. The mood of the movie darkens here but does not risk a steep descent into tragic mode. Instead, action ensues. Ted rides his scooter down a dreary old road, encountering acres of stumps and barely evading the derelict machinery of a bygone era. One section of this post-industrial obstacle course includes the still menacing blades of what Seuss’s book referred to as a super axe-hacker, a machine that “whacked off four Truffula trees at one smacker” (34). The landscape is stark and treacherous—everything that the interior of Thneedville is not. This place is not a place anyone would want to live in. But the audience comes to understand that this wasteland represents the reality of a polluted environment. Ted finds the Once-ler and compels the old entrepreneur to tell the story. The Once-ler’s story transports Ted and the audience to a blissful paradise filled with trees and wild (cartoon) creatures, a plot that closely resembles that of Seuss’s book. The Once-ler’s character, however, is also provided with some depth and richness that the book does not tap. The Once-ler is not a thoroughly evil unthinking capitalist. He tries to do what is right while facing an inner dilemma. The movie version Once-ler wants to impress his family. His success is deeply tied to his sense of self-worth. Though he makes a promise to the Lorax that he will stop chopping down trees, he ends up breaking the promise. The Once-ler’s ethical justification for his decision is delivered as a musical number, complete with “Oncie” playing an electric guitar and singing, “How ba-ah-ah-ahd can I be? I’m just doing what comes naturally.” In the song lyrics, the comical Once-ler makes many recognizable arguments defending commercial growth as a natural process. It is “called survival of the fittest and, check it, this is how it goes: The animal that wins gotta scratch and fight and claw and bite and punch. The animal that doesn’t wind up with someone else’s lunch.” The Once-ler is not an unlikeable character. Through the comic mode, the complexity of environmental discourse emerges. The Once-ler is not evil. He makes poor choices with heinous long-term consequences. In the Lorax’s final confrontation, the narrative turns darkly serious— and even accusatory, with no comic relief. The Lorax asks the Once-ler whether happiness has been achieved, “Did you fill that hole deep down inside you or do you still need more?” About this time, the last Truffula tree is chopped down. It falls under a dark sky. A dismal mood prevails in the movie, as in the book. The Once-ler’s family packs up and leaves, rejecting the Once-ler. The animals march away in silence, and though the


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Once-ler tries to convince his closest animal friends to stay, they shake their heads and leave for, hopefully, greener pastures. As in the book, the Lorax lifts himself “by the seat of his pants” into the sky. And the Onceler similarly offers hope to Ted in the form of the last Truffula seed. But this is not tragic discourse and, therefore, the ecofuneral is not the end of the story. Instead, young Ted’s action-packed reforestation quest begins. In order to plant the tree, Ted faces a new comic obstacle course, including a villain that will not be annihilated but will be humbled in a final musical number. The movie’s last song completes a showdown in the centre of Thneedville. Heavy machinery has been used to penetrate the fabricated ground and to expose the dirt. In one last persuasive appeal, the villainous O’Hare, who became rich by selling clean air to Thneedville residents, makes a last-ditch plea to the citizens, arguing against trees, which he calls “filthy […] spewing that nasty sap all over the place.” He warns those gathered at the planting that trees attract “poisonous ants and stinging bees.” Audrey, however, speaks the truth to power, explaining why O’Hare is really against trees. Trees make fresh air, and they do this for free. “It’s called photosynthesis!” she exclaims. O’Hare complains that she has made up the word, but by this time, his persuasive efforts are beginning to sound increasingly desperate. In comic mode, a villain may end up the object of ridicule rather than be killed or vanquished, and that is the case with O’Hare. The townsfolk is persuaded to support tree growth when the city wall comes down. The reality of the polluted world is evidence that they cannot ignore. In the comic mode, no lone hero emerges to save the day. Though Ted is instrumental in obtaining the first seed and pushing down the wall that seals off the city, his family, friends, love interest and the entire community end up joining hands to change their environment. Every individual ends up “speaking for the trees” from Ted to the parents of the aforementioned mutant child. They sing one of several testimonials on behalf of trees: “My name’s Dan and my name’s Rose. Our son Wesley kinda glows and that’s not good so we suppose, we should let it grow.” So the tale concludes, with a blooming romance and a long (animated) shot of a large field of Truffula seedlings. The Lorax returns and congratulates the Once-ler for his role in ecological restoration—“You done good, beanpole.” Both characters are now mustachioed—a visual treat that provides the movie’s last chuckle. Meeker is careful not to equate the comic mode with frivolity as an artwork grapples with themes of life, death, conflict, necessities and desires. These themes, he writes, are explored with understanding and the accommodation of humanity’s humble status. “The humor of comedy is

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most often an attempt to deflate the overinflated, not to trivialize what is genuinely important” (192), Meeker concludes. “In literature or in ecology, comedy enlightens and enriches the human experience without trying to transform either mankind or the world” (192). These attributes in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, the blockbuster movie, allow the narrative to transcend the bounds of ecocautionary tale and offer a bright vision. Humans can work together, as Nordhaus and Shellenberger suggest, for a better world. In fact, we are the only species seemingly capable of this option. For the communication to be successful, however, Nordhaus and Shellenberger make an argument with which Meeker might agree: “A new politics requires a new mood, one appropriate for the world we hope to create. It should be a mood of gratitude, joy and pride, not sadness, fear, and regret” (153). As the animated tiny tree emerges from the cracked plastic crust of Thneedville, unfurling its first leaves, the movie’s audience feels the same “great leaping of joy” in our hearts as did the Once-ler of Seuss’s book on first encountering Truffula paradise. Possibilities for hopeful change work effectively to encourage and enlist a wide audience in the project of positive ecological change. The book ends with qualified hope. If a seed gets planted, a tree might grow. The Lorax and all of his friends may come back. In the movie, the seed is planted, the tree grows and the creatures return. That is a hopeful note for environmental communicators.

References Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Dir. Chris Renaud and Kyle Renaud. Perf. Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggie, Betty White and Jenny Slate. Universal Pictures, 2012. DVD. Edelstein, David. “Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax Review.” New York Magazine. n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2013. Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. Print. Herndl, Carl G., and Stuart C. Brown, eds. Green Culture: Environmental Rhetoric in Contemporary America. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996. Print. Ingram, David. Green Screen: Environmentalism and Hollywood Cinema. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 2000. Print. Ivakhiv, Adrian. “Green Film Criticism and Its Futures.” ISLE 15.2 (Summer 2008): 1-28. Print.


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Marris, Emma. “In Retrospect: The Lorax.” Nature 476 (11 Aug. 2011): 148-149. Web. 15 Jan. 2013. Meeker, Joseph W. The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology. New York: Scribner, 1974. Print. Murray, Robin L., and Joseph K. Heumann. Ecology and Popular Film: Cinema on the Edge. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009. Print. Nordhaus, Ted, and Michael Shellenberger. Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print. Potter, James W. Media Literacy. 6th ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2013. Print. Sturgeon, Noël. Environmentalism in Popular Culture: Gender, Race, Sexuality. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009. Print. Seuss, Dr. The Lorax. Book. New York: Random House, 1971. Print.


This essay1 examines how the first-time director Louie Psihoyos in his documentary The Cove uses examples from Aristotle’s “Three Modes of Persuasion” in Rhetoric. The interplay of logos, ethos and pathos in the making of the film brings into focus the ethical-affective responses that motivate environmental actions. The essay intends to apply the Aristotelian theory of rhetoric in an environmental documentary such as Psihoyos’ The Cove by asking questions such as how the documentary is supported by credible evidence and powerful reasons (logos), whether the sources in the film present multiple viewpoints or document appropriately (ethos), and how the film engages the viewers’ emotions and affections (pathos). By disclosing global food chain risks and advocating animal rights through showing empathy or sympathy towards the species, the director of The Cove persuades the public to be vigilant and debate on the pressing issue of dolphin hunt, in which The Cove mainly uncovers the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan. Reading The Cove as a “food documentary” and unexpectedly as an “eco-thriller,” this essay situates the film within the context of animal rights, environmental anthropocentrism and local/global conflicts, and argues that it effectively changes viewers’ emotions, achieving “an affective turn” from anthropocentric concerns for food security and human well-being to empower the global movement of animal rights activism. Two of the five nominations in the category of Documentary Feature for the 82nd Academy Awards attempt to explore food-related issues through a mediated representation of the “inconvenient facts.” Food, Inc. (2008), directed by Robert Kenner and narrated by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, who put much effort into investigating the food industry


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and consumer health, exposes the unsavoury side of the US industrial food procedures, the plot of large corporation lobbying and the unhealthy part of food consumption. Likewise, Psihoyos’ film The Cove (2009) examines the grievous conditions of dolphins in the marine mammal performance parks and meat and seafood industries, highlighting the impact and the dark side of captivity and consumption. The film arouses emotional responses from audiences through the documentation of the heartless massacre of dolphins in “Dolphin Bay” in Taiji, Japan. According to the film, hundreds of thousands of dolphins and porpoises are slaughtered every year in Taiji, a small town famous for its whale museum. The director of this film is a former National Geographic photographer, who recruited an elite team of United States-based activists, professional photographers, filmmakers and free divers to set up secret thermal imaging equipment, underwater microphones, high-definition cameras and remote-controlled helicopters to expose to the public the hidden process of slaughtering dolphins in government-authorized areas. The Cove won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2009. It was broadcast worldwide, and it initiated practical, political effects in other countries as well. After the film was released in 2009, it seemed successful in modelling global environmental activism in empowering people to face the problems the film raises. Here global environmental activism is defined as “focusing on commonality while at the same time respecting difference, building coalitions with any number of individuals or groups struggling against oppression” (Gaard and Gruen 173). According to the International Marine Mammal Project’s investigations, The Cove successfully convinced the Shire Council of Broome, Australia, to suspend its 1981 sister-city relationship with Taiji, Japan, the town where thousands of dolphins have been slaughtered in secret. Furthermore, the story has broken the silence of Japanese media about the dolphin slaughter, with stories about Broome action in NHK, Asahi Shimbun, and other Japanese outlets. (“City of Broome”)

This essay not only asks how and why the film had an effect on global environmental activism but also explores the narratives of rhetorical strategies and appeals, visual rhetoric such as powerful images or arguments that the director adopts in the film to make the final scene of the slaughter of dolphins so graphic and influential. To answer these questions, this essay argues that the film employs Aristotelian rhetorical theory to

An Affective Turn: The Rhetorical Triangle in The Cove


achieve an affective ethics to arouse certain reactions and impel to some action. “An affective ethics,” according to Simon Estok, refers to a kind of engagement and activism; it is “an ethics of praxis” (152). Further, it suggests that The Cove provides its own unique blend of aesthetics, ethics and empowerment. Environmental documentaries predominantly aim at providing thought-provoking, educational and illuminating learning and knowledge to audiences. Some of them present ecological and health (both humanand ecosystem-related) concerns through serious “affective modes,” meaning our feeling, emotions and mood (Stuss and Benson), and may be stigmatized as moral didacticism, sanctimony, doomsaying and preaching. Others invite serious affective responses from viewers, such as guilt, anger, sympathy, awe, fear and conviction. Still others employ a more relaxed and light-hearted tone and affective modes, such as animation, irony, razor-sharp sarcasm, self-parody and playfulness.2 On examining recent environmental documentaries (food documentaries, in particular), one discovers that the above-mentioned affective modes are not impossible to conceive. For example, a tone of urgency in an ecodocumentary The 11th Hour (2007), a thought-provoking documentary Food, Inc. (2009), a heart-breaking documentary Earthlings (2005), a political conspiracy drama The Constant Gardener (2005) and a gruesome documentary Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) all treat their subject matter seriously and might expect their audiences to do the same. On the other hand, “hilarious” environmental films subvert the stereotype of genres to convey the same concerns, such as the satirical science fiction comedy Idiocracy (2006), the feature documentary King Corn (2007) with stop-motion animation segments and a revealing experiment in Super Size Me (2004). Nevertheless, few of them depict global environmental activism as does The Cove. Psihoyos, cofounder of the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), was a professional nature-photographer and he makes full use of the traits of filmmaking and captures audiences’ attention right at the outset of the film through thriller/action elements. Being aware of the relationship between genre (documentary) and affect in environmental films and intending to stir up a particular mood, Psihoyos creates a certain effect in The Cove by depicting it as “a Trojan horse” to catch audiences’ eyes in a short time. According to Gregory J. Seigworth and Melissa Gregg, “affect” refers to “forces of encounter” (2) and to a process which is about the capacity to affect and being affected (Deleuze 50). Under a certain context, people are spurred to transform “the matter and matterings of affect into an ethical,


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aesthetic, and political task all at once” (Seigworth and Gregg 2). Considering the documentary as a thriller, viewers can sense how the story involves violence, secrets, horror, drama and government conspiracy. Compared to other food documentaries which might speak in a tone of scientific expertise, The Cove expands the documentary genre to engage this genre’s contradictions—it engages viewers with personal stories and powerful images, and yet can also disengage because it is obviously emotionally manipulative in using stories and images to evoke feelings in people. The influence of the film is bolstered through a mediated representation of facts, the power of witnesses and the power of words. While documentary making does not merely mean recording reality, the practice engages three rhetorical modes of persuasion, following Aristotle’s division of the means of persuasion. Asking how the film communicates its message conveys the manner in which certain ideas are expressed to the audiences. Mark Minster, who compares the rhetorical usages in two environmental documentaries, An Inconvenient Truth and Everything’s Cool, argues that “appeals to logos are the least of what they do” (29) because “there is a sharp divide between what ‘scientists tell us’ and Americans’ general inability, or unwillingness, to accept this evidence and act on it” (Minster 29). Even so, scientific data, figures and evidence are necessary for any environmental documentary. Logos “indicates an attempt to persuade with evidence, reasoning, using what Aristotle called ‘proof, or apparent proof’” (Minster 29). Scientific details in The Cove involve the verifiable facts of toxic dolphin meat and the basic facts about the biology, health, behaviour and ecology of cetaceans. If The Cove is considered a documentary for animal liberation, defining it as a “food” documentary suggesting an ironic use of tone, the dolphins are hunted to be put into aquariums and “leftover” dolphins are then sold to the market as a source of meat. By making the statement, “almost nobody eats dolphin meat, but 23,000 are slaughtered every year,” the film notes that dolphin meat has been intentionally mislabelled as meat of other fish, such as tuna or “baleen whale meat” (Tibbetts), in order to reap huge profits. Dolphin meat here is an “absent referent” (in Carol Adams’ sense) in the consumption of other meat because dolphins are killed for meat but are not even recognized as such. The function of the absent referent of toxic dolphin meat is connected to the notion of global risk society (in Ulrich Beck’s sense).3 The film indicates that since dolphins are top predators in the ocean, they eat all the fish. Thus, dolphin meat has a higher concentration of mercury than is safe for human consumption (00:46:

An Affective Turn: The Rhetorical Triangle in The Cove


13-00:46:24; “Mercury” 1-12). Being aware of the risk created by global industrialized food production and illustrating the omnipresent risks in dolphin meat, The Cove uncovers the collusive relationships among the government, interest groups, bureaucracy and the free market. The film emphasizes not so much being against Japanese “culture” as anthropocentric reasons why all people should not eat toxic dolphin meat. Due to ignorance about toxicity, dolphin meat was included in the lunches served to local schoolchildren and sushi restaurants outside Japan (01:11:04-01:11:45). Under the global food chain reaction and lack of awareness of the risk of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat, the meat has been consumed both locally and globally.4 Not only has the film showcased mercury danger in dolphin meat, but it has also associated it with mercury-induced disease in order to increase Japanese people’s awareness. With the Japanese government intentionally covering up the truth and with the conspiracy among interest groups, the film connects Minamata disease, an environment-related health disease due to high-level acute mercury poisoning discovered in 1956 in Minamata, Japan. Chisso-Minamata, a Japanese advanced factory, dumped its waste into a bay and led to toxic chemical accumulation in the fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea. This resulted in mercury poisoning of the local populace upon consumption of the toxic fish. The Japanese government and the Chisso Corporation “conspired to cover up the connection” (00:47:00) for twelve years. “Multiple chemical sensitivity” (Alaimo 113) that attributes to the difficulty of verifying sources of contamination gives the “illegal factory” an excuse for evading responsibility. Rob Nixon terms this as “slow violence,” which denotes that the causalities of human and environment are “most likely not to be seen, not to be counted” (Nixon 13). Presuming the association of dolphin meat consumption with Minamata disease affirms the on-going “slow violence.” Providing biological knowledge related to whales and dolphins is another way of showing the credibility and the logic of the film; however, it is used interchangeably with the other two rhetorical modes. The diagrams as well as a number of biological facts about dolphins, such as dolphins as conscious breathers and having acoustic sense, operate for the sake of pathos by engaging the viewers’ emotions in a logical way. The film shows dolphins are the most intelligent creatures in the world (00:59:34), can communicate with human beings (00:59:41-01:00:12), and have consciousness (01:00:46-01:00:58). The film also attempts to convince audiences by the authority of their speakers/directors (ethos) by


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showing Ric O’Barry’s life experience to get in touch with dolphins for over thirty years. O’Barry, whose dolphin-trainer background enhances the trustworthiness or credibility of his knowledge about dolphins and whales, introduces dolphins’ auditory systems which also make them tactile. He says, “Dolphins are acoustic creatures. That’s their primary sense” (00:13:45-00:13:48). In other words, dolphins are sensitive to sound and it becomes an Achilles’ heel in their survival. The fishermen in Taiji follow the dolphins’ migratory route, herd them with a wall of underwater sound which frightens them and drives them ashore, and finally select the ones they want for the aquariums, slaughter the rest and sell them at the meat market. O’Barry’s long-term relationships with dolphins as well as the “narrative scholarship” (Scott Slovic’s terminology) he exercises in this film convey an affective power of the visual components of the film. As opposed to a traditional academic way of knowing things, which “lays claim to ‘objectivity’ through its invocation of ‘fact,’” narrative scholarship, according to Stephanie Sarver, teaches in a form of storytelling. Through the storytelling, the responsible narrative scholar “includes enough information to reflect a careful consideration of the topic discussed, which can be corroborated by the research and experience of others” (Sarver). Using narrative and storytelling about dolphins via a former trainer of the 1960 TV series Flipper for fifty years, O’Barry in The Cove shows how Cathy, the dolphin, touches him and invokes his affective turn. The affective turn, as theorized by Patricia Clough, engages “bodily capacities to affect and be affected or the augmentation or diminution of a body’s capacity to act, to engage, and to connect” (2). O’Barry first spent 10 years training dolphins in the marine park industry and decided to tear down what he had built because of one dramatic incident that happened to the dolphin he trained. As a founder of The Dolphin Project, O’Barry discovered that dolphins are a very intelligent and special species with consciousness. The film shows how Cathy, a dolphin who most often played Flipper, committed suicide in O’Barry’s arm by refusing to take the next breath herself. Empathizing with Cathy’s suffering, O’Barry, from then on, “came to find it ethically wrong to keep these intelligent animals in captivity to do tricks for human entertainment” (Webb). In O’Barry’s narrative scholarship, perhaps the point lies not so much in whether this story is true but as in how people are intrigued to think what dolphins are. Transforming from a dolphin trainer to a dolphin rescuer due to Cathy’s death, O’Barry senses the interrelatedness and sympathizes with the conditions of all enslaved dolphins.

An Affective Turn: The Rhetorical Triangle in The Cove


The film paradoxically uses preconstructed “econs” (“smiling” dolphins, performing dolphins) to ethically deconstruct some of these very econs. “Econs,” a term coined by Sidney Dobrin and Sean Morey, “relies on a limited number of animal types to portray nature, and these types become archetypes, or ecotypes, that can represent similar populations of animals, or even all of nature” (Dobrin and Morey 33). On the one hand, animals seen as econs may represent certain stereotypes and are usually “good animals” (Dobrin and Morey 35). O’Barry’s knowledge and experiences of being together with dolphins enhance the ethos part of the film because his experiences make the film qualified to make statements. Based on his understanding of dolphins, O’Barry discloses that the smiling-dolphin image in the marine mammal performance parks contradicts the suffering of dolphins’ captivity in the aquarium, in which noise pollution and pressure can lead to a group of dolphins’ death. On the other hand, there seems to be a sly, manipulative aspect to the aesthetics presented that makes the affective appeals somewhat troubling but also very powerful.5 Psihoyos’ aesthetics presented in the film not only use light, shadow, composition and colour to consider how to represent a beautiful scene but also show an internal, deeply insightful consciousness which flows naturally with its moving storyline. Aesthetic elements in The Cove are mainly revealed in the aspects of the grace and the beauty of dolphins and dolphin symbolism in which people show how dolphins possess desirable characteristics, such as love, friendship, harmony, peace, intelligence, grace and joy (smile-like mouth). Dolphins as econs in this context serve a special role in both awakening people’s sense of fellowship and engaging viewers’ emotions and imagination. These vivid images and details are what the film adopts from the Aristotelian theory about pathos to evoke a feeling of compassion. Pathos, which is “an appeal to emotion but also, and perhaps more important, it is an appeal to shared values, shared narratives” (Minster 29), is also used in The Cove. Referring to “shared values, shared narratives,” the film addresses the questions of animal rights. When dealing with the question such as who can speak for the animals, scientist Mark Bekoff proposes one possible answer: animals themselves. Much of Bekoff’s work focuses on the animal subject; in his The Emotional Lives of Animals, he explains that recognizing animals’ emotions may be at risk of being anthropomorphized animals. The word “anthropomorphism” refers to how human beings use language to interpret animals’ behaviour and misinterpretation is possible. As Bekoff argues, “Inappropriate anthropomorphism is always a danger, for it is easy to get lazy and presume that the way we see and experience


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the world must be the only way” (128). Being aware of this risk, Bekoff refuses to impose humans’ interpretation upon animals’ behaviour and suggests, “As I watch an animal, I’m not reaching for the closest word to describe the behavior I see; I’m feeling the emotion directly, without words or even a full, conscious understanding of the animal’s actions” (128). The Cove shows wordless, nonverbal communication between dolphins and divers and attempts to convey emotion to the audience. Pathos, used very often in The Cove, is an appeal to the viewers’ emotions by including more stories and narratives in which values are embedded. Personal narratives or stories with dolphins counterbalance the so-called objective or scientific ways of thinking and also play a major role in the film’s pathos. The narrative scholarship that both surfers and divers unveil is associated with a care-based position applied by feminists. Deane Curtin indicates in “Toward an Ecological Ethic of Care” that the ethic of care includes a feeling of reciprocity and kinship (65). One of the surfers recollects his experiences of being saved by a dolphin from a shark attack and this episode strengthens his experience of being connected with nonhuman animals. Another pair of divers delivers an anthropocentric argument about cross-species encounters—dolphins are like us; we’re both mammals, we live on the land and they live in the sea; they “seek out our affection and touch” (00:36:26). Emotional attachment and compassion for dolphins compose a care-based argument, as Josephin Donovan and Carol Adams in Beyond Animal Rights argue: “Caring theory … values the emotions and considers sympathy, empathy, love—feelings that often characterize humans’ responses to animals—as central to any ethical theory” (15). Filmed elegantly swimming with a dolphin, one female diver’s embodied experience of touch with a dolphin proves this: “you really feel like you’re on some level communicating with them, like there’s an understanding between the two of you” (00:35:29). The film’s cinematography in the dolphin-diver swimming scene in which human–animal interrelationships and emotional identification are strengthened is aesthetical to some extent. As E. N. Anderson points out, “Aesthetic experience indicates deep emotional involvement” (17). Instead of overriding animals’ suffering for “the interest of creating an aesthetic effect,”6 the film’s aesthetic effect is not based on animal abuse but on interactions with them because divers’ interactions with dolphins initiate an affective turn and an ethical action. When asked whether to partake in a secret ops mission to uncover the dolphin slaughter, the divers said without hesitation, “Absolutely. Sign us up” (00:36:43). Pathos in The Cove through certain values and beliefs highlights the function of

An Affective Turn: The Rhetorical Triangle in The Cove


aesthetics. The film expects people who watch the film to see the world differently by knowing something that they perhaps never think about. One of the shared values, features of pathos, comes from arguments of animal liberation in the film. A rights-based argument of extending rights to animals is applied in the film. Peter Singer in Animal Liberation stresses animals’ capability to suffer. Singer comments, The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we can speak of interests in a meaningful way … The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is, however, not only necessary, but also sufficient for us to say that a being has interests—at an absolute minimum, an interest in not suffering. (7-8)

Based on utilitarian Jeremy Bentham’s animals’ capacity for suffering, Singer endorses animal liberation and a utilitarian system of ethics. The Cove applies Singer’s ideas to reason why dolphins suffer in captivity. In order to show that dolphins have the capability to suffer, the team that Psihoyos assembled makes use of underwater recording devices to record and hear the last cries of the dolphins while they are being stabbed to death in the cove. From an animal rights perspective, dolphins should be set free instead of being captured for entertainment because “they are highly social, wide-ranging creatures that rely heavily on sound to communicate with each other. These traits make their small-scale captivity in concrete tanks potentially torturous” (Jensen). The Taiji cove footage is a way to enhance the film’s ethos, which is “the attempt to persuade by the character and authority of the speaker” (Minster 29). The secret lagoon footage not only verifies the film’s credibility but also generates pathos in the audiences. Neel Ahuja explains the significance of the secret cove footage: “Offering images of slaughter as a public antidote to speciated violence, the film echoes the appeal to animal visibility long invoked by transnational animal rights campaigns,” (17) which corresponds to what Peter Singer and Jim Mason advocate, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls . . .” (270). The violent spectacle of the slaughtered bodies in the secret lagoon in the final part of The Cove creates a sense of pathos that arouses emotional responses such as pity and sorrow by presenting the facts of the dolphin slaughtering in Taiji, Japan. The final scene is arranged to create an anger-laden atmosphere and initiates transmitted affects that, according to Teresa Brennan, “undermine(s) the dichotomy between the individual and the environment


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and the related opposition between the biological and the social” (7). Through “transmission of affect” which “deals with the belief that the emotions and energies of one person or group can be absorbed by or can enter directly into another” (blurb of The Transmission of Affect), animal activists in The Cove invoke “visibility as a paradigm for engagement” (Ahuja 14) as a documentary generates affective motivations, feelings, and emotions with the aim of initiating people’s actions. “Psihoyos and O’Barry,” as Meisner comments, “know how to craft a message and tell stories that will help build compassion and care for our fellow creatures, rather than simply treating them as spectacular entertainment at any cost” (6). People who sympathize with the final scene can sense the dolphins’ fear and pain. The film’s powerful ending and the stylistics of cinematography explain why the film wins the Oscar Award and makes an impact on Taiji fishermen’s politics and economics. The documentary anticipates the possible establishment of alternative communities, the formation of public opinion and the conscience of environmental citizenship. As Dirk Eitzen’s differentiation documentary from fiction contends, the documentary illustrates “a kind of immediacy and emotional form that no fiction film has” because “their power to arouse a pleasurable or engaged response is closely tied to an implied entreaty for special attention and concern” (184). The Cove exemplifies the function of “immediacy” and “emotional form” and intersects global and local influences. In Japan, “dolphin meat has been removed from the school lunch program in Taiji by the direct action of these town council members” (01:26:41-01:26:49). Overseas, O’Barry explains, “Japan is one of three nations hunting dolphins. The other two are The Faroe Islands and The Solomon Islands. Because of [people’s] support, we were able to negotiate a deal that ENDS the majority of hunting in The Solomon Islands. We estimate that around 2000 dolphins will be saved each year”. The “speech act” of this film seems effective in communicating the message that such hunting must stop. Nevertheless, like other genres, documentaries are also about recording, capturing, editing and selecting images; with the filmmakers’ aesthetics, ethical concerns and politics make the clips a whole different movie which gets to the crux of the cultural debates about ingrained attitudes of environment, nature, sustainability, stewardship, wilderness and all other terms people use to talk about difficult spaces. Environmental documentaries not only analyse the existing images but also illustrate how humans use images to construct certain ideas and how these images create and reinforce those constructions, and how humans may use existing

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images to create alternative ways of seeing certain things (Dobrin and Morey 8). As Mark Cousins states, “Documentary is ... intrinsically aesthetic and, therefore, an art. It is as much about shots and cuts, structure and rhythm as fiction film” (41). Derived from ecomedia and parallel to the book Ecospeak, Dobrin and Morey emphasize the interaction of the rhetorical role of images with its environmental ideas. For them, the environmental dilemma lies in the problems of representation, rhetorical and visual-rhetorical choice (3). Filmmaking involves the issues of boundary, authenticity, fiction, fact and aesthetics. One of the things The Cove seems to touch upon lightly is the role of the seen and the unseen as evidence of reality. Indeed, when the killing-zone scene is filmed with hidden surveillance cameras to see exactly what happens because no one in the world has seen this, the documentary here seems to match the definition of being “about reality; they’re about something that actually happened” (Nichols 7) and it is not fiction or made up. But the “invisible” or “unseen” part of The Cove received backlashes7 from Japanese fishermen and Japan’s other sympathizers. A group of United States-based animal activists with high-tech devices produce a film to hinder Japan, an Asian country, from slaughtering and eating one particular species8—the dolphins—while there are many grievous abattoirs in the white men’s countries. Being an animal activist has always been denigrated, let alone speaking for a particular species, especially when the Taiji fishermen seem not to get “subject position” (Ahuja 19). Slaughtering dolphins in Japan has indeed been a long-term “tradition.” But a lot of Japanese residents, city dwellers (in Tokyo) in particular, have no idea about dolphin killing and consumption and no clue that eating dolphins is considered a cultural tradition because, according to the film, the slaughtering processes were concealed from the public on purpose, “a systematic, deliberate cover-up, a media blackout,” and strictly blockaded when the hunting season came. Hardy Jones and have fought for more than three decades to put an end to dolphin killing in Japan (“New Hope”). Jones had witnessed and recorded the slaughter of dolphins at Iki Island in Japan in 1979. He writes and explains why his film did not get as much attention as The Cove did: “In 1980, cameraman Howard Hall and I filmed a barbaric slaughter of scores of bottlenose dolphins. Airing of the footage around the globe caused massive worldwide protest. In that case, the exposure of the brutal footage of dolphins being hacked and stabbed to death essentially brought an end to the dolphin hunt at Iki” (Jones). At the very beginning of The Cove, Psihoyos claims, “I do want to say


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that we try to do the story legally.” Instead of pointing their fingers at Japan exclusively, the film mentions other aquariums where dolphins are kept in captivity for entertainment around the world, such as in Baltimore or the Caribbean. Other areas in which people kill whales now also draw people’s attention since the release of The Cove. For example, Denmark’s Faroe Islands have the same culturally-based whale-killing rituals (“Denmark Is a Big Shame”). They conduct rituals in the presence of watching bystanders. A bloody stained ocean from still photographs has the same visual effect that people get from the last section of The Cove, but it seems to get less reaction or few discussions from the world, or rather less media coverage. Most North Americans probably know that the Japanese people kill dolphins but may have little awareness that it also happens in European countries, such as Iceland and Norway, which “legalize their whaling activities” (Palmer 20). Both countries adopt the same excuse—culture initiation. However, in terms of scale and duration, dolphin slaughtering in Japan is exercised in a systematic way; it is not a weekend of bloodshed but a whole season, and hundreds of thousands of dolphins die every year. Sakae Hemmi, of Elsa Nature Conservancy, expresses a similar argument, writing in Japan’s Dolphin Drive Fishery: Whether something is traditional culture or not, if it entails ignoring human rights, or involves the desecration of animals’ lives through exploitation or causing suffering to living things, we should consider changing the way that traditional culture is passed down. Throughout the world and even in Japan, there are many places where the whaling tradition is passed on by museums, or by changing its form into educational activities like dolphin and whale watching and coexistence with wildlife. (“The Japanese”)

Under the name of culture, it is possible to conceal corruption, accept wrongdoings and aid and abet wicked deeds. Maintaining cultural traditions may be equal to maintaining sexism, racism, speciesism, misogyny, prejudice and discrimination. Analogous examples can be seen in other countries and cultures when issues like human rights (Tiananmen Square, China), women’s rights (genital mutilation in Africa) and animal rights (Faroe Islands, Denmark) have been highlighted to confront global concerns. Fishermen and the resources of the ocean should be thought of symbiotically.9 This representation does not target a specific culture or a particular country but intends to convey that destructive and obsolete traditional ways of life and/or cultural practices need to be reconsidered. The Cove is concerned with a larger scope, larger impact and long-term

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solutions. As Jason Mark argues, “The Cove, then, isn’t just about a single atrocity. Rather, its raw, gruesome images carry a larger message, a reminder of how we must work together to protect our common oceans by fighting pollution, overfishing, climate change, and other threats to dolphins and whales” (22). In the face of conflict between global environmental ethics and local human rights, The Cove reveals a globalized ecocritical view that is an ethical response to both animals’ and people’s position within the global context.

Notes 1. This essay was supported by the National Science Council of the Republic of China (under the grant number NSC 100-2410-H-211-007-MY2). 2. In ASLE (The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment) 2011, Nicole Seymour presented a paper on “Searching for Alternative Affective Modes in Ecomedia” in Ecomedia Seminar. She analysed affective modes of ecocinema and mainly focused on the last mode that I mentioned in the paper. I disagree about the affective modes for The Cove, which she puts in the serious affective modes, especially from the Aristotelian theory of rhetoric. See 3. The local problems could be a result of global processes in today’s climate of globalization as Lawrence Buell addresses this issue through his term “ecoglobalist affect” (Buell 232). Therefore, the risk of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat found in Japan is like what German sociologist Ulrich Beck terms a “boomerang effect.” Beck argues, “Risks display a social boomerang effect in their diffusion: even the rich and powerful are not safe from them. The formerly ‘latent side effects’ strike back even at the centers of their production” (Beck 37; original emphasis). 4. This is how material ecocriticism or an environmental justice framework links the pollution in animal bodies to the harmful health effects on humans. Commerce is no excuse for murder. Sushi restaurants in Los Angeles and in Seoul also found mercury-contaminated dolphin meat. If dolphin meat is locally produced, the harmful health effects on local children may also go beyond the national boundaries to the first-world consumers through global economic systems. See Alaimo. 5. Salma Monani’s comment on the author’s preliminary draft. Monani’s letter to the author. 17 Jun. 2011. 6. According to Josephine Donovan’s observation in “Aestheticizing Animal Cruelty,” a number of animal stories sacrifice animals’ suffering to its aesthetic effect (206). Donovan also explicates how stories or their authors sacrifice their ethical concerns about animals in order to serve the aesthetic purposes. 7. The backlash that The Cove received could be analysed as follows: from an insider’s point of view, the Taiji fishermen defend this as their tradition: “You eat cows, we eat dolphins.” Dolphins are pest creatures jeopardizing their


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livelihood. Some condemn American arrogance and self-righteousness when whale/dolphin slaughtering happens in various regions in the world including rich countries in the northern hemisphere but receives very little attention and reaction in the world press. Toshinori Uoya, a fisheries official, comments, “Dolphin-killing may be bad for our international image, but we can’t just issue an order for it to stop” (McCurry). 8. Singer says that our moral obligations and the concept of rights could be expanded to include animals. Drawing on evolutionary theory and philosophy, Singer argues that reciprocal altruism can be expanded from kin and small groups to a larger one with an expanding circle of moral concern. This is a gradual process to expand our moral concerns to other species in order to protect first those species that are akin to human beings. 9. As for the debates between food fear and the lives of food workers, there are other situations which can be discussed under this heading. For example, the fishermen in the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have claimed that they were victims and wanted compensation because of their ruined livelihood. Dobrin reminds us that this also relates to the so-called American spirit. According to Dobrin, “The oil company responsible for the spill, BP, the federal government, the news media, and others picked up on this side-effect of the spill, and presented the fishermen as heroic victims who should be compensated for their financial losses and whose way of life was lauded as representative of the American spirit. Any critique of their way of life or their suffering at the hand of the oil industry’s accident was seen as unpatriotic. The commercial fishing industry was presented as part of a long history of American nostalgia, a way of life that contributed to the greatness of the country.” Commentary from Sid Dobrin on my original paper in a preconference “Ecocinema,” ASLE. 17 Jun. 2011.

References Adamson, Joni. “Literature-and-Environment Studies and the Influence of the Environmental Justice Movement.” A Companion to American Literature and Culture. Ed. Paul Lauter. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2010. 593-607. Print. Ahuja, Neel. “Species in a Planetary Frame: Eco-cosmopolitanism, Nationalism and The Cove.” Tamkang Review 42. 2 (June 2012):13-32. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. Alaimo, Stacy. Bodily Nature: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2010. Print. Anderson, E. N. Ecologies of the Heart: Emotion, Belief, and the Environment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print. Beck, Ulrich. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage, 1992. Print.

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Bekoff, Marc. The Emotional Lives of Animals. California: New World Library, 2007. Print. Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004. Print. Buell, Lawrence, and Wai Chee Dimock, eds. Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Princeton: Princeton, 2007. Print. “City of Broome, Australia, Suspends Sister-City Tie with Taiji, Japan, Over Dolphin Kill.” International Marine Mammal Project. n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. The Constant Gardener. Dir. Fernando Meirelles. Focus Features, 2005. DVD. Cousins, Mark. “The Aesthetics of Documentary.” Tate Etc 6 (2006): 40-7. Print. The Cove. Dir. Louie Psihoyos. Lionsgate, 2009. DVD. Curtin, Deane. “Toward an Ecological Ethic of Care.” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 6.1 (1991): 60-74. Print. Darwin’s Nightmare. Dir. Hubert Sauper. International Film Circuit, 2004. DVD. Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. Trans. Robert Hurley. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, (1981) 1988. Print. “Denmark Is a Big Shame.” 12 Nov. 2009. Web. n.p. 12 May 2011. Dobrin, Sidney, and Sean Morey, eds. Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2009. Print. Donovan, Josephine, and Carol J. Adams, eds. Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals. New York: Continuum, 1996. Print. “Dolphin: Senses.” Marine Mammals. n. d. Web. 26 May 2011. Earthlings. Dir. Shaun Monson. Nation Earth, 2005. DVD. Eitzen, Dirk. “Documentary’s Peculiar Appeals.” Moving Image Theory. Eds. Joseph D. Anderson and Barbara Fisher Anderson. Carbondale: Southern Illinois U P, 2005. 183-99. Print. The Eleventh Hour. Dir. Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen. Warner Independent Pictures. 2007. Film. Estok, Simon C. “Narrativizing Science: The Ecocritical Imagination and Ecophobia.” Configurations 18.1-2 (2010b): 141-59. Print. Everything’s Cool. Dir. Daniel B. Gold, Judith Helfand. Toxic Comedy Pictures, 2007. DVD. Food, INC. Robert Kenner. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD. Gaard, Greta, and Lori Gruen. “Ecofeminism: Toward Global Justice and


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Planetary Health.” Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, 4th ed. Ed. Michael E. Zimmerman, J. Baird Callicott, John Clark, Karen J. Warren, and Irene J. Klaver. Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004. 155-177. Print. “How Does Mercury Enter the Food Chain?” The Cove. OPS, n. d. Web. 26 May 2011. Idiocracy. Dir. Mike Judge. 20th Century Fox, 2006. DVD. An Inconvenient Truth. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Paramount Pictures, 2006. Film. “The Japanese Drive Fishery Dolphin Slaughter.” Dolphin Spirit Project. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. Jensen, Chris. “The Cove.” Sep. 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2011. Jones, Hardy. “What Will End the Dolphin Slaughter?” The Hufffington Post 1 Sep. 2010. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. King Corn. Dir. Aaron Woolf. Balcony Releasing, 2007. DVD. McCurry, Justin. “Dolphin Slaughter Turns Sea Red as Japan Hunting Season Returns.” The Guardian. 14 Sep. 2009. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. Mark, Jason. “International Marine Mammal Project.” Earth Island Journal 24.1 (Spring 2009): 22-26. Print. Meisner, Mark. “Kulturträger: Documentary Exploits.” Alternative Journal 36.4 (2010): 6-12. Print. “Mercury Rising: The Sale of Polluted Whale, Dolphin and Porpoise Meat in Japan.” EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency). 1-12. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. Minster, Mark. “The Rhetoric of Ascent in An Inconvenient Truth and Everything’s Cool.” Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film. Ed. Paula Willoquet-Marcondi. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2010. 25-42. Print. “New Hope for the Dolphins of Japan.” n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2012. Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2001. Print. O’Barry, Ric. “A Message from Ric O’Barry.” Save Japan Dolphins. Dec. 2010. Web. 1 Aug. 2011. Palmer, Mark J. “IWC Spares Whaling Moratorium.” Earth Island Journal 25.3 (Autumn 2010): 20-28. Print. Peterson, Brenda, and Linda Hogan. Sightings: The Gray Whale’s Mysterious Journey. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2002. Print. Sarver, Stephanie. “Narrative Scholarship.” ASLE. 20 Oct. 2012. Web. 20

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Oct. 2012. Seigworth, Gregory J., and Melissa Gregg, eds. The Affect Theory Reader. Durham: Duke University Press. 2010. Print. Shoard, Catherine. “The Eco-documentary: An Endangered Species?” 15 Oct. 2009. Web. 1 Mar. 2011. Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. rev. ed. New York: Avon Books, 1990. Print. Singer, Peter and Jim Mason. The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2007. Print. Stuss, D. T., and F. D. Benson. “Emotional Concomitants of Psychosurgery.” Neuropsychology of Human Emotion. Ed. K. M. Heilman and P. Satz. New York: The Guilford Press, 1983. 111-140. Print. Super Size Me. Dir. Morgan Spurlock. Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2004. DVD. Tibbetts, John. “Mercury in Japan’s Whale Meat—Food Safety.” Nov. 2003. Web. 2 Mar. 2011. Webb, Cynthia. “A Dolphin Horror Film.” The Jakarta Post. 29 Sep. 2009. Web. 1 Mar. 2011.


As affirmed in Hollywood Utopia (Brereton, Hollywood Utopia), “ecology has become a new, all-inclusive, yet often contradictory meta-narrative” (1), which has been “clearly present within Hollywood film since the 1950s.” This is evident especially by the way “space is used to foreground and dramatise the sublime pleasure of nature” (1). Yet one should keep in mind, as David Ingram argues, Hollywood’s “environmentalist movies often use their concerns with non-human nature as a basis for speculation on human social relationships, thereby making those concerns conform to Hollywood’s commercial interest in anthropocentric, human interest stories” (Ivakhiv 10). Ultimately, according to Adrian Ivakhiv’s comprehensive survey of Green criticism, Ingram affirms that “Hollywood’s efforts to be green fall flat to the extent that the industry is incapable of extricating itself from its own commitment to the consumer capitalism and liberal individualism, which Hollywood itself has helped make into central pillars of American culture” (Ivakhiv 5). Less pessimistically, I will argue that the small pool of Irish “green” films explored in this chapter can serve to frame an ecological agenda and such media output can be read in a more productive way than our erstwhile fixation with romantic and nationalistic scholarly Irish tropes. Due to extensive rainfall across the seasons, Ireland easily promotes an image of a green idyllic landscape, which also supports a vibrant touristic image, dovetailed with a troubled postcolonial history, much like India, encapsulated by the long drawn-out violent and heavily mediated contemporary conflict in Northern Ireland. Consequently, the image of the island has produced mixed and even contradictory messages. Thankfully, however, the politically and religiously manifested “Troubles” have stopped for good, we hope, while the residue of local terrorist violence, as a shorthand, stereotypical signifier of Irishness, has also abated. Yet

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somewhat surprisingly, in spite of its predominantly green natural rural image, full-blown ecological cinema has not taken hold in this country, at least if one was to measure the dearth of scholarly activity in this new area of research. Nonetheless, by focusing on the use of romanticized landscape—from the primitive barren rock face to the lush bounteous fertile land and its cherished farming stock, represented in films like Man of Aran (1934) and The Field (1990), to the contemporary transformation of the country into an urban-based society and the growing recognition of ecological risks portrayed in films like The Tiger’s Tail (2006) and The Pipe (2010), the roots of an Irish ecocinema can certainly be detected. This positive manifestation of an ecological sensibility will hopefully become more prevalent in the future.

Ecology and Ireland Climatologist John Sweeney began a November 2011 editorial for Irish Geography in a special issue on climate change: “[F]or weather and climate, Ireland is a kind of sentry post for much of north Western Europe . . . [and] provides the harbingers of weather further east, and much of Europe watches Ireland for a signal of what is coming down the line” (1). The island is “also a shield that bears the brunt of Atlantic storms and their frontal rain functions as such to provide one of the principal controls on the climate of Britain to the east” (Sweeney 1). By all accounts, at a geographical and also at a symbolic level, the island of Ireland ought to be centrally involved in future ecological debates and certainly ought to influence and inform research around global environmental debates. The roots of contemporary Irish environmentalism can probably be traced back to Robert Lloyd Praeger’s seminal publication The Way That I Went (1997), which comprehensively described the flora and fauna in many parts of the island, and he ended up setting up the Irish equivalent of the National Trust—An Taisce—in 1948. However, it was not until the 1970s that we witnessed the “first major environmental mobilization in Ireland” against government plans for a nuclear power plant in Carnsore (Tovey and Share 27). These anti-nuclear protests predate those developed in other EU countries, and anti-nuclear sentiments persist in Ireland up to the present day, due to issues relating to the Sellafield (Windscale) power plant in the United Kingdom (Kenny; McDonagh). Later in the 1980s, numerous environmental movements evolved in opposition to large-scale industrial development and the Green political party came into prominence.


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Hilary Tovey speaks of two competing principles of environmentalism in Ireland, namely, “official and populist” (A Sociology of Ireland 517). The official organs of environmentalism include State organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as against more ad hoc protest and campaign movements. Liam Leonard (2007) perceives these as two competing movements, yet “for the Irish state, the philosophical mantra adapted in the pursuit of sustainable development was ecological modernization, which came to be seen as the best way to combine the requirements of economics and ecologists” (Leonard 465). Meanwhile, more grassroots ecopopulist movements, like the recent “Shell to Sea” campaign—encapsulated by The Pipe discussed later—involved locals who were empowered by what they perceived as the “democratic deficit” and the lack of open consensual discussion around legitimatizing major infrastructural changes in the country. Critics, however, accuse such protesters as simply evoking a NIMBY mentality (not in my back yard) rather than upholding some universal environmental ethical belief system. By all accounts, as in most jurisdictions, a characteristic of the Irish environmental movements is their diversity and their understanding of what is significant varies considerably.1 Certainly until roughly the 1960s, the country had been economically determined and culturally defined as a rural and agricultural society. This preoccupation, even fixation, with the land was augmented by a long and troubled history as a British colony in which sovereignty and ownership of the land was contested for hundreds of years. Within the broad scope of this revolutionary national project, the unique beauty of the land(scape) was affirmed by romantic nationalists and served as a bulwark in the cultural and political struggle for national independence. The dominant myth visualized within Irish cultural narratives has remained a pastoral one, which foregrounds an almost Arcadian evocation of the happy swain close to nature, alongside the cyclical rhythms of the earth. This myth was certainly fostered and encouraged by the cultural nationalists of the newly formed independent state from the 1920s onwards; most notably the State’s long-time political leader and visionary, Eamon de Valera (Brereton, “Farming on Irish Film”) The topography of wild touristic sites, in particular those along the western coast, remain etched in the tourist’s imagination and has continually drawn the attention of artists and filmmakers. The rugged coastline and encroaching sea, with its supremacy over the island’s inhabitants, became a dominant motif and fatalistic trope in Revivalist Irish literature. This is most notably evident in J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea (1987) and its cinematic equivalent Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran, as

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well as more recently in Jim Sheridan’s (1990) adaptation of J. B. Keane’s play The Field. The Field opens with two men in silhouette pushing a cart over mountainous fields and unceremoniously dropping the carcass of a donkey into deep water below, followed by them gathering seaweed in pouches to carry back up the mountains—a direct visual reference to the “hard primitivism” of Robert Flaherty’s seminal Man of Aran—so that they can fertilize and regenerate the precious soil for this ultra-green field. This primeval struggle becomes the central focus of identification in the film. In the first of his many rhetorical speeches in the opening sequences the main character, Bull McCabe, pontificates to his son, “God made the world,” but “seaweed made the field.” The romantic evocation of this dramatic landscape has been extensively explored by critics, like Luke Gibbons, who strongly contend that due to both its “colonial history and its position on the Celtic periphery of Europe, representations of Ireland over the centuries have been enclosed within a circuit of myth and romanticism” (194). In addition, historical representations of Ireland conventionally focused on the convergence of “troubled” rebels/terrorists and the atavistic wildness of the landscape. Crudely summarizing John Hill’s (1987) thesis as agents of national independence from British colonization, the violence of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) was inherently irrational and uncontrollable just like the “wild nature” they inhabited. Drawing on Hill’s thesis and according to Ketterman, the Irish landscape was symbolically used in a number of films to “facilitate violence, particularly in the use of cliffs and deep wells, as signs of abyss” (154). Historically, a broadly environmental image of Ireland on film was firmly established by the romantic visions of Sidney Olcott’s American film company Kalem. The Irish-American filmmaker decided to come to Ireland in the early twentieth century to make a number of feature films using the beautiful romantic landscape of the south of Ireland, rightly believing that such travelogues would speak particularly to a growing Irish diaspora in America. Films like The Lad from Old Ireland (1910), The Colleen Bawn (1911) and The Shaughran (1912) serve to display the raw beauty of an unspoilt rural landscape which appealed to the touristic sensibility of audiences abroad and at home. These visions were replicated decades later through indigenous amateur productions like The Dawn (1936) and through more classical “foreign” representations of rural Irish landscapes in Man of Aran, The Quiet Man and even Ryan’s Daughter (1970). An authenticity of Irishness as touristic nostalgia has become particularly associated with a rural landscape. Most notably as seen, for


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instance, in The Quiet Man, where the obsession with “lousy money” drives Sean Thornton (John Wayne) back to the idyllic Ireland of Innisfree which is “another name for heaven.” Of course, the “real” Irish landscape is more varied than these dominant designations would suggest, which in turn points to certain disparities between touristic impressions, nationalistic mythologies and the ecological and lived experiences of the population. For instance, the boglands that typify the midland region and probably the most unique topographical feature of the island are surprisingly rarely celebrated. Such reluctance is exacerbated by a tendency to characterize inhabitants of bogland areas as unsophisticated or primitive. Furthermore, while vast boglands are synonymous with the midlands, such topographical features across the country are typically evident by smaller indigenous sites, which were incidentally farmed for fuel, before the onset of “cheaper and cleaner” fuels, not to mention European directives to protect such precious habitats.2 Yet Irish bogland has inspired little by way of environmental much less literary commentary, apart from the allusions in Seamus Heaney’s famous 1960s poems “Tollund Man” and “Boglands” in which he compares the depth of history preserved within the layers of this organic habitat with the vast vistas of the American prairies. For Heaney, Irish bogs are compressed layers of history, forcing the eye inwards, rather than drawing it towards the horizon. In a country where the violence of the Northern Irish “Troubles” loomed large in public consciousness, revisionist artists attempted to find new ways of appropriating and therapeutically using the landscape to redress such pressures.

Commercial Fictional Evocations of an Irish Sustainable Ecological Agenda Within the growing literature, sociologists such as Adam, Beck and Van Loon have identified how contemporary environmental problems are not always easily accessible to the senses, giving them an “air of unreality” until “they materialise as symptoms” (Allan, Adam and Carter 3). Adam (1998) has argued further that the very nature of environmental problems—including issues around ecological sustainability, which adds a further layer of complexity—means that they occur over a long period of time and are often invisible if not understood in this way. Yet as an ecofilm scholar, I still want to believe that spectacular and even more muted representations of landscape in the mainstream Hollywood film call upon and often contain “moments of transcendent

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possibility that illuminate profoundly other ways of being” (Brereton, Hollywood Utopia 39) and that this “romantic utopian impulse,” expressed through visions of the sublime, for instance, remains “what Hollywood has always been good at exploiting” (39). In many ways, as Brian Butler affirms, this “unapologetic quality of the Hollywood narrative can serve as a therapeutic tool because of the reluctance on the part of academics to promote any positive ideals” or, as suggested, “[W]hile academic theory has enormous difficulty articulating, much less legitimising, various foundational beliefs, Hollywood has no qualms whatsoever in promoting them” (Brereton, Hollywood Utopia 35). In other words, Hollywood movies and to a lesser extent Irish film discussed in this chapter are valuable as artefacts for “seeing ecology” and imagining such complex multidisciplinary notions. To initiate this short sampling of Irish film, I will highlight a number of seminal classics, as they remain the foundations of Irish cultural history and at the same time frame oppositional trajectories of a tentatively situated Irish ecocinema.

Man of Aran Versus The Quiet Man Robert Flaherty’s famous “poetic documentary,” Man of Aran, filmed on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in the 1930s, ostensibly aspires to a puritanical and deep ecological model of existence and has remained a defining image of primitive cultural endurance and the romanticization of a rural Irish identity. The film certainly reflected a preoccupation with the West as defining a pure strand of the Irish community and identity and was marketed internationally as an expressive document of stoic endurance and simple living. The docudrama continues to remain a defining image of primitive cultural endurance and at the same time a hyper-romantic (re)presentation of rural Irish identity. When the film was first seen by the political elite, it was said that Eamon de Valera—the leader of the Fianna Fáil political party, who above all others helped define a post-Civil War identity that continued well into the 1950s—wept at its heroic portrayal of the Irish people. The film reflected a preoccupation with the primitive West as defining a pure strand of Irish environmental identity and yet was marketed internationally as a realist document of life in that period. As in all his films, including Nanook of the North (1922), Louisiana Story (1948) and others, Flaherty remained preoccupied with showing primitive societies embodying a universal human trait of endurance and survival against all the odds. The fact that the family in the film was artificially constructed, chosen essentially for their physiognomy, and that


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the central event of the film, the hunting of the whale for oil had not actually being carried out by locals for many decades, remains problematic for many critics especially as the film is described as a truthful documentary. In particular, filmmakers like his erstwhile British friend John Grierson—considered the “father of the documentary tradition”— were most critical, wanting to capture the specific truth of poverty and corruption, rather than this more universal trope involving the valorization of “man’s struggle with nature,” which ostensibly played into accusations of a proto-fascist aesthetic (Brereton, “Utopian and Fascist Aesthetics”). Playing with the truth in this way certainly helped to produce a form of “hard primitivism” and by extension a deep ecological sensibility, while capturing the enormous hardship the natives have to endure on the island to eke out a living. Every piece of food and land had to be hard fought for in this isolated community’s endless struggle for basic survival. Flaherty’s deep ecological and ethnographic filming method involved living for up to a year in the environment with his subjects, producing extensive raw footage in an attempt to capture the essential tenor of their lives. Even if one took issue with the film’s evocation of the social reality of the period, it is nevertheless impossible to dismiss the potency of the cinematic style of his oeuvre, alongside his experiments with lenses of different focal lengths to bring audiences closer into the story and to the lives of his subjects. The documentary contributed enormously to expanding film grammar, with long sequences of, most notably, waves crashing onto land, recalling the radical experimentalism of Sergei Eisenstein in Russian cinema, albeit designed for a very different ideological purpose. Nonetheless, it is little wonder that the islanders’ attempts to fight the wild but beautiful sea, alongside the poetic hardship of breaking up rocks [also narrated in repetitive montage-like sequences] and carrying seaweed up the cliff face to make precious fertile soil, remain an enduring testament to an idealized Irish rural ecomythos. Such tropes visualize and emulate the nationalist revivalist writings of the playwright J. M. Synge and his stoic testament to female endurance in Riders to the Sea, for instance, or more recently J. B. Keane’s evocation of the primal power of the land in his famous play, as subsequently transferred into a film of the same name—The Field. The deep ecological backstory of the narrative is clarified in a very useful DVD bonus feature documentary accompanying a re-release issue of Man of Aran, titled “Romanticism and Historical Accuracy.” It is stated in this how 80 years before this time period, the natives actually hunted basking sharks for their oil, suggesting the filmmaker’s appreciation and recognition of the anthropological specifics of the cultural timeline of such

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historical events. Such historical inaccuracy in the depiction of the contemporary lives of the Aran islanders is openly admitted at the outset, staving off further criticism and overtly exposing the documentary’s historical liberties and problematic artifice. The film was basically “about the sea” as a holistic ecological habitat; Flaherty affirms in person how they “used long focal lens and framed the camera very low to maximise the dramatic effects. By piling the seas up with wave after wave, they appeared much closer together than they really were” (see DVD bonus feature documentary). Such clear technical explication helps students appreciate the ecoaesthetic effect Flaherty sought to create, which in turn spoke directly to the creative imaginary that in turn probably helped to create a romantic and I believe a nascent ecological agenda for audiences worldwide. Replaying dramatic but actual documentary images of transferring cattle off the island onto boats, for instance, we are informed in the minidocumentary bonus features that it was a regular occurrence from this period, unlike the more universal and mythic shark-fishing activity that had long since disappeared. But at the outset one presumes that the shark story contributed more effectively and dramatically to Flaherty’s universal romantic thesis on human nature’s struggle with nature and its potency remained in the film as a core aspect of its deep ecological celebration. Consequently, more mundane footage of transporting cattle off the island as part of a more modernist industrial/agricultural exercise was easily excised in the final film. Furthermore, creating fertile soil out of rocks, a sequence that continues for an extensive period in the finished documentary, helped to similarly affirm the harsh ethnographic and ecological primitivism of Flaherty’s vision. This extended sequence of hard labour, visualizing the extreme human effort needed to crack stones in an effort to create small fertile spaces of arable land, certainly stands out and posits explicit notions of primal struggle with an unwielding and inhospitable habitat. Paradoxically, however, as the DVD documentary also usefully demonstrates, if Flaherty’s camera panned across the authentic topography of the island, it would have revealed vast tracts of good fertile land with big open fields, controlled by landowners rather than peasant farmers. Such effective visual incidents and very obvious omissions exposed in the DVD documentary cogently illustrate Flaherty’s sleight-of-hand and his self-conscious attempt to reinforce a heroic and pure ecological myth concerning man’s perennial struggle with nature. Incidentally, however, such DVD documentaries help students and viewers generally appreciate


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the paradox of Flaherty’s aesthetic in a more direct and convincing manner than much academic analysis. More recently, John Ford’s classic The Quiet Man (1952) has remained the most enduring representation of a softer romantic and light ecological vision of Ireland, which has continued to appeal especially to a diasporic Irish-American audience who enjoy its timeless, quaint, wild and pleasureseeking Irish characterization. Yet its Technicolor vision of a land of “rosy cheeked colleens, leprechaun-like intercessionaries and humane clergy united in song, drink and public brawling” certainly has “little in common with the Ireland of the 1920s in which it ostensibly takes place” (Flynn and Brereton 300). Ford’s classic has remained a dominant representation of a romantic Ireland that has continued to appeal to a diasporic audience who enjoy its timeless, stereotypical characterization of the Irish as quaint, wild and pleasure-seeking and who are at one with their beautiful environment. In 1985, for instance, when the film first appeared on VHS video, Luke Gibbons tells of how it sold 200,000 copies in the first four years in Britain alone. However, its Technicolor vision of a land of rosy-cheeked colleens and public brawling has, like Man of Aran, little in common with the period in Ireland in which it is ostensibly shot. On its release, it received seven Academy Award nominations, winning in two categories: best director and best colour cinematography. The film’s enduring intertextual significance is demonstrated, for example, by its playing in the background on television during a domestic scene in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). While many indigenous Irish have dismissed the film as a send-up of an idealized Irishness, others read it more positively as a playful fantasy that helped to capture the nostalgic and romantic mood of the country. Gibbons, who has written more than most about the film, speaks of its picturesque exoticism as evidenced by a cover for National Geographic in 1961, with a Maureen O’Hara look-alike and its endorsement of a soft romanticism especially when compared with the hard primitivism characteristic of works such as Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran. Yet to my knowledge, no one has picked up on a broader ecological reading of this film, which directly contrasts with the deep ecological excess of Man of Aran. Probably the nearest anyone has come has been Gibbons, who suggests, Irish culture has a preference for this romantic outlook and a form of “soft primitivism” unlike the “hard primitivism” of Man of Aran, which in turn was replaced by a more urban-based realist aesthetic that became more noticeable, as the dominance of the rural economy decreased. This portrayal is certainly different from displays of a

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primal economic imperative in Man of Aran, where the natives eke out a hard existence on land and sea, while struggling with the elements. The success of The Quiet Man outside of Ireland is largely based on malleable postcard scenes of a romantic countryside, which appeals to American markets in particular, looking to connect with an ecotouristic vision of Ireland. Real labour and struggle with the land is totally lacking in this melodramatic fable of the returning emigrant who discovers true love in this idealized landscape. Nonetheless, while The Quiet Man has had the most influential legacy, especially within the huge Irish-American diaspora who respond to the powerful touristic and playful image of the country, the more austere and primitive evocation of nature/habitat displayed in Man of Aran certainly speaks to a much-needed deep ecological sensibility and probably has the greater ecological residue for a post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Unfortunately, however, as John Barry provocatively asserts, the majority of people in modern society have little direct transformative experience of nature or ecology generally, having little direct connection with the land, except as some dramatic natural disaster. Less overt filmic evocation of ecological debates can hopefully also sow the seeds of the alternative vision, involving enigmatic terms such as good stewardship and green citizenship which are applied in the literature (see Brereton, Hollywood Utopia), and at least promote awareness of our interdependence with our environment. I would incidentally agree with Donna Haraway, for instance, when she suggests how “we must find another relationship to nature besides reification, possession, appropriation and nostalgia” (Haraway 126).

Recent Ecocritiques of Irish Romanticism: The Pipe and The Tiger’s Tail The multinational oil/gas company Shell won the rights to drill for gas off the west coast of Ireland, having gone through an extensive planning process and securing government agreement. They did not, however, take into account local hostility. Some of these locals feared the environmental risks of bringing gas pipes through their neighbourhood and tried everything in their power to stop the works being carried out. This form of activism has led to a long struggle, which is well captured by a sympathetic documentary The Pipe, shot over a four-year period. “Shell to Sea” is essentially an environmental pressure-group campaign organization based in Rossport, Co. Mayo, which opposed the construction of a national gas pipeline through the parish, wanting it


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refined at sea instead. The activists maintain that the proximity of a natural gas pipeline to human habitation remains a high risk to local residents. The Pipe functions as an observational documentary—emulating in some ways the “poetic style” of Man of Aran—filmed over four years from late 2006. Viewers can easily recognize that the makers are on the side of the protesters in this “David versus Goliath” story. For instance, in the freely available IMDb clip promoting the film, we are instantly connected with this elemental (environmental) struggle, as we experience close-up the choppy waves—again reminiscent of a scene from Man of Aran—and then are quickly connected with the primal struggle as we are introduced to the conflict situation from the point of view of the small fishing boat getting closer to the enormous working ship, the Solitaire, which as its name suggests, is not necessarily interested in the common good. The “unnatural” large industrial vehicle both visually and conceptually poses a threat to the small-scale level of indigenous and communal fishing being carried out in the area. While making a point and not retreating, the fisherman—at least in the eyes of the law—is carrying out an illegal act and the Garda/police boat is seen making its way to board the small fishing vehicle and clear the way for Shell to do its work. The mise-enscène certainly conveys the conflict as a deep ecological injustice in this struggle over fishing rights. According to film scholar and Irish documentary expert Harvey O’Brien, “despite its celebration of resistance, powerfully encapsulated by the resonant image of the fisherman Pat O'Donnell holding his line at sea while shadowed by the monstrous ship Solitaire” (MacKeogh and O’Connell, 16), it is The Pipe’s “quieter injunction filled by Monica Muller that results in a temporary cessation of progress to what will nonetheless inevitably be the laying of the Corrib gas pipe line” (16). What is particularly memorable in the documentary is how the story “celebrates resistance, but it also documents the inexorable advance of intractable forces beyond the power of the individual’s capacity to effect change” (16). Incidentally, it is interesting to note how far-away natives from the Niger Delta in Africa—Nigerians who are now resident in Ireland as part of the huge growth in immigration following the Celtic Tiger Renaissance—have expressed support for the campaign, with, for example, a mural of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed after leading a similar struggle to reduce Shell’s influence in Ogoniland, painted on a gable in Rossport. Furthermore, there is a memorial to the Ogoni Nine also erected, all of which help to legitimate the global significance of the Rossport as “martyrs” in an Irish context. Recalling the deep ecological tropes from Man of Aran, a community must struggle together to maintain

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the deep ecological rights of harmony with nature. Nonetheless, members of the campaign in the often hostile mass media were characterized as selfish tree-hugging hippies, ecowarriors and “sub-intellectual peasants” (“Shell to Sea”). Essentially, the documentary-story paints a picture that embraces core aspects of a de facto frugal existence, reminiscent again in ways of Man of Aran, as being more environmentally and ethically acceptable than simply accepting the inevitable march of progress and further extensive production, as essentially “selling out” to global capitalism. Witnessing a lone fisherman in a small boat, framed beside the huge bulk of an industrial tanker, such a scene effectively visualizes the ecological imbalance and recalls a deep and heroic struggle by the “small man” trying to protect his environment and natural habitat. Surely even if you don’t agree with the specifics of the conflict, it is certainly easy to embrace such a mythic, justice-framed, local and at the same time universal econarrative. Meanwhile, a more contemporary urban-based fictional story, directed by the highly acclaimed John Boorman (who produced memorable econarratives including The Emerald Forest; see review by Brereton, Hollywood Utopia), documents the toxic anti-ecological roots of our current economic crisis, as melodramatically exemplified in The Tiger’s Tail. Liam O’Leary (Liam Gleeson) is a wealthy Irish property developer of humble origins, who had made it big and fast and is now living the high life. O’Leary is the product of Ireland’s newfound wealth and espouses what might be considered as some of the anti-ecological values associated with modern Irish society. Wildly overextended, O’Leary finds himself struggling in a receding market. Stressed and overstretched, he seems on the verge of a mental breakdown, when to his horror, he starts seeing visions of someone that looks exactly like himself. Played with confident aplomb by Liam Gleeson, O’Leary is awarded the accolade of “Developer of the Year,” belying the fact that real-life developers have justifiably received a very bad press over the past number of years, with corruption charges being levelled by various public tribunals. He spies his double (a trope much beloved in cinema history), having first seen him through his car window in a traffic jam. To explain this apparition, he has to make a journey of self-knowledge back to his old, pre-Celtic Tiger world—which is shorthand for going back to the past and into the Irish countryside. This journey/pilgrimage to an unspoilt countryside to meet up with his aged mother encapsulates how far the mercurial and facile urban-based Celtic Tiger facile community needs to return to the land to find solace and assist in the rediscovery of what might


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be described as its deep ecological roots, again echoing tropes addressed in Man of Aran and The Quiet Man. Unfortunately, however, the film is by all accounts poorly conceived and executed. Nonetheless, as in The Pipe, the ecotheme and political subtext remain both apt and ostensibly incisive in its polemical reading of the fault lines within the Irish economy, which has apparently lost its deep ecological values (see Brereton, Hollywood Utopia). The contemporary Irish culture appears paralysed—echoing James Joyce’s literary, postcolonial metaphor encapsulating the mood at the start of the twentieth century—and unable to move beyond recrimination, requiring scapegoats and shame to help purge the public’s feelings of victimhood, as Ireland strives to move from the brink of near bankruptcy and get out from under the yoke of massive debts owed to its European masters. All the while the country faces a very uncertain future with the spectre of long-term insecurity and continuing cycles of massive enforced emigration, engineered to ostensibly relieve economic pressures.

Some Concluding Remarks The popular economist David McWilliams effectively captured the conspicuous consumption excesses of the erstwhile new middle class from the Celtic Tiger bubble in his book The Pope’s Children, which allegorically became the norm during the Celtic Tiger period with their brash self-confidence, encapsulated by a series of wild generalizations cited in the opening paragraphs: Ireland has arrived. We were richer than any of us imagined possible ten years ago. No Irish person has to emigrate, none of us need pay for education and even our universities are free. Unemployment is the lowest in our history. We have more choice than ever, the place is more tolerant and no one can be legally discriminated against. We have more cash in our back pockets than almost anyone in Europe. We are better off than 99% of humanity. We are top of foreigners’ lists as places to live. Unlike many of our rich neighbours, in survey after survey we claim to be very happy. (“Nature tourism and Irish film” 1)

On the other extreme, I would suggest anti-materialism, frugality and thriftiness, embracing a form of deep ecological sustainability, can also be detected deep within the Irish cultural zeitgeist and traced back through Irish film history, especially as encapsulated by Man of Aran, which ought to be reaffirmed if not necessarily embraced as a positive value, offering people, communities and society more self-determination and control over

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consumption, rather than perceiving little alternative to the current crisis, or some other knee jerk reactions to escape from rampant capitalism and all it connotes. Such an ostensibly deep form of ecology—or at least some contemporary accommodation with the environment—could be used as a radical new way of reframing the current hegemonic discourse of austerity and seeking to bolster the status quo, while striving to secure long-term GDP growth. Such economic debates are dominating European responses to the financial crisis in Greece, Ireland and several other countries. Various counternarratives are badly needed to redress the crude economic excesses of the Celtic Tiger and its total embracing of an anti-ecological mindset, defined most cogently by conspicuous consumption. Much scholarly work is needed, however, to tease out various antidotes to the pernicious excesses of economic determinism and current worries, which easily seek to ignore concerns of environmentalism, manifested most pointedly by concerns around climate change, as countries face up to deep recession. Social sciences and humanities disciplines have a major project in developing fruitful hypotheses, creative imaginaries and productive analysis of such ecological concepts, which hopefully will propose and build broad consensus for alternative holistic solutions. Such an agenda mirrors to my mind the revisionist humanities (primarily literary and historical scholars) cultural project that addressed “The [Northern Ireland] Troubles” and helped to reframe revisionist nationalist, political and historical agenda, while ameliorating the raw sores of postcolonial and religious discontent. Such critical scholarship was evident, for example, in the work of journals like The Cranebag, which helped to provide critical solutions and very useful creative reimaginings of political tensions. Adapting a similar model, I would call for a new radical sociocultural agenda to uncover useful strategies that might speak to contemporary forms of ecological sustainability, be that readapting the notion of deep ecology encapsulated by Man of Aran, while recognizing the dangers of embracing an essentialist form of Fascist aesthetic, or alternatively taking on other productive discourses around environmentalism. Such an environmental turn remains an urgent demand for contemporary cultural politics and could be facilitated through various forms of interdisciplinary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Like literature, film and media generally remain an important allegorical model for rethinking Irishness and one hopes that there is much fruitful potential in developing robust strategies for reimagining our sense of ecological identity and providing a sense of direction. As pundits like Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times suggest, with the economic crises


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spiralling around in circles, as a nation we are in danger of being traumatized and predetermined by crude economic paradigms, beyond other more humane and fruitful measures of identity, culture and national civic community. As suggested in this short film analysis, ecological and cultural manifestations demonstrate the potent power of cinema to speak to and for a radically progressive politics and climate of hope for the future.

Notes 1. Mary Kelly nonetheless recognizes the presence of five different environmental discourses in Ireland, namely, a moral discourse, a radical political discourse, a romantic and aesthetic discourse, a scientific discourse and a regulatory discourse. This essay cannot, however, articulate all these variations as it focuses on a few examples as manifested by their filmic output. 2. See reading of Eat the Peach in Brereton and Culloty (currently in review 2013).

References Adam, Barbara. Timescapes of Modernity: The Environment and Invisible Hazards. London and other places, Routledge, 1998. Print. Allan, Stuart, Barbara Adam and Cynthia Carter, eds. Environmental Risks and the Media. London: Routledge, 2000. Print. Barry, John. “Green Politics and Ecological Stewardship.” Questioning Ireland: Debates in Political Philosophy and Public Policy. Ed. Joe Dunne et al. Dublin: Public Administration, 2000. Print. Brereton, Pat. “Busting the Boom: The Tiger's Tail and The Pope's Children.” Estudios Irelandeses 2 (2007). Print. —. “Farming on Irish Film: An Ecological Reading.” Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature. Ed. Sidney Dobrin and Sean Morey. New York: SUNY Press, 2009. 185-202. Print. —. Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema. Bristol: Intellect Press, 2005. Print. —. “Nature Tourism and Irish Film.” Irish Studies Review 14 (2006): 40720. Print. —. “Utopian and Fascist Aesthetics: An Appreciation of ‘Nature’ in Documentary/Fiction Film.” Capitalism, Nature Socialism 12.4 (2001): 33-55. Print. The Colleen Bawn. Dir. Sidney Olcott. Kalem Company, 1911. Film. The Emerald Forest. Dir. John Boorman. Embassy Pictures, 1985. Film. ET: The Extra Terrestrial. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Universal Pictures, 1982. Film.

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The Field. Dir. Jim Sheridan. Avenue Pictures Production, 1990. Film. Flynn, Roderick and Patrick Brereton. Historical Dictionary of Irish Cinema. New York: Scarecrow Press, 2007. Print. Gibbons, Luke. The Quiet Man. Cork: Cork UP, 2002. Print. Haraway, Donna. “Other Worldly Conversations; Terran Topics; Local Terms.” Science as Culture 3.1 (1992): 64-98. Print. Ivakhiv, Adrian. “Green Film Criticism and Its Futures.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 15.2 (2008): 1-28. Print. Kelly, Mary, Hilary Tovey and Pauline Faughnan. Environmental Attitudes, Values and Behaviour in Ireland. Dublin: Environmental Protection Agency, 2001. Print. Kenny, Colum. Fearing Sellafield. Dublin: Gill and McMillan, 2003. Print. Ketterman, Kirstin. “Cinematic Images of Irish Male Brutality and the Semiotics of Landscape in The Field and Hear my Song.” Contemporary Cinema: From the Quiet Man to Dancing at Lughnasa. Ed. James MacKillop. Dublin: Syracuse UP, 1999. Print. The Lad from Old Ireland. Dir. Sidney Olcott. Kalem Company, 1910. Film. Leonard, Liam. The Environmental Movement in Ireland. Ireland: Springer Press, 2007. Print. Louisiana Story. Dir. Robert Flaherty. United States, 1948. Film. McDonagh, Sean. Kukushima: The Death Knell for Nuclear Energy. Dublin: Columba Press 2012. Print. MacKeogh, Carol, and Díóg O’Connell, eds. Documentary in a Changing State: Ireland since the 1990s. Dublin: Cork University Press, 2012. Print. McWilliams, David. The Pope’s Children: Ireland’s New Elite. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 2005. Print. Man of Aran. Dir. Robert Flaherty. Gainsborough Pictures, 1934. Film. Nanook of the North. Dir. Robert Flaherty. United States, 1922. Film. The Pipe. Dir. Risteard O’Domhnaill. Scannain Inbhear, 2010. Film. Praeger, Robert Lloyd. The Way That I Went. Dublin: Collins Press, 1997. Print. The Quiet Man. Dir. John Ford. Republic Pictures, 1952. Film. Riders to the Sea. Dir. Ronan O’Leary. Adjuntar Films Ltd, 1987. Film. Rockett, Kevin, Luke Gibbons and John Hill. Cinema and Ireland. 1987. Dublin: Syracuse UP, 1989. Print. Ryan’s Daughter. Dir. David Lean. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1970. Film. The Shaughran. Dir. Sidney Olcott. Kalem Company, 1912. Film.


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“Shell to Sea.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Jan. 2013. Sweeney, John, ed. Editorial. Climate Change. Spec. Issue of Irish Geography Nov. 2011: 1-6. Print. The Tiger’s Tail. Dir. John Boorman. Ireland, 2006. Film. Tovey, Hilary. Environmentalism in Ireland: Movements and Activists. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 2007. Print. Tovey, Hilary, and Perry Share. A Sociology of Ireland. Dublin: Gill and McMillan. 2003. Print.


In India, indigenous people consist of forest dwellers and nomads. Since their literatures belonged to the oral tradition, there were no documents created by the people that record their cultures, beliefs, literatures, myths, histories and languages. The consequence was that their voice went unheard and the nation-states failed to acknowledge their existence. Ganesh Devy, Director of Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Baroda, declared rather a shocking statistic that “there are nearly six crores of denotified and nomadic ‘citizens’ in India” (Devy). These communities have never been represented for a long period in Indian history. During the British Rule, ethnographers like Edgar Thurston and Sir Herbert Hope Risley were appointed to document the cultures of the natives. The misrepresentations that the British ethnographers made owed much to the colonial perspective and were ridiculous in nature. To quote an example, Thurston writes, “Tribes . . . living in a wild state . . . like pigs and bears, on roots, honey, and other forest produce, have now come (into) . . . contact with Europeans, with a resulting modification of their conditions of life, morality, and even language” (xv). On the same page, he qualifies the rituals of the tribal people as “the picturesque, but barbaric.” The postcolonial ethnographers and anthropologists were no different from the colonial fieldworkers. P. K. Mohanty in Encyclopaedia of Scheduled Tribes in India represents them in terms of their physical measurements. Describing Kurumbar and Irular, he writes, “They are of an average short to medium stature of 154 cms (males) and 142 cms (females) and weight of 50 kgs (males) and 40 kgs (females)” (18). Questioning my earlier statement that the representations of indigenous communities are misrepresentations, shall we ask some deeper questions?


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Why are they misrepresentations? Aren’t tribal people living in a wild state? What would “modification” mean in this context? Why shouldn’t such “superstitions” be called “barbaric”? Perhaps still deeper would be the questions, who/what is represented and who is the representer? Evidently these descriptions make a comparison between the “civilized” and the “uncivilized,” the ethnographer and the community members, the subject and the object. In the former case (Thurston’s), the egocentric perspective, prejudices and the disagreement of the ethnographer are subtly revealed. Thus, the description largely represents the ethnographer himself, through the indigenous people (Titon 89). The latter’s (Mohanty’s) explanation is quite a scientific representation of people reducing them to things. However, in these examples, neither are the communities considered with respect nor are they well represented. There are two key terms used in the essay which need explanation. They are “video”/“film” and “representation.” Video is a medium that has revolutionized the field of traditional anthropology, making it visual anthropology. Video/film ethnography (ethnography is often associated with anthropology) has an edge over traditional ones for the sole reason that it captures both the visual and the audio contexts along with the subjects. It is not in the sense that David MacDougall defines “ethnographic film” (“any film which seeks to reveal one society to another; it may be concerned with the physical life of a people or with the nature of their social experience” (16)) that I use the term. I use it in a more restrictive sense, representing the social, ecological, familial, historical, mythical, agricultural, daily life of natives (tribal people) in film or video medium for themselves. The reason for using documentaries as texts is their increased demand in the field of ethnography on account of the medium’s truer nature of representation. “Representation” is a very complex term which has been theorized, probably, from Aristotle’s times to the present day. Recently the term has been liberally used by postcolonialists and ecocritics. Spivak states that any form of representation is colonial or neocolonial in nature (66). Surveying American ecocriticism, Glotfelty writes, “ecocriticism studies how nature is represented in literature” (xxiii). This essay analyses the representation of ecology in the documentaries on tribal communities in South India. Thematically and structurally, representations of tribal communities and their natural environments in documentaries in South India fall into three classes. I call them “misrepresentations,” “partial representations” and “authentic representations.” With respect to these three classes of representation, there are two concerns that should be focussed on: how the

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people and their land are represented in films and who represents them. The questions “how” and “who” are relevant because they are closely interdependent. In other words, the representation can be qualified or analysed only if we know the identity of the person/persons representing the people (the representer). The issue of who represents has two dimensions—the perspectives of the technicians (cinematographer, director, script writer, editor) behind the camera and the technicality of the camera. The camera represents. The representation of the camera depends on the quality of the camera. A photograph taken with a fisheye lens which captures 100-180 degrees in the frame could be rectilinearly corrected to appeal to the human naked eye. Representation, here too, is only close to reality. However, when the camera has the potential to represent, the technician has the ability to rerepresent the image represented by the camera. Whether the viewer of the image is aware of this phenomenon or not, the image is twice represented. It may be thrice represented after editing. However, in videography and photography, this is a necessary evil. The representation of the camera is not our concern as its representation is more or less a standard 35-mm frame. It is the perspective of the cinematographer that is more relevant to us than the technical aspects of the camera. Misrepresentation, partial representation or authentic representation of the people and their land is directly influenced by the perspective of the technicians. The documentaries that are misrepresentations could be thematically categorized as activism-, issue-, struggle- or environment-based. The forty-minute movie Only an Axe Away, made in 2005, narrates the environmental struggle against a dam project proposed by the Kerala State Electricity Board at the heart of the Silent Valley National Park, which is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the Western Ghats. The movie begins with a shrill flute music electronically rendered from a keyboard. The higher octave piece comes as an attention grabber reminding the viewer of the involvement of literary and social personalities in the struggle. The first panoramic shot of the barren hillocks of Attappady surprises the viewer with a prediction of the consequences of the dams for the environment. Along with the left-to-right movement of the camera, a flock of sheep and a human being move out of the frame as the camera ceases its pan movement paving way for the next shot. Attappady is a place which has undergone drastic changes in the past fifty years due to the settlement of different communities from nearby stations. Attappady was once occupied by mountainous tribal communities. The image of Attappady is represented in a quote on an advertisement board which says, “The distance from Silent Valley to Attappady is Only An Axe Away.” The


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misleading title which addresses the issue of deforestation is borrowed from the quote. The movie adopts a random pattern of close and mid-shots of varieties of flowers and birds interspersed with still, long or panoramic shots of landscape, tilt-up creepers and mid-shot interviews of scientists, writers and activists. The use of acoustic guitar and flute music compositions played along with the landscape shots creates a dramatic feel. There are fifty-six panoramic/tilt/zoom-out shots of natural elements such as animals, birds, flowers, plants, rivers and mountains. What do these shots represent? Has the film failed to represent anything significant? It is evident that the shots are used as fillers between interviews, superimposed with the voiceover. The movie which addresses the issue of dam construction on the river Kunthi draws the viewers’ attention to the rich biodiversity in the Valley biosphere. Does the place deserve a more prominent space in the film? One might argue that it is left to the discretion of the director or the editor to decide the positioning of such shots. This argument is not sound for the reason that the represented is the other and so the issue of ethics becomes an important concern at this point. The hasty panoramic or the unsteady tilt and zoom shots are gazes that are typically anthropocentric in nature which are very similar to the ecstatic gaze of a tourist. A tourist is usually excited by the beauty of places rather than the place’s intrinsic life value. The voiceover adds to this touristic style when the female voice in accented English narrates Silent Valley thus: Silent Valley, the name evokes strong emotions among nature lovers all over the world ... It is the largest patch of pristine tropical evergreen forest remaining in India. . . . This unspoilt and beautiful rivulet with its sparkling crystal clear waters . . . Perhaps no other river has aroused the anxieties of nature-lovers in Kerala like this one has. Emotions run high on either sides of the development-divide in Kerala whenever the issue of building a dam across this river comes up. Why do we love this river so much?

The phrases “strong emotions,” “patch of pristine,” “unspoilt and beautiful,” “sparkling crystal clear waters,” “aroused the anxieties of nature-lovers,” “emotions run high” and “we love this river” are sexually charged metaphors which are introduced to add effect to the visual. These clichéd expressions are meaningless and they dilute the argument of the film. Most importantly, the representation of the place is more romantic and mental than physical and realistic. The film’s approach to the place should have been more scientific and realistic.

Tribal People on Screen: Ecological Representation in Documentaries


Similarly, the use of music in the film misrepresents the landscape. The musical instruments such as flute, sitar, guitar and electronic keyboard are non-diegetic sounds which are neither part of the soundscape of the frames nor the music of the people of the place. Use of such non-diagetic sounds would imply that the soundscape of a frame is not aesthetic enough to be left as it is without alteration. There are frames where the natural diagetic sounds are muted and music added for “better” effect. This practice should be seen as a total denial of the existence of the rich biodiversity of the place because the sounds naturally represent the birds, insects, animals and the breeze. More serious than the misrepresentation of the landscape is the misrepresentation of the tribal people in the Nilgiri biosphere. There are three tribal communities who have been closely associated with the forests of Silent Valley. Though there are no tribal settlements on the banks of River Kunthi, the people have been guarding the river and the land for hundreds of years. This long spiritual association with the river is but a passing reference in the film. Evidently, the film is based on an issue (though it is not well represented) relating to the natural environment of the tribal communities in Attappady, which adversely affects the people and the place. The tribal people or their cultures are not given due importance, and moreover, it is a partial representation of the place. Similar is the documentary titled Chaliyar . . . The Final Struggle made by the directors of Only an Axe Away, P. Baburaj and C. Saratchandran. The directors of the films are activists. In the partial documentary films, the tribal communities and their land are given due importance. The focus is on the people, their beliefs, myths and their interaction with their land. The sixty-three-minute film The Bee, the Bear & the Kuruba (Nanga Jenu Nanga Karadi Nanga Ajja) was directed by Vinod Raja in 2001. The director of the film has made a conscious effort to lessen the effect of anthropocentrism, thereby succeeding in portraying the ecocentric lifestyle of the tribal people. An obvious structural pattern that Raja adopts is the use of slides with the intended message instead of a voiceover. In this way he decentralizes the power of the omnipotent voice of the director and the script writer and focuses on the perspectives of the people. Though the nine slides offer perceived and researched information about the displacement of the indigenous people, the rights of the tribal people, various ecodevelopment projects, the Rajiv Gandhi national park and an introduction to Kurubas and personal field notes which will make strenuous reading for the viewer, they are necessary to give a holistic understanding of the present status of


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the people. It goes without saying that there are shots in the film that are scripted and preconceived like the shot where Rajappa, the central character of the film, looks around at the sky searching for a beehive. The film has captured the daily life of the people with authentic interviews of individuals from the community. The ethnographic account of the community with visuals of their food, their occupation and their cultivation is intertwined with a creation story of Kurubas. This creation story traces the ancestral interconnection between bees, bears and humans. It is this union that makes them experts in honey collection without harming the colonies of bees. The ethics of such a worldview are transmitted to their lifestyle as well, which is observed in the sharing of their cultivated crops with the elephants as they do not harm them but scare them off. The film is unique in its use of sounds. There is a conscious effort to avoid music and other sounds that do not belong to the place or people. The non-diegetic sounds that are used are the music of the festivals and the sounds of the forest. This avoids misrepresenting the people or the place. The film ends with the discussion of the issue of protest against the construction of a wildlife resort by the Taj group. Massive protests organized by the tribal leaders and heads of NGOs are shown in detail. The movie also deals with the issue of ownership of the forest land. The tribal people who guarded the land for centuries were not consulted before the government decided to sell the land to the company. The misrepresentation of the tribal people as the destroyers of the forest by the government forest officials is exposed in the film. The conflict between the worldviews of the tribal people and the non-tribal people is forcefully brought out in the film. Since the film has captured the ecological worldview of the Kurubas, the camera movements such as zoom-in, zoom-out and panorama used especially during the narration of the creation story and depiction of the forest do not seem anthropocentric. The techniques in fact offer a closer look at the narrator, giving time and space for the viewer to mentally visualize their history and memory. Vinod Raja, though not a tribal himself, has represented the people to a satisfactory extent. His expertise in ethnography and his sympathy towards the worldview and the social order of the Kurubas are the probable reasons for the desired representation of the tribal people and their land. How different would be the way a tribal person (director/cinematographer) represented his/her tribe and the land? The third kind of documentary is self-represented, which I call “authentic representation.” This, probably, is the ideal state of representation.

Tribal People on Screen: Ecological Representation in Documentaries


Since the technology of video production is still unknown to the indigenous communities in India, this has not been a popular method yet in ethnography. Participatory ethnography and anthropology is still an experimental method for many practical reasons. In this category of documentary films about tribal people and their land, I would like to discuss a few documentaries made as part of the ethnographic experimentations that I was part of with the active participation of tribal people at Attappady. The project for collecting the oral literature of Mudugar was funded by World Oral Literature Project, University of Cambridge, UK in 2010. The uniqueness of the project was that the community members used the video camera to document their own people and land. Complexities of representation such as the target audience, true representation of the people, ethics of the subalternity and ethnography suddenly dissolved and did not seem to exist. The reason was that the process of representation was replaced by presentation. The conflicting issues of worldviews did not exist anymore because the represented became the representer, though there was a camera between the entities which became the tool of the represented. In another perspective, it could be even said that presentation happens at no cost because video always represents. This explains the rationale behind using the term selfrepresentation in place of presentation. Unlike the cinematographer/ director of films in the first and second categories, the third category has a cinematographer/director from the same cultural background as the represented. So he/she has no worry about how they are represented for he/she knows that the representation is for the people of his/her community. Thus, when the first two categories have a linear movement, the third moves in a circular pattern (see Figs. 8-1 and 8-2). The Mudugar people responded to this kind of ethnographic documentation for it returns to them, perhaps, like their non-linear form (circular) of history, memory, dance and repetitive songs. In Their Eyes is a short documentary of 7 minutes and 28 seconds made by C. Ramu, Sachindev P. S., Manoj U. A. and Rayson K. Alex in 2010. The film uses unconventional shots as seen in the first couple of seconds. The children interact with the camera without any inhibition, as if the camera is an individual, one among them. Looking closely at the video, one realizes that the children react to their own image in the camera display. Analytically, it is clear that the distance between the represented and the medium of representation has lessened, ultimately reducing the distance between the representer and the represented, thereby minimizing the role of the representer. Thus, the responsibility of how a person should be represented rests with the person or persons being represented. But all


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is not well; the xenophobia towards the camera is seen in the twinkling eyes of the children, sarcastic smiles of the elders and the unusual movement of the goat. Fig. 8-1. The represented (in the form of a documentary) moving out of the community in the first and second categories

Fig. 8-2. The represented (in the form of a documentary) moving circularly within the community in the third category

In the first part of the film, C. Ramu, a Mudugar leader, explains the project to the people of the hamlets. The second part of the film shows a series of screenings of The Story of Mudugar (which narrates the ecological relationship of Mudugar community with mountains, rivers and animals in the forest) in hamlets such as Kunjiyuuru, Karuvera and Thunduuru, and the responses of the people to the film. Their responses are expressed as breakouts of laughter, nodding of heads and pointing at the familiar images on television, all stating the people’s approval of the representation. The last part of the film shows the documentation process done by C. Ramu.

Tribal People on Screen: Ecological Representation in Documentaries


Though the absence of external music represents the place in a better way, there are sounds that are purposely muted for practical reasons. The music and song that are heard along with certain visuals belong to the Mudugar people. Such soundtracks are intended to break the monotony of the diegetic sound pattern in the film. Notably, there is no voiceover in the movie but the interviews in the movie serve the purpose of the voiceover, neutralizing the hierarchic relationship between the represented, the representer and the camera. The slow-motioned panoramic shot of the mountains and the fastmotioned sunset shot at the end of the movie are similar to the touristic style shots mentioned elsewhere in the essay. These shots are the creation of non-tribal persons in the group. Nevertheless, the natural environment in the film is predominantly backgrounded for the reason that the camera experimentation is in the foreground and it belongs to the reporting genre of documentary films. I call this kind of representation of the tribal people and their land as authentic because there are not many external influences or agencies and clash of worldviews. Such representations more or less truly represent the indigenous cultures and are authentic. The representation in In Their Eyes is more authentic than that in the misrepresented and partially represented category of films. In other words, authentic representation is not seen in the film, In Their Eyes, in its complete sense; it is still not realized. But the democratic methodology in participatory documentaries is desired in ethnographic documentation and documentary film making in order to completely break down the hierarchy of the representer and the represented in documentary films on indigenous people, their culture and their land.

References The Bee, the Bear & the Kuruba: Nanga Jenu Nanga Karadi Nanga Ajja. Dir. Vinod Raja. Under Construction, 2001. DVD. Chaliyar . . . The Final Struggle. Dir. P. Baburaj and C. Saratchandran. Under Construction, 1999-2001. DVD. Devy, G. N. “Inaugural Address, National Convention of Nomads and Adivasis.” 23 May 2005. Web. 02 Aug. 2011. Glotfelty, Cheryll. Introduction. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1996. xv-xxxvii. Print. In Their Eyes. Mudugar Kurumbar Research Centre, Attappady, 12 Nov. 2010. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.


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MacDougall, David. “Prospects of the Ethnographic Film.” Film Quarterly 23.2 (1969-1970): 16-30. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. Mohanty, P. K. Encyclopedia of Scheduled Tribes in India. New Delhi: Isha Books, 2006. Print. Only an Axe Away. Dir. P. Baburaj and C. Saratchandran. Under Construction, 2005. DVD. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. Ed. P. Williams and L. Chrisman. New York: Columbia UP, 1992. 66-111. Print. Thurston, Edgar. Introduction. Castes and Tribes of Southern India. Vol. V. 1909. Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 1975. i-xx. Print. Titon, Jeff Todd. “Representation and Authority in Ethnographic Film/Video: Production.” Ethnomusicology 36.1 (1992): 89-94. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.


Papilio Buddha is a 2011 fiction film by the poet and filmmaker, Jayan Cherian. The film was initially denied exhibition rights by the Central Bureau of Film Certification (CBFC) for its explicit demonstrations against Gandhi, realistic portrayal of rape and abusive language. There have been severe criticisms against the CBFC ban, and at the time of writing there are serious efforts from all quarters to release the film in cinemas. Papilio Buddha 2011/102min/Colour/India Story & Direction: Jayan Cherian Cinematography: M. J. Radhakrishnan Papilio Buddha is not a docufiction or a documentary, nor a film faithful to true events. What is most compelling about Papilio Buddha is that it draws from Dalit religious and philosophical traditions while trying to resolve spatial-temporal conflicts and incompatible historical positions, into the narrative outline of a feature film. 1 (Sreekumar 15)

Introduction Papilio Buddha shows a group of Dalits and their struggle for land and justice. The struggle of the Dalits is hammered down by the State government which is predominantly made up of upper caste politicians. Eventually, the Dalits are forced to leave their homes. This essay attempts an ecocritical inquiry into the theme, visual and sound of the film. Papilio Buddha is a multi-thematic film dealing with sexuality and cultural identity of the Dalits. Despite the existence of the Malayalam film industry with a history of over 100 years and internationally acclaimed


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filmmakers, there have not been many films which have addressed the Dalit or tribal issues with the kind of seriousness they require. Papilio Buddha is a genuine attempt to understand the core issues of Dalit life. Even after 65 years of Indian independence with well-formalized provisions, rules and regulations in the constitution favouring the Dalits and the tribal people, they continue their long-drawn-out struggle to reinstate their identity. They are exploited and tortured by upper caste people and government officials including the police. The functioning of the system is such that the single “virtue” of being born in a higher caste gives people the control over the lower caste people. The film explores the plight of Dalits who are overpowered by the rest of society.

The Symbolism of the Butterfly and Buddhism Papilio Buddha, the title of the film, is the binomial name of the Malabar banded peacock, a species of butterfly found in the Western Ghats, India. It is not a rare species but a protected one. “The Malabar banded peacock is perhaps the most beautiful butterfly in peninsular India and one of the most dazzling in the world” (Kunte and Gadgil 79). Though the image of the butterfly is not so prominent in the film, the title carries the name of the butterfly. The fact that the protagonist is a zoologist working with a lepidopterist makes the butterfly image demand attention in the film. “Early Theravadin (Buddhist) texts indicate that the early Buddhists believed in a between-life period referred to as ‘butterfly spirit’ which leaves the body after death to await rebirth” (Harvey 125). In the film, the Dalit group takes to Buddhism as they begin a protest to avail justice. Buddhism was a religion that privileged rationality and ethics in contrast to the ritualism and violence sanctioned by Brahmanism (Rao 150). The film employs a narrative form which historically traces the struggles and oppressions experienced by the Dalit people in Kerala. Each of the incidents in the film can be identified as particular real-life events of the past (the rape, the arrest of Shankaran and the displacement of indigenous people). Yet, as Sreekumar claims, it is “not a docufiction” as the fiction content countermands the documentary element. The narrative time in the film is indistinguishable as the past and the present swing simultaneously. In a sense, the imaginary time and space in the film could be interpreted as the “between-life” period in the life of the Dalit people, revealing the identity of a Dalit Buddhist. Anupama Rao considers this conflict of the between-life of Dalits as part of an identity politics as she says, “The new political subject, the Dalit Buddhist is degraded Dalits remade into modern citizens” (150). However, the lifecycle of a butterfly (Papilio buddha)—

Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness


the egg ĺ the caterpillar ĺ the chrysalis ĺ the adult butterfly—is equated to the time period of the spiritual transformation of the Dalits in the film. The butterfly symbolism further fits into the “rebirth” concept of Buddhism, as Rao quotes Shankarrao Kharat, a Dalit writer, who described the conversion to Buddhism in Nagpur in 19562 as “rebirth.” The lifetime of a butterfly according to the Theravadin texts again is referred to the between-life period—between death and rebirth. In the context of Dalit struggle in the film, this between-life period is the time between their suffering and awakening. Though the awakening here is more about the realization that they have to fight rather than the spiritual kind, their march to freedom is through Buddhism. So the butterfly symbolizes the path to freedom and their sense of justice for which Buddhism becomes the basis. It is this newly formed sense of justice that gives them the determination to fight against inequalities. The conversion to Buddhism is a stage in the transformation of Dalits which can be compared to the metamorphosis of a butterfly. The ultimate aim is survival. The film takes place in a fictional village in the Western Ghats3 called Meppara which we later learn is a reserved forest. The land struggle in the film strives to remind the audience of the infamous Muthanga and Chengara land struggles where the native tribal and Dalit people were evicted from their land by the government and other power groups. Muthanga is also a wildlife sanctuary like the fictional Meppara. The Dalit group in Meppara has always been mistreated by the authorities. They do not possess a land of their own and are constantly tortured by the police who accuse them of Marijuana trade or Maoist activities as we see in the film. They mobilize under the leadership of Kandal Kariyan, an elderly man whom the people respect. As they move forward with the protest for land and their rights, the condition worsens as the upper caste people grow intolerant and the police intervene. These are fictionalized retelling of the historical struggles that the Dalits and the tribal people led in Chengara and Muthanga. It was on this day (February 19, 2003) that the forces of the State mercilessly went on a rampage on the tribals at Muthanga in Kerala’s Wayanad district, leading to the death (officially) of one Adivasi and a policeman (Firos). Papilio Buddha is an attempt to understand the root causes of these incidents and incorporates them into the plot. The film accuses the upper caste power groups for engineering the severe actions taken by the government against Dalits. The film ends with some haunting visuals of the population of Meppara being evicted and they walk down the hill, away from their own land, reminding the viewers about the


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Chengara land struggle where the Dalit and tribal people were evacuated with the promise of resettlement. The images of Papilio buddha, the butterfly, and the protagonist, Shankaran, are interconnected. The relationship is that of a hunter and the hunted. He hunts butterflies for Jack, an American lepidopterist. Jack needs Shankaran as a guide because the mountainous terrain is unfamiliar to him and he needs his assistance to trap the butterflies. “It is difficult to observe its (Malabar Banded peacock) brilliant colours since it flies among the tree tops, showing only its dark underside to the viewers. On rare occasions it does come down to shrubs to feast on nectar or to have a sip from wet soil near a forest stream.”4 Jack and Shankaran apart from being friends are also a gay couple. The joy that they both share when Jack confirms that the variety of butterflies is Papilio Buddha is almost childish. Shankaran is the son of Kandal Kariyan and is a zoology graduate; his relationship with the land—his kinsfolk and the butterfly—is rather detached and non-sentimental in the beginning. He is indifferent to the land struggle that his father leads and has plans to leave the country with Jack. The film gives no reference of the protagonist’s mother being alive or dead. Perhaps the absence of a “mother” can be seen as one of the reasons for Shankaran’s indifference towards his own community. In this context, the Buddhist philosophy based on butterfly symbolism explains a few things. The Dalai Lama in his public address at the Frank Erwin Centre remarks, The butterfly never meets its mother. It must survive independently and remains a stranger to affection. A child who grows up in a cold and detached home environment is similar to the butterfly, in that kindness is sparing. Once an adult, it will be very difficult for that person to show compassion. (“The Butterfly”)

The butterfly symbolism in the film has two dimensions. In general, it stands for the conversion of Dalits to Buddhism while also poetically symbolizing the nature of Shankaran, the protagonist. The fact that Papilio buddha, the butterfly, is a protected species adds an ecological dimension to the symbolism. Later as the film progresses, Shankaran is disillusioned with his newfound friends when he realizes that their outlook towards his community is sympathetic and that he will never be out of the shackles of caste. Following Manjushree’s rape, he leads the protest as the Dalit groups intensify their struggle.

Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness


Land and Sexuality In Papilio Buddha, the Western Ghats is portrayed as a place of liberated sexuality. For Shankaran and Jack, the jungle serves as a place for exploring their carnal desires. However, their relationship is ephemeral. The viewers are left to assume that the duo are merely exploring their sexuality. Strangely enough, when they part, they bid farewell as friends and not as lovers. Apart from Jack, Shankaran is shown having a sexual relationship with Manjushree. The fact that Shankaran is bisexual hardly bears any significance to the narrative. The coupling scene of Shankaran and Manjushree is rather theatrical. The colour is controlled and the lighting is quite expressive. As they make love, the Buddha sculpture in Manjushree’s hut rotates and on the other side of the sculpture we see the Yab-Yum image, the Tantric Buddhist image of Tara Devi and Buddha. There is nothing cinematic about this scene and it looks more like an installation. Shankaran and Manjushree are in Yab-Yum position also (Fig. 9-1). Figure 9-1. Shankaran and Manjushree in Yab-Yum position with the TaradeviBuddha statue in the background

“Tara, the ‘savioress,’ is a universal mother who nurtures, assists and protects all seekers on the spiritual path. She exudes supreme confidence that she can answer every prayer and fulfil any need” (Shaw 306). She is the female aspect of the universe and relieves “ordinary beings” from distress. In the lovemaking position, Shankaran is enwrapped in her arms;


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Manjushree is seen relieving Shankaran’s pain. Ironically, Manjushree, the Mother of all, gets raped brutally afterwards. The character of Manjushree becomes a symbol of the land and its people, violated by outsiders. She is at the same time the female representative of the community and a symbol of the land, “raped” into quarries. “Tara is known as the mother of mercy, the goddess of compassion and the mother of liberation” (“Tara”). The Taradevi image brings around Manjushree an aura of sacredness especially because she is in the process of finding herself again through Buddhism. It is this process of spiritual liberation that is oppressed through the rape. There is a lesbian couple among the social workers in the region. Through a few dialogues we understand that they are part of an NGO that works among the Dalit and tribal people. The scenes of homosexuality would have been a mindless celebration of the Western Ghats as an alternative space for free sex but for the gruesome rape of Manjushree. Though seen as “repulsive” by many, the scene shakes the audience by showing the brutality of rape. This way Jayan Cherian breaks the general ideas about the Western Ghats as an idyllic tourist spot. What goes on there in reality is not idyllic at all. Papilio Buddha is one of the first feature films to showcase the issues and problems of the “marginalized” in the Ghats. However, the touch of romanticism is maintained.

Visual, Sound, Connectedness The film was shot on a RED One5 camera in 4K6 RAW (uncompressed video). Jayan Cherian worked with M. J. Radhakrishnan (DOP) to achieve the blackish green colour with a tint of beige which the filmmaker thought would do justice to the spirit of the narrative and to the portrayal of the plight of the displaced people, as he mentioned in an email to the author (Cherian). Visual texture is rather uniform throughout the film. Colour is manipulated heavily in certain scenes, especially those shots in Manjushree’s house at night; the colour correction is too evident that one tends to think that it does not truly represent the place and time. Exterior scenes are mostly shot in available light, and for interiors, motivational lighting has been used. So for the most part, the lighting is minimal, adding to the documentary style of the film. The use of the wide-angle lens in the dead peacock scene on the mountain top and the walk in the quarry which comes later is wisely done. All through the film, the wide-angle shots are used to signify isolation and solitude. Here, both are signs of ongoing ecological destruction and the vacuum that comes as a result of it. In the first shot, we see Shankaran lying down with a dead peacock on the mountain top. And in the quarry,

Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness


we experience an emptiness that the “vacant” spaces demonstrate. There is another shot of Shankaran sitting on the top of the quarry watching a digging machine at work. This is a wide-angle shot. The exaggeration of depth (a natural result of using extra-wide lens) in these shots is well tapped. It is these wide-angle shots that we see in the final scenes of the evacuation. The wide-angle shots are thus used to convey loneliness experienced by Shankaran and isolation which portray the enormity of the empty space in the final scenes that is intended to be experienced by the viewers. In the beginning of the film, the shots of the mountain and the place where Shankaran traps butterflies establish the geography of the place, but viewers are left with no clue about the identity of the place. The shot is composed in available light; thus the camera represents the place realistically. Shankaran returns to the riverbank after trapping butterflies where (we can assume that he started his day’s journey) he meets Jack. This is one of the places where DI (Digital Intermediate)7 is evident. The tint added through DI colour correction makes the frame rather painterly and augments a dramatic feel. The high contrast of the picture—the “lights and shades”—gives an impressionistic meaning to it. On the whole, the place looks wilder than it actually is and the contrast of Jack’s fair body and Shankaran’s dark skin amidst the wild branches and vines is quite a spectacle (Fig. 9-2). Figure 9-2. An intimate moment between Shankaran and Jack


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Papilio Buddha is entirely in synch sound (sounds recorded at the time of the shooting), except for a few automatic dialogue replacements. The film begins with the spectacular shots of the geography of a hill, with all sounds in the environment clearly audible. There is hardly any nondiegetic sound used in the sequence—a conscious effort to represent the place realistically (Alex 101). In the first shot of the film, the protagonist walks up the hill. The geography—physical and visual—is established at once by making use of the distant sound of the river flowing and strong wind. The complete absence of background score in these scenes adds to the realistic feel, and yet we know the film is not a documentary because of its dramatic aura. We know that the time is nearing evening from the kind of light in the mountains and the forest. It is only a little later that the river is shown. And when we see it, we see it with all its vastness and grandeur. It is a kind of slow disclosure method in which the scene opens with a tight close shot and then gradually reveals the place and the time (Blain 9). Though the representation of reality is appreciated, the subtlety of slow revelation is fictitious and cinematic. We only “hear” the river in the beginning and later on we see it strapping the entire landscape. Shankaran walks into a clearing with his net, and later we see Papilio buddha, the live butterfly in a glass container. Almost sixteen minutes into the film, we see the image of Gautama Buddha as a framed photo. Until one sees the river, one cannot decipher the location. Until the butterfly is shown, we do not know what Shankaran has been doing. And when the viewer sees the Buddha image, they know that there is a lot more to be seen. This is a slow disclosure of visual geography. Slow disclosure is a narrative technique generally used when the filmmaker wants to withhold information by not starting a sequence with tight shots (Blain). It usually generates curiosity in a viewer. In Papilio Buddha, the slow disclosure method makes the land and people in the film mysterious. For a long time viewers have no inkling about the location. And later they are given hints about who these people might be. There is an air of mysteriousness, adventure and danger in the Western Ghats—a characteristic of this landscape that has been exploited in many Malayalam commercial films. One of Kerala’s master filmmakers, Bharathan, made several films set in these forest regions of Kerala. Vaishali (1988), Thazhvaram (The Valley, 1990) and Churam (The Mountain Pass, 1997) are some of them. Churam features a modern-day Tarzan who was not brought up by a forest dweller but chooses to live in the forest. The film is about his adventures in the valley. In these films, the mysterious aura is brought in by using dark locations and villainous characters and they sustain a fear of a natural

Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness


disaster that could happen at any time (flood, landslide, etc.). The place has been used as an adventure spot, a mystical land where escapades and quests happen, but they are hardly shown as a definite place of inhabitancy. In Papilio Buddha, Meppara is shown as a land where the Dalit and tribal people inhabit and is encroached by the migrants and other power groups. Yet, the treatment of landscape is not different in Papilio Buddha. Forests and mountains are essentially mysterious to outsiders—merely a tourist gaze. Films such as this could make more careful efforts not to overmystify the landscape. The high-resolution picture and the colour correction have not helped much in this direction. It does not help to change the way mountainous landscapes are generally visualized.

Cultural Identity of Dalits Jayan Cherian has used the technique of mixing real people with trained actors in film. In his previous work, Inner Silence of the Tumult (2008), Omar Garzia, a Mexican migrant worker, appears in the central role. In Tree of Life (2007) and Love in the Time of Foreclosure (2009), actors like Phil Gardner appear along with non-actors. In Papilio Buddha, the activist, Kallen Pokkudan plays the role of Kandal Kariyan, father of Shankaran and the leader of the organized protest. Pokkudan was a staunch communist who later turned to environmental and Dalit activism. He is known for his efforts to save mangrove forests in North Kerala. He left the communist party because of caste discrimination in the party. In a few words, Pokkudan’s life is portrayed in the film. The enormity of his presence and words overcomes the not “perfect” style of dialogue delivery in the strict sense of mainstream cinema. David Briggs, the American actor, who plays the role of the homosexual lepidopterist, recognizes Pokkudan as that rare phenomenon in acting—“a total natural” (Cherian). With Pokkudan in the scene, the mood, the personal history and the intentions of the character are immediately clear and we know he has suffered much and is almost a sage. Dialogues are not necessary here; they are only supplementary to the character of Kariyan. Though the scene where he plants a mangrove is a tad superficial, it connects him to the audience who identify these traits in Pokkudan. The scene signifies Pokkudan as an environmentalist and also shows the genuine relationship that Kariyan and his people have with the land. As Pokkudan plants the mangrove, Shankaran, his son, comes along and asks him to stop doing it for the day as it is almost dark. Gradually, the character of Shankaran begins to be revealed.


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In the first scene, the protagonist lies down with a dead peacock that he happens to find on the mountain slope (Fig. 9-3). It is not an impulsive act, except, of course, in a surreal world, for a man to lie down with a dead peacock. More layers of meaning are added to the scene when viewers realize that the protagonist catches butterflies for scientific study. It is a Tarkovskian mood—human timidity in the immensity of the natural world. The dead peacock could be a symbol of human exploitation. The protagonist is in a state of existential angst; it is as if the death of the peacock is also the symbolic death that he seeks. He sleeps with death and continues his journey. This visual metaphor stays in our minds because of its peculiar juxtaposition of two distant entities. But apart from being a surreal image, this scene has hardly any significance in the narrative of the film. We do not know what the peacock means to Shankaran or his community. It is not mentioned in the film whether the peacock has any ritualistic or mythical connection to their culture. All that can be assumed is that Shankaran is sympathetic towards the dead peacock. Sadly, the film is not meant to generate sympathy at all. Therefore, the dead peacock image does not serve any purpose and remains just a romantic image. Figure 9-3. Shankaran with the dead peacock

The people in the film are just “a group of Dalits” as given in the synopsis of the film. We are not informed about the ethnic or cultural background of the people. The issues of non-human elements and their general position in the theme are in the peripheries. Therefore, the film fails to have a biocentric approach. The filmmaker is concerned about the

Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness


issue of injustice towards Dalits—an activist approach. “Dalit” is now the accepted term for “marginalized” which includes lower caste people, tribal people and other weaker sections of the society. “Dalit” is the term that replaces the much debated “Harijan” (Children of God) which Gandhi used for the lower caste in India (Gandhi renamed “Untouchables” to “Harijan”) (Cherian). The people in Papilio Buddha are Dalits, but that is the only knowledge that the viewers have. Doesn’t it matter whether they belong to tribes or low castes? In the film, there is no plausible evidence whether these people belong to the land of Meppara even fictitiously. Each of their Malayalam accents is different and can be associated with different districts in Kerala. But we understand that this fictitious place, Meppara, is in Wayanad as Manjushree drops the school children in the Bethany Home School in Sultanbathery, a town in Wayanad District. As far as we can tell, the Dalit people shown in the film are natives of that area. Therefore, some more details about the people would have come in handy for the viewers. The relationship between the community and their living space is backgrounded. Their occupation, lifestyle and their coexistence with their land is hardly explored. The irony is that although the film does not explore the people’s close relationship with their land, they are displaced from their land. It can be assumed that the film upholds Buddhism as a solution to violence against Dalits. It is clear that the struggle is organized and conducted by an evolved (probably formally educated or educated by Kandal Kariyan) group of Dalits who wear black outfits. They are the people who lead the demonstrations. As a finale to the demonstrations, they are arrested and are wiped out. There are numerous people gathered around for the final demonstration and most of them have physical features of the tribal people. But they are rather passive bystanders (Figs. 9-4 to 9-6). They remain voiceless. And there is no indication that they are joining the struggle. When the Buddha statue is brought in by the agitators, the people who are waiting there (who to judge from their appearance are presumably tribal people) have to make way for the statue but they are not seen joining the procession. Considering the general intentions of the film, this may not be a planned approach, but it is surely the inability to bring them in the film actively. For this reason, even when the film is celebrated in art cinema circles, in a tribal community, it will still be a mainstream film since the tribal people might not identify the film with them.


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Figure 9-4. Tribal people at the demonstration area

Figure 9-5. Close-up of tribal persons

Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness


Figure 9-6. Procession carrying the Buddha statue

What is the importance of a surrealist drama, inspired by actual events, in the context of Dalit struggle and environmental issues in Kerala? It may frighten us or upset us with a few disturbing visuals and strong dialogue. It may show us the plight of the low caste population. It may remind us of a few instances of ecological destruction. Papilio Buddha does all these beautifully. But who are these people whose plight is discussed? What are the implications of the spiritual and cultural transformation they are about to embark on? Is this all beyond the scope of the film? Definitely not, if the treatment was different! The film lends a poetic approach to the struggle but it is difficult to say that it possesses a firm ecological consciousness apart from the “butterfly = Dalit strugglers” equation. The butterfly symbolism does not come from within the community but rather it borrows from Buddhist traditions. It has been used to symbolize human conditions, but the symbol of the butterfly has no place in the cultural context of the people in the film. The film shows us the extreme injustice meted out to the Dalits in the State of Kerala and it is shown realistically, which is uncommon in the mainstream or art cinema of Kerala. Yet, someone who tries to learn about the issues through the Papilio buddha image will be left clueless about the origins of the Dalits, their relationship with this particular land and their culture. However, this is not a case of misrepresentation because there is no representation at all. To a common viewer outside the Dalit or tribal area, they are a group of people in distress. Papilio Buddha does not make any difference here. The subjects in the film are a group of Dalits. The film takes place in an imaginary place where the protagonist lies down with a dead peacock and there the Buddha statue has an invisible dimension In almost all fiction films, the story takes place in a definite universe (even though it is a real location) which consists of everything from set to sound. For a film with an activist


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bent, Papilio Buddha’s universe is too dramatic and has an unreal nature. These make the “living space” in the film more mysterious and surreal. The film is about the complete isolation of the Dalit community from the rest of the society. There is no mention about how Buddhism is becoming a path to justice or peace. Does converting to Buddhism mean that the people are leaving behind their original spirituality and culture? Their rituals, their beliefs, their spiritual connections and everything remain forgotten in the film. To make it worse, their life is crushed so much that they only worry about daily necessities. It is their rituals, belief systems and life philosophy that make them who they are. In this film, there is no attempt to signify the relationship between the people and their land. They organize strikes and protests asking the government for land but are they asking for their own land? Are they going to be evicted from their land? There is no answer to these questions. Papilio Buddha integrates the major aspects of Dalit political history in Kerala. The film squeezes about 100 years of their history into 100 minutes. And it places this compressed “time frame” in a closed fictional stage that is Meppara. So by its very nature Papilio Buddha is away from reality. The manipulated colour and theatricality further makes the film dreamy. The interrelationship between the entities in question can be defined and this includes the culture, nature and the sacred. Quoting Gayathri C. Spivak, “For the true subaltern group, whose identity is its difference, there is no subaltern subject that can know and speak itself; the intellectual’s solution is not to abstain from representation” (40). She further writes, “How can we touch the consciousness of the people, as we investigate their politics?” The identity that Spivak mentions here consists of the represented people’s ecological consciousness and their worldview based on it.

Notes 1. Translated from Malayalam into English by the author. 2. The term “Dalit” has different meanings for different people. The most common use of the term is to define people who were once known as “untouchables,” separated from the rest of the society by the caste system. 3. The Western Ghats region, spread over six states of Southern and Western India (Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat), is the setting for the present study. It has been identified by the United Nations as an environmentally sensitive area. The Nilgiri biosphere is located in this region (Ninan et al.). 4. Papilio buddha, the Malabar banded peacock, is a swallowtail butterfly that is endemic to the Western Ghats and relatively more common between southern Goa and northern Kerala. This is an uncommon but locally abundant butterfly.

Papilio Buddha: Exploring Ecological Connectedness


5. RED One is a digital movie camera that was released in 2007. The RED differs from most HD cameras with resolution and recording format. At its maximum 4K resolution, the RED has more than twice the resolution of a 1080p HD camera (Kadner). 6. 4K is accurately described as Quad HDTV or super high definition (SHD) with a resolution of 3,840×2,160 pixels per frame, exactly twice the horizontal and twice the vertical resolution of HDTV (1920×1080) (Gerbarg 105). 7. DI is a colour correction process which may or may not involve digitizing the picture. It is used to manipulate the colour and other image properties. “The digital intermediate is often defined as a digital replacement for a photochemical ‘intermediate’—a stage in processing (film) in which a strip of film (either an interpositive or an internegative) is used to reorganize and make changes to the original, source footage prior to output” (James).

References Alex, Rayson K. “Ecological Representation in Video-Documentaries on Tribal Communities in South India.” Problematics on Ethnicity, Identity & Literature. Ed. Anooradha Chakrabarty Barua and Hemanta Kr. Nath. Joysagar: The Sibsagar College, 2012. 98-104. Print. Blain, Brown. Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors. 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Focal P, 2002. Print. “The Butterfly.” Khandro Net., 1998. Web. 17 Feb. 2013. Cherian, Jayan. E-mail interview. 10 Nov. 2012. Firos, B. F. “No Justice for Muthanga Victims—They Fall Down and Die.” CounterCurrents.Org, 3 Mar. 2003. Web. 17 Feb. 2013. Gerbarg, Darcy, ed. Television Goes Digital. The Economics of Information, Communication, and Entertainment: The Impacts of Digital Technology in the 21st Century. New York: Springer, 2009. Print. Harvey, Peter. Buddhism. New York: Continuum, 2001. Print. James, Jack. Digital Intermediates for Film and Video, 2006. Google Book Search. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. Kadner, Noah. RED: The Ultimate Guide to Using the Revolutionary Camera, 2010. Google Book Search. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. Kunte, Krushnamegh, and Madhav Gadgil, eds. India-Lifescape: Butterflies of Peninsular India. Hyderabad: University Press, 2000. Print. Muir-Bussy, Ann. “Tara.” Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Ed. David A. Leeming, Kathryn Madden and Stanton Marian. Vol. 2. New York: Springer, 2010. Print.


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“NAD Definition of Dalit.” National Academy for Dalit (NAD)., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. Ninan, K. N., S. Jyothis, P. Babu and V. Ramakrishnappa, eds. The Economics of Biodiversity Conservation: Valuation in Tropical Forest Ecosystems. UK and USA: Earthscan, 2007. Print. Nojeim, Micheal J. Gandhi and King: The Power of Nonviolent Resistance. UK: Raintree Publishers, 2004. Print. Papilio Buddha. Dir. Jayan K. Cherian. Silicon Media and Kayal Films, 2012. Film. Rao, Anupama. The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 2009. Print. Shaw, Miranda E. Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. Print. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak.” Can the Subaltern Speak?: Reflections on the History of an Idea. Ed. Rosalind C. Morris. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. Print. Sreekumar T. T. “Budhashalabhavum Budhacinemayum” [“The Buddha Butterfly and the Buddha Cinema”]. Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly 2-8 Dec. 2012: 12-21. Print.



Introduction This essay is an attempt at analysing the Telugu film, Godavari, using the theoretical framework of tinai. In the essay, it is argued that the foregrounding/backgrounding (Nirmaldasan 15) of the river Godavari in the film is anthropocentric. One might question the relevance of the application of a prehistoric concept, tinai, in a 2006 Telugu film. There are two issues to be raised here: (1) the relevance of the anachronic employment of tinai (time) and (2) the application of a Tamil concept to a Telugu cultural text (space). Daniel S. Roberts reviewing the concept of tinai and its understanding as an ecocritical concept writes, The term will need to be reinterpreted through the lens of a modern consciousness to be taken up by a sizeable following today. Apart from the literary and critical work reviewed, the concept is potentially activist in nature and can find useful application in the social and political arenas. (Roberts)

As Roberts suggests, the relevance of tinai lies in the reinterpretation of the concept in the modern context. The conventions of tinai—the poetic interconnection between flowers and people, and landscape and people (Selvamony, Personal Interview)—are an uncontested appearance in the contemporary literary and cultural texts with changes in perspectives and culture incorporated. However, the basic structure of tinai remains to exist. The present analysis is an attempt at identifying the basic structures of tinai and its manifestations in the film. Though tinai is a well-theorized Tamil concept (familiar in all the Dravidian regions including the present Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala regions), it has a universal value for the connections that people of any cultural background—irrespective


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of region—might explicitly or implicitly have with their environment. The connection is implicit in the film and is analysed in this essay.

Thematic Study of akam and puram Conventions in the film Godavari The film Godavari tells the fictional story of the nitty-gritty of the love between Ram and Sita in the context of the river Godavari. The entirety of the river is beautifully yet realistically captured in the film. In the opening credits we see the beautiful misty morning on the river Godavari and the cruise ship, named after the river, in the background. This establishes the relevance of the river in the film. The still shot of the river with an anchored rowing boat to the left-hand side of the frame and the ripples of the river with the movement of the rowing boat to the right-hand side of the frame establish the conflict in the film. The beauty of the blue-tinted shot and the implied quietness of the river are abruptly obstructed by the raspy and amplified voice of the captain of the cruise ship, who is later introduced in the film. It is as though the film consciously does not allow the viewers to appreciate the beauty of the river, though efforts have been taken to beautify the river during post-production. The conflict is between the interior and the exterior spaces (Noy xvi) brought in with the audiovisual imagery. The conflict between the interior and the exterior/open and closed (Alex) spatial environment can be best explained through the concepts of akam and puram in the theory of tinai. A. R. Venkatachalapathy’s definitions of akam and puram are notable: Tholkappiyam divides the content and subject matter of all literature into two complementary and overarching categories: akam and puram . . . The authoritative Tamil Lexicon defines akam as inside, interior, heart, mind, breast, sexual pleasure, house, agricultural tract, the theme of love, subject, etc. Puram is defined as the ‘other’ of akam: outside, exterior, heroism, bravery, side, back, gossip and backbiting, partiality, place, tax-free land, wild tract, etc. (xix)

Though the definitions do not explicitly mention the conflict between these spaces, it is evident that the akam is in constant conflict with the puram. The conflict could be evinced between the interior and the exterior, inside and the outside, mind and the body, love and heroism, sexual pleasure and war, and home and place. In the film, the conflict, in the first place, is between the visible beauty of the river and the unheard beauty of its quietness; later it is further revealed as conflict between the unstable

tinai Reading of the Film Godavari


boat and the rising and falling water. This is quite contrary to the conflict between the akam and the puram in tinai poetry. In Sangam poetry, marutam (the riverine landscape) (Selvamony, “An Alternative Social Order” 216) is known for its agitated environment and emotions. In Kurunthokai 202, written by Allur Nanmullai, the wife tells her friend about her erring husband thus: It pains my heart. Oh, how it pains my heart! The sweet fresh flower of the nerunji weed with tiny leaves growing wild in dry lands ends up in thorns. Likewise my once sweet lover has now become cruel and heartless. How it pains my heart! (Thangappa 50)

In another poem by Orampokiyar, the girl tells her friend of her intense pain of separation with her lover: “I’ve been weeping/all these seven days/melting away/like wax on fire” (Thangappa 62). Lovers in a riverine landscape experience separation (Manickam 11). The separation implied in these poems is again the result of the conflict between akam and puram. The lover has gone out of the village to his workplace or to a foreign land on business or to the battlefield. It is his absence at home that has caused separation. This inflicts pain. However, whatever is the reason for the separation, there is a conflict of the spaces. It could either be a conflict between land (homeland) and land (battlefield) or land (home) and water (fishing). In Purananuru 192, Kaniyan Punkundran brings out this conflict between land and water. We do not exult that life is sweet, nor do we cry in bitterness that life is cruel. We know from the vision of seers that life takes its fated course like a raft that floats on a rapid river roaring among the rocks during the monsoon rains.


Chapter Ten Therefore we neither marvel at the great nor disdain the small. (Thangappa 165)

The poem shows the hopelessness of the warriors. For them, life is neither sweet nor bitter, happiness is neither big nor small. Life is like a raft that floats, which is always undulating, which constantly moves in ripples and which is never permanent and settled. Here, the conflict between akam and puram is demonstrated as the conflict between land and water. The fear for the roaring monsoon rain is contrasted with the peace and permanency of home. If Sangam poetry considers the water body as part of puram, love in the film “buds” and “blooms” in puram—in the cruise. The undulating nature of love, as in marutam, is seen in the film as well. As most part of the story in the film is narrated on a voyage on the river Godavari, the journey itself is set in puram—an unfamiliar space. Love and realization of love, according to marutam poetry, happens only in one’s own home or terrain or akam (Venkatachalapathy xxvii). It is as though the film abides by the suggested convention in tinai poetry. Though the river and the journey provide the backdrop for Ram and Sita’s love, it does not materialize in the cruise. The reason is that the action that should be necessarily part of akam buds in puram, which does not provide a private and personal space for them (Selvamony, “Can the Hungry Tide Country Be Human Home”). There are several instances in the film which shows Sita’s unsuccessful attempts to express her love to Ram. Love, for Sita and Ram, is not realized in the cruise. However, the very first act of Ram carrying her into the cruise (without her permission) while she struggles to walk on the narrow wooden bridge with her high-heeled shoes strikes a relationship between Sita and Ram. She is impressed with his honesty and benevolence. The first inkling of love happens after their second meeting. She writes in her journal that she is confused as to why she demanded an apology from him like she always asked her father. Though Sita is deeply in love with Ram, she is unable to express her love to Ram. To express her love, she needs a space that is private, personal and familiar, which are all, unfortunately for her, part of akam. Sita seems to crave for this space. Sita even telephones her mother to discuss her state of mind. The first instance where she tries to express her feelings is when Ram jumps into the river as he is disturbed by the looks of Raji (Raji is Ram’s cousin who traditionally is supposed to marry Ram). She is unable to express her love for she imagines the possibility of rejection. This uncertainty is probably the fear of an unfamiliar space—agoraphobia. The problem here is fear of rejection— Kakorrhaphiophobia—which is evidently a puram component.

tinai Reading of the Film Godavari


Sita persistently tries to impress him. She now wears a saree as she witnesses Ram heartbroken seeing Raji in a saree, which brings memories of yore. However, none of her strategies seem to be noticed by Ram, at least the way Sita expects it. However, she writes down all her feelings in her journal, which is her only familiar companion in the cruise. The treasure-hunting incident is the longest time they stay together in the forest. Sita tries to give hints about her feelings but she could not express her feelings in spite of being alone. Though the akam quality of love buds in puram, it is not realized in unfamiliar territory, which is a puram aspect. None of the puram features is favourable for Sita’s love to materialize. When Sita and Ram meet after having their community dinner, she almost confesses her love. She even goes back to her room, asking Ram to wait for her, buying time for her to wear a saree. But here too she could not do it as her fear of rejection impinges her decision. As the narration is mostly given by Sita, Ram’s inner feelings are not really disclosed. We tend to know his feelings only through certain incidents that he is involved in. Initially he is not able to realize Sita’s affection as he still has feelings for Raji, though the purpose of the voyage itself is to attend the marriage of Raji and Ravi. The conflict between akam and puram is symbolized within Ram. The conflict is between the unrealized love with Raji and the unknown depths of the love of Sita that is yet to be realized—the unrealized love in akam and the impossibility of love in puram. Later, he gets attracted towards Sita, but he is unable to comprehend the situation. As he says, “I always thought Raji is the only girl for me.” Even though Raji dumped him in order to marry another person, he still has her in his mind. It is seen that their love materializes only when they have reached their homes—akam. Ram realizes that Sita is also in love with him only when he sees the journal that she left in her room. He goes to her home and expresses his love, which she accepts after clearing all the doubts she felt after the cathartic incidents on the cruise. This mutual understanding could have happened when they are on the cruise itself, but the unfamiliarity of the place and feeling of home which akam gives cannot be replaced in puram. Comparably, we have seen from the marutam poetry earlier that love and realization of love happen only in one’s own home or terrain (Venkatachalapathy xxvii). We will analyse how the puram components like heroism, bravery, gossip and backbiting also contribute to the eventual realization of the akam factor—love. The main characters, Ram and Sita, in the story are in a state of disappointment in their lives. Ram is a well-educated individual


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who has returned from the U.S. with high ideals; his dream is to be a politician to serve the nation. He tries to secure a job with two big political parties in Andhra Pradesh; initially he is turned down because he is inexperienced but he manages to fix appointments to meet the leaders of the parties in two months’ time. Meanwhile, his personal life is a shambles. Raji, his beloved, agrees to marry another person in deference to her father’s wishes. As the marriage is about to be conducted in Badrachalam, a temple town, Raji agrees to attend the marriage as his lover wishes. On the other hand, Sita is a strong-headed, well-educated individual who wants to stand on her own feet. She has a small clothes-business which does not bring her economic profit. Compelled by her father, Sita agrees to marry Venkat and abandon her business. But to her dismay, the marriage is cancelled as Venkat feels that she is “too modern” for him. Eventually, she decides to go on a journey to Badrachalam on the cruise ship. Initially, the puram factors or external factors such as their livelihood, partialities and backbiting (Venkatachalapathy xix) bring them together in this journey. We have seen earlier in the marutam poems that when the man goes away from akam for the family’s livelihood his wife waits for him. In the same manner, Sita and Ram are concerned about their livelihood—a puram factor. Sita has to close her clothes shop, which is her livelihood, and Ram has to wait for his job with the political parties. These incidents actually bring them together on the cruise. Though Sita is given enough freedom to open her own clothes shop, she is always nagged by her parents to get married. They advise her that she is a girl and if she remains unmarried for long she will not be respected in society. Taking advantage of a small incident when she was harassed by a business man, her father compels her to close the shop and arranges for her marriage with Venkat. She feels that society, including her parents, is always judgmental of womanhood—cultural/gender partiality— and thus she decides to lead her life in the way she wants it to be, after her marriage with Venkat is called off. In the case of Ram, he believed that Raji would be his wife because, in their childhood, their parents had made a vow to get Ram married to Raji but Raji’s father decides against it as Ram is unemployed. Even Raji agrees to marry Ravi without any hesitation and this hurts Ram all the more. Initially, he decides not to attend the wedding, but Raji asks him to attend the wedding and he cannot say no. One important external happening on the cruise liner that contributed to their love is the bravery of Ram. When Veeraiah, who is accused of

tinai Reading of the Film Godavari


murder, runs away with his daughter and is attacked by a group of people, Ram bravely fights to rescue them, consequently getting wounded in his arm. With the help of others on the boat, they rescue Veeraiah and his pregnant daughter. Coincidentally, after this incident Raji becomes vulnerable in her situation as she witnesses how her fiancé (Ravi) even though he is a police officer could not rescue Veeraiah and his daughter when they were attacked. She tells Ram that she wants to call off the engagement and marry Ram. This is where the catharsis of the story begins. All these incidents in the story bring to light the puram factors that highlight the akam component of love. One should note that the akam is demarcated in contrast with puram. In that sense, though akam and puram are in constant conflict, they coexist. The external factors of betrayal, partiality and bravery thus help Ram and Sita to realize their love. “Akam and puram complement each other and so one cannot be isolated from the other” (Selvamony, “An Alternative Social Order” 223). The film also uses the cruise to portray akam and puram features. Most of the internal scenes are shot inside the cruise ship, that is, inside the rooms of the main characters and interestingly at night. These akam components include private, intimate and isolated conversations between Sita and Ram. Sita’s inner feelings are shown through her journal and her passionate talk with the mirror in her room. One incident that happens during the night is Veeraiah’s assassination attempt but within a few seconds of the shot the lights were on. The seemingly akam spaces in the ship (the closed rooms) are consciously made darker to create a feel of fear, unfamiliarity and invisibility—creating a puram effect. The evident and conflicting imagery of light and darkness is again a cinematic representation of akam and puram. However, it should be noted that the construction of akam (the closed rooms) in the ship exists on the undulating waterscape of puram.

Natural and Cultural Elements Having analysed the conflict between akam and puram, the next part of this essay identifies the natural elements of the riverine landscape that are portrayed in the film. Even though the film is fictitious and is a representation of twenty-first century society, it displays the modern social order of society which is, however, closely connected with the tinai social order of the primitive Dravidian people (Selvamony, “An Alternative Social Order” 215). These natural elements of the tinai landscape have


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become part of their culture and lifestyle although modernization and urbanization assimilated most of them. 1. Riverine Landscape Riverine plains: The film is predominantly set on the river. However, some scenes are set on the riverine landscape; they are the treasure hunt game, the community dinner and the union of the lovers. Riverine plains are very fertile because of the abundance of water and are very important for any natural element to survive. In the same way, the three important scenes set on the river plains conjugate the progression of the plot. It ultimately makes a strong basis for the union of the lovers. 2. Agricultural Tracts The fertile riverine landscape is repeatedly presented in the film as a symbol of permanency, stability and rootedness in contrast to the undulation and impermanence of the river. Paddy fields: Paddy fields are the pride of the Godavari basin. They are indicated when the song describing the river is played. It projects the fertile landscape around the river. “The Godavari gushingly flows! The paddy field gently sways!” (Veturi Sundarama Murthy, Trans. K. Samuel Moses)

Jute fields: Jute (Corchorus capsularis and Corchorus olitorius) is one of the major agricultural products of the Indian subcontinent (“Jute, Kenaf & Roselle Plants”). These vast jute fields are shown in the foreground and the boat on the river in the background. 3. Birds Parakeet: The Rose-Ringed Parakeet or Indian Ring-Necked Parakeet is found mostly in the forests or arid environments (“Rose-Ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri”). The parakeet that is shown in the film is a trained fortune-teller. The domesticated parakeet is an explicit example of anthropocentrism. The relationship between the parakeet and the astrologer is estranged. And at the end, the parakeet escapes the cage to freedom. Herons: These freshwater and coastal birds are seen mostly in the Godavari basin. In the film, they are shown during the song that describes Godavari and natural resources. Spot-billed pelicans: These migratory birds are seen mostly in and around the Godavari basin. In the film, these birds are shown swimming and flying during the song “The Godavari gushingly flows.”

tinai Reading of the Film Godavari


4. Animals Buffaloes: Buffaloes are found mostly in riverine landscape (Selvamony, “An Alternative Social Order” 220). These domesticated cattle give milk and help in agriculture. These animals are shown swimming in the river. Goats: Goats are one of the earliest domesticated animals (Acharya). These goats are seen on the boat with the farmers and the villagers. 5. Food Rice: Rice is a widely consumed food in the Dravidian landscape. This is still the staple food for all south Indians (Sen 2). In the film, the people are seen eating rice. Sour pancakes: This pancake which is sour in taste is called pullaattu or more formally challattu in Telugu (Padmanabhan). It is a popular food item in the Godavari region. The ingredients of this pancake are buttermilk, rice flour, sour curd, chopped onion, green chillies, minced cilantro, salt, cumin and oil (Padmanabhan). 6. People Farmers: According to P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar, “The most important zone for the development and spread of agriculture was the Marutam land” (quoted in Ramaswamy 619). Even in societies that are stratified like ours, agriculture remains one of the major occupations. When some farmers are seen working in their fields, there are some in the boat travelling to the nearby villages and towns to sell their agricultural products. Fisher folk: Fishing is also one of the major occupations in the Dravidian societies. Though in the marutam social order fishing may not be seen as an occupation, people in the area are fond of freshwater fish (Selby 23). The fishermen are seen fishing in the film and they are also seen carrying their fish in the boat to sell in other villages. They are also seen knitting their fish nets. The Godavari delta has abundant natural features and resources and this abundance is shown in the film. However, these references are mere tourist views included to enhance the rural beauty of the film. The relationship that the people share with these specific elements in the landscape is irrelevant here because the plot of the film does not allow for such an indepth understanding of the people, their land and its elements.


Chapter Ten

River Godavari: An Anthropocentric View The relationship between the people and the river is shown in an exhilarating manner; the river to the people is a source of money, beauty and entertainment; in the film, it enhances the beauty of the scenes and thus excites the viewer. The presence of the river is brought to us either by the stunning visuals of the river or the burbling or gurgling sound of the river. Though the music in the film backgrounds the diegetic sounds, a conscious effort is made to keep the feel of the river through the visual and the sound imagery. The river is always in the backdrop in lieu with the moods of the characters and also as a milieu in which the story unfolds. For example, in one instance, where Ram is in a turbulent mood, the river shows its turbulence with tides rising up. In another instance, where Ram and Sita have a quiet and intimate talk, the river is seen in the background, calm and tranquil. It is as though the river dances to the tunes of humans. On the contrary, Sangam literature gives a different perspective. The big village slept. I did not, listening to the sound of the dark blue flowers that fell from the tender branches of the nocchi tree, near our home … (Thangappa 33)

The lover might be waiting for her partner, but the willingness of the lover to listen to the quietness of night to the extent that she hears the fall of a flower is extraordinary. This extraordinariness comes of a biocentric perspective and attitude. It is this biocentric attitude and fear out of respect that trembles the heart of the lover as she hears the calls of the owl and monkey. Whenever a mountain owl called or a male monkey leaped from branch to branch on the jackfruit tree in our front yard my heart would tremble. (Thangappa 39)

Why aren’t Ram, Sita and others in the film willing to hear, feel and talk to the river? Is it that they have an anthropocentric attitude? If so, who can be blamed for it? Can we blame it all on modernist culture, globalization, industrialization, privatization or the nuclear family system? In the film, there is a song that describes the river and its uniqueness, but the song only talks about its usefulness to humans. A few lines from

tinai Reading of the Film Godavari


the song would demonstrate the anthropocentric attitude of people towards the river. She, a goddess who clears our woes! She, a personification of Vedas! She met with Sabari and paved the flower-spread way to the story of Rama! (Veturi Sundarama Murthy, Trans. K. Samuel Moses)

Outwardly, a divine quality is attributed to the river by referring to it as a goddess. However, respect is not towards the river, but to its religious symbolism. In one of the earlier scenes when the cruise is about to start, the captain talks about how the river is filled with cigarette butts and playing cards, and he despairingly asks, “Is this Godavari or a trash bin?”

References Acharya, R. M. Introduction. Sheep and Goat Breeds of India. FAO Corporate Document Repository., 1982. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. Alex, Rayson K. “Homing Ecophobia: A Study of a YouTube Clip on Tsunami.” Unpublished essay. Journal of Creative Communications (Special issue on “Disaster Communications: Media, Crisis and Representation”). SAGE, 2013. Print. Godavari. Dir. Sekhar Kammula. Amigos Creations, 2006. Film. “Jute, Kenaf & Roselle Plants.” International Jute Study Group (An InterGovernmental Organisation Established Under the Auspices of UNCTAD) 2003. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. Manickam, V. T. Marutam, An Aspect of Love in Tamil Literature. Tamil Nadu: Tema Publishers, 1982. Print. Murthy, Veturi Sundararama. Lyricist. Godavari. Dir. Sekhar Kammula. Perf. Sumanth. Madhura Entertainments, 2006. Film. Nirmaldasan. “Visual Media: An Oikopoetic Perspective.” Ed. Nirmal Selvamony, Nirmaldasan and Rayson K. Alex. Essays in Ecocriticism. New Delhi: OSLE-India and Sarup and Sons, 2007. Print. Noy, Rick Van. Surveying the Interior: Literary Cartographers and the Sense of Place. Nevada: University of Nevada Press, 2003. Google Book Search. Web. 10 Mar. 2013 Padmanabhan, Chandra. Simply South: Traditional Vegetarian Cooking. Chennai: Westland Ltd, 2008. Print. Ramaswamy, Vijaya. “The History of Agriculture in South India.” History of Agriculture in India (up to c. 1200 AD). Ed. Lallanji Gopal and V. C. Srivastava. In History of Science, Philosophy, and Culture in Indian


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Civilization, Vol. 5, Pt. 1. Gen ed. D. P. Chattopadhayaa. Delhi: PHISPC Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 2008. Google Book Search. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. Roberts, Daniel Sanjiv. Rev. of tinai 3, by Nirmaldasan and Nirmal Selvamony. Journalism Online 56 (October 2004): n. p. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. “Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri.” BirdLife International., 2000. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. Selby, Martha Ann. Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Ainkurunuru. New York: Columbia University Press. 2011. Google Book Search. Web. 10 Mar. 2013 Selvamony, Nirmal. “An Alternative Social Order.” Value Education Today. Eds. J. T. K. Daniel and Nirmal Selvamony. New Delhi: AllIndia Association For Christian Higher Education & Chennai: Madras Christian College, 1990. Print. —. “Tinai Studies.” tinai 3. Nirmal Selvamony and Nirmaldasan. Chennai: Persons for Alternative Social Order, 2003. Print. —. Personal interview. 12 Oct. 2012. —. “Can the Hungry Tide Country Be Human Home?” Abstract. National Conference on Towards Ecological Perspectives on Water, 26 and 27 Oct. 2012. Tiruvarur: Central U of Tamil Nadu, n.d. Print. Sen, Colleen Taylor. Food Culture Around the World: Food Culture in India. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004. Google Book Search. Web. 10 Mar. 2013 Thangappa, M. L. Love Stands Alone: Selections from Sangam Poetry. New Delhi: Penguin-Viking, 2010. Print. Venkatachalapathy, A. R. “Tradition, Talent, Translation.” Introduction. Love Stands Alone: Selections From Tamil Sangam Poetry by M. L.Thangappa. New Delhi: Penguin-Viking, 2010. xiii-xviii. Print.



The Tamil people have been authoring texts for more than 3000 years and any study of authorship cannot ignore the Tamil authorial tradition.1 It is these people who gave the world its first grammar, which preceded Yaska’s nirukta, Panini’s ashtadyaayi and Dionysius Thrax’s Art of Grammar (100 BCE) and other early grammars of the world. If linguistics is the first positive science, tolkaappiyam is the first text that inaugurated this science. However, this text is based on philosophico-anthropological presuppositions entirely different from those of Western positive sciences. The basic presupposition is the conception of the human as tinai, which in turn is imagined as a tree (Selvamony, “tiNai as Tree”). Therefore, an enquiry into Tamil authorship might well begin with a brief exposition of the theory of tinai. tinai often means a kind of social order that marked the primal society (Selvamony, “An Alternative Social Order,” “tiNai Studies,” “tiNai in primal and stratified societies”) which preceded the caste social order.2 Though it is an ecocentric theory, it is also an ontological one. As an ontic entity, it has three constituents, the base (mutal), the generative (karu), and the appropriate (uripporul). Literally, these three represent tinai as an organism including the human. If space and time form the base (as of a tree), the naturo-cultural features of a tinai are the generative ones (as in an egg), and the action appropriate to that place is like the skin (uri) that encloses, protects and gives shape to the entire organism-like society (tinai). Space and time are regarded as the base for the naturo-cultural features and the appropriate action are ultimately defined by the land, season and time of day. In fact, nothing is possible without a ground of existence. When we look at concrete examples for these in the ancient Tamil poems, we find the three interdependent operators functioning intricately. The act of dwelling together peacefully on the part of a deer family consisting of the deer, doe and the young one “generates” a similar dwelling together on the part of a human family who belong to the same

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tinai (Jotimuttu 107; Ramanujan 84). In other words, the appropriate action for the human community in the scrub jungle is dwelling together and such action is “generated” by the prototypical animal behaviour. This is plausible for the other organisms like trees, birds and animals precede the humans and had already established ways of living and interaction with the environment much before humans did. Such an established way of life as dwelling together, offered as a truth of life, is glimpsed (kaatchi, seeing; philosophy) by the poet who could see intensely through the pale of the experiential world. Having gained this “insight” into life, the authorpoet conveys it in a simple manner and unobtrusively to others by means of superb artistry. The art of a tinai artist lies in concealing art. Such an artist-author is a highly sensitive member of tinai community. To such an author, the thoughts and feelings generated by the native tinai are more compelling than the thoughts and feelings produced by other thoughts and feelings as those in a book. To a tinai author, the former category of thoughts is primary and the latter only secondary. Out of the total 125 songs composed by Ammuuvanaar, 123 pertain to the coast. He sang of the coast because he is a native of that tinai (Vannamuthu 9) whose thoughts and feelings were shaped by the mutal, karu and uripporul of the coastal tinai. Living closely with the land, the poets imbibed its sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Only such hourly communion made possible the intimacy with the land that is evident in these poems. Though the poets adopted certain common formulaic phrases, each poem resulted from a life of intimate bonding with a tinai. Such a bonding is best understood in terms of the concept of the generative elements (karu). If all feelings and ideas are generated by the naturo-cultural features of a tinai, then authorship is not an ex nihilo act, nor is it an expressive/creative one. This does not rule out the possibility of convention, tradition and even personality colouring the content of generation. How does one understand the relation between the agent and the world in order to understand the concept of generation? We may explore the possibility of pressing the concept of mimesis into service. Mimesis approximates the karu-author relation but differs from the latter in being humancentric. Aristotle, the major exponent of the concept of mimesis, was only speaking of the artist imitating the action of the humans, not necessarily that of the other organisms and the natural phenomena. karu is more comprehensive than mimesis. The interrelationship among diverse organisms and their environment is often mimetic. Biological mimicry is only one form of this universal mimesis. Mimicry is not merely a survival strategy; it is also an ontological reality.


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The stick insect that lives on a tree and can camouflage itself thoroughly not only mimics the tree but also partakes of the reality of its host. In fact, the insect is an extension of the tree in much the same way as the tree is of the insect. Mimesis often calls for appropriate adaptation and even translation (Selvamony, “Introductory Remarks on Oikosemiotics” 7). The following song from an ancient Tamil bard will illustrate this: Great love he has for you and he’ll shower it on you my dear; along his path he’ll see the affectionate animals— the male elephant with his large trunk strip the tender branch of the yaa tree to feed his hungry mate. [kurunthokai 37 by Paalai paatiya perungka tungkoo; trans. Nirmal Selvamony (1995)]

Indeed, the hero who observes the affectionate self-sacrificial act of the tusker is persuaded to imitate the elephant. But such mimesis cannot be one-to-one correspondence, and it has to take into account several variables. In fact, mimesis culminates in ontic continuity which is metaecological. In another ancient Tamil song (narrinai 172), a girl from a coastal home looks upon a laurel tree as her sister with a view to imitating the sister-tree as well as affirming her ontic continuity with the naturehuman being. Besides the nature-cultural generative elements, the primordial predication of a tinai also determines authorship. If the author’s home is the scrub jungle, (s)he is likely to be at home with dwelling epistemically as well as praxically. Indeed, (s)he could handle any motif or theme of her/his choice, but the primordial predication is the archetypal them which can be distinguished from anything else in terms of it being rooted not only in the mind of the author, but also in those of the others of the region, including the ancestral spirits. This is why we see that an ancient Tamil tinai poet tends to deal with one aspect or the other of the primordial action of her/his tinai. This is why every tinai author writes her/his tinai. What one knows and does best is what one writes best. When the primal society changed to a state society, the nature and function of authorship also changed accordingly. In the Tamil context, this change coincided with the transition from the tinai communitarian order to a stratified caste social order. The heterarchic (vertical and horizontal) integration that marked the primal society now changed to a wholly vertical one. Since the castes were unequal, the integration among them was vertical for all practical purposes. Historically, such a social transition

Authorship in the Light of tinai


could have occurred in Tamil Nadu sometime around 200 CE. Authorship also has to be understood in the context of the stratified society. While the sacred permeated the world in primal societies, it was confined to a separate realm above that of the humans in the stratified societies. The ubiquitous sacred possessed the author of the primal society even as it did a natural or cultural entity like a drum. Disengaged from an ontically continuous tinai, the author of the hierarchic state society remained a human agent often standing in need of the grace of God for effective authorship. The authorial function in a state society, unlike its counterpart in a primal one, is not attributable to the ubiquitous sacred that may possess the author, but to the faith in the respective religious system. For example, in the case of Gnaanachampanthan, his unswerving adherence to the faith in civan is the source of his authorial agency. He himself refers to this as “the One Way” (1.11: 3-4). The text of the author is what he is prepossessed with, namely, the idea of the One Way and his name becomes part of the text itself (teevaaram atangkanmurai 4.11: 12-13; 5.11:4; 39.11: 2-4; 7.4.10: 3-4). For the first time in Tamil literary history, we find an authorial signature within the text itself. Earlier, the author’s name appeared below the text along with other information about the poetic category (turai), musician and the musical mode (paripaatal xi). The signature in the text is both self-disclosure and self-distancing. It is also the latter because the author speaks of him/herself in the third person. However, the signature is an ambivalent tanmai in that it refers at the same time to the authorial self as well as the anthropomorphic sacred which elicited this particular response from the author. God takes possession and the doctrines prepossess the author. Maanikaavaachakar, a well-known Saivite saint, admits how Civan has prepossessed rather than possessed him: Because Civan within my thought abides, By His grace alone, bowing before His feet, With joyous thought, Civan’s “ways of old,” I’ll tell, That thus my former “deeds” may wholly pass. (tiruvaachakam. Trans. G.U. Pope)

God abides in the devotee’s mind as thoughts/doctrines though God is not wholly contained in the devotee’s thoughts. God (as pati) is in his world though all is not right with the Saivite world (paacham) and the Saivite himself (paachu). Such a God is imagined in the hierarchic society as a landlord who takes possession of the devotee not unlike a bonded slave. Cuntarar, another Saivite saint, was in for a rude shock when Civan


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appeared in the guise of an old man when the former was going through the ritual of his wedding and claimed before everyone that the saint was his bonded slave according to a legal deed he held in his hand. The devotional author of the stratified society is a chattel taken possession of by God. Such an author is an atiyaan/atimai, at times merely referred to as “aal” (a subject).3 The authors of different hierarchic societies may be profitably compared. Though both Gnaanachampanthan and St. Paul belonged to state societies, the former to the kingdom of Pallavar and the latter to the Roman Empire (Starr 187), if the latter wrote down his epistolary texts and belonged to a graphic culture, the former composed orally and was part of a predominantly oral culture though writing also served its purposes in some sections of society. However, in both “the human author of Scripture has no power to originate, and his text derives from the creativity and authority (auctoritas) of God” (Burke xvii). But the human author was deemed originator with the dissolution of the hierarchic social order. The hierarchic social order in India was disrupted due to the impact of British rule when such Western cultural forces as materialism and rationalism challenged the authority of the sacred; individualism and democracy redefined the identity of the human while capitalism, materialism and industrialism reconceptualized the idea of nature. The hierarchic structure fell apart, giving way to the dispensation of anarchy. Losing its supremacy, the sacred was confined to the role of a silent witness to a profane world of anarchy. Authorship was no more associated with the sacred. It was a wholly human act performed by an author who was nothing more than a psychosomatic individual. The first major author of the anarchic Tamil society is Maayuuram Veetanaayakar, who is premodern as well as modern. On the one hand, his preoccupation with Christian truth is evident in his religious songs which bear the ambivalent authorial signature. On the other hand, his secular writings, mainly prose, evince the influence of the West and inaugurate Tamil modernity. Evidently, Tamil modernity is a result of the influence of the West on Tamil culture and authorship. Coming under the influence of the Enlightenment and Western rationalism, Veetanaayakar not only introduces the novel form in Tamil, but also critiques Tamil society and culture and becomes the spokesperson of the anarchic social order. His ideal author was Dr. Johnson, an eminent voice of the Age of Reason. It is significant to note that mythology did not appeal to Dr. Johnson because it was fictitious and did not stand to reason (Greene 699). Johnson saw aesthetic creation as a wholly human act independent of divine inspiration (Greene 703). If Dr. Johnson influenced Veetanaayakar, Whitman, Shelley,

Authorship in the Light of tinai


Byron, Keats, Tennyson (Kailasapathy, oppiyal 219-237; The Relation 4249; Sachithanandan), Emerson, Thoreau, Montaigne, Addison and Steele, among many others (Marudanayagam 105-114), so did Subramania Bharati. It was Bharati who first yielded to the influence of free verse, despite the fact that much of his poetry is written in traditional metre. Being a form of literary anarchy, free verse not only menaced the privileging of certain aesthetic values like symmetry, order and regular musical time, but also redefined the identity of the poet as a rebel. Under the influence of rationalism, we find Bharati debunking mythology and hagiography (Kuruchaami 820; 347-348). We also find Whitmanesque individualism when he asserts his poetic skill: “by my poetic skill” (Kuruchaami 566). In a later poet, Kannataacan, it assumes megalomaniacal proportions when he declares “my name is God because I create” (from a movie, irattat tilakam [The small circular mark in blood on the forehead]. Bharati voices a commonly shared assumption of his time regarding the relationship between humans and the earth. He believed with many other contemporary poets it was legitimate to subdue the earth and exploit it industrially in order to produce consumable goods (Kuruchaami 815; 532533; 524-526). The materialism of the West shapes the poet’s conception of himself too. Even his poetic vocation, which had been regarded by the primal poets as making perfect (ceyyul), now becomes tozhil (occupation; “poetry is my occupation”; Bharati 410). His defiance of institutional religion does not amount to the rejection of spirituality itself. In fact, he is deeply spiritual and often represents himself as a devotee of Mother Goddess (Kailasapathy, oppiyal 237). Consequent to the defiance of the sacred and the adoption of a dominant relation with the world, Bharati neither sang the institutional religion nor described the physical world as such. In fact, he sang himself (Kailasapathy, oppiyal 236-237; The Relation 42) not exactly like Whitman, but in his own way. So far we have considered authorship from the perspective of tinai as social order. But tinai can also be seen as the prototypical praxic/addressorial field. To understand this field, the theory of act stated in the earliest extant Tamil text, tolkaappiyam (II.3.29), will be helpful. According to this theory, any act has eight constituents, act, agent, patient, instrument, immediate end, ultimate end, place and time. These eight can be subsumed under the three personae of the addressorial field, tanmai (the first person, addresser), munnilai (the second person, addressee) and patarkkai (third person, from the inanimate and animate world excluding persons other than the first and the second). tanmai is not only the agent but also the immediate end and instrument of action, munnilai is the


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patient (the one acted upon) and patarkkai includes place, time and the ultimate end (Selvamony, “The Ontology” 347). These three addressorial constituents of act may be explained briefly. tanmai as addresser may be construed either as the psychosomatic individual (person) who is usually thought of as the initiator/originator of the address or the self/ego of the person or the persona that is not limited to bodily existence or the agent who is often identified as the source of the action, especially the appropriate one in a tinai. As addressee, munnilai may be either a communitarian entity or only a part of the community, but it is the complementing patient of the act. patarkkai is not only the spatiotemporal context (referred to as the primary in tinai) of address, but also the material and non-material world (known as the generative elements in tinai; Abrams 6-7) from which tanmai derives the address. Several resources, material and non-material, may be tapped by tanmai in order to articulate the address, the most basic among these being language itself. Conceived thus, the author is a communitarian being constituted by tanmai, munnilai and patarkkai (which articulate an addressorial field). Primarily, we will situate the author in the addressorial field of tinai. When we view authorship through the speculum of the addressorial field, we may want to attribute the authorial role to tanmai. Since tanmai has no existence independent of munnilai and patarkkai, we need to know the role of the latter in the emergence of the author. Consequently, we understand that authorship is not so much origination as response. Since response is not possible without the call, authorship cannot be thought of as origination or creation. Every composition is a response to the call of munnilai. An effective author is one who is sensitive to this call (Emerson 479-480). Let us consider the call-response dialogue with an example. What follows is a Tamil song from Mudugar, a primal social group residing in the south of the Western Ghats in the State of Kerala. cigku irukkira kaattukkullee ciruttai veettai yaaturaan yaanai irukkira kaattukkullee elantu veettai yaaturaan puli irukkira kaattukkullee pukuntu veettai yaaturaan karati (i) rukkira kaattukkullee kalantu veettai yaaturaan maan irukkira kaattukkullee malantu veettai yaaturaan taataam tarikita tai (Alex) (He hunts leopard in the jungle which has lions He hunts jujube in the jungle which has elephants He enters and hunts in the jungle which has tigers He hunts by mingling with the jungle which has bears He hunts supine in the jungle which has deer) (Trans. Nirmal Selvamony)

Authorship in the Light of tinai


Texts of this kind abound in primal societies. What about their authors? Indeed, a text could not have sprung up autochthonously without an author or authors. But is it possible to identify the author of such texts? All we can say is that in most cases it is impossible to identify the author and that these songs are traditional, transmitted from one generation to another (Bowra 33-34). In other words, these are not authorless texts, but texts with unidentifiable authors. In other words, of the three personae in the addressorial field, we can only infer the presence of the personaic tanmai rather than a definite person who responds to a call from the addressee, and in this case, the call is in the form of a query regarding a hunter. The addressee could be the one who probably sought the information about the hunter in different animal habitats. From the context (patarkkai) of this response, the addresser isolates a male hunter who is the protagonist of the song by making a direct reference to him. Evidently, the addresser could not have come up with this song had there been no “call” from the addressee and the context of the call. In other words, we cannot have the addresser without the addressee and the context of the address. Of the three personae involved in the authorial address, the addresser, addressee and the context, is it possible to attribute this address only to one persona, say the addresser? If the response of the addresser is preceded by the call of the addressee, it is ridiculous to say that the addresser is the originator of the address. Again, since the addressee’s call derives from the addressorial field of which the addresser and the addressee are part, both the addresser and the addressee cannot claim originality of the address. If the addressorial (authorial) field is the ultimate source of the text authored, the text requires both the addressee and the addresser to concretize it. This means that though the field as such (patarkkai) is the ultimate author of a text, it cannot make the text specific and significant without the addressee and the addresser. In other words, authorhood can be attributed to all the three personae of the addressorial field; it is triadic in nature. Besides the song of the Mudugar we have considered so far, primal societies have another kind of text also associated with its public forum that usually meets in the village square. In several tribal settlements, one may still find a public space where important meetings are called. Usually this public space is a raised platform under a tree. The sangha (assembly) of the Jains and Buddhists and also the court of the king in the state society can be traced to this primal institution. The text presented in such a public forum is composed by a member of a primal society and presented in public before an authoritative assembly for critical scrutiny and approval. The text is allowed to circulate only after the approval of this


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august assembly. In Tamil tradition, such an assembly is called avai (Sanskrit sabha, assembly) and it met in the public square called manram. An ancient Tamil poem speaks of a young student who is admired for his eloquence he had developed in the public forum in his village (kuruntokai 33). From the ancient Tamil literary texts, we come to know that many of these fora were very popular those days. For example, the one at Uraiyuur was known for unswerving justice (Selvamony tamizhk kaatchi neriyiyal 42-65). Texts, subsumed under the category of ceyyul (which means “art” and “the work of art”), were subjected to the scrutiny of the public forum (Selvamony, “The Ontology” 349-351). Texts were put into two broad categories, those with specifications for the minimum and maximum number of lines and those without such specifications. Among the latter is nuul (a type of text based on logical principles), which is said to be of two kinds, primary and secondary. The author of the primary text is referred to as munaivan with two distinct qualities: ecstasy and wisdom (tolkaappiyam III.9.96). The secondary text, based on the primary one, is made by compilation, exposition, compiling and expository and translation. If a compilation gathers the data in an orderly manner, an expository text sets forth the data and explains them too. Though these are the two basic types of secondary text, a hybrid third combines both types by compiling and expounding at the same time. The author of a secondary text is not given any particular name by Tolkaappiyar. But we could infer the nature of such an author from the predicate associated with her/him: yaattal (composition; III. 9.99). While the author of a primary text “sees” his text, the author of a secondary text “composes” it. If a primary text is revealed, a secondary text is composed. Composition is a predominantly rational activity of an agent who makes a text out of other text(s), whereas the discovery of a primary text on the part of munaivan is a semi-rational and unprecedented act. Only a certain kind of an agent can give us a primary text, a munaivan. munaivan could mean a pioneer in a field of knowledge (from munai, front end + v euphonic particle + an, masculine suffix, he who is at the front end). A pioneering author is at the forefront of knowledge. In fact, munaivan can also mean “a striving man.” This meaning is inappropriate here for it is contradictory to his ecstatic state of composition. One who composes in an ecstatic state cannot be reasonably described as a striver. The latter labours voluntarily having full rational control over the productive process. munaivan, the wise author of a primary text, composes in a state of ecstasy. Ecstasy is a state in which reason begins to lose its hold over consciousness, which amounts to being in a state of partial consciousness as in a trance. Etymologically, ecstasy is “standing out,” ex,

Authorship in the Light of tinai


out + stasis, standing, standing out; standing beside the act one is performing. In a state of ecstasy, the author does not have full control over her/his act. tolkaappiyam calls it “vinaiyin niingkutal” (“standing beside the act”; tolkaappiyam III. 9. 96), literally, being beside oneself. In early Tamil literature, such a state is referred to as “ayarcci,” which means loss of consciousness, falling into a somnambulant state. ayarcci is also forgetfulness, not so much loss of memory as the lulling of the conscious mind. Such a state of mind was also artificially produced by means of consuming depressant substances including alcoholic, narcotic or hallucinogenic ones and such consumption was an important part of primitive ritual. A classic example is the ritual (veri) centring on veelan who consumes toddy and performs an ecstatic dance. In Kerala, he is often called “velichchappaad(u),” which means “oracle” (literally, “appearance of light” (Pallath 201). The text that has to be uttered by velichchappaad(u) dawns on him all of a sudden as in a revelation.4 The ritual takes its name veri from the ecstasy of the shaman called veelan, and since this ecstasy is a kind of play, the performance is said to be “ayartal” (ayar, to play + t particle + al stem suffix; tolkaappiyam III.2.5: 2). In this ritual, veelan gets ecstatic and stands outside normal experience. In this veelan is not unlike the author of the primary text. Both transcend the act.5 Ecstatic action or action in which the agent stands outside the action is commoner in the primal society than in the later ones. Outstanding examples of ecstatic authors are the shamans and shamanesses. Interestingly, Mircea Eliade defines shamanism as the “technique of ecstasy” (4). In tolkaappiyam and other early Tamil literature, we come across akavan and akavan makal who were proficient singers. One of the earliest types of song known as akaval, literally, calling out, is the song of akavan or akavan makal. It may also be noted that this is the earliest of the four types of classical verse in Tamil. These primitive singers could have authored their songs in a state of trance. Composition in a trance presupposes prior knowledge. Accordingly, munaivan, the author of primary text, is endowed with illuminating knowledge (vilangkiya arivu, tolkaappiyam III.9.96) that dispels darkness and clarifies what is obscure and dark. Such an author explicates the inexplicable. The phrase vilangkiya arivu can refer to either a type of knowledge or its function. If the former is the luminous knowledge, omniscience, the kind that ordinary mortals do not possess, the latter refers to the explicative authorial function of munaivan. munaivan and the authors of the primal society made two types of text, one that is subjected to the scrutiny of a jury and another which is not. The author of a text that has to be subjected to scrutiny may use the first person


Chapter Eleven

reference in the course of the text as in the case of the following lines from tolkaappiyam: “I have spoken of the duration of the externalised music of the air stream that is articulated physically” (I.3.21-22). In fact, Tolkaappiyar “speaks” (rather, sings) here in the first person in order to help distinguish the text he is reciting from other texts. The textual conventions of the day required the mention of the text of the “opponent” when one differed from it, especially in the public forum. But this does not make either the text or the author “subjective.” The use of the first person makes the author identifiable as the one to whom the merits and demerits of the text may be attributed. Such an authorial identity is necessary so that traditional textual values like flawlessness and edification potential can be ensured. However, this author is not necessarily seen as the originator of the text but as one who takes responsibility for the continuation of excellent textual tradition. The first person is more an attributive marker than a genetic one. The author (Tolkaappiyar) who uses the first person pronoun addresses scholars of the public forum among whom was the renowned scholar from Atangkootu (presently in Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu). It is likely that the audience included several colleagues of the author as well as his students. tolkappiyam is a response to the demands of the scholarly forum and academy of those days. In fact, the text is shaped by the “call” of Tolkaappiyar’s addressees. As for patarkkai of this authorial field, it is a society in which education had set for itself very high standards and was highly valued. One of the sections of this society often referred to by Tolkaappiyar is that of the other authors he quotes. A quotation is a part of the text that was originally uttered by those who now belong to patarkkai but now restated by tanmai. But the relation between patarkkai and tanmai undergoes a corresponding change with the change in the social order. The change is radical when anarchy sets in. In a non-integrated anarchic society, tanmai disengages itself from the addressorial/praxeological field which includes patarkkai and munnilai. Now tanmai’s utterances are unsolicited and solipsistic. tanmai is a psychosomatic individual whose norms determine the nature and function of the utterances. For example, when Maayuuram Veetanaayakar invokes Johnsonian aesthetic, the former subscribes to the neoclassical ideal of reason which denounces everything (including mythology) that is incommensurate with reason. Though Veetanaayakar attempted religious dialogue, his theological stand was Christian and in this his munnilai was the fragmented and compartmentalized sacred of the hierarchic social order. By accepting the anarchic Johnsonian literary model, his authorship becomes anarchic also. In other words, the tanmai of Veetanaayakar’s

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authorship field is both hierarchic and anarchic at the same time. In fact, the anarchic element entitles him to the distinction, namely, the inaugurator of Tamil modernity. We find a similar authorial duality in Bharati also. On the one hand, he is responding to the call of spiritual India (in his patriotic songs and others pertaining to Tamil language and culture) and on the other, to the materialistic West (through the influence of Shelley, Whitman, besides others). Evidently, the Western call renders his authorship anarchic. Under such circumstances, self-reflexivity is unavoidable; only a thorough critique of one’s poetics can explicate the addressorial field. However, some contemporary authors attempt to redefine the addressorial field. One such is M. L. Thangappa whose aesthetic theory attempts to rearticulate the addressorial field by giving precedence to love. According to him, love is the primary prerequisite for a poet (aantaippaattu 4; kotuttalee vaazhkkaai 144), not craftsmanship or scholarship, which are but secondary. In an essay entitled, “Losing Oneself” (235-241), he speaks of love (239) but does not show how love itself is losing oneself. The Tamil word “anpu” brings out this idea. Etymologically, the word means, “not” (al, not + pu, nominal suffix). What is negated is the self. An ideal symbol of love in early Tamil literature is the bird, anril (identified often as night heron). When one of a pair dies, the other too dies soon. Hence, its name, anril (anru, without + il, not; something that is not without [the other] (Selvamony, “tiNai Studies” 3). If we understand love as losing oneself, and if love is a basic prerequisite for an author, then authorship involves losing oneself. This is a significant insight which can help read Thangappa’s idea of authorship. Significantly, he also reminds his readers that if one were to be confined to the doctrines of a particular religion, one cannot be said to be losing oneself (235). Consequently, such a religious author by not losing himself/herself will not offer truth but only doctrine to his/her readers. However, by choosing to describe poetry as creation (pataippu, kallum montaiyum 14-17; kotuttalee vaazhkkai 135) rather than as making (ceyyul), he slips into the anarchic muddle. While pataippu suggests origination where the self is the sole source of the composition, ceyyul is an indwelling act (cey, to make + ul, inside; making from inside) which involves abandoning of the self (Selvamony, “The Ontology” 342, 349350). This raises the question whether an author of the hierarchic society could lose himself/herself at all. If authorship is response, tanmai ought to adequately listen to munnilai. Adequate listening is allowing munnilai to speak. For this, tanmai has to make room for munnilai by emptying the


Chapter Eleven

self of tanmai. tanmai has to be possessed by munnilai. Possession does not mean total loss of control as in the case of non-shamanistic possession but allows a certain amount of control by tanmai as in the case of shamanistic possession (Eliade 6; Stephenson). C. M. Bowra points out that ecstatic composition does not rule out the exercise of choice and judgment. “The unconscious mind plays a large part in primitive song, especially through images which come from dreams, but the song-maker seldom surrenders himself completely to it. He is usually an artist who believes that words must be shaped and ordered by choice and judgment.” (40). Psychologically, possession is “a condition of dissociated personality” (Taylor 138) and this non-shamanistic type is not consequential for our purposes, for it is based on a concept of the human quite different from its traditional Tamil counterpart. However, possession is a vital part of ecstatic composition. Only in an ecstatic state can tanmai be possessed by munnilai. Losing the self involves relaxing the grip of reason because rationality imposes an exclusive identity on tanmai as if the latter were independent of munnilai and patarkkai. We may recall what Socrates tells Ion in Plato’s dialogue, Ion: “And what they say is true, for a poet is a light and winged thing, and holy, and never able to compose until he has become inspired, and is beside himself, and reason is no longer in him” (Burke 15). Going by Eliade’s definition of shamanism, we cannot agree with Socrates, the speaker in a dialogue of Plato’s, when he says that “reason is no longer in him.” Eliade unambiguously indicates the rational function of shamanism by means of the term “technique” in the phrase “technique of ecstasy.” However, we need to remember that the Platonic conception of the poet is an example of the survival of the primal notion in a graphically oriented state society (Burke 285-286). This should not be taken to mean that rationality is a negative faculty, far from it. When a human act is under the influence of rationality, it turns into a game, which is basically manipulative and oriented to a specific goal. Under the influence of nonrational faculties like imagination, inspiration and faith, an act could be play, which unlike game is spontaneous and ecstatic. The primal authoring then is play (ayartal) rather than game. Authoring can become game when the author is preoccupied with a doctrine or dogma of a religious system such as Saivism or Christianity. Such an author works towards a specific goal by establishing the veracity of his/her religious position and refuting the claims of other similar systems. All authors of hierarchic societies are polemical and monological instead of being dialogical. A standing example is Gnaanachampanthan who expends a lot of his poetic energy denouncing Jainism which had

Authorship in the Light of tinai


been the predominant spiritual tradition for several centuries preceding Hinduism (which included Saivism and Vaishnavism). Denunciation of one system of doctrines is possible only when the denouncer subscribes to another counterdoctrinal system. When a particular form of the sacred (rather than the sacred as such) prepossesses an author, the imaginary munnilai projected by the author keeps off the actual one. If possession is an act of tanmai that empties itself and makes room for munnilai, prepossession is an act of tanmai that deafens the self to the call of munnilai. Prepossession precludes possession, for a prepossessed tanmai is already filled with something and there is no room to accommodate what comes from munnilai. In fact, prepossession is not possession at all, though it suggests prior possession (pre+possession). What happened prior was the filling of tanmai with one thing or the other often one dogma or the other. The dogmatic truth is not part of the response of munnilai but a part of patarkkai. For example, Arunakirinaatar (fifteenth century AD), an author of the hierarchic Tamil society, visits hundreds of places and shrines in his lifetime and patarkkai marks his visit by singing the deity of the shrine. But in all the songs, the author uses the place only as a background to foreground his spiritual plight. Indeed, the name of the place suggests the song line (Cuntaram 67). The author is not responding to the call of that particular place or shrine (munnilai), but only expressing in a song the dogma (a part of patarkkai) he is preoccupied with. In sum, if the author of the primal society is possessed, and that of a hierarchic society prepossessed, the one of the anarchic is obsessed, obsessed with his/her self. In other words, if authoring is possession in the primal society, it is becoming a possession in the stratified society and being self-possessed in the anarchic society. In the last instance, tanmai is identified with a psychosomatic individual, resulting in a kind of authorship which is original and creative. In such a case, authoring is not a response to the call of munnilai, but an expression of the self as in nonintegrative industrialized societies. In the hierarchically integrated society, it is not a response because tanmai is already prepossessed dogmatically. tanmai may be either identified with an embodied individual or not. Only in wholly integrated primal societies can tanmai be the addresser-persona rather than person (a psychosomatic individual) responding to the call of munnilai in the communitarian addressorial field.


Chapter Eleven

Notes *

A revised version of an essay written in 2007. 1. A useful guide to understand authorship in the Western tradition is Authorship: From Plato to Postmodern: A Reader (2000) edited by Sean Burke. Burke shows how in the Western world, authorship is usually approached from an ontological perspective. While to some the author is a personal being, to others he/she is an impersonal one. Nevertheless, both types of conception (the Romantic positions of Edward Young, Shelley, Sigmund Freud, among many others, as well as the anti-Romantic ones including those of Eliot, Hulme, Pound and the other formalists, structuralists and poststructuralists), strangely, draw inspiration from the concept of subjectivity in either an affirmative or a negative mode. Sean Burke endorses this in the following manner: “No less than within romanticism, the reaction against subjectivity once more shows that its terms are governed by the era of subjectivity” (xxiii). A third type of conception of authorship is based on Heidegger’s theory of being in which being is inextricably bound with the world. Being is already always being-inthe-world. Now the author is a “situated subject, a historically full “I” in contradistinction to the ontologically void “I” of the Kantian analytic” (Burke xxvi). Again, a radical reading of Heideggerian ontology shows that though it challenges previous notions of subjectivity, it does so only by standing on the same ontological platform. Though Foucault’s idea of authorhood is closer to its primal Tamil counterpart (inasmuch as it is not attributable to a psychosomatic individual), his response to Roland Barthes’s essay on the subject is based on Western philosophico-aesthetic assumptions. This means that unless we have an ontological basis different from the ones the Western theories have presupposed, authorship cannot be extricated from subjectivity. Examining Western notions of authorship historically, Burke admits that author debate is “falsely analogised with the transcendent/ impersonal subject and that the only way to deconstruct this latter subject is not to replace it with theories of language, difference, anonymity, ecriture feminine and so on, but to reposition authorship as a situated activity present not so much to itself as to culture, ideology, difference, influence, biography” (xxvi). However, Burke does not offer a theoretical framework for conceptualizing authorship as an activity. In contrast, the Tamil approach is praxic and relational. The author is what he/she does in order to bring the text into being. 2. The phrase “communitarian order” has ecological implications, whereas the phrase “caste social order” does not have such. tinai as a community includes culture too which the ecological community does not. 3. The Tamil word for taking possession of a subject author is “aal kollutal” (taking the subject). If the word “aal” originally meant “ruler, one who rules,” now in a stratified society it means “the ruled,” “the subject.” 4. Compare the role of epiphany in the discovery of the theme “a lyric” in Jonathan Culler’s “Poetics of the Lyric,” Structuralist Poetics. tolkaappiyam also makes it evident that the text is revealed to munaivan. The primary text is that which is “seen.” Here authorship is understood as a kind of seeing. Mental

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seeing is a significant predication in early Tamil society, especially in the primal. In fact, what the Greeks called, philosophy, the early Tamils called, “seeing” (kaatci, Selvamony, tamizhk kaatci neriyiyal). Indeed, there is a distinction drawn between sight and insight. 5. The primal idea of standing outside the act and not being overwhelmed by it reappears in philosophico-religious systems like Jainism (Gopalan 177) of the stratified state society. The concept of “disinterested act” (nishkaama karma, Grimes 227) which is said to be the central teaching of the Bagavad Gita (Gopalan 227) may also be regarded as a variant of the Tamil concept. It may be noted that the Gita, as part of the Mahabharata, is also a text of the stratified society.

References Abrams, M. H. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. Oxford and other places: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. Alex, Rayson K. “Symbiosis in the Songs of Mudugar.” University of Madras dissertation, 2008. Print. Arunakirinaatar. tiruppukazh, tiruvakuppu, kantarantaati, kantaralagkaaram, kantaranupuuti, veelviruttam, mayil viruttam, ceeval viruttam. Ed. kirupaananta vaariyaar. Chennai: vaanati patippakam, 1986. Print. Barthes, Roland. “Death of an Author.” Modern Criticism and Theory: a reader. Ed. David Lodge. London and New York: Longman, 1988, 167-172. Print. —. “Authors and Writers.” A Roland Barthes Reader. Ed. Susan Sontag. London: Vintage, 1993. 185-193. Print. Bharati, Subramania. Bharati nuulkal: katturaikal. 5th ed. Chennai: Bharati piracuraalayam, 1950. Print. Bowra, C. M. Primitive Song. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962. Print. Burke, Sean. Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh U P, 2000. Print. Cuntaram, V.P.K. tamizhicaik kalaik kalajciyam (Encyclopedia of Tamil Musicology). Vol.1. Tiruchirappalli: Bharatidasan U, 1992. Print. Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Trans. Willard R.Trask. Arkana: Penguin Books, 1989. Print. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Representative Men.” Emerson’s Essays. Calcutta: The British India Publishing Company, 1882. 367-541. Print. Foucault, Michel. “What is an Author?” Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology. Vol.2. Ed. James D. Faubion. Trans. Robert Hurley and others. UK: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1998. Print.


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Gopalan, S. Outlines of Jainism. New Delhi: Wiley Eastern, 1975. Print. Greene, Donald, ed. Samuel Johnson. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. Print. Grimes, John. A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy. Madras: University of Madras, 1988. Print. Jakobson, Roman. “Linguistics and Poetics.” Modern Criticism and Theory: a reader. Ed. David Lodge. London and New York: Longman, 1988. Print. Jotimuttu, P., trans. ainkurunuru: The Short Five Hundred (Poems on the Theme of Love in Tamil Literature): An Anthology. The Christian Literature Society, 1984. Print. Kailasapathy, K. oppiyal ilakkiyam (Comparative Literature). Chennai: Kumaran Publishers, 1999. Print. —. The Relation of Tamil and Western Literatures. Madurai: Madurai Kamaraj U, 1984. Print. Karthikeyan, N.V. Life of Saint Arunakirinaatar and the Esoteric Significance in the Kandar Anubhuti. Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society, 1983. Print. Kurucaami, ma.raa.poo, ed. Bharati paatalkal (Songs of Bharati). Thanjavur: Tamil University, 2001. Print. Kuruntokai. Ed. u.vee.caaminaataiyar. Annaamalainakar: Annamalai University, 1983. Print. Marudnayagam, P. The Tamil Canon: Comparative Readings. Puducherry: The Puducherry Co-operative Book Society, 1998. Print. Paandirangan. Personal interview. 20 September 2005. Pallath, J. J. Theyyam: An Analytical Study of the Folk Culture, Wisdom and Personality. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 1995. Print. paripaatal (ettuttokaiyul aintaavataakiya paripaatal muulamum parimeelazhakar uraiyum, The original text of paripaatal being the fifth in ettuttokai with a commentary by parimeelazhakar). Ed.u.vee.caaminaataiyar. cennai: Dr.u.vee. caaminaataiyar Library, 1980. Print. Ramanujan, A. K. Poems of Love and War: from the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil. New Delhi and other places: Oxford University Press, 1985. Print. Sachithanandan, V. Whitman and Bharati. (A Comparative Study). Bangalore and other places: Macmillan, 1978. Print. Selvamony, Nirmal. “An Alternative Social Order.” Value Education Today. Eds. J.T.K. Daniel and Nirmal Selvamony. New Delhi: All-

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India Association for Christian Higher Education, Chennai: Madras Christian College, 2000. Print. —. perf. “Great love he has for you.” Dreaming of Home. A cross-cultural performance of music and poetry, Department of Music, Davidson College, Davidson, USA, 21 March, 1995. Performance. —. “Introductory Remarks on Oikosemiotics.” Literary Explorer 8.2 (December 2009): 1-12. Print. —. “Maayuuram Veethanaayakam Pillai and his Aesthetics.” krictavat tamizhiyal. aayvukkoovai. Vol.2. Ed. Gnana Chandra Johnson. Chennai: Madras Christian College, 2007. Print. —. “The Ontology of the Work of Art: An Introduction to Tamil Poetics.” Critical Theory: Perspectives from Asia. Ed. Naqi Husain Jafri. New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia and Creative Books, 2004. Print. —. “Possession as Address.” Altered States: Spirit Possession, Modernity and other Dangerous Crossings in India. Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Convention Center, Honolulu, 3 Apr. 2011. Panel discussion. —. tamizhk kaatci neriyiyal (Methodology of Tamil Philosophy). Chennai: International Institute of Tamil Studies, 1996. Print. —. “tiNai in primal and stratified societies” Indian Journal of Ecocriticism 1(2008): 38-48. Print. —. “tiNai Studies.” Tinai 3. Nirmaldasan and Nirmal Selvamony. Chennai: Persons for Alternative Social Order, 2003-2004. Print. Starr, Chester G. The Ancient Romans. Oxford and other places: Oxford University Press, 1975. Print. Stephenson, Craig E. Possession: Jung’s Comparative Anatomy of the Psyche. Sussex and other places: Routledge, 2009. Print. Taylor, John. The Primal Vision: Christian Presence and African Religion. London: SCM P Ltd., 2nd impression, 1969. Print. teevaaram atagkanmurai. Ed.Mayilai Ilamurukanaar. 2 vols. Chennai: tiruvarulakam, 1953. Print. Thangappa, M.L. etu vaazhkkai? (What is Life?). Putuvai: vaanakap patippakam, 1994. Print. —. aantaippaattu (Song of the Owl). Putuvai: vaanakap patippakam, 1983. Print. —. kallum montaiyum (Toddy and the Pot). Putuvai: vaanakap patippakam, 1987. Print. —. kotuttalee vaazhkkai (Life is Giving). Putuvai: vaanakap patippakam, 2001. Print.


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The Tiruvaacagam or Sacred Utterances of the Tamil Poet, Saint, and Sage Maanikkavaacagar. Trans. With Introduction, Notes, Lexicon and Concordance. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1900. Print. tolkaappiyam. Ed. kee.em. veenkaTaraamaiyaa, ca.vee.cuppiramaNiyam, Tiruvanantapuram: International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 1996. Print. vannamuttu, maa. ammuuvanaar paatalkalil oor aayvu (A Study on the songs of ammuuvanaar). Madurai: coolai nuulaka veliyiitu, 1976. Print. veetanaayakar, maayuuram. Author’s Preface. pirataapamutaliyaar carittiram (first tamizh novel). Chennai: New Century Book House, 1994. Print.


Because of the capacity of art to induce compassion and inspire both individual and collective action, the creativity of artists is essential in solving urgent social and environmental issues. As Eric FriedenwaldFishman (2011) writes in The Stanford Social Innovation Review, There is no discipline that nurtures and sparks the cognitive ability to imagine, and unleashes creativity and innovation, more than arts and culture. There is no approach that breaks barriers, connects across cultural differences, and engages our shared values more than arts and culture. There is no investment that connects us to each other, moves us to action, and strengthens our ability to make collective choices more than arts and culture.

I believe that the greatest challenge facing other species is the need for change in human values and attitudes towards conflicting rights, wants and needs in our landscapes. I hope my work offers models for equitable solutions and that this essay sparks productive dialogue among scholars working in ecocriticism and artists whose work fosters cultural change and healthy ecosystems. For twenty-five years, my focus as an artist has been trans-species art: sculptures and installations that are used by wildlife or enhance wildlife habitat. The artwork is usually part of habitat restoration. It also intends to raise awareness of human responsibility to maintain our planetary biodiversity. In the mid-1980s, after making studio art about my concerns for nurturance and endangered lifecycles, art that is critical about our relationships with wildlife, I wanted to make a more direct, positive gesture towards the earth and leave the “commodity” art world behind. At


Chapter Twelve

that time, I lived in Wyoming, where Nature, not man, is still the dominant force. If there are more pronghorn antelope than people, why not make art for wildlife? At this early point in the environmental movement, I felt that except in very few instances, all humankind’s activities were aimed at benefiting humanity itself as a species if not as individuals. So much of what we do in our lives has a detrimental effect on other species with whom we share the planet. As an artist and activist I had spent years objecting to our harmful effects on the environment. Could I instead make art to counteract them? Surely centuries of civilization would enlighten us to act on behalf of other species as well as ourselves. If art is a leading edge of civilization, as we hope, was it not possible that trans-species actions can be done as art? And could art atone for some of the losses we have caused? Figure 12-1. Desert hydroglyphs

Because I was raised on the arid mesas of New Mexico, my first actions were inspired by the magic of finding water in the desert. Even a few ounces of water can mean survival for wildlife if water is scarce. With hand tools, I created the first “desert hydroglyphs,” carving channels a few inches deep into horizontal rock surfaces to capture water from runoff rain and snowmelt (see Fig. 12-1). The symbols I carved—contemporary

Ecoethics and the Evolution of an Ecoartist


versions of ancient petroglyphs—are in shapes abstracted from animal body parts and tracks, as well as shapes inspired by the landscape itself. I avoided working in places that already had ancient rock carvings or other unique features. I wondered as I carved whether a deer would recognize an abstract, enlarged deer track or bone shape, and what the shapes would mean to an eagle. These early hydroglyphs were carved in desert stone in Wyoming, the first in the shape of the spiral of life, with large deer or elk tracks going into the channels and coming out the other end. Another one in Wyoming used existing water capture: shallow, darkened circles on the rock where tiny amounts of water collected. I deepened the natural shapes by carving large animal tracks—of deer and of mountain lion—to show the path of a predator-prey relationship. Later I was invited to work on private land in Utah and created “Scatter,” a set of five carvings of tracks and bone shapes descending a rocky desert wash, where water ran during summer rain showers. This theme was inspired by hiking the remote desert wash and finding animal tracks and bones, scattered by water and wind. When I was able to monitor the hydroglyphs, I found evidence of bird and small mammal droppings around the site and in the carvings when dry. At one site, at the base of a cliff with a large crack, an owl had built a nest in the crack, presumably taking advantage of the small creatures that drank during the night. I quickly came to view my artworks as “art experiments.” Until the species I was designing it for, or a species I was not expecting, had begun using and even in some cases modifying the structure, I could not declare the pieces a success. Trans-species art must be attractive in the most basic sense of the word: the species it is designed for must be attracted into using the sculpture. For the high plains near my home, raptor roosts provide safe resting places for hawks and eagles (see Fig. 12.2). On the plains where there are few trees, these large birds of prey are vulnerable on the ground and sometimes electrocuted on power poles. After seeing the early “hydroglyphs,” zoologist and friend Nancy Stanton suggested that a small sculptural pole for hunting hawks and eagles to land on and survey the flat prairie might be an interesting experiment. I had been reading about raptor electrocutions on power poles and realized my sculpture would provide a safe roost. Nancy and her family lent extensive support to this new project: giving me permission to create the first two roosts at their farm, offering natural and found local materials, donating some electrical poles, guiding me through a permission process, and helping convince the owner of a nearby piece of land to let


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me install the first roosts. I approached a local power company, Pacific Power and Light (PP&L), about whether they would volunteer to install the roosts, as they were one company which was working hard to revise their wire and pole designs to be safe for birds. In exchange, I would discuss their work in my lectures. Figure 12-2. Raptor roosts

I wondered whether I could paint the roosts to be reminiscent of totem poles, a reference they carried for me. I could not find any research on raptor’s perceptions of colour, so I decided to include in the experiment one roost painted bright versions of colours from the landscape, leaving

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the other roost plain wood, perhaps 100m away. The result was that a hawk would frequently be seen on one roost and, when approached, would lift off and fly to the second one. Nancy observed young golden eagles on the painted roost, so I speculated that raptors didn’t mind colour and eagles might prefer it. We didn’t, unfortunately, have enough roosts for a statistically valid scientific study, but by my art standards, the project was a success. The support and encouragement of Nancy Stanton, Jim Thompson and other biologists was seminal to ideas and the collaborative process I depend on today. The help of many diverse individuals who have assisted me along my path has also been critical to the work. I quickly realized that I needed to work with wildlife professionals, that my designs and experiments would have little validity without some scientific input. Now, my works are researched and designed with the help of wildlife biologists and zoologists, as well as monitored for wildlife use whenever possible. Figure 12-3. “Lightning” raptor roosts

In 1990, I received a New Forms: Regional Initiatives Grant for the Rocky Mountain region. I had proposed to make a pair of raptor roosts, one with a nesting platform, somewhere along interstate highway 80 in southern Wyoming. With the help of Wyoming’s “Wildlife Worth Watching” programme and the Federal Bureau of Land Management


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(BLM), a site was selected adjacent to a small parking pullout in a bare, windy section of the Red Desert. Only the bright yellow rabbit brush blooms and the summer lightning storms moving through the area offered inspiration. Other site visits and agency meetings followed. PP&L again agreed to donate poles and install the sculptures. My work process is to design and rough out large sculptures, take them apart to transport and then reassemble them on the site. With Mark Ritchie, a carpenter friend, I wrapped yellow wood lightning shapes around power poles, topped them with perching elements and added wagon wheel hoop “clouds” (see Fig. 12-3). As these forms developed, Mark felt the sculptures might be too elaborate, too fussy. It’s awkward to work on a huge pole angled up on a crane while I’m standing on the ground or on the piece. I never really see the whole roost until it’s up, when it’s really too late to make changes. The sculptures’ interaction with the landscape affects them profoundly. On a cold, sunny November morning, we moved the pieces to the site. Wind was coming up, clouds were moving in, a few snowflakes blew around us as we shivered and tried to get cold, gloved hands to work tools and refit boards. The BLM raptor specialist adjusted the wire mesh on the nesting platform to make sure bird claws couldn’t get caught. Game and Fish Department personnel observed, photographed and videotaped. The PP&L crew, with their massive line truck and crane, drilled the prairie and raised the roosts. Far from looking too elaborate, as Mark had feared, the nesting roost now looked skimpy and a little awkward in the overpowering landscape. We installed the other roost close enough to the parking area for travellers to observe hawks and perhaps a few wandering eagles perched on it, keeping the nesting pole farther away from human disturbance. Raised, the sculptures looked as I had hoped. Sun breaking through the cloud cover made the yellow “lightning” leap out in the now dull tan landscape. Enjoying their break from power pole installation and repair, the crew discussed problems PP&L was having with eagles trying to nest on big power poles. Clearly we needed to do more of these sculptures (see Fig. 12-4). As we drove away from the site, Mark said, “Now they don’t look too busy. The scale of the landscape compared to the scale of the garage changed them completely.” I hoped the hawks would find them attractive. Because I work in collaboration with the “establishment”—PP&L, BLM, and other corporate and government groups—I felt I was not being subversive.

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Figure 12-4. Close-up of raptor roosts

Later, thinking back on that morning, I realized I’d kept all these agencies, personnel, resources and equipment tied up for the better part of a day. They made art for wildlife in a sweet collaborative subversion. Two years later I saw Tom Rinkes, the BLM raptor specialist who had worked on the project. He mentioned that Ferruginous hawks were being proposed for listing as a threatened species. He had just banded a young hawk on our nest. It had been the second successful summer of raising young Ferruginous hawks on the sculpture, thereby making the project a success on his terms. The following fall I went out to look at the hawk’s nest. It is beautifully constructed out of twisting sagebrush twigs. With this additional volume, the sculpture no longer looks skimpy but rather balanced and complete. The art is now a success on my terms and, in this case, a collaboration between the hawks and the artist. It seems I work on the balance between context and structure. Would scholars of ecocriticism consider the “raptor roosts” as a “cultural exchange?” Later that year, I saw in the news that over forty eagles had been found dead in the past few months near outdated power lines and open oil pits in the Little Buffalo Basin of Wyoming—more mitigation, atonements and grieving needed. Time to make more art.


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Figure 12-5. Ecozone projects

I was intrigued by the idea of creating artwork appropriate to other ecozones (see Fig. 12-5). American marten live in pine-forested mountains and depend on old growth forest to survive. They were losing population due to timbering, forest cutting in large patches, according to Steve Buskirk, a professor and prominent marten researcher, who agreed to consult on my experiments. We thought that artificial “marten havens” could improve the marginal pine marten habitat by providing a winter den. These might enable marten to repopulate and survive in younger forests and along the edges of clear-cuts. I created about a dozen havens in two forests in the mountains near my home in Wyoming. The following winter, a marten researcher photographed marten tracks on snow leading into several marten havens. He suggested if we could construct slightly over 200 marten havens we could do a scientifically accurate study of the effectiveness of the havens. Again, funds were not available, so it was an art experiment success, and did provide the U.S. Forest Service with a model for action they could take. My hope is that when a species is failing, my work can provide models towards saving them. And that an artist’s creativity can combine with science to assist the threatened species.

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Figure 12-6. Floating islands

For ponds and marshes, I launched the first of a series of sculptural floating islands for waterfowl nesting (see Fig. 12-6). The islands have proved to be perhaps my most successful experiment to date, as they are colonized by invertebrates within hours; fish come to nibble on the growth and enjoy the cool shade provided by the sculpture; frogs, turtles and other amphibians climb the below-water branches onto it; and water birds come to rest and even hunt. Scientists suggested creating multiple levels to create more life niches. By adding branches up into the air, songbirds pause to drink water and perch, and by planting hyper-accumulator plants on the island, the water is cleaned of pollutants while fish use the hanging roots as a nursery. A life web is hosted by the sculpture. Eventually I thought about sculpture as part of the whole site design (see Fig. 12-7). I initiated a design in collaboration at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, with wildlife biologists and landscape architects, funded jointly by the NEA and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. With input from the city council, community members and participation of school children, we designed the area for wildlife habitat enhancement, environmental interpretation and art that functioned in both these areas. The city of Pine Bluffs was looking for economic development, so another theme was to create a point along a highway for travellers to take a break, walk the trails, see the art, to appreciate and learn about the local environment.


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Figure 12-7. Site projects

Applying what I learned on this project to several other sites, I've worked with school children to build a bird and small animal garden on the Navajo reservation, worked on a pond in England to contain visitors at a single location while offering them a good viewpoint and interacted with rivers in Massachusetts and Montana. Often these projects involve a wide variety of people and agencies in odd collaborations. In Massachusetts, a town invited ecoartists to create temporary artworks along a restored section of riverfront, formerly an industrial sewer. The event would be a river festival, sponsored by a local environmental organization, with food, music, themed tours and art. Along with leading the artists to develop ideas for artworks appropriate to the site, I gave short lectures at the local elementary schools and invited the children to come and participate in making ecoart. Four hundred children came, dragging parents, who could not believe the restoration of their environment and enthusiastically volunteered to help maintain the riverwalk site. Not long after the Pine Bluffs project, a visitor challenged me, “Why do you put so much time and effort into making a sculpture for a bird?” Somehow it had just seemed to be what my soul told me I needed to be doing, but when I thought about it, I realized I believe that creativity is a gift, and using my gift to its full extent was my way of honouring the other species who make our world so much richer and livelier. Over the years, I

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came to call my overall vision “ecoatonement:” offerings to atone for some of the damage and difficulty we humans have created for our fellow species of the planet. Over the years, as my sense of environmental ethics shifted and grew, the changes in thinking were reflected in the work. Another question which came up often was: how long will the sculptures last? My response was that my artworks function primarily in the temporal gap between the time reclamation of damaged sites begins and the time nature recovers and takes over. For so many years I’ve been creating art for wildlife and for raising awareness of human responsibility to maintain our planetary biodiversity. I have worked in fourteen states and eight countries. I’ve built a treetop bridge for monkeys in Mexico to cross a road, raised a ladder made from a single tree up a medieval tower in France so an owl and a human could have a conversation as part of a project on fair exchange between species, converted windmills and hitching posts on a homestead in Texas into migratory bird roosts and a hawk nest platform, placed “migration mileposts” near migratory bird stopovers up and down the western hemisphere from Quebec and Seattle to Colombia, connecting communities through the birds they share. My work has explored “The Mystery, the Evidence, and the Small Atonements” of the Boreal forest. Sculptural forms have slowed erosion in an arroyo in New Mexico, changing the sound of the water in the process. There I added bird “singing posts” near each sculptural intervention to encourage a duet between riversong and birdsong. Can it be considered a “cultural exchange?” Why should “culture” be limited to only the human? We do talk about the culture of plants, in a slight twist on the meaning of the word. I have had support from federal and state agencies, arts and environmental organizations, and funding from the NEA, Fulbright, Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest and other private U.S. and international foundations. I have worked with wildlife professionals, conservation organizations, landscape architects, and local, state and federal agency personnel. Over the years I’ve asked wildlife professionals what they feel is the biggest threat to wildlife. Invariably, while the words have changed, the answer is “human impact.” For many years it was difficult for scientists to see the value of having an artist on their projects, but slowly they came to see that art could convey their knowledge in ways written data could not, by helping establish an emotional connection between wildlife species and humans. Some community projects have included local and native peoples in environmental awareness raising and commitment to their local species,


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often exploring deeper into their ecological heritage. In Yucatan, a Mayan village came to see their wildlife as an economic asset after we raised a sculptural “bridge” in the treetops so that monkeys could cross a road (and be more easily seen by international visitors) and installed informational sculptures for a nature tour about their lagoon ecology to tempt visitors to rent the three canoes the village owned (see Fig. 12-8). Figure 12-8. Lagoon sculpture, Punta Laguna, MX

E. O. Wilson proposes in “The Poetics of Science” that artists and scientists tend to begin their work in a similar space, with questions, research and theories. Later they branch out into different paths and come to different expressions and conclusions. But for him/her, the most interesting space is between the two. To me, that is the space where ecoart resides. Now I am turning my attention to threatened and endangered species. I would like to become a “team member” of a working group or team of wildlife biologists and other scientists working on some of these vital efforts to maintain biodiversity. I offer my “artist creativity” to help problem-solve challenges to species and to help “illuminate” and interpret science data into visual forms which can appeal to the public in ways that inspire action and changes in lifestyles (see Fig. 12-9). I believe that by

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working across disciplines we can be more effective at reaching our shared goals towards planetary biodiversity. Figure 12-9. “Polar platform” proposal

Conclusions: How Effective Is Ecoart? While this article has focused on my trans-species ecoart, there are many other artists working in similar ways to heal damaged environments, which another article in this publication addresses. During these years, I have become aware that what I had originally called “place-based art” has become a movement referred to as “Environmental Art.” In a phase of full exploration, with few boundaries, the early self-labelled artists included everything from landscape painters to nature interpreters to artists profoundly involved in aesthetic and scientific explorations of the environment. For the lectures I give on this type of art, I have developed a general definition, along with four categories: Environmental Art is created by artists concerned with the state of our environment worldwide and with their local situation. Environmental artists often work in these ways:


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1. Artists who interpret nature through their work, exposing us to aspects of nature we might not be aware of, in aesthetic ways. Andy Goldsworthy is a beautiful example of this category. 2. Artists who explore our relationship with nature, often seeking a less invasive, more sustainable way to act in the environment. Several performance artists like Fern Schaffer are included in this category, as well as Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, whose art form is walking and documenting that experience. 3. Artists who interact with natural forces such as wind, sun, storm, moving water, lightning and even earthquakes. The “Lightning Field” and sound instruments played by natural forces by Patrick Zentz exemplify this area of practice. 4. Ecoartists are those who interact with ecological systems on behalf of healing human damage to those systems. My art for wildlife habitat restoration, along with many other artists from around the world, works in this area. The environmental art movement has matured over the past two decades, slowly exploring the borders of its scope, although its existence is still somewhat under the radar. Perhaps this is partially due to its tendency to exist in remote locations, perhaps partially because it is not part of the commodity art market, but still the focus of art publications. Some of the interesting questions of aesthetics versus functionality are pushing boundaries in ways parallel to the traditional art world. Would ecoart, for example, be “relational” art? This volume works to expand the “legitimacy” of the movement and as a body of critical writing would expand ecoart more widely into the art world. I am amazed at how many people have seen and contacted me about the art form. Art students seem particularly excited about it and about the idea that art can contribute to solving real-world challenges. When I have asked whether ecoart can change lifestyles, some have told me that learning about it changed their entire lives. The “raptor roosts,” which have only personally been experienced by those who found their way down the dirt road to the farm or to other isolated destinations, have gone on to their own measure of fame, appearing first in Suzi Gablik’s book The Re-enchantment of Art. Images of the roosts have appeared in several other books and magazines running from women’s fashion to Backpacker to Sierra to art and art education journals to New Age healing to the cover of an academic journal, popping up in numerous art graduate student theses and dissertations. Images of them have been shown in art talks by myself and others from San

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Francisco to New York, Quebec, Nairobi and Cartagena. In addition to sharing my love of the generosity of environmental art, sharing the images of ecoart is amplifying the small gesture of my collaboration with the hawk, proposing that we care for other species, that we have a responsibility to enable their continued existence when their continuation on the planet is in doubt due to our impact. In the following years, more of my projects were created in more accessible sites, in conjunction with communities, universities, state and county parks and museums, often in collaborative situations. Ecocriticism can undoubtedly strengthen this movement, and interdisciplinary dialogue will expand its width and breadth.

Acknowledgements Segments of this essay, written by Lynne Hull, were previously published in Sculpting with the Environment—A Natural Dialog (1995), edited by Baile Oakes and used with permission.

References Friedenwald-Fishman, Eric. “No Art? No Social Change. No Innovation Economy.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, 26 May 2011. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. Gablik, Suzi. The Reenchantment of Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 1992. Print. Wilson, Edward O. “The Poetics of Science.” Biophilia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984. Print.


Participatory archiving projects like Digital Community Archiving2 (DCA) have come to replace the role of the ubiquitous expert anthropologist chronicling indigenous traditions and histories around the world. While giving agency to indigenous communities that have been historically objectified and subjectified, it allows for both the representation of multiple worldviews and the revival of a culture of knowledge dissemination. While, historically, indigenous traditions have been passed on orally from one generation to the next, creating visual, audio and textual databases that are made available to both the community and the outside world demands an understanding of this global knowledge dynamic hence created. In disseminating the knowledge thus documented, the DCA creates a virtual Internet space3 allowing for indigenous knowledge (IK) to transcend the geographical limits of the nation situated in the global south and reach those in the global north (and sometimes travel within the south, back to the south and around the world). That this material is freely available without copyright/patents brings in the dimension of intellectual property rights (IPR) and asks whether IPR are at all relevant or necessary to protect this knowledge. In this essay, I try to understand the global power dynamics that accompany the commercialization of IK, and further, if the DCA project opens up a new space for the exploitation or protection of IK while assuming a participatory stance. In order to approach this multidimensional question effectively, I use the following theoretical complexes. In doing so, I am attempting to read into my brief research experience reflectively using, explicitly, the ideas of

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ecocentrism, anthropocentrism and plunder and, implicitly, the following: firstly, the interconnected ecosystem as central to IK and worldviews; secondly, the colonial notion of terra nullis4 (Shiva 43); and lastly, the idea of the “intellectual commons” as a prematurely extinct space for the creation and sharing of knowledge (Mies and Shiva 239). By employing these three theoretical frameworks, I hope to expose the inherent contradiction between the notion of IPR and that of IK and, subsequently, to see whether the use of participatory digital documentation transcends this difference.

The Global IPR and IK Debate: An Introductory Framework A visual representation of the mutual exclusion of IPR and IK would look like this: two circles that do not overlap, the one with “man”5 in the centre and the other with a network of interdependencies6 of which “man” is only one. To see explicitly the incompatibility of the IPR and with the IK system, it is necessary to imagine these two worlds—the anthropocentric capitalist (the first circle) and the ecocentric7, anticapitalocentric8 (see Gibson-Graham; Herod and Wright 19) (the second circle). In the anthropocentric capitalist world, knowledge is commodified and derives its value from being a monetized “product.” This intellectual product brings profits when it is commercialized or introduced into the production process. Given the understanding that capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy are mutually reinforcing, and the knowledge that capitalism sustains itself through the creation of entrepreneurial individuals9 whose values are enmeshed in control, commoditization and monetization, it is no surprise that knowledge, as a product of the mind, becomes a profitable, private property within capitalism. In this worldview, “life” (as a process) is an essentially economic one, where everyday actions are driven by a profit-maximizing motto centred on the self. In the other circle lies the ecocentric worldview that decentralizes the “self” and amonetizes10 life. Herein lie indigeneity and indigenous knowledge. Historically, indigenous ontologies/worldviews, much like many eastern philosophies, were not centred on the “self” or even on the “human.” Vandana Shiva (2001) argues that IK is in fact “centered on cocreation by nature and people” (65).11 Using Shiva’s concept not only makes the underlying symbiotic linkages of an indigenous society (between humans and their living worlds) visible but also emphasizes the fundamental differences between the two circles.


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The first circle represents a world where knowledge is privately owned and where individuals live as islands within a society bound by economic ties. IPR acquires meaning and form in this circle as an offshoot of the original “private property rights” of landowners. Creating individual ownership of ideas happens through a process of “enclosure,” much like the enclosure of common land.12 Here, in these enclosed spaces, actions extraneous to the economic cycle are meaningless, and conversely, ideas and crafts acquire meaning when commercialized. One of the ways this happens is when tacit knowledge becomes explicit, or as in the case of biopiracy13 when tacit knowledge is made explicit via commercialization. This tacit knowledge, however, exists primarily in the second circle. The second circle can be imagined as having a base of symbiotic linkages between humans and other living beings that creates and sustains “intellectual commons.” The general notion of the “commons” is that of “resources shaped, managed and utilized through community control” (Shiva 47). It serves as an inclusive space that is open and egalitarian. “The enclosure of the commons can be a guiding metaphor for understanding the conflicts that are being generated by the expansion of the IPR systems to biodiversity” (Shiva 45). In the case of IK, this entails an enclosure of the “intellectual commons” where ideas are co-created with other beings through time and space and always shared freely amongst people.14 “Enclosing” the intellectual commons is that material process which gives meaning to the IPR system, which is otherwise meaningless to the second circle. Limiting knowledge sharing is antithetical to the essentials of IK creation and use. Such enclosure is also callously oblivious to the ecocentric standpoint, enforcing in its place a contextually meaningless, historically insignificant, “other” idea that divides, allocates, privatizes, monetizes, plunders and conquers, all at once. The first circle can be taken as spatially representative of the enclosing and enclosed world (of capitalism and capitalocentrism) and the second, of the partially enclosed, partially common world (often subjects of capitalism, entangled within the global capitalist system, but also often anticapitalocentric).15 These two worlds house the IPR and IK systems, and are connected and implicated by the various processes of encounter (colonialism, globalization, etc.). The global politics surrounding the praxis of IPR and its interaction with IK therefore happen on a battleground where often one group wields sticks and the other, very fat wallets. The first circle has hegemonic and often absolutist influence and control over the second. What the first circle sees as profitable knowledge, “lying unused” in the

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intellectual commons, is often stolen and injected into the “useful,” “rational” process of material production. This linear, unidimensional economic thinking characteristic of global capitalism is that powerful, creative process that allows for large multinational corporations to extract IK, decontextualize it and monetize it. In this paper, I attempt to use the very binary created by this unidimensional ontology to understand the relationship between IPR and IK. However, I should make explicit that I am aware of the postmodern scepticism of constructing binaries, but that I use this construction to cast light on the binaries created and sustained by hegemonic systems like the IPR that project a certain rationality as the absolute truth, and further, constitute IK as a mere source for prospecting ideas and resources to create products, thereby widening the north–south divide. Thus, this monotheistic rationality obliterates the ability to envision the multitudes contained within the second circle. This is supported by the nature of Western rationality that has an inherent need to qualify things based on their supposed use value. For instance, ascribing monetary value to things is seen as the only credible way to approach something as valuable as knowledge. However, on slightly different lines, it can be seen how indigenous communities are either romanticized as the glorious other or condemned as being “backward,” both within the same logic sequence. While I understand that my portrayal of indigeneity and IK stands to fall into the romantic trap, I only seek to represent IK as a shared, changing, socially relevant entity, and not as a “product” or “object” of desire. Further, I am also conscious of the possibility of border-crossings and the fluidity of the categories that I take to be fixed in this process (“indigeneity,” “commons,” “IK,” “researcher,” “research” and so on). Nevertheless, for the purposes of this essay, the ideas underlined in the above sections guide my understanding of the global IPR–IK debate and I will use other concepts such as “plunder” (Mattei and Nader) that offer a way to define the manner in which the two worlds interact with each other. In essence, I hope to explore how this interaction occurs, with what outcomes and why it matters that we know. I begin by introducing the specific case of the DCA, the organization undertaking this project and the community that is “participating” in it. I then go on to analyse the nuances of the project to contextualize them within my theoretical framework and expose whether this localized interaction is congruent with the one on the global scale.


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DCA, The Non-Profit/Non-Governmental Organization and the Nari Kurava Community The National Folklore Support Center (NFSC) is a non-profit organization, based in the southern metropolis of Chennai that works for and with several indigenous communities around the country to promote participatory chronicling of folklore and folk traditions. It undertakes several projects with the objective of fostering social change activism and scholarly research. Of these, I was personally involved, over the summer of 2009, with the DCA project engaging the Nari Kuravar community. DCA involves processes by which indigenous communities learn to use digital media (film, photography) to record their traditions and lifestyle, primarily for themselves, and for the world at large. Members of the community are trained in situ at the local office established by NFSC. This office serves as a common space owned, run and maintained by the community where the video/audio equipment is stored and plans are made. The recorded and documented material is then transferred onto a computer at the office by the two NFSC employees (from the village/town, not from the community). Thereon, the material is uploaded to the wiki and made freely available to the world. The Nari Kuravar are only one of the communities served by the DCA project. Originally nomadic, the Nari Kuravar are now settled in various parts of Tamil Nadu, India. Ethnologists trace their origin to the Roma of Europe, but the community believes it came from the state of Gujarat in north-west India.16 Having been peripatetic travellers, their language vagriboli is a mixture of several Indian languages, and their culture (though distinct) is a mélange of several Indian communities. Narikuravar are associated with “nature” as opposed to the surrounding peasant caste groups which stand for “culture”; and they are often regarded as still living in the “Indian past,” as opposed to “Indian modernity.” (Alex 3)

Although still considered “native,” the Nari Kuravars’ indigeneity is now in a state of flux, thanks to the infiltration of ideologies and values from neighbouring settled communities. Also, the identities of nomadic communities are often complicated by their culture of travel that allows for diverse encounters and enactments uncommon in settled communities. The community that I interacted with is situated in Vilupuram and lives in a colony (settlement) called Ashakulam. The colony is made up of five lanes (streets) which are inhabited by five clans, headed by their respective leaders. While their ancestors were nomadic hunter-gatherers,

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their occupations today range from bead-making/selling, catapultmaking/selling, hunting and tattooing. This move from their traditional occupation was mandated by the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) that criminalized hunting of every sort. Nevertheless, even within the present occupations, much has changed over the years, in terms of materials, patterns, markets and so on. The Nari Kuravar sport an informal lifestyle, where entertainment is generously interspersed with work in the approximate ratio of 70 to 30. Originally consisting of folk song and dance (now almost extinct within this particular community), it is now being replaced with television shows, films, film music and dance. Also common is the game of cards, which often morphs into petty-cash gambling. In all, the community thrives on revelling life and subscribes to the carpe diem philosophy, perhaps as a result of their nomadic culture and their long history of oppression/ criminalization and deep-seated poverty. My brief interaction with the community taught me a great deal about not only their weaknesses in the face of a variety of oppressions but also their strengths and collective ability to adapt to immense change and the subsequent fluidity of their culture and knowledge systems. Having been nomadic for centuries, their IK has also changed over time. Their ecological knowledge is specifically rich in an understanding of medicinal plants and the use of hunting game for medicinal purposes. While historically they travelled from village to village dispensing herbal medicines, they now run both settled small-scale clinics and travelling camps specializing in sexual healing. Over time, they have borrowed from other indigenous health traditions in India like Siddha and Ayurveda.

The Notion of “Protection” and the DCA As outlined above, the DCA is a participatory mechanism that allows people to create their own histories, avoiding what Howard Zinn calls a “historian’s distortion” (8). Allowing marginal voices to tell stories, to create histories, overturns the historian’s power of selection, distorted by ideology, and instead allows a space for the emergence of a new powerknowledge complex.17 This new space in the context of the DCA has two dimensions. On one plane, it is virtual (i.e., it is on the Internet) and on another it appears as the physical agency captured in photo and video media. By creating this space for self-preservation and self-documentation, the DCA allows this historically oppressed community its long stolen agency. The project is planned in such a way that there are two community


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members (Raja and Manickam, hereafter R and M) who act as chief facilitators as well as the link between the community and NFSC. R and M are sons of one of the community chiefs, Lighter, and have considerable knowledge and leverage in the community. They are also (now) knowledgeable about video and photo technology. In training R and M to use visual technology to document IK,18 the DCA seems to employ two theoretical frameworks, that of visual anthropology and endogenous development. Visual anthropology entails using visual media to document such folklore and IK, and is particularly relevant where there is a need for photographic/film “evidence” to emphasize the need to protect and bring awareness to the existence and knowledge systems of those communities (Collier and Collier). Endogenous development is development that is historically relevant and culturally pertinent to a community that comes from within. The tools provided by endogenous development, if used in combination with visual anthropology, will enable the creation of democratic, participatory spaces for the development of indigenous communities. By sharing decision-making powers with the community, the DCA disperses the centralized power characteristic to mainstream development projects and enables a contextual preservation of IK. Not only is this participatory style a highlight of IK, so also is its ability to “share” this knowledge. Although IK is co-created by people and nature, it only acquires meaning when it is shared. Unshared knowledge is insignificant to communities, especially because it primarily exists as a “collective enterprise”—a product of the community’s creativity (Shiva 21). This creativity finds transnational recognition through the Internet where all the documented material is uploaded to the wiki portal, giving free and open access to the world. It is essential to remember at this juncture that often it is such mainstreaming that keeps knowledge alive. A contemporarily “successful,” significant example of this is the Chinese healthcare system that is a nexus of Western and indigenous medicine (Sahai et al. 25). A common argument for the preservation of herbal medicine is that the global market is prospering, currently valued at $43 billion. “[I]ndigenous communities of India are acquainted with the use of over 9000 species of plants, of which 8000 have medicinal values.” Many authors like Sahai suggest integrating the knowledge of local communities into the mainstream, with due compensation as an income-generating activity that empowers and/or “saves” IK (Sahai et al. 4-5). The notion of “saving” IK, though a product of the modern, colonial era, continues to find meaning in a rapidly globalizing world. The well-

Politicizing Indigenous Knowledge Conservation Practices


compensated IK can benefit communities via the IPR system that protects their rights to the profits accruing from the use of IK. This is accomplished through “bioprospecting” contemporarily. “[The] arrangements to explore biological diversity for commercially valuable genetic and biochemical resources have come to be called biodiversity prospecting or bioprospecting” (Moran et al. 506). This method is suggested both as an alternative to biopiracy (which is the stealing of IK) and also as a method of biodiversity conservation (giving monetary compensation to encourage conservation efforts). For more on bioprospecting and biocolonialism, see Hawthorne. The drive towards “compensated bioprospecting” is the result of resistance to the colonial notion of “naked extractivism,” which found its expression in the “Declaration of Belem.”19 This declaration mandates just compensation and power sharing with indigenous communities for biodiversity conservation and IK sharing. The common argument for compensation is outlined by Posey: traditional knowledge itself must be compensated in financial terms. Otherwise, native peoples themselves must revert to ecological destruction, associated with atrophy of their own knowledge systems, in order to acquire the economic power they need to survive. (Posey 14)

Such monetary compensation is seen as a developmental act that is done on the basis of “long-term value, practicability and short-term usefulness” (Benthall, “Digitized Lore” 4). “Saving” IK is also seen as intricately connected with the conservation of bioresources. If traditional knowledge is a culmination of the interaction between people and nature, then it is imperative to protect the ecosystems that co-create knowledge. In this, IK is seen as a reserve for sustainable conservation methods. For many communities, conserving biodiversity means conserving the integrity of the ecosystem and species, the right to resources and knowledge and the right to the production systems based on this biodiversity. Therefore, biodiversity is intimately linked to traditional indigenous knowledge systems as well as to people’s rights to protect their knowledge and resources. (Shiva 48)

In this respect, the DCA provides the mechanism for enabling conservation and the space for the community to voice its rights to protection. By virtue of its participatory nature, the DCA acts as a spatial and temporal medium that allows the Nari Kuravar to protect their traditions, their values and their IK.


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In understanding the need to preserve this knowledge, the DCA seems conscious of the distinctness of the worldview embraced by the Nari Kuravar. They belong in what I refer to in my theoretical framework as the “second circle.” Being an indigenous community, their relationship with other living beings is complex and based on a system of interconnectedness. Although glorified and essentialized by the mainstream, “civilized” world, they continue to depend on, extract from and engage reciprocally with other living beings and spaces in their ecosystems (Escobar, Territories of Difference; LaDuke 2002; Merchant; Rocheleau; Salmon; Tamez). Their hunting practices are not in accordance with the rule of law (of the first circle), neither is their practice of animal sacrifice. Yet it is essential to view this relationship in its context—not only do they kill for food and religion, but they also worship nature and give back to their many living communities in their own meaningful ways. Being an originally peripatetic community, their hunting-gathering practices hardly caused a stir in the ecosystem. Perhaps their forced settlement and the ensuing impoverishment have resulted in less meaningful interaction with their ecosystem. Nevertheless, the project attempts to bring to light all of these complex, co-constituted relationships by engaging the community in a process of participatory documentation of their own IK, allowing for a meaningful representation alien to most “development” projects today.

The Notion of “Plunder” and the DCA The DCA “protects” the IK of the Nari Kuravar by transferring knowledge from the physical realm to the hyper-real realm (i.e. the Internet). In doing so, it also makes visible previously endogenously protected (communally enclosed) knowledge to the world. This creates a complex network of problems, which I will outline in this section, using two important concepts—“plunder,” and the disparate notions of “ecocentrism” and “anthropocentrism.” The free sharing of information on the Internet increases the accessibility of information for community members with access to the Internet, groups in solidarity with the community, ethnographic researchers, scientists and corporate thieves alike. Moving from the oral medium to the digital medium brings into play a new spatiality and interconnectedness that changes the context of the IK. Previously contextual, historically conceived knowledge like the herbal medicine of the Nari Kuravar is alienated from its original intellectual commons within the community and enters the new enclosed commons, ironically

Politicizing Indigenous Knowledge Conservation Practices


via the open space of the Internet. This process of enclosure itself happens through bioprospecting, biopiracy and the underlying corporate disclaimer, IPR. As outlined in the previous section, bioprospecting involves compensating the indigenous community for appropriating IK. Shiva and others like Posey are sceptical of this notion and offer the term biopiracy as an alternative that fits the context better. This term is closely linked with what Nader and Mattei define as “plunder”—the “inequitable distribution of resources by the strong at the expense of the weak” (11). In explaining the connection between the ideological notion of “plunder” and how it translates into action in a neoliberal, globalized, capitalist world, they offer a vivid illustration that is much in line with Shiva’s argument.20 … take a farmer who has no “legal” right to use the types of seeds he and his forebearers [sic] have planted for centuries and trace a line from those seeds to obscene profits now generated by their new corporate owners: plunder. (11)

A general search on the Internet (using the Google search engine) about the IK of the Nari Kuravar brought up a website containing a concise list of all the medicinal plants used in their health-care system. It comes as no surprise then that their innocent willingness to share their IK leads to exploitation and manipulation by corporate bodies and governments alike, across countries and periods. In a similar vein, Roopnaraine points out the loophole in the bioprospecting argument as lying within the realm of knowledge proprietorship. He uses the example of the dispute over the patenting of a neem21-based pesticide: W. R. Grace and Co. hold a patent for a process by which the shelf-life of neem pesticide can be extended. Activists in India argue that this patent will disenfranchise Indian small-scale agriculturalists, who will now (theoretically) have to pay for the right to use the substance. (16)

Following this particular case, Merson says that Grace collaborated with an Indian firm, P. J. Margo, to found a neem-processing plant in India that supplies more than twenty tons of neem seeds a day as input for insecticide production in California. Martin Sherwin, Grace’s commercial development president, apparently feels that the Indian industry will benefit greatly from this new product and that the Grace patent “created a more valuable resource from Neem” (288). Needless to say, all those who have been regular users of neem and its products in India were appalled by this statement, which underscores the


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importance of two crucial elements—first, IPR only protects knowledge that has direct commercial and use value, and second, such protection often promotes the interests of global capital. Irrespective of the facts that the neem tree is common in most homes, that its shade is medicinal in summer, that its leaves cure measles, mumps and chicken pox, and that its seeds have been used for centuries by farmers to protect their crop, the neem has suddenly found “value.” Any knowledge with collective, communal, spiritual or other non-material value is neither recognized nor protected by IPR unless it is found to have commercial use in the West. It is this “logic” that plunders the Nari Kuravars’ IK, both by exposing their herbal medicinal knowledge to pharmaceutical giants and by not seeking meaningful ways to contextually and usefully situate their knowledges within the larger context of global power and knowledge politics. By doing so, the project would be doing the important work of resubjectifying a people within a discourse that invisibilizes them and repoliticizing the problems embedded within all practices of knowledge conservation. However, for their part, in recognition of the need to commercialize their knowledge to survive in a wholly anthropocentric capitalist world, the Nari Kuravar have established small clinics where they treat illnesses and sell herbal medicines. Yet, given the nature of the project and its grounding within the expert meets object frame of anthropological inquiry and development praxis, it could be just a matter of time before most of their IK is stolen via bioprospecting and made unavailable to fulfil their own economic needs on the one hand, having undesirable effects on their existing knowledge-disseminating culture on the other. Posey identifies an imminent quandary in the “just-compensation” argument that claims to overcome this problem when he says, By establishing mechanisms for “just compensation” of native peoples, are we not also establishing mechanisms for the destruction of their societies through subversion by materialism and consumerism? (15)

The radical opposition between the circles that contain the slowly transforming Nari Kuravar and the plundering world cannot be stressed enough. Even with the existence of processes of integration with the mainstream, the battle with the IPR regime only intensifies. Not only are most indigenous communities in India entirely unaware of the existence of an IPR system but the idea itself is often seen as alien and meaningless by those who are aware of it. While the Nari Kuravar are forced by the desperation of their historical oppression and criminalization to open up their societies to the eyes of development and research organizations alike, and live in close proximity to the vastly commercial world, engaging with

Politicizing Indigenous Knowledge Conservation Practices


it through their different economic activities (selling beaded jewellery, catapults, medicines, etc.), they are still incognizant of the rights to their own knowledge. The responsibility for this, while often conveniently transferred to the communities in question, lies squarely within those who invisibilize the chains linking indigenous worlds with capitalist/capitalocentric worlds, and this, even if done unintentionally, is often ultimately in the interests of those with capital and governing power.

Conclusion Changing the spatiality of knowledge creates a dangerous shift in the power-knowledge dynamic within indigenous communities like the Nari Kuravar leading to “multiple levels of dispossession.” “At the first level, the creation of the disembodied knowing mind is linked to the destruction of knowledge as a commons” (Shiva and Mies 274). Such a decapitation is accomplished via the IPR regime that is no more than a loud, patriarchal, capitalist “impulse to control all that is living and free” (243). IK is embedded within the intellectual commons, and therefore, the negation and extinction of the latter discounts and destroys the former. In addressing the dynamics of the meeting of the IPR and IK worlds, Escobar says, Community economies are grounded in place (even if not place-bound, as they participate in translocal markets), and often rely on holding a commons consisting of land, material resources, knowledge, ancestors, spirits, etc. Within a Western framework, profits arise from innovations that must thus be protected by intellectual property rights … there is “a need to place innovations and intellectual property rights in a broader context,” that of contrasting cultural models. Without saying that intellectual property rights are inappropriate to all situations, it is important to support local knowledge and innovation “not in the hope of securing individual profit but as a way of helping people to protect their commons.” This might require protecting “community spaces outside the market so that the place for local innovation is preserved and the results may be locally enjoyed.” (75)

I cite Escobar’s argument in detail to show how the capitalist argument extends beyond its bounds. The IPR argument is used not only to argue for a protection of the commons which it in fact helps to destroy but also to encourage “innovation” which is inherent to communities that have not required such external prodding for centuries. Yet, Escobar identifies the urgency to prevent complete loss of IK, and the inherent contradiction between the IPR and IK systems.


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Although the DCA attempts to marry these spatial differences via the internet and provide a base for “saving” IK, it needs to recognize fully its role in the community’s transition from alternative to mainstream society. Perhaps, lessons from the field of endogenous development will help identify those areas that really need protection, like their knowledge of herbal medicine, and those that need reviving, like their dying musical and dance traditions. Popular activists for the protection of the “intellectual commons” of indigenous communities like the Gene Campaign insist that there is a significant need for state intervention and policy change. They vocalize a need for a sui generis approach to protect IK, along with a move towards strict biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use. Nevertheless, what is imminent is that there are profits to be made in the global North (and amongst the elites of the global South), and that mandates powerful control of resources and knowledge in the South (and in indigenous areas in the global North). And this is easy to achieve, given the hegemonic, ahistoric, profit-driven, alien, plundering nature of the IPR regime. Nevertheless, there is hope in the resistances of indigenous communities and their allies and friends across the world, importantly, lessons on changing our terms of engagement between worlds, moving from a place of difference and power to a place of similarity and love.

Notes 1. A different version of this paper was presented at the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) conference held in Hyderabad, India, from January 10-14, 2011. It has been published in the conference proceedings and is available at the Digital Library of the Commons website under the title Understanding global knowledge-dynamics: A case-study of NFSC’s project, Digital Community Archiving—does it “protect or plunder” the indigenous knowledge of the Nari Kuravar community? 2. DCA involves processes by which indigenous communities learn to use digital media (film, photography) to record their traditions and lifestyle, primarily for themselves and for the world at large. 3. While photo and video documentation are the means to create documented IK, the Internet serves as a space to share that knowledge. 4. The colonial rationale for taking over land was that it was barren and unused— terra nullis. This legitimized their colonization of lands used (usually) as commons by indigenous people around the world. 5. I consciously use “man” to refer to the male gender that is embodied in modern scientific rationality encapsulated in phrases like “modern man,” “the rational man” and so on.

Politicizing Indigenous Knowledge Conservation Practices


6. I use the imagery of a network of symbiotic linkages between people and nature in the later sections of the paper. This is what I refer to when I use the term “interdependencies.” 7. I define the term ecocentric as a worldview that decentralizes the “human” and, instead, sees humans as a mere part of nature. Further, this would entail viewing the world as egalitarian—comprising beings that are all equal within nature, with equal “ecorights” (Selvamony, 265). 8. I borrow this term from Gibson-Graham to refer to ideas and ways of living that are extraneous to global capitalism, otherwise known as normalized “economics.” 9. I take the neo-liberal phrase “entrepreneurial individual” to be synonymous with the older, neo-classical, “self-interested rational man.” 10. Not attributing monetary value to everything. 11. Such a rationale is obviously unimaginable in an anthropocentric world that is built on material relations alone. 12. I allude to Shiva again and juxtapose this notion with that of the circles in a later section. 13. Biopiracy is the process by which IK is extracted/stolen from indigenous communities and made commercially valuable. This is most common in the pharmaceutical industry and is seen as an inherently neocolonial method of plunder. 14. IK may be enclosed in certain ways—for instance, the knowledge about certain medicinal herbs may only be passed on generationally among healers; however, most ecological knowledge necessary for the survival of the community and its tradition is freely shared with everyone. 15. However, there has been a simultaneous upsurge of social movements in both worlds that attempt at realizing alternatives—at co-creating communal, common worlds. 16. From conversations with the community in June 2009. 17. I take the old power-knowledge complex to be what Foucault terms “epistemological power”—one that bestows the power to extract knowledge from and about individuals subject to observation (like indigenous communities). I will explore this notion further in the latter part of this paper. 18. It is vital to remember that the community’s folklore is intertwined with their collective knowledge and, therefore, documenting folklore entails documenting IK too. 19. Please see 20. I go into the details of her argument in a later section of the paper. 21. Indigenous plant common to most homes in India and used widely for its healing qualities.


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References Agrawal, Arun. “Indigenous knowledge and the politics of classification.” International Social Science Journal 54.173 (September 2002): 28797. UNESCO. Web. 20 March 2013. Alex, Gabi. “Healing practices and health explanatory models of the Narikuravar (Vagri) in Tamil Nadu.” Societies and Medicines in South Asia Newsletter 2 (2007): 1-26. Print. Anderson, E. N., and John M. Conley. “On Intellectual Property.” Current Anthropology 39/5 (1998): 687-689. Print. Armstrong, John A. “Trends in Global Science and Technology and What They Mean for Intellectual Property Systems.” Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology, ed. Mitchel B. Wallerstein, Mary Ellen Mogee and Roberta A. Schoen. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council, 1993. 192-207. Print. Christados, Beneson Thilagar B. “A Structuralist Analysis of the Folktales of Narikkuravar.” M. Phil. Diss. Madras Christian College, Chennai, University of Madras, June 1993. Print. Benthall, Jonathan. “The Critique of Intellectual Property.” Anthropology Today 15 (1999): 1-3. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. JSTOR. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. —. “Digitized Lore: UNU Archive of Traditional Knowledge.” Anthropology Today 1/6 (1985): 4. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. JSTOR. Web. 01 Mar. 2013. Brago, Carlos Alberto Primo, Carsten Fink and Claudia Paz Sepulveda. “Intellectual Property Rights and Economic Development.” World Bank Discussion Papers 412 (2000). Print. Brown, Michael F., J. A. Barnes, David A. Cleveland, Rosemary J. Coombe, Philippe Descola, L. R. Hiatt, Jean Jackson, B. G. Karlsson, Darrell Addison Posey, Willow Roberts Powers, Lawrence Rosen, Fernando Santos Granero, Carlo Severi, David J. Stephenson, Jr., Marilyn Strathern and Donald Tuzin. “Can Culture Be Copyrighted? [and Comments and Reply].” Current Anthropology 39/2 (1998): 193222. Print. Collier, John Jr., and Malcolm Collier. Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986. Print. Escobar, Arturo. Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. Print.

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—. “Whose Knowledge, Whose Nature? Biodiversity, Conservation and the Political Ecology of Social Movements.” Journal of Political Ecology 5 (1998): 53-82. Print. Folklore and Fieldwork: A Layman’s Introduction to Field Techniques. Washington: American Folklife Center, 2002. Print. Georges, A. Robert and Michael O. Jones. People Studying People: The Human Element in Fieldwork. London: University of California Press, 1980. Print. Gibson-Graham, J.K. “Beyond Global vs. Local: Economic Politics Outside the Binary Frame.” In Andrew Herod and Melissa W. Wright, eds. Geographies of Power: Placing Scale. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2002. Print. Grim, John A., Ed. Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001. Print. Guha, Ramachandra. Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals and India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print. Hawthorne, Susan. “Land, Bodies, and Knowledge: Biocolonialism of Plants, Indigenous Peoples, Women, and People with Disabilities.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 32. 2 (2007): 314323. JSTOR. Web. 15 Mar. 2013. Jorgensen, Rikke Frank, Ed. Human Rights in the Global Information Society. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. Print. Khalil, Mohamed H., Walter V. Reid and Calestous Juma. Biopolicy International: Property Rights, Biotechnology and Genetic Resources. Nairobi: African Center for Technology Studies Press, 1992. Print. Learning Endogenous Development: Building on Bio-cultural Diversity. Warwickshire: Practical Action Publishing- COMPAS, 2007. Print. Mattei, Ugo and Laura Nader. Plunder: When the Rule of the Law is Illegal. USA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print. Merchant, Carolyn. Ecological Revolutions: Nature, Gender, and Science in New England. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Print. Merson, John. “Bio-Prospecting or Bio-Piracy: Intellectual Property Rights and Biodiversity in a Colonial and Postcolonial Context.” Osiris 15 (2000): 282-296. JSTOR. Web. 15 Mar. 2013. Mies, Maria and Vandana Shiva. Ecofeminism. Zed Books: London, 1993. Print. Moran, Katy, Steven R. King and Thomas J. Carlson. “Biodiversity Prospecting: Lessons and Prospects.” Annual Review of Anthropology 30 (2001): 505-526. JSTOR. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.


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Nayyar, Deepak. “India.” Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology. eds. Roberta A. Schoen, Mary Ellen Mogee and Mitchel B. Wallerstein. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1993. 162-167. Print. Posey, Darell. “Intellectual Property Rights: And Just Compensation for Indigenous Knowledge.” Anthropology Today 6/2 (1990): 13-16. JSTOR. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. Radhakrishnan, Meena. “Dishonoured by History.” Adivasi (2000): 1-5. The Hindu. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. Rathmann, George B. “Biotechnology Case Study.” Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology ed. Roberta A. Schoen, Mary Ellen Mogee and Mitchel B. Wallerstein. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 319-328. Print. Rocheleau, Dianne. “Rooted Networks, Webs of Relation, and the Power of Situated Science: Bringing the Models Back Down to Earth in Zambrana.” In Knowing Nature ed. M. Goldman, P. Nadasdy and M. Turner. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print. Roopnaraine, Terry. “Indigenous Knowledge, Biodiversity and Rights.” Anthropology Today 14 (1998): 16. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2013. Sahai, Sumain, Ujjwal Kumar and Waquar Ahmed. Indigenous Knowledge: Issues for Developing Countries. New Delhi: Gene Campaign, 2005. Print. Salmon, Enrique. “Kincentric Ecology: Indigenous Perceptions of the Human-nature Relationship.” Ecological Applications 10. 5 (2000): 1327-1332. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2013. Schoen, Roberta A., Mary Ellen Mogee and Mitchel B. Wallerstein, Eds. Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology. Washington D.C.: National Academy P, 1993. Print. Selvamony, Nirmal. “Ecorights.” Current Issues in Bioethics and Environment. Ed. M. Gabriel, K. Joshua and Jayapaul Azariah. Chennai: The Department of Philosophy, Madras Christian College, 2001. 265-291. Print. Shaw, Wendy S., R.D.K. Herman and G. Rebecca Dobbs. Encountering indigeneity: Re-imagining and Decolonizing Geography. Sweden: Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography, 2006. Print. Shiva, Vandana. Protect or Plunder?- Understanding Intellectual Property Rights. New York: Zed Books, 2001. Print. Siromoney, Gift. “The Narikoravas of Madras City.” Studies on Vaagrivala, A Collection of Papers on the Narikorava People of Tamilnadu. Ed. J.P. Vijayathilakan. Madras: Madras Christian College, Department of Statistics, 1977. Print.

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Siromoney, Gift, Giles Lal and C. Livingstone. “Herbal Medicines of the Narikoravas.” Folklore XVI (1973): 363-366. Print. Siromoney, Gift. “Medicinal Plants Used by the People of the Narikorava Tribe.” Aaraaichi 3 (1973): 354-357. Print. Tamez, Margo. “Restoring Lipan Apache Women's Laws, Lands, and Strength in El Calaboz Rancheria at the Texas-Mexico Border.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 35. 31 (2010): 558-569. Print. World Intellectual Property Organization. “Understanding Copyright and Related Rights.” 909 (E). Switzerland: WIPO, n. d. Web. 22 Mar. 2013. Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003. Print.


Belasco’s Theory of Food: The Framework Belasco in his overview remarks, Food choices are a complex negotiation among three competing considerations: the consumer’s identity (social and personal), matters of convenience (price, skill, availability), and a sense of responsibility (an awareness of the consequences of what we eat). (ix)

Using the framework of Belasco’s three considerations, I would like to look at food through the medium of food blogs and analyse how crosscultural exchange with respect to food items has become the norm in many urban households resulting in loss of indigeneity. Food blogging has become an authoritative source of cooking and food for many virtual audiences. Sitting in the comfort of one’s home or workspace, with a click of a mouse, the World Wide Web gives access to the activities in the local kitchen space. Prized ingredients, exotic spices, seasonal food varieties and local recipes are on display for the global netizen to devour and savour. In this essay, I attempt to interpret the implications of food and its display on the internet, owing to the increased interest in food blogging. Consequently, the food here is not the real food, but recipes and descriptions on the internet.

Eating Out of Your Hands


Analysis of Recipes in Blogs For the purpose of analysis, I have chosen two recipes from the food blogs of bloggers whose posts I follow (as a blogger myself) intermittently. The first blog post is that of an Indian—South Indian to be specific—settled in America. The name of the blog is Ria’s Collections and the recipe is titled “Meen Vevichathu/Kerala Style Red Fish Curry” and is a popular dish in Kerala, South India. The fish curry is also indigenous to the natives of Kerala as the dish is prepared with local ingredients. The words Meen Vevichathu are translated as “cooked fish.” The ingredients used in the recipe are as follows: Meen Vevichathu/Kerala Style Red Fish Curry Recipe source: Amma Ingredients 1.5 kg fish (I used King Fish/Neimeen/Aikoora. You can use any fish of your choice) 1 small onion, chopped (If you have access to “chumannulli”/Shallots, use that, maybe 4-5 nos.) 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds/Uluva 2 sprigs of curry leaves 11/2 tbsp red chilli powder (I use a mix of Kashmiri and Hot chilli powder, Kashmiri gives colour to the curry) 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 2 tsp fenugreek powder 4 pieces of Kokum soaked in 1 c warm water (for 10 mins) 1/4 c Coconut Oil (you can substitute it with vegetable/canola oil) 1 c water (optional) for the gravy. (“Meen Vevichathu/Kerala style Red Fish Curry”)

Kudampuli and Tamarind: A Discussion on Indigeneity Going by Belasco’s theory of food choices, let us try to understand food by picking an ingredient from Ria’s fish recipe. The first consideration is the consumer’s identity. The identity of an individual is always tied to his/her culture and society. Since Kerala is situated in the coastal belt of the Arabian Sea, fish, kudampuli (Garcinia cambogia) and coconut are the commonly used ingredients in the preparation of food. Ria’s recipe uses king fish which is locally known by the names, Neimeen or Aikoora. But the blogger also gives the option of using other varieties of fish as well. Though most of the ingredients are staple southern Indian ones, the use of the ingredient kokum is interesting. Botanically known as Garcinia indica,


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“Kokum is a tree with a dense canopy of green leaves and red-tinged tender emerging leaves. It is indigenous to the Western Ghats region of India, along the western coast” (“Kokam”). Kokum is commonly used in the Konkan regions of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa “to prepare curries and rasam (a pepper-water preparation) as a substitute to Tamarind” (“Kokum”). While the Konkan regions use kokum, Kerala uses a local fruit which is dried and known as kudampuli, as souring agent and substitute for the more famous tamarind. Both kokum and kudampuli look similar in texture and colour and are often confused with each other. The blogger, though from Kerala, is settled in America and when she tries to use indigenous ingredients for the preparation of Kerala fish curry she, like many others, has confused kokum and kudampuli. While she should have mentioned kudampuli she has listed kokum as one of the ingredients for the recipe. In spite of kokum and kudampuli belonging to the same family, they cannot be interchanged, according to the website www.kudam The website remarks, Kudampuli is sometimes referred to as “Kokum” in some of the cookbooks from Kerala, and many people misunderstood that Kokum and Kudampuli are the same. But Kokum (Garcinia indica) used in Marathi and Konkani cuisines is a different fruit, these two … are not interchangeable in recipes. (“About Kudampuli”)

While Kerala and the Konkan regions have remained indigenous in using native souring agents, the neighbourhood of Tamil Nadu and other parts of India use tamarind which is an exotic species “introduced into India from Africa by Arab traders” (Collingham 60). Though Collingham refers to tamarind in her book, she does not mention the local souring agents, kokum and kudampuli. In spite of devoting a complete chapter to a common dish Vindaloo prevalent in the Konkan region, Collingham has no reference of the native and indigenous souring agent kokum which is an important ingredient in the preparation of Vindaloo. Instead, Collingham mentions that when the Portuguese arrived in India, “they found that Indians did not make vinegar, though a similar sour-hot taste was produced by south Indian cooks using a combination of tamarind and black pepper” (68-69). If one goes by Collingham’s research, it seems that kokum was not in use then as much as tamarind. Further, Collingham uses the word “Indians” and “south Indian” in a rather generic way while even in south India different regions used different ingredients as souring agents. The ubiquitous tamarind used in her book is a generic ingredient as Collingham puts it.

Eating Out of Your Hands


Tamarind “was long ago introduced into and adopted in India that it has often been reported as indigenous. . . . , giving rise to both its common and generic names. Unfortunately, the specific name, ‘indica,’ also perpetuates the illusion of Indian origin” (Morton “Tamarind”). In spite of tamarind being exotic in India and native to central Africa, it has become an indispensable ingredient in many Indian kitchens, so much so that outside of India, many think that Indian (a generic usage) cuisine is incomplete without tamarind. What probably happened is that the taste and the ingredient became synonymous, giving rise to the generic name “tamarind”; while the souring agents have come to be classified as tamarind, it might actually individually refer to the indigenous kokum of the Konkan belt or kudampuli belonging to Kerala. It would not come as a surprise if another souring agent, the tomato, is also referred to as tamarind in the future! Tamarind hence is an ingredient which has superseded some local souring agents due to cross-cultural interference. While the exotic tamarind bears a resemblance to the shape of a sword, the native souring agents bear the round shape of a pot. Eliza F. Kent, while referring to the tamarind trees in the forest, refers to “the black plum or tamarind trees” (17) which suggests that the reference could be to the indigenous variety of kudampuli which has been confused with the sword-shaped tamarind. If “puশi means ‘sourness’ and does not refer to a tree” as opined by Chevillard, then one can infer that the souring agent in the ancient Tamil period was actually kudampuli which is often confused with the foreign souring agent, the tamarind (Tamarindus indica). Chevillard further goes on to say that “The entry semantically closest to puۜiyampalam is puliyamaram ‘Tamarind tree,’ but since neither of these two can be derived from the other, we have to postulate that both of them contain a stem puۜi-, i.e. a bound form which combines with the items palam, ‘ripe fruit’ and maram, ‘tree’.” Chevillard postulates that the sour taste, puli, does not refer to any specific plant and thus could be any fruit or tree which tastes sour—a logical reason for the confusion between plants that bear souring fruits. Thus, it is no surprise that kudampuli was easily replaced by Tamarindus indica. While the sour taste “puli” finds a mention in early Tamil texts, scholars often confuse the popular tamarind (Tamarindus indica) when actually it should have been kudampuli. The lengthy discussion of tamarind and souring agents brings us to the kokum in Ria’s recipe. Unintentionally, Ria has given the souring agent in the Konkan region as that of Kerala, but that also brings forth the point that is pertinent to this essay—Ria has “carried her home” with her as she prepares the indigenous fish curry in America. By stating that the recipe is from her mother, Ria shows that she is keen to preserve the legacy of the


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family’s food preparation method. Since it is a fish recipe, this again shows that Ria “carries” her landscape in her; fish is an important ingredient of meals in Kerala and since Ria belongs to the seacoast of the Arabian sea, she has a natural affinity with fish. She has chosen to keep her personal Keralite identity, the first consideration of Belasco’s food choice negotiation. Being removed from one’s own cultural context yet preserving personal identity through food also becomes a matter of convenience for some people. This brings us to Belasco’s second consideration. When an individual who lives near the seashore moves to the plains, their food habits also alter to a larger extent. The unavailability of fresh seafood and local ingredients may cause him/her to make minor changes in food habits thereby adjusting his/her preferred palette. When these adjustments are made, do the tastes and the flavours of the native place fade into oblivion? As Rapport and Overing remark, “home comes to be located in a routine set of practices … in memories and myths, in stories carried around in one’s head” (158); when food is talked about at home during meal times, the taste of the food cooked by mother is imagined and the unavailability of similar food in the present dwelling place in discussed. When some ingredient or item is unavailable, the individual makes do with what is available and convenient to prepare. For example, coconut is an indispensible ingredient in Kerala cuisine but when an inhabitant of Kerala is not able to procure coconut oil in a place he/she has migrated to, he/she has to make do with the oil that can be obtained easily.

Coconut: Indigeneity and Substitution As Venugopal remarks, coconut is a symbol of Kerala: Kerala, or Keralam, got its name from kera (coconut). As anyone who has ever visited the state will know, no image of Kerala is ever complete without the swaying fronds of the coconut palm. For centuries, coconut trees and coconuts have played a vital role in the everyday life and economy of the state. (“The Decline and Fall of the Kerala Coconut”)

Whether “Kera-alam” is a portmanteau which refers to coconut or whether it is a phonological change from “chera-alam” (the land of hill-slope), the present (and popular) attribution of Kerala to coconuts is of interest to our study (“Kerala Etymology”). But the coconut which is synonymous with the Keralite has to be forgone once the Keralite migrates. In the new place, the local ingredient of one’s home would be seen as exotic due to the shipping and cost; hence, the migrant would not be able to use it as often

Eating Out of Your Hands


as one would like to. Availability and price are restricted and thus the migrant adopts his/her tastes to that of the local. For example, in the same fish recipe, a substitute for coconut oil is vegetable oil or canola oil. Canola oil “which comes from the crushed seeds of the canola plant … is part of the Brassica family. Cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower are also part of this same botanical family” (“Where Does Canola Oil Come From”). Canola oil was not popular in Kerala, just as coconut oil was not popular in the United States. The individual thus preserves the recipe of fish albeit substituting certain ingredients—blending personal cultural identity of food in an alien cultural context. This cross-cultural experience of food has quite become the norm in today’s modern households where one ingredient can be substituted for another. The ready availability of any ingredient off the supermarket shelf has contributed greatly to the increase in cross-cultural consumption of food. The substitution of one ingredient for another, though it maintains the essence of the food, cancels indigeneity and the originality of preparation. The same reason has also caused food habits to be altered for reasons of health and well-being. Many foreign ingredients which were hitherto unknown and in India are slowly permeating the Indian market and household. This brings us to the third consideration of Belasco’s “sense of responsibility,” an awareness of the consequences of what we eat.

Responsibility, Indigeneity and Food While the term “responsibility” generally has a positive connotation, does the same word denote positivity while discussing Belasco’s consideration with regard to food? “A sense of responsibility” also spells a conscious choice in selecting what to eat and what to discard from the dining table. Responsibility in choice should also mean responsibility towards the economy of food, towards farmers, towards the land that is used for farming and in using earth-friendly manure and pesticides. But more often, food bloggers emphasize the need to eat healthily by listing the pros and cons of each food item, thereby enabling the consumer (readers of the blog) to make decisions for the well-being of the household. But do these choices in food take the question of indigeneity into consideration? Well, not always. In blogging, the talk of health is a shift of responsibility of the choice to the responsibility for one’s health; seldom are the health of the community, land and earth considered. So inadvertently the responsibility of a community boils down to that of an individual. The issue of indigeneity comes in only when the responsibility is evident in the concern for the land and the produce that is available in one’s region. Otherwise


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how can one explain the popularity of oats which is marketed by a softdrink company (PepsiCo India, the manufacturer of Cola). The effective marketing of oats as a health food which is marketed as a food item effective for controlling heart problems, diabetes and weight loss has caused a tremendous increase of households taking to oats, a grain initially used for feeding livestock. As Freedman rightly remarks, In the modern world, concerns about the interrelation of health and food have produced any number of odd combinations: fads for diets coinciding with a growth of obesity; fears about ties between various food and disease (eggs, saturated fats, trans-fats) coinciding with increased consumption of artificially processed ingredients, exaggerations of the benefits of one or another kind of food (vegetarianism, oat-bran, high protein regimes). (Freedman 12-13)

These “exaggerations of the benefits of one or another kind of food” is exactly what is perpetrated by the advertisements as well as food blogs. In fact, India had her fair share of the “healthy” food grains like ragi, corn, jowar and barley which were displaced by rice and wheat. Owing to further cross-cultural influence, rice and wheat are gradually being displaced by oats (Acharya 19-22). Delving deeper into the history of food, reveals amazing, systematic changes over the centuries. While the traders and colonizers were instrumental in causing changes in the indigeneity of food in the earlier centuries, the Internet and food bloggers do the same in today’s world. Though on the surface it does seem that the woman of the house takes decisions when it comes to food, it is not farfetched to say that the decisions are actually made by the giant food companies. Food bloggers, by validating a particular food ingredient as “health food,” unconsciously support the big players in the arena of food. Similarly, innocent consumers after reading the food blogs make their choice of food based on what they read. Doing so, they unconsciously wipe out the local and include the exotic and more expensive food ingredients in their diet. All matters of cooking and storing ingredients are part of the innermost domestic space of the home which is almost always controlled by women.

akam and puram of Food at Home The kitchen belongs to the domestic space of the house where the cooking takes place. In most households, the cooking and serving is done by the women of the house who thus spend most of their waking time in the confines of the kitchen cooking, cleaning and doing other related

Eating Out of Your Hands


activities. Even in houses which do not have a kitchen per se, “a sense of residence was established around a hearth, cooking spot, or other regular eating place” (quoted in Dickey 232). The kitchen is thus seen as the innermost domestic space of the house which is also a communal space for the members of the family. Food is always almost a binding factor as the family comes together for meal times and in some cases the most elaborate meal is the dinner where all the members of the family are present. In many eastern cultures, the pride of the home lay in the delicious food that was served by the mistress of the house. Hence traditionally, home, food and women are inextricably linked, though the scenario is fast undergoing a marked change. The space of food in the house is always the domestic space which is part of the interior space of the house. The presence of an interior space also means that there is an exterior space of the home. The exterior space of the house, according to Chatterjee, “(is) an external material sphere constructed and dominated by the colonial ruler” (quoted in Dickey 233). While Chatterjee refers to the contrast of spaces in “nineteenth- and twentieth nationalist rhetoric in Bengal,” an equivalent of the interior and exterior spaces can be found in the ancient Tamil ecocritical concept of tinai which distinguishes the spaces as akam (interior) and puram (exterior). According to Selvamony, “akam, consists of such actions that are private and intimate and do not directly involve more than two persons. … puram, comprises actions that are public and may involve any number of persons” (“An Alternative Social Order” 233). While Selvamony does not explicitly refer to food, it is important that the interior of the house is incomplete without food and the hearth. The Tamil concept of tinai which has widely “been regarded only from a literary perspective” was also a “predominant social order” during the “pre-caste era” (Selvamony, “Tinai Studies” 1) and is “intrinsically bound to a specific natural environment” (Selvamony, “An Alternative Social Order” 216). Since the communities were connected to a specific landscape, the food and other products came from the land that housed the home. In short, everything was indigenous and locally procured; akam also included the extended space around the house, vegetable gardens and also sacred groves, so the plants that bore food and the land that produced food were part of the home. The indigeneity of food was possible in the early centuries at a time when colonization and invasion of the land were not heard of. Then, successive invasions and trade enabled and corrupted the indigeneity of food and other cultural aspects of the land. Gradually the introduction of foreign food into the local began altering food practices, thus offering a new taste and texture to food and food culture. The concept of tinai thus gains relevance as it envisions an alternative glocal


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worldview where the individual is connected to the land of his/her ancestors, growing and eating what is from the land that surrounds the home. But the postmodern consumer of food is more of a migrant turned settler who is away from the confines of the place of his/her ancestors. Even though one may try to remain tied to the native land in certain practices out of which food is a vital one, the considerations put forth by Belasco have significantly altered food choices. While the earlier example of Ria’s fish recipe enabled us to understand the cross-cultural experience of cooking ethnic food in a foreign land, the following example illustrates how an exotic vegetable has found space in the Indian palette, another cross-cultural phenomenon.

Broccoli: A Discussion on Indigeneity and Displacement The recipe that is used is from the blog titled Enjoy Indian Food and the blog belongs to Meera. The blogger before giving the recipe states, “Broccoli is one of the vegetables which I did not taste while growing up in India. But it is also the vegetable which I use frequently in my cooking and love to cook/experiment with it Indian way [sic] …” (“Broccoli Paratha”). The food item is paratha, an Indian flatbread which is commonly eaten in northern India. The blogger prepares an Indian flatbread by stuffing it with broccoli, an item previously alien to the blogger but now a common one. The ingredients of the recipe are as follows: Broccoli Paratha Ingredients Oil for shallow frying For stuffing 1 small head of broccoli, grated ½ tsp salt 1 green chilli, minced (optional) ½ tsp red chilli powder 1 tsp ginger, grated ½ tsp owa/ajwain/thymol seeds/ajowan/ajmo Or 1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera 1 small onion, chopped 1 tsp dry pomegranate seeds/anardaana, coarsely crushed 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped 1 boiled potato (optional)

Eating Out of Your Hands


For paratha 2 cups wheat flour Salt to taste 1 tsp oil. (“Broccoli Paratha”)

The threat of cancer and heart disease has caused the increasing use of broccoli in many parts of the world. As experts at University of Illinois write, A member of the cabbage family and a close relative of cauliflower, broccoli packs more nutrients than any other vegetable. Broccoli contains large amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene which are important antioxidants. In the United States, broccoli has become the most favored cruciferous vegetable (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and all forms of cabbage). Researches have concluded that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables should be included in the diet several times a week. Consuming food high in antioxidants can reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease. (“Broccoli”)

The present day status of broccoli as a health food is a fairly recent one but before that it would be an exciting task to trace the paths the exotic broccoli has travelled down the centuries. While Gray mentions that “the sprouting broccolis are thought to have originated from the eastern Mediterranean though it is not known when they first appeared” (399), Buck opines that “This popular vegetable may have been known to the Greeks, 2,500 years ago” (250). While both botanists agree that broccoli would have originated from the Eastern Mediterranean regions, the exact time of its appearance is disputed. Further, the vegetable travelled to Italy and from there to Britain (Gray 399). In America, the vegetable is fast replacing the cauliflower which also belongs to the same family as broccoli. According to Buck, “In the United States, sprouting broccoli (commonly called ‘broccoli’) is a recently introduced form of Brassica which is displacing cauliflower in popularity as a vegetable” (251). Broccoli has crossed several borders and has also managed to mark its presence in the Indian kitchen. It is cultivated in large quantities in India and is also exported to several European countries and is classified as “high-value vegetable” (Adhiguru, Vimala Devi and Kanagaraj 195). Among the many exotic vegetables that have been grown “successfully” in India, broccoli is one among them (Ahmed, Narain, Khan, Jabeen and Kanajia 205). It is ironic that a vegetable that entered India as a foreign one through the colonizers is now being exported to many European countries. If the broccoli has adapted well to the soil in certain parts of India, it can be assumed that it has displaced some indigenous vegetable


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and if a foreign body has to be grown in a land that is not its own, certain measures have to be adopted. While The Economic Times reported in 2005 that broccoli and certain other exotic vegetables “haven’t yet completely displaced the humble tinda and gobi (Indian round gourd and cabbage) but they’re climbing the popularity charts, lining shelves in colony markets, creeping onto dining tables in cities” (“Rare Vegetables Are a Fair Game”); the scenario in 2013 is such that the Indian round gourd has completely disappeared and once-exotic-now-local cabbage is gradually disappearing from the Indian vegetable markets. Even agriculturists refer to the vegetable as an “exotic” which is “gaining momentum in India and has become increasingly popular with Indian growers for the past couple of years obviously due to the awareness of its higher nutritive values and tourist influx” (Narayanan, Ahmed and Mufti 289). The mention of “tourist influx” is intriguing because broccoli seems to be cultivated for tourists who flock to the country during certain times of the year, and to cater for their taste buds a vegetable is reared. This explains the crosscultural aspect of entertaining foreign taste buds in a place far from the tourists’ local region. Researchers remark, “The increased productivity in the region has been the result of introduction of hybrids and release of high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties adapted to temperate conditions” (Ahmed, Narain, Khan, Jabeen and Kanajia 205). If one visits the vegetable market at Vasco da Gama, Goa, one can witness vegetable sellers calling out to customers to buy fresh broccoli, peppers and other bright and colourful vegetables which are a recent addition in the market as well as the kitchen. While broccoli is easily available in northern and western India, it is still a rarity in the southern parts of India. Coming back to the food blogger’s recipe of broccoli flat bread, she mentions that she has prepared the flat bread using broccoli instead of cauliflower. While it might seem that just replacing an ingredient would be experimental cooking, it also points to the fact that the original ingredients are slowly being replaced. The cauliflower which has been replaced by broccoli is also not a native of India but is relatively older than the broccoli in the Indian market. What vegetable would have been replaced by the cauliflower would be an interesting ecocritical research. Kirti Singh, President, Indian Society of Vegetable Science, Varanasi, and former Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, New Delhi, opines that “The most urgent need today is to increase the production of nutritious food in a sustainable manner and improve farm income to ensure household food and nutritional security, while conserving the natural resource base” (3), which shows that there is greater stress on the “nutritious factor” rather than the importance to local and the indigenous.

Eating Out of Your Hands


While the soil and the plant are made to adapt to one another keeping in the larger interests of “nutritious food,” the easily available have been slowly and consistently pushed out of the mainstream. Today broccoli is classified as a high money-yielding crop and is cultivated in many parts of northern and western India and exported to the rest of the country. In the case of the broccoli recipe quoted in this essay, we can observe all three of Belasco’s considerations at play. By retaining the old recipe and preparation mode of the paratha, the blogger has remained faithful to the food that was part of her identity while she was growing up. Presently, as an individual who has the power to make food choices, she has adapted a new and fairly recent ingredient into her old recipe, and by including broccoli in the recipe she has the satisfaction of feeding her family with a healthy albeit exotic food. That broccoli is an alien food in her kitchen does not seem to deter her from using the vegetable in her kitchen, thanks to the vociferous claims of broccoli as a health food packed with an abundance of antioxidants. Though the various health benefits of broccoli have been highlighted by many food bloggers, the cross-cultural substitution of broccoli in place of previously existing vegetables and tubers has been overlooked. Hence, food blogging websites have become self-proclaimed health and nutrition guides for the reader/consumer.

Theorizing Transecology The food blogs thus enable food to travel from one’s own kitchen to the world outside through the medium of the Internet. The kitchen, once the innermost and closed space of the home open only to family, has now become a place which allows food to be photographed and posted out to strangers and denizens of the world. There was a time when the cooking space was part of the domestic space or akam, the interior of the house. As Everett remarks, “Food was grown or captured by the family and prepared by it” (37). Food thus belongs to the “inside” and “interior” part of home, whereas the “outside” and “exterior” belonged to puram. But what happens with food blogging is that something of the interior crosses the threshold of home into puram and further permeates the boundaries of regions and reaches miles away via the Internet; puram in the context of food blogging refers to the place where ingredients from an exotic destination are used for cooking. The destination of that particular food can be anywhere—the neighbourhood or a place which is a thousand miles away. Thus, food blogging defeats Everett’s statement that food should be “grown or captured” by the family. Food which once was exclusive and indigenous can now be procured anywhere. Thus, food ceases to be


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endemic and indigenous. The already tampered indigeneity by the various colonizations and trade collaborations has reached lofty levels in the curious case of food blogging. Food blogging has dissolved the interior and exterior food spaces, and there is hardly anything that is exclusive to one’s native land. This phenomenon can be referred to as transecological. The portmanteau word “transecology” is often used to describe the “complex network of exchanges that linked different ecological zones of the Afro-Eurasian landmass” (Christian 1). The word “transecology” is a combination of two words, “trans-,” and “ecology.” “Trans-” can either refer to (1) across or (2) having changed from one thing to another. But when discussed in the light of the word “transecological,” it could mean something that has crossed and also changed from one thing to another. If we take the example of food in this context, an ingredient that has not been present in a place is obtained from another place, thus enabling the ingredient to cross one boundary and move to another. The same ingredient that is obtained across the border has been added to a food preparation in the process changing the use of the ingredient to completely another thing. The cause that is the process of crossing leads to the effect of the change in various aspects, viz., use of the ingredient, taste of a food item, substitute for another similar tasting ingredient and so on. The example of the souring agent cited in Ria’s fish recipe is a case in point. While Ria uses kudampuli misnamed as kokum, she nevertheless retains the local souring agent instead of tamarind which is often seen as the prime souring agent in Indian culinary. Through Ria’s recipe, it is shown that wherever one lives, one can procure any ingredient irrespective of the non-indigenous quality. This is an example of the travelling of an ingredient across borders, thus lending a transecological status for the item. Speaking of the ecological part of the portmanteau word, the root of the word “ecology” is derived from the Greek word oikos which means “home” or “household.” Everett mentions, the oikos was the domestic sphere where people were born, cared for, worked, worshipped, loved, quarreled and died … The main activities for supporting life were carried on (in the oikos) … In almost every household economy was rooted in agriculture. The household and its activity were tied to the land. (36-37)

From Everett’s description of the oikos, it can be seen that ecology is the study of the household or home. The home in question was always seen in connection with the land and the “household economy was rooted in agriculture” (37). The “domestic sphere” also includes the hearth, the

Eating Out of Your Hands


place where the family’s food was cooked and relished. Since the economy of the home was “tied to the land,” it is not difficult to gauge that the food also came from the land and hence classified as indigenous. The indigeneity of food was possible in the early centuries at a time when colonization and invasion of the land were not heard of. Then, successive invasions and trade enabled and corrupted the indigeneity of food and other cultural aspects of the land. When ingredients from other cultures and civilizations permeated into the Indian food, it contributed to the transecological phenomenon. The local ingredients of the Portuguese made their way into Indian food, resulting in a coalesced food item which was labelled “Indian.” But this example is a physical one which was concomitant of the mingling of foreign traders and local people. How can this transecological phenomenon be extended to food blogging? In food blogging, recipes are shared and exchanged through the medium of blogging. Recipes are posted online and readers who look for recipes use the same to cook a new food item. The readers can be from any part of the world and might try recipes which are completely new and foreign to them. While some readers look for exotic recipes, some others look for a change in the mode of preparation by substituting one or more ingredients with the traditional ones. The example of broccoli paratha is one such recipe where broccoli has replaced the cabbage in the recipe. Food blogging not only aids netizens with diverse recipes but also encourages trying exotic ingredients which are often obtained from the supermarket or online lifestyle stores. While trade and colonization introduced diverse and exotic ingredients in the Indian kitchen, food blogging has also done the same albeit a different medium. Unlike the transecological characteristics of yore which not only transported “material goods” but also “disease vectors, languages, technologies, styles, religions, and genes” (Christian 3), the Internet transports only pictures, videos and text instructions of recipes—images of what is real. Perhaps this is the “advantage” of the Internet when compared to real and physical exchange. The other “advantage” is that these exchanges can happen while one is comfortably seated in the confines of the home. The income to afford a personal computer and uninterrupted connectivity enables many women and men to easily access recipes from any part of the world and prepare the same in their kitchens. Further, online availability of spices, condiments and other rare ingredients has helped and contributed to the aggravation of transecology. Meghan Lynch has studied and analysed 45 food blogs of young women for a period of two months and observed that “Much research has examined unhealthy dietary behaviors occurring on online forums and


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blogs” (quoted in Lynch 316). While the terms “healthy” and “nutritious” is the tagline of many urban households, the discretion (or “responsibility” in Belasco’s terms) to question the information provided by these food blogs is often absent. This is very much like the increased usage of broccoli in the Indian kitchen because it is packed with “anti-cancerous compounds” (“Rare Vegetables Are a Fair Game”). Lynch’s observation about “unhealthy dietary behaviors” can also largely be attributed to local ingredients being given a miss in favour of the exotic. The majority of the women and men who follow these food blogs do not stop to question the origin of ingredients. Instead, the ingredient is procured either from the supermarket or online markets. It does not matter whether the ingredient is highly priced or unavailable in the local market. When one moves away from the local and traditional food that is easily available to food that is exotic and thus “healthy,” one allows puram food into the akam (puram as mentioned elsewhere in this essay refers to the place where ingredients from an exotic destination are used for cooking). When the exterior enters the interior, there is a change caused in the interior by the inclusion of the foreign and unfamiliar. Ingredients step out of their ecological confines and enter an alien landscape and ecology. At first, the exotic ingredient is tried, and when the demand increases, the supply also is automatically increased. While not every food item in the Indian kitchen is indigenous, one can at least try to keep away from further alienating the present Indianized ingredients. While incorporating “healthy” but exotic ingredients into the kitchen, one consciously makes a choice in the food that is to be consumed. This brings us again to the considerations put forth by Belasco. While Belasco states that food choices are “complex negotiation among three competing considerations, the consumer’s identity, matters of convenience and a sense of responsibility,” (ix), he also does not negate the fact that food choices are the result of “the food industry to obscure and mystify the links between the farm and the dinner table” (Belasco 4). Food and food production, according to Belasco, since the nineteenth century have been made to “disappear,” meaning “to make it less visible and less central as a burden or concern” (Belasco 4). In short, indigeneity has been systematically wiped out in return for packaged and exotic food. While labour and strenuous work have been reduced, the transecological phenomenon has also distanced the individual from the “traditional rituals, sensibilities, and practices of food production … (causing) negative consequences for our health and environment” (Belasco 4). Increased migration to different parts of the world in search of job opportunities and education has contributed largely to the diverse changes in food

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preferences and habits. When settled migrants want to retain memories of their home and homeland, they cultivate local food in alien lands, thereby making their food transecological. Ria’s example might be one such where she prepares an indigenous fish curry in a foreign country away from home. The curiosity to taste food from different cultures and escape the boredom and monotony of local food is also another factor that contributes to transecology. Landscape of the region has a specific ecology. Thus, the landscape of a region is unique when compared to similar landscapes of different regions. When the boundaries of landscapes blur and when elements of a specific culture cut across a landscape, they get into conflict with the other, lending the landscapes to a transformed state. Similarly, when ingredients and recipes from one landscape and ecology cross borders into another landscape by means of substitution of ingredients, cross-cultural cooking and replacing one ingredient with another, it brings about a transecological phenomenon of food and food culture. From the analysis of food ingredients mentioned in the essay, one can conclude that the substitution of one ingredient in place of another is a prominent characteristic of transecology. In Ria’s fish curry, she substitutes kudampuli with kokum and suggests using canola oil in place of coconut oil. While the substituted ingredients might not alter the taste much, they have removed the fish curry from having a native flavour. When local ingredients are replaced with exotic/foreign ones, the individual is moving a step away from indigeneity and his/her land and culture. In the same example of the fish curry, though Ria lives in a land far from her home, she tries to preserve her identity by preparing the fish curry like it was prepared in her native place, Kerala. This is the second feature of transecology—carrying the ecology of the home to an alien land. The ecology in question is the local ingredients bought and used in a foreign land. When one can buy the local ingredients of their native land in a foreign place, it means that it is not difficult for ingredients to cross borders and find shelf space in an exotic supermarket! The third feature of transecology can be seen in the example of the broccoli paratha where an exotic vegetable is used in preparing a local dish. Here, the exotic is localized and also substituted for the existing vegetable (in this case, the cauliflower which was once an exotic vegetable). Using exotic food ingredients for health reasons and also to expand the culture of the kitchen is limited to one section of the society. Food bloggers and consumers of food blogs belong to the urban middle-class and upper middle-class sections that have access to a computer and Internet connectivity. So, one can concur that the exotic food has pervaded only one section of the society. But it will not be long before these food


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habits seep into the other sections as well. For example, if the demand for a certain exotic vegetable, say broccoli, is preferred by the economically comfortable sections of the society, then the farmers will have to grow the vegetables which are in demand. In the process of catering to the demands of the middle and upper middle-class people, the soil loses its ability to sustain the previously grown vegetables. It is also plausible that the farmer cultivating the exotic will slowly start consuming the same and hence the native vegetables and food grains will be completely displaced. In this manner, food blogging vicariously continues the tradition of transecology.

Conclusion The transecological phenomenon of food in India is nothing new. It has always existed and flourished, probably even before the East India Company made its appearance centuries ago. Further, arrivals of the Mughals, Portugese and other invaders have introduced diverse and exotic ingredients to the Indian kitchen. Chillies, sugar, tea, coffee, rice and many other ingredients which have been the common ingredients of Indian cooking were once exotic and foreign. Though the invasions have long ended, the colonizing of tastes through exotic ingredients has not ended. Food blogging suggests healthy and tasty recipes with ingredients sourced from diverse places and has removed food from its place of origin and has demoted local ingredients, encouraging the exotic and foreign to decorate and satiate the palettes and plates. Though not all food blogs promote the exotic, it would not be an exaggeration to say that food blogs are zealously carrying on the work left by the invaders and colonists in promoting transecology of food and tastes.

References “About Kudampuli.” Kudampuli: An Essential Natural Ingredient Used in Ethnic Kerala Cuisine, 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. Acharya, K. T. The Story of Our Food. Hyderabad: UP India, 2000. Print. Adhiguru, P., S. Vimala Devi and M. Kanagaraj. “Strengthening Economic and Nutrition Security: Role of Vegetables.” In Impact of Vegetable Research in India. ed. Sant Kumar, P. K. Joshi and Suresh Pal. New Delhi: National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), 2004: 191-204. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. Ahmed, N., Raj Narain, S. H. Khan, Nayeema Jabeen and S. P. Kanajia. “Vegetable Production in Temperate Regions of Jammu & Kashmir: Present Status and Future Prospects.” Abstract in In Impact of

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Vegetable Research in India. ed. Sant Kumar, P. K. Joshi and Suresh Pal. New Delhi: National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), 2004: 205. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. Belasco, Warren James. Food: The Key Concepts. Oxford and other places: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. “Broccoli.” University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. Buck, P. A. “Origin and Taxonomy of Broccoli” Economic Botany, 10.3 (Jul.-Sep. 1956): 250-253. JSTOR. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. Chevillard, Jean-Luc. “A Tree-Guided Tour of the E঺uttatikƗram.” HAL Multidisciplinary Open Archive. 29 Jan. 2010. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. Christian, David. “Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History.” Journal of World History 11.1 (2000): 1–26. JSTOR. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. Collingham, Lizzie. Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. London: Vintage Books, 2006. Print. Dickey, Sarah. “Permeable Homes: Domestic Service, Household Space, and the Vulnerability of Class Boundaries in Urban South India.” Tamil Geographies: Cultural Constructions of Space and Place in South India ed. Martha Ann Selby and Indira Viswanathan Peterson. New York: State University of New York Press, 2008. Print. Everett, W. J. “Work, Family and Faith: Reweaving Our Values.” Value Education Today: Explorations in Social Ethics. Chennai: Madras Christian College and All-India Association for Christian Higher Studies, 1990. 35-44. Print. Freedman, Paul, ed. “A New History of Cuisine.” Introduction. Food: The History of Taste. London, 2007. Google Book Search. 7-34. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. Gray, A. R. “Taxonomy and Evolution of Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica).” Economic Botany 36.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1982): 397-410. JSTOR. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. Kent, Eliza F. “Sacred Groves and Local Gods: Religion and Environmentalism in South India.” Worldviews 13 (2009): 1-39. Web. JSTOR. 14 Feb. 2013. “Kokam.” Flowers of India, 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. “Kokum.” Prakriti—The Neighbourhood Organic Store, 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. Kumar, Sant, P. K. Joshi and Suresh Pal, eds. Impact of Vegetable Research in India. Ed. Sant Kumar, P. K. Joshi and Suresh Pal. New Delhi: National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), 2004. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.


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Lynch, Megan. “Healthy Habits or Damaging Diets: An Exploratory Study of a Food Blogging Community.” Ecology of Food and Nutrition 49.4 (2010): 316-35. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. Mago, Chandrika. “Rare Vegetables Are a Fair Game.” Financial Times. 19 Jun. 2005. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Mathew, Ria. “Meen Vevichathu/Kerala Style Red Fish Curry.” Ria’s Collection: Tried, Tested, Trusted Recipes for Life. 01 Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2013. Meera. “Broccoli Paratha.” Enjoy Indian Food. 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 04 Feb. 2013. Morton, J. “Tamarind.” Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, FL: Julia F. Morton, 1987. 115-21. Centre for New Crops & Plant Products at Purdue University. JSTOR. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. Narayan, S., N. Ahmed and Shahnaz Mufti. “Effect of Sowing Dates and Spacing on Growth and Curd Yield of Sprouting Broccoli.” Temperate Horticulture: Current Scenario ed. D. K. Kishore, Satish K. Sharma and K. K. Pramanick. New Delhi: New India Publishing Agency, 2006. 289-92. Print. Rapport, Nigel, and Joanna Overing. Key Concepts in Social and Cultural Anthropology. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. Print. Selvamony, Nirmal. “An Alternative Social Order.” Value Education Today: Explorations in Social Ethics ed. J. T. K. Daniel and Nirmal Selvamony. Chennai: Madras Christian College and All-India Association for Christian Higher Studies, 1990. 215-36. Print. —. “Tinai Studies.” tinai 3 ed. Nirmal Selvamony and Nirmaldasan. Chennai: Persons For Alternative Social Order (PASO), 2003-2004. 123. Print. Singh, Kirti. “Vegetable Research in India: Some Issues.” In Impact of Vegetable Research in India. ed. Sant Kumar, P. K. Joshi and Suresh Pal. New Delhi: National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), 2004: 3-8. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. Suresh, Sreelakshmi. “Kerala Etymology.” Kerala: The God’s Own Country, 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. “trans-.” Entry 1 and 2. Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. 2nd ed. 2005. Print. “Where Does Canola Oil Come From.” 2007. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. Venugopal, P. N. “The Decline and Fall of the Kerala Coconut.” InfoChange News & Features, Feb. 2007. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.


Introduction Africa has been identified by several ethnographers, anthropologists and other researchers as a continent with rich oral traditions and culture. Currently, it has been observed that African societies are to date oral … socio-cultural knowledge is still transmitted and imparted orally, while cultural networks still survive through the word of mouth. Most of the activities are inherited and do not necessarily conform to the logics of modern thinking or scientific reasoning. They have been functioning for centuries and have worked towards bringing the communities together and in very close ties. (Mocha 86)

This observation is true and corroborated by several rising ecocritical researchers of African oral and written literature. The gradual disappearance of African indigenous trees, forests, bushes, herbs and other ecological elements is not just an ecological issue to be dealt with by environmental stakeholders, but it is a danger, the effects of which catapult into culture, and ultimately, literature. The destruction of some of these indigenous species due to climate change and environmental destruction can cause a dysfunction of some of the African indigenous cultures that in turn affects African linguistic corpuses. For example, some indigenous trees like the mtembe tree (Erythrina abyssinica) are almost extinct, with only a few remaining in Maragoli. This species has been central in Maragoli oral literature especially in the songs and proverbs associated with it. As I was growing up, I was taught the songs and my parents would


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encourage me to visit the places where these trees grew so that I might know it visually. I grew up appreciating the tree as medicinal and later as an element that forms a part of our oral literature. Currently, not many children can tell the name of the tree and very few know the songs or proverbs associated with the tree. This is partly because in some places in Maragoli, the species was cut down for cultivation and hence few memories regarding the tree remain. This essay is an attempt to analyse a few proverbs of the Maragoli community (of which the author of this essay is part of) using the concept of Ubuntuism. Maragoli proverbs were chosen as the areas of study because they are precise, loaded with information and also poetic. Moreover, they display a great relationship between the Maragoli and their ecosystem. The first part of the essay gives an introduction to the Maragoli community and discusses Ubuntu as an ecocritical theory. The second part of the essay analyses the proverbs using the theoretical framework of Ubuntuism.

The Maragoli: History, Lifestyle and Oral Literature According to Kabaji, many Bantu communities in Africa are largely patriarchal; Maragoli is a patriarchal sub-ethnic group of the larger Luhya1 ethnic group, dotting the West Kenya counties of Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia and trans-Nzoia, and partly in Nandi County found in the Rift Valley region. In the 2009 Population and Housing National Census, the Abaluhya is the second largest ethnic group after the Agikuyu with a population of 5,338,666 people. The total number of ethnic groups constituting the Abaluhya is in dispute (Kabaji, Onyango, Kobia). Nonetheless, the Abaluhya ethnic group has the following 18 known groups: Bukusu, Maragoli, Tachoni, Tsotso, Idakho, Isukha, Tiriki, Samia, Banyore, Marachi, Kabras, Bakhekhe, Bakhangala, Marama, Banyala, Kisa, Wanga and Bakhayo. In the 2009 census, the Maragoli is second to the Bukusu in terms of population sizes (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics). According to the oral history of the Maragoli, it is believed that they originated from the North, probably in Egypt.2 They later migrated down south and settled in a place called Lok Kitang, currently the area of Turkana in northern Kenya. This migration was led by one great man called Andimi. Andimi is believed to have had three wives, namely, Mwanzu, Amugovolie and Ndiegu. Mwanzu bore a son whom they called Mulogoli while Ndiegu had a child called Anyore. Apparently, Amugovolie did not have children. As the movement down south continued, they

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settled in what is currently Western Kenya region. Mulogoli later grew up and married a wife called Kaliyesa and they had five children: four boys and a girl. The boys were Musaali, Kizungu, M’mavi and Kirima while the girl’s name was Kavogoi. These four boys form the four clans of the Avarogori. The four clans have several sub-clans depending on the number of children every son sired. The regions occupied by these four main clans go by the following names: Ivusaali (inhabited by Musaali), Ivukizungu (inhabited by Kizungu), Im’mavi (inhabited by M’mavi), and Ivukirima (inhabited by Kirima). The morphological prefix {ivu-} in Llogoli indicates place.

What Is Ubuntu(ism)? Many scholars have tried to define Ubuntuism. Their definitions touch chiefly on humanity, spirituality and the environment surrounding human beings. According to Le Grange, Ubuntu is “a concept that is derived from proverbial expressions (aphorisms) found in several languages in Africa south of the Sahara. However, it’s not only a linguistic concept but has normative connotation embodying how we ought to relate to the other” (331). While giving Ubuntuism an etymological definition, Anderson says, Ubuntu (a Zulu word) is a lifestyle or unifying world-view (or philosophy) of African societies based on respect and understanding between individuals. Ubuntu has been translated as ‘humaneness,’ and is derived from the expression: umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu [a person is a person because of other people/a person can only be a person through others]. It envelops values of group solidarity, compassion, respect, human dignity, conformity to basic norms and collective unity (n.d. P. 9).3

This definition closely correlates with Nabudere’s definition that Ubuntu is a wellspring that flows within African existence and epistemology in which the two aspects Ubu and ntu constitute a wholeness and oneness. The rejuvenation of the philosophy of Ubuntu is, therefore, important because it provides Africans a sense of oneself-identity, selfrespect and achievement. It enables Africans to deal with their problems in a positive manner by drawing on the humanistic values they have inherited and perpetuated throughout their history. Africans can thus make a contribution of these values to the rest of humankind through their conscious application.4

At the onset, Ubuntu sounds anthropocentric, focusing on human values, community-oneness and self-respect. However, Ubuntu is a biocentric


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concept which focuses on the human ecology as the word “ubu” or wholeness suggests. The idea of wholeness brings into focus the environment and the relationship that the people share with the environment. Masango in his research paper “African Spirituality That Shapes the Concept of Ubuntu” defines Ubuntu this way: As people grow and relate to each other they are taught by the elderly to pass what they learn to another person. This is the beginning of caring for each other. The notion of caring manifests itself in the respectful and humble way elders and superiors are greeted and addressed by young ones. This kind of Ubuntu is passed on from one generation to the other. It will not be wrong to say that a human being is nothing but humanness or Umuntu (a Zulu word for a person) as it is shared by many African tribes. (931)

In African linguistics, it is argued that sub-Saharan African languages, because of having a single Proto-Bantu language as common ancestor, possess similarities in terms of syntax and morphology. One of the similarities is the suffixation of (n) tu to prefix m (u) to form a noun denoting person, as in muntu or mtu. Ubuntu is an African view of life and how they view the world outside their own world. It is the good character emanating from not only a Bantu speaker but West African, East African, North African or South African speakers of different languages. It is a collective consciousness of the people of Africa, much different from the negritude activism. Within this philosophy, it is claimed that Africans had their own religion, own ethics and political ideologies. Ubuntu was manifested in their behavioural patterns, spiritual fulfilment and emotional and physical expressions. Indeed, the researchers seem to agree on the concept of humanness within an individual and this humanness should be projected outside to a deserving member of the community and his/her environment. Shumba views Ubuntu as “demonstrably a rational ethical and moral framework for sustainable living comparable to but different from the Judeo-Christian framework on which basis the Western concept of ecological stewardship and dominion over environment is built” (93). Ubuntu teaches people to consider the environment as a companion, one depending on the other. In fact, Shumba further says, “In contrast (to the western world), the Ubuntu provides a worldview of the environment as ‘home’ and a strong axiological framework relevant for harmonious coexistence with the environment and for ecological sustainability” (93). Nabudere’s idea of “oneself-identity” is made clear by Anderson. Though Anderson recognizes the individuality of a person, he poses this individuality in a

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community-identity; in other words, a person’s personhood is based on a community-personhood. Ubuntu as a philosophy does not stop at human relations alone but transcends the human into the spiritual where humans set out to find peace and coexistence with the sacred. Africans had their own religious beliefs and their own priests who ministered on behalf of the whole community. In agricultural processes, like tilling, planting, weeding and harvesting, they held prayers and sang songs of thanksgiving to their ancestors, whom they asked to intercede with god on their behalf.

Situating Ubuntuism in African Ecocriticism Some Maragoli proverbs say “our deity lives in the forest,” “our deity is the creator of all forests,” and “our deity’s forest is not to be visited at night.” These proverbs reflect a sense of spirituality merging within ecological wisdom. East Africans believed that respecting the forests was showing reverence to their deities. They believed that if one destroyed the environment, the deity would consequently withhold rain from the heavens as a punishment. Such a punishment did not only come to an individual but also to the whole village. All of them suffered the wrath of either drought or devastating famines. One year ago, a Kaya5 shrine of the Mijikenda people of coastal Kenya was partially razed by unknown people. The whole community was up in arms and demonstrated against what they believed was an insult to their deities and traditional religion. They reckoned that destroying the forest which housed their deity would bring great retribution on them. This kind of reverence for spirituality is what defined East African communities and their harmonious relationship with ecology. They had no other option but to conserve it. The philosophy of Ubuntu regarded environmental artefacts as just as important as the community member. They believed the environment could save them in times of danger. Some time ago, one professor at a conference raised an issue that was very ecologically pertinent. He narrated to the audience how a grandmother used to watch the behaviour of ants and other insects during the rainy seasons. Whenever the ants brought out their food to dry, she would tell her grandchildren to also bring out the harvested cereals to dry. If the ants abruptly disappeared under the earth with their food, she would quickly gather the grandchildren to take the cereals back into the house. One day she told them this secret: when you see these ants come out to dry food, it will not rain; if they quickly dash back to the holes, it will rain in a short while. These small insects directed the grandmother’s activities and it became a philosophy of


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doing things (the philosophy of consultation with the environment on seasons and natural phenomena). One would conclude that this is how Ubuntu philosophy emerged. It is clear that Ubuntu is a life force that is derived from the daily routine of life which positions the environment as a teacher and an overseer (one who is capable of bringing the future to the present). Thus, the philosophy of Ubuntu makes a strong case for environmental conservation and respect. Just as one would be called to respect elders and strangers in an African setting, so it was for the environment. To be human and to have humanness demands that one should be sentient of himself/herself and his/her environment. It is to be inextricably connected with the constituents of ecology. Such elements will usually include but are not limited to people, trees, rivers, lakes, grass and marine life. Summarizing Ubuntu as a critical theory in analysing the relationship between humans and specific elements of the environment in a text, one would look for the following necessary features: 1. Humanness/oneness (this is the compassion, respect shown towards individual humans, community and specific elements in his/her environment) 2. A spiritual relationship between humans and ecology (a deep interrelation sometimes mediated by religious beliefs and deities) 3. Prophetic status given to specific elements of the environment (water, hills, trees, animals dictating terms to humans) 4. An in-depth knowledge of the land and its elements, its indigeneity and its changes over the years. We shall employ Ubuntuism as our theory of analysis.

Research Methodology This research was carried out in Wodanga in Vihiga County. This region is largely inhabited by the Maragoli who are our subject of study. The research instruments used to collect data were Nikon CoolPix L100 digital camera for taking the photographs that have appeared in the analysis. The researcher also had a Nano IPod for recording the proverbs as they were mentioned and explained by the informants. The recordings were later transcribed and analysed using Ubuntu philosophy. The informants who contributed to this research are Mr. Ainea Egehiza (73 years old) and his wife Mrs. Mary Egehiza (64 years old), who are also the researcher’s parents and Mr. Mulinya Asava (77 years old), a custodian and teacher of

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the Maragoli culture. The three informants were instrumental in providing the proverbs, their analysis and their importance among the Maragoli people. Laban Kaveti (28 years old) directed the researcher to different places where some of the trees are located. The photos documented different parts of Wodanga, namely, Mudungu, Givudianyi, Itengi and Vokoli. All the informants inhabit Wodanga. The research was carried out between August 18 and September 2, 2012. Figure 15-1. A view of the ecosystem surrounding the river Izava in Mudungu village

A walk for many kilometres along the river Izava shows that the densely planted blue gum trees have dominated other indigenous trees (see Fig. 15-1). The river flows just behind the trees. Also observable are houses that the local people have built; they are less than 200m from the river. This trend is replicated along the river due to high population and strained resources within the locality. According to the Commission for Revenue Allocation fact sheet report6 (2012), Vihiga County (largely inhabited by Maragoli) is one of the most densely populated regions of the country; hence, with such a high population per square kilometer, the ecosystem becomes an endangered element in the community. Fig. 15-2 shows exactly how riparian sections have been invaded by the local people. A close look at the photo shows that maize has been planted, trees have been cut and the soil is also left exposed. Ideally, this section is not supposed to be invaded by people for any agricultural undertaking because it is regarded as a riparian area. But due to reduced cultivation spaces, the only option that seems to remain is invading and clearing ecologically sensitive areas such as this in Fig. 15-2. It is believed


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that many years ago, this place was densely covered with green bushes, all of which were indigenous. Figure 15-2. Invaded land at Givudianyi Village

Ecological Knowledge Among the Maragoli The Maragolis believed that if a person did not take care of his/her environment he/she was deemed as cursed or harbouring ill motive for himself or herself, the family and the community. To date, the village elders of the Maragoli have observed the act of summoning the whole community for a lidiku lyu kwogitsa kidaho (the day of cleaning water springs). Lidiku lyu kwogidza kidaho is a tradition observed by the Maragoli as an environmental day—this day is usually dedicated to cleaning water springs, pruning overgrown bushes and encouraging tree planting. But the efforts made by the current generation are weak due to the slowly perishing culture of communal ownership and protection among the Maragoli. Knowledge of the names of trees, herbs and shrubs used to be a requirement for all members of the community. Women were supposed to know where to get a certain herb for treating their newborns and how to prepare it. They were required to know the names of the trees that gave them good firewood, toothbrushes and brooms that were used for sweeping. Men on their side had to have oral knowledge of which type of trees were the best for shades in the compound, for erecting strong structures, for war weapons like spears, arrows and clubs, among other arms. Every tree was important; hence, knowing each by name was essential. For those who were specially trained to be the community

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doctors, knowledge of healing herbs and trees was of absolute importance. Dharani aptly states that “Knowledge of medicinal plants is normally passed on orally from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, a great deal of valuable information can be lost or distorted if medicine man dies without revealing such knowledge” (6). The folktales, proverbs, riddles and songs display a plethora of natural entities like rivers, moon, sun, trees, animals, hills, grass, insects, green vegetables and edible roots. These entities were germane in conveying the meanings of riddles and engineering tropes. They were used in a didactic way to satirize some members of the community who went against the grain of social and religious morals called into application. Morally, it was a requirement for the community members to keep their amour propre; hence, anyone who was amorous was reproached using ecological sayings. Some of the sayings (ecoproverbs) are discussed in this essay.

Ecoproverbs of the Maragoli Proverbs usually derivve from mythical tales and religious tendencies prevalent in the community. A great many of them are created from the ecosystem that surrounds the Maragoli community. In order to understand their meanings, it is of paramount importance to understand the related linguistic and behavioural aspects, the riddles, the folktales and the myths related to these proverbs. Figure 15-3. Evembe or spear grass in Itengi Village


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Botanical name: Stipa tenacissima Indigenous name: Evembe Common name: Spear grass Description: This is a perennial tussock grass. It does not grow in dense and wet soil. It resists variations of temperature. The grass is green in colour and grows up to 2-3 m long when it is mature (Gasque and GarcíaFayos). Cultural use: Spear grass was majorly used in roofing the traditional African houses. Recently, the grass has come under threat due to shift in modern roofing where iron sheet is the norm. Neglecting the use of this grass for roofing implies that it is no longer appreciated by the local people. Hence, many are clearing it for farming activities. Proverb: Evembe nivina utavina ku dave (Do not sway when spear grass sways. Trans. Nabeta Sangili) The Maragoli people use this proverb to shame, rebuke and teach one another the importance of maintaining one’s stand, either morally, socially or on any other issue that an individual has in the community. Spear grass, being long and easy to sway whenever the wind blows, was adopted by the community to teach the Maragoli a culture of having an unwavering stand on issues. As mentioned earlier, it was a requirement for any person to keep his/her amour propre. Anybody who contravened the communal canons was scolded and punished. Depending on the enormity of the felony, excommunication was the ultimate punishment. A proverb that goes alongside with the aforementioned proverb is “he who fears the knife should go to Imbo,” that is, “if you are not willing to comply with the laws, go and find the community that will harbour you” (Trans. Nabeta Sangili). This is a proverb that is usually uttered when someone is excommunicated from the community. If analysed carefully, it could be seen that there is a lesson learned from the movements of the grass. The quality of the flexibility of the grass becomes a norm, here, in a cultural context. The last two ecological features of Ubuntuism are obvious in the proverb. The spear grass acts as a prophet, defining certain don’ts in the community. It is the knowledge of the characteristics of the grass that is translated to a cultural moral. However, what does the proverb literally mean? As aforementioned, the proverb is usually uttered to connect individual persons to the community. It heartens the community members to embrace the diminishing traditional morals such as the strength of oneness, standing up for the people and possessing a powerful voice. The mediation between the people and their diminishing culture is metaphorically done by the spear grass. Moreover, the grass is used for

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various purposes in African culture, such as roofing, making baskets, brooms and so on. This use-oriented status of spear grass in African culture is more a spiritual one and the proverb subtly demands its conservation. Ultimately, Ubuntuism makes the Maragoli home and the whole community a better place to live in. Figure 15-4. The only mature Mtembe tree in Givudianyi Village

Fig. 15-4 shows a mature Erythrina abyssinica; this is the only mature tree within Maragoli area where the research was conducted. On the tree, a beehive can be seen hanging. Botanical name: Erythrina abyssinica Indigenous name: Mtembe Common name: Red-hot poker tree/lucky-bean tree Description: This tree is one of the most revered among the Maragoli traditionalists. It is a medium-sized tree, usually 5-15 m in height, deciduous, thickset, with a well-branched, rounded, spreading crown; trunk short; bark yellow-buff when fresh, otherwise grey-brown to creamy brown, deeply grooved and thickly corky. It grows in areas where natural water is near. Cultural use: The bark is used to treat various ailments like mumps, stomach problems and sexually transmitted diseases among the Maragoli. Proverbs (a) Mtembe no musala gwe miima (Mtembe is a ritual tree. Trans. Nabeta Sangili)


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(b) Tsindendei hela ku mtembe (Mumps perish on the red-hot poker tree. Trans. Nabeta Sangili) (c) Mtembe si gwumbaka inyumba (Mtembe does not build a house. Trans. Nabeta Sangili) Among the Maragoli, mtembe tree is taken to be unique. It is fundamentally a medicinal tree that is highly ritualized. When applied in general understanding in proverb (a) mtembe tree is used didactically to symbolize taboos within the community. Some things within the community were only accessed by specific people and for specific reasons. Among the Maragoli, anyone struck by mumps was required to perform this ritual on a mtembe tree: collecting and tying a bundle of firewood and carrying it in the palm. The person then walked to the mtembe tree and recited this chant four times “tsindendei hela ku mtembe” (mumps perish on the red-hot poker tree. Trans. Nabeta Sangili). Immediately after the recitation, the sick person would throw the bundle of firewood on the tree and walk hastily (almost running) without looking back. Hasty walking without looking back was a symbol of undoubting faith in the healing power of the tree. Obviously, the second feature of Ubuntuism is very clear in this proverb—the spiritual relation between the community and the ecology. The ritual indicated that there was a deity who lived in the tree and who provided healing provided that an affected individual gave the sacrifice of a tied bundle of firewood. The ritual played an integral role in the preservation of the tree because the Maragoli community believed in the healing power of the tree. There was also a sense of oneness between the humanity and the biosphere, in this case the Maragoli and the mtembe tree. Its preservation meant the preservation of the health and well-being of the Maragoli. Proverb (b) symbolizes the healing power of the tree as well. As we have indicated, the tree has medicinal value and is still used to this day by some of the elders. The gradual decline in the number of mtembe trees is due to logging propagated by the fading of traditional knowledge. The infiltration of modern values, Christianity and the desire to plant commercial trees that mature faster has led to the destruction of indigenous trees such as mtembe; hence, the Ubuntu values have been eroded. Moreover, the ritual of throwing a bunch of tied firewood on the mtembe tree is no longer in practice as the majority of Maragoli prefer modern medicine and hospitals and they see the practice as old fashioned. In proverb (c), the didactic importance is the knowledge of the thickness of the wood which is in tandem with the fourth feature of Ubuntuism—an in-depth knowledge of the land and its elements, its indigeneity and its changes over the years. The wood has never been used in erecting house

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structures due to the beliefs surrounding the tree since time immemorial. Moreover, the size, shape and length of the tree cannot guarantee a good and shapely house structure. Mtembe tree does not grow straight, rather it is crooked. The elders, endowed with stewardship mentality and understanding the spirit of the tree, sought to carry the lesson on for many generations among the Maragoli. The respect accorded to such specific elements as the mtembe tree is also in tandem with the first feature of Ubuntuism—oneness (even though this oneness is quickly disappearing). Moreover, they were few; hence, this prohibition was one way of preserving them for future use as medicine. There are no known creatures such as birds and insects that have made a habitation on this tree; hence no interactions exist between the Maragoli, the tree and creatures. The honeycomb on the tree in Fig. 15-4 is what is done by Maragoli farmers who keep bees. The beekeepers generally hang their honeycombs on trees within their compounds but the trees must be far away from homesteads for the sake of security from bee attacks. The honey harvested from the bees is sold to the locals who use it as medicine for the common cold. Apart from slashing the grass around the mtembe tree, there is no other action done for the tree to enhance its healthy existence; it’s a rather anthropocentric interaction—where the Maragoli benefit from the tree much more than the tree benefits from the Maragoli. However, it must be noted that the act of hanging honeycombs on this type of tree is a new phenomenon as the taboo surrounding the tree is washed away by modernism and modern religion; in this case, Christianity dominates the Maragoli. Trashing of indigenous knowledge by the modern Maragoli is an act that has been changing over time with generations.

Conclusion The oral literature of the Maragoli, specifically the proverbs, is indeed a field in touch with the ecosystem. It shows how much the Maragoli value nature and how much nature shapes their language, their literature and their behaviour as they relate to one another and the general ecosystem. In conclusion, we have summarized our findings in Table 15-1.

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Table 5-1. Summary of the Analysis Plant


Major points in the analysis

Local name: Evembe Botanical name: Stipa tenacissima Common name: Spear grass Local name: Mtembe Botanical name: Erythrina abyssinica Common name: Red-hot poker tree

Evembe nivina utavina ku dave (Do not sway when the spear grass sways)

When analysed according to Ubuntuism, spear grass acts as a prophet, defining certain don’ts in the community. The proverb encourages the individual members to embrace diminishing traditional morals and foster a sense of oneness between the humans and non-humans. The red-hot poker tree is a symbol of taboo among the Maragoli. It is used in a healing ritual that we described in our analysis; hence, it is an integral part of Maragoli traditional medicine. The tradition of throwing a bunch of tied firewood has helped in preserving the tree among the Maragoli. This act in accordance with the feature of Ubuntuism has fostered oneness between the Maragoli and the red-hot poker tree. When analysed using the feature of spiritual relation between human and ecology, it is easily discerned that the Maragoli believed that ancestral deities habited this tree; a simple sacrifice of a tied bundle of firewood would please the deities. This proverb brings out the symbolism of the healing power of traditional plants like the red-hot poker tree among the Maragoli. The proverb arises out of the chants associated with the healing ritual performed on the tree. However, due to modern commerce, Christianity and modern hospitals, the ritual is no longer practised and the few red-hot poker trees are being logged.

Mtembe nu musala gwe miima (Red-hot poker is a ritual tree)

Tsindendei hela ku mtembe (Mumps perish on the red-hot poker tree)

Ubuntuism in the Proverbs of the Maragoli Community Mtembe si gwumbaka inyumba (Red-hot poker tree does not build a house)


Using the fourth feature of Ubuntuism, which makes reference to an in-depth knowledge of the land and its elements, its indigeneity and its changes over the years, this proverb touches on the ecological knowledge of uses of the red-poker tree among the Maragoli. It is clear that due to the physical characteristics of the tree (it’s crooked) it cannot be used to erect a building.

The theory of Ubuntuism, however, does not just end in oral literature. It is a theory with a wide scope covering other genres of literature like the novel, the play and the short story. It also features in other arts like sculpture and painting. In genres like prose, plays and poetry, Ubuntuism is viewed as an ecocritical tool in three realms: the language, the theme and characterization. In language, Ubuntuism as an ecocritical tool analyses the aesthetics of language like the style of expression. For instance, the use of metaphors, symbolism and other literary tropes drawn from the ecosystem reflects Ubuntuism in the sense that the authors believe that to make a society complete, the oneness between human and ecology ought to be reflected in the way the society uses language laden with ecological elements. On the aspect of themes an author may address climatic issues, ecological issues and how the erosion of Ubuntu values leads to the destruction of our ecosphere. For instance, Momanyi’s (Professor Clara Momanyi is a Kiswahili scholar and multiple author) Kiswahili novel Nakuruto is set against a backdrop of environmental activism. In fact, the kernel theme is ecocritical feminism. It carefully analyses the works authored by women, portrayal of the characters in these works and what kind of ecological issues women portray. Nakuruto is a reflection of the life and works of the late Wangari Maathai, especially her commitment to saving Mother Nature. It portrays human-ecology relation that has broken down due to failed Ubuntu values like ecological ethics and oneness between humans and nonhumans. Characterization is another realm that reflects Ubuntuism as an ecocritical tool. Some authors give their characters names that are directly derived from ecosystem. For example, in the Kiswahili novel Nakuruto, the main character Nakuruto derives her name from Lake Nakuru (which is reducing in size). The character’s name is presented and developed by the author in the story to help bring out the theme of saving the earth. In the arts of dance, sculpture and drawing, the artists use the ecosphere to highlight thematic concerns in


Chapter Fifteen

their artworks. In this case, an artist cannot be who he/she is without the ecosystem; he/she uses art to teach humanity vital lessons using some elements of the ecosystem. When the artist uses rivers, trees and other elements, he/she actually acknowledges the relation that exists between human and ecology.

Notes 1. Luhya, Abaluhya (pronounced a-ba-luu-shia), Avaluhya (pronounced a-va-rooshia) are terms that can be used alternatively. In this essay, the author uses Luhya and Abaluhya alternatively. The prefixes {Aba-} and {Ava-} are morphs for “plural of” though the Maragoli personally use {Ava-} as they lack /b/ in the cumulative Maragoli spoken phonology. The term Luhya means higher place or the north; hence, Abaluhya would in this case mean a. The people of the north b.The people of the higher place c. The northerners 2. In his autobiography Musatsa Mmolomi, Asava Mulinya claims that the Maragoli being part of the black race are descendants of Ham, of the sons of the biblical Noah. The entire black race migrated from the area around Egypt and scattered in different parts of Africa through the normal historical migration corridors. 3. Anderson quotes Justice Mokgoro in S V Makwanyane 1995—at 308. 4. Nabudere Dani cites from Ramose’s book African Philosophy Through Maim, published in 2002. 5. Kaya forest grooves are found in Kilifi and Kwale in the coastal Kenya. The groves are regarded as spiritual since time immemorial and they are highly esteemed by the Mijikenda who still practise traditional African religion. Access to these forest groves was restricted to spiritual matters alone but that has changed ever since it was recognized by UNESCO as a world tourist site. No grazing is allowed, no cutting trees and no farming activities either. The tourists who visit this site are not allowed in with shoes on their feet. 6. The Commission for Revenue Allocation puts the population figures at 1045 people per km² within a surface area of 531km².

References Anderson, A. M. “Restorative Justice, the African philosophy of Ubuntu and the Diversion of Criminal Prosecution, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2012. Commission on Revenue Allocation. Kenya County Fact Sheet. Nairobi. Dec. 2011. Web. 11 Aug. 2012. Dharani, Najma. Field Guide to Common Trees and Shrubs of East Africa. Cape Town: Struik, 2002. Print.

Ubuntuism in the Proverbs of the Maragoli Community


Finnegan, Ruth. Oral Literature in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. Gasque, María and Patricio García-Fayos. “Interaction Between Stipa tenacissima and Pinus halepensis: Consequences for Reforestation and the Dynamics of Grass Steppes in Semi-arid Mediterranean Areas.” Forest Ecology and Management 189 (2004): 251–61. Web. 20 Aug. 2012. Kabaji, Egara Stanley. “The Construction of Gender Through the Narrative Process of the African Folktale: A Case Study of the Maragoli Folktale.” Pretoria: University of South Africa dissertation, 2005. Web. 20 Aug. 2012. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. “National Population and Housing Census Report.” 2009. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. Kobia, John. “Metaphors on HIV/AIDS Discourse Among Oluluyia Speakers of Western Kenya.” Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines 2.2 (2008): 48-66. Print. Le Grange, Lesley. “Ubuntu, Ukama, Environment and Moral Education.” Journal of Moral Education 41.3 (2012): 329-40. Web. 03 Nov. 2012. Masango, M. J. S. “African Spirituality That Shapes the Concept of Ubuntu.” Verbum Ecclesia JRG 27.3 (2006): 930-43. Print. Mlacha, A. K. Shaban. “The Mwidiki Performance as a Survival of Tradition.” Kiswahili 65 (2002): 86-96. Print. Momanyi, Clara. Nakuruto. Nairobi: Longhorn Publishers. 2009. Print. Nabudere, W. Dani. “Ubuntu Philosophy, Memory and Reconciliation,” n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. Onyango, Jackton Okello. Verb Tonology in Olunyala. Diss. Nairobi: Kenyatta University Press, 2006. Print. Shumba, Overson. “Common Thinking, Ecological Intelligence, and the Ethical and Moral Framework of Ubuntu: An Imperative for Sustainable Development.” Journal of Media and Communication Studies 3.3 (2011): 84-96. Print.


Deidre Pike, author of Enviro-Toons: Green Themes in Animated Cinema and Television (McFarland, 2012), is an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. She received her doctoral degree in English Literature and Environment from the University of Nevada, Reno. With funding from Open Societies Foundation, Pike is working on a media literacy handbook for teenagers. Kitty van Vuuren lectures in environmental communication at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland. For several decades she worked in the non-profit community media sector, including as broadcaster with a national peace and environment radio program. She earned her Ph.D. at Griffith University in 2004. Her dissertation, Community Participation in Australian Community Broadcasting: A Comparative Study of Rural, Regional and Remote Radio, explores the value and function of community broadcasting by taking an in-depth look at three non-metropolitan community radio stations. While a UQ Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies (2005-2007) she extended her research interests in rural, regional and local community media with a particular focus on environmental issues. She is a member of the editorial board of Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture. Her current research examines local media responses to climate change and resource extraction. Lynne Hull is a Colorado artist who has pioneered “trans-species” art, creating sculpture installations as wildlife habitat enhancement and ecoatonement for human impact. She works from the belief that artistic creativity can be effectively applied to the urgent situations we face today. Lynne has worked in the American West with a variety of wildlife agencies including State Wildlife Departments, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service. She has worked in fourteen States and eight countries, with a wide variety of wildlife agencies and communities. In 1998 she worked in Yucatan and Chiapas, Mexico, with an environmental NGO, Pronatura. In 1993-94 she realized

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


three projects in the U.K. courtesy of a special Fulbright Fellowship and one in Kenya on a Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Foundation/Arts International Residency. In 2003 she created artworks in Les Arques, France, concerning fair exchange between species. She continues work on “Migration Mileposts,” linking communities in the hemisphere who share migratory birds, and she recently completed “East Drake Pondworks,” a major Art in Public Places for the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, where she lives. During the last six years she has accomplished five collaborative projects in Colombia, and two projects which included erosion control sculptures according to the principles of Bill Zeedyke. Her client list includes hawks, eagles, pine martin, osprey, owls, spider monkeys, salmon, butterflies, bees, frogs, toads, newts, bats, beaver, songbirds, otter, rock hyrax, small desert species, waterfowl and occasional humans. For images of her artwork, please consult Nabeta Sangili is a teacher of Kiswahili Language and Literature, currently with the Tangaza Institute of East Africa and Maseno University, Kenya. He has been involved as a teacher, translator, editor, content developer and currently as an ethnographic researcher among some Kenyan communities. He is also a Kiswahili poet and short story writer with yet to be published anthologies. Nirmal Selvamony is currently Associate Professor in the department of English at Central University of Tamil Nadu. He introduced ecocriticism as a discipline in Indian academia and propagated it through a formal forum now called tinai. He has developed a critical method now called “tinai poetics.” Based on his doctoral work which focussed on persona in tolkaappiyam (1988), he has developed a new philosophic-anthropological theory which demonstrates how the human is ontically continuous with nature and the sacred. His tamizhk kaatci neriyiyal opens up a new terrain of early Tamil philosophy. For more than thirty years he has researched, published and lectured on the communitarian order called tinai. He has scripted plays, directed them and their music as well. He has also played the guitar in professional bands. He is married to Ruckmani and they have two daughters, Padini and Madhini. Padini Nirmal is a doctoral student in Geography at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts. She is currently researching indigenous resistance movements using a decolonial feminist perspective in an attempt to explore the ontological politics surrounding indigeneity today. Broadly, her research interests lie within feminist geography, indigenous



studies, political ecology and critical development studies. In her spare time, you will either find her curled up in a chair reading a novel, or humming a tune as she makes jewellery! Pat Brereton has been Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science at Dublin City University for the last five years and is currently Head of the School. His books include Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema (2005); Continuum Guide to Media Education (2001), Historical Dictionary of Irish Cinema (2007) with Roddy Flynn and Smart Cinema, DVD Add-ons and New Audience Pleasures (2012). He has several book chapters and other publications across a wide range of journals on various aspects of film and media culture and remains committed to developing cross disciplinary links. He is particularly committed to the need to develop environmental communication towards addressing the “global challenges” of climate change and is also committed to promoting projects around “Greening Ireland.” Patrick D. Murphy is Professor and Chair of the Department of English at the University of Central Florida. Founding editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, the first journal devoted to literary ecocriticism, he is the author of such works as Literature, Nature, and Other, Farther Afield in the Study of NatureOriented Literature, and Ecocritical Explorations in Literary and Cultural Studies, and editor of such works as The Literature of Nature and co-editor of Ecofeminist Literary Criticism. He has lectured and presented on ecocriticism at home and in Canada, Mexico, UK, Austria, Spain, Germany, Taiwan, China, South Korea, and Japan. Rayson K. Alex is Assistant Professor of English at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani, K.K. Birla Goa Campus, Goa, India. He is one of the editors of Essays in Ecocriticism (2007), the first volume in the area of ecocriticism in India. An avid musician, he has five music albums to his credit. Among the sixteen ethnographic video-documentaries that he directed/co-directed, the popular ones are The Story of Mudugar, Narikuravar (Life of a gypsy community in Tamil Nadu) and Jenukurubar (Life of a tribal community in Mysore). Along with Sachindev P.S., he released his newest documentary titled Thorny Land: Invasion of Cheemaikaruvel. The documentary is on the aggressive colonial nature of an exotic plant, Prosopis juliflora.

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations


Richard Kerridge co-ordinates research in the School of Humanities and Cultural Industries, Bath Spa University, UK. He also co-ordinates the Graduate Studies programmes taught at Corsham Court, liaising with the subject Heads of Department. He has supervised to successful completion of seven Ph.D.s in English Literature and Creative Writing. He is a recipient of the BBC Wildlife Award for Nature Writing in 1990 and 1991, and has been engaged in research in ecocriticism and writing and environmentalism for more than ten years. From 1998 to 2004, Kerridge was Chair of ASLE-UK. Kerridge has authored research essays and books on ecocriticism, of which the entry on ecocriticism for The Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism: An Oxford Guide, edited by Patricia Waugh (2006) is more popular. Sachindev P.S. is a photographer and an ethnographic documentary filmmaker. He completed his M.A. in communication from University of Hyderabad with specialisation in Radio and Video Production. He has produced corporate films, ethnographic films, short films and ecodocumentaries. He has completed a major project with the World Oral Literature Project grant (for archiving oral literature of an indigenous tribe of Western Ghats) from CRASSH, University of Cambridge. Presently, he is documenting the work of an experimental theatre group (Sadhana Centre for Creative Practice) in Kerala. K. Samuel Moses Srinivas has his research interests in ecocriticism. He has been teaching English literature for the past four years at Madras Christian College, Chennai. He has presented research papers in national and international conferences and has published papers in journals. He is the treasurer of tiNai (formerly called OSLE-India) and convenes Ecomedia Team, an off-shoot of tiNai. Simon C. Estok is a Professor at Sungkyunkwan University and has published extensively on ecocriticism and Shakespeare in such journals as PMLA, Mosaic, Configurations, English Studies in Canada, ISLE, and others. The recipient of four major awards (the 2008 top research award at Sungkyunkwan University; the 2009-2011 National Research Foundation, Writing in the Humanities Program Award, Korea; the Samsung Academic Research Award for 2010; and Junior Fellow for 2011-2014 at Sungkyunkwan University), Estok is committed to finding practical applications for theories that grow out of the literary humanities. Estok has a book entitled Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia published through Palgrave Macmillan in early 2011 and he is co-editor of



International Perspectives in Feminist Ecocriticism (Routledge) and East Asian Ecocriticism (Macmillan), both of which appeared in 2013. S. Susan Deborah’s engagement with ecocriticism began when she opted the elective, Ecoliterature for the Masters she completed at Madras Christian College, Tambaram, Chennai, in 2003. She completed her M. Phil. dissertation in ecocriticism analysing four myths using the ecological concept of regeneration. When Organisation for Studies in LiteratureIndia (OSLE-India) was formed in 2005, she took up the responsibility of convening the Study Circle of OSLE-India and she convened it for 5 years organising 38 sessions. She invited scholars from different parts of the country to interact with the members. She submitted her Ph.D. thesis entitled, An Ecocritical Analysis of the Oral Narratives of Aravanigal at T. Kallupatti, Madurai Dist., Tamil Nadu for which she did extensive fieldwork with a transgender community in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, for four years. A unique video-documentary titled Pandiammal Illam (Pandiammal’s Home) was submitted along with her dissertation. She has been sub-editing Indian Journal of Ecocriticism (IJE) and OSLE-India Newsletter and, presented and published papers on ecocriticism at national and international levels. Susan Ward is a researcher with The University of Queensland. She has written extensively on film and television production cultures in Australia, including the issue of environmentalism and environmental communication in Australian film and television. She is co-author of the book Local Hollywood: Global Film Production and the Gold Coast with Ben Goldsmith and Tom O’Regan (2010). Yalan Chang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature in Huafan University, Taiwan. Her current interests include: ecofeminism, environmental ethics, environmental justice and activism, and animal studies. Yalan Chang received her Ph.D. in Western Languages and Literature in 2009 from Tamkang University, Taiwan. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled Nature, Gender, and Risk: Margaret Atwood, Linda Hogan, and Karen Tei Yamashita. Her latest published article is titled “Greening the Everyday: Barbara Kingsolver’s Ecocritical Praxis and Sustainable Reinhabitation in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” (2011) and “‘Food Is the Message:’ Risk Discourses and Environmental Activism in the Work of Ruth Ozeki.”

INDEX 2012 51, 63 Aboriginality 70 Absolutism 20 Abstraction 36, 69 Academy Awards 97 Acid rain 52 Acoustic 101, 102, 134 Activism 5, 17, 52, 54, 75, 76, 97, 98, 99, 123, 133, 149, 208, 244, 255 Adivasi 139, 143, 220 Adrian Ivakhiv 114 Aesthetics 33, 69, 73, 83, 99, 103, 105, 106, 107, 111, 120, 128, 185, 187, 202, 255 Affective 7, 42, 52, 97, 99, 102, 103, 104, 106, 109 Africa xvi, 3, 108, 124, 224, 225, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 250, 251, 256, 257 Aftermath: Population Zero 54, 63 Age of Reason 174 Agoraphobia 160 Agribusiness 36 Agriculture 7, 26, 60, 165, 167, 234 Aiden Davison 73 Akam 29, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 228, 229, 233, 236 Al Gore 51, 55, 88 Always Coming Home 39 American refugees 46 American Tea Party movement 46 Ammuuvanaar 171, 188 Amphibians 197 An Inconvenient Truth 51, 54, 55, 64, 88, 100, 112 Anarchic social order 174 Ancestors 27, 208, 215, 230, 245 Anderson E. N. 104, 110, 218 Andrew Light 73 Animal liberation 100, 105, 113

Animal Planet 54 Animal rights 97, 103, 105, 108, 111, 112 Animation 4, 7, 69, 79, 83, 86, 99 Annabel Patterson 59 Anpu 181 Anril 181 Antelope 190 Anthony Lambert 72 Anthropocene 71 Anthropocentric 5, 14, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 26, 29, 79, 88, 97, 101, 104, 114, 134, 136, 157, 166, 167, 205, 214, 217, 243, 253 Anthropocentrism 1, 4, 22, 24, 26, 69, 79, 87, 97, 135, 164, 205, 212 Anthropogenic 36, 37, 39, 40, 42, 44 Anthropologist 27, 131, 204, 241 Anthropomorphism 69, 103 Anticapitalocentric 205, 206 Anti-ecological 125, 127 Anti-environment 51 Anti-nuclear 115 Anupama Rao 143 Apocalypticism 55 Aristotle 55, 56, 63, 97, 100, 132, 171 Art xiii, xvi, 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 16, 19, 25, 29, 31, 80, 83, 87, 92, 107, 153, 171, 178, 189-203, 255, 256 Art of Grammar 171 Artwork xvi, 92, 94, 189, 191, 196, 198, 199, 256, 259 ASLE 58, 63, 109, 110, 112 Audience xiv, 16, 38, 39, 40, 43, 45, 46, 47, 50, 54, 55, 67, 70, 76, 80, 90, 91, 92, 93, 95, 98, 99, 100, 101, 104, 105, 117, 120,

264 121, 122, 137, 143, 146, 149, 180, 222, 245, 260 Australia 71, 82 Australian xiv, 7, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84 Auteur 5, 69 Authentic representations 132 Authenticity 107, 117 Authorhood 177, 184 Authorship xv, xvi, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 180, 181, 183, 184, 185 Avatar 35, 47, 83 Avvaiyar 29 Ayarcci 179 Baburaj P. 26, 135, 139, 140 Baz Lurhmann 71 Bears 20, 21, 115, 131, 136, 145, 176, 225 Bees 94, 136, 253, 259 Belasco 222, 223, 226, 227, 230, 233, 236, 239 Better Homes and Gardens 76, 81 Beyond Animal Rights 104, 111 Bhasha Research and Publication Centre 131 Bill McKibben 39 Biocentric 1, 17, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 150, 166, 243 Biocolonialism 211, 219 Biodiversity xii, 41, 68, 80, 86, 133, 134, 135, 156, 189, 199, 200, 201, 206, 211, 216, 219, 220 Biological mimicry 171 Biophilia 78, 203, 53, 65 Biopiracy 206, 211, 213, 217, 219 Bioprospecting 211, 213, 214, 219 Biosphere xiv, 17, 36, 37, 134, 135, 154, 252 Black Water 71, 81 Bliss 74, 81 Blue-chip films 17 Bogland 118 Brahmanism 142 Brian Butler 119

Index British colony 116 Broccoli 227, 230, 231, 232, 233, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240 Buddhists 142, 177 Bull McCabe 117 Bureaucracy 101 Butterfly 142, 143, 144, 148, 153, 155, 156 Camera 5, 17, 18, 21, 30, 32, 36, 47, 98, 107, 121, 133, 136, 137, 138, 139, 146, 147, 155, 246 Capitalism 55, 75, 81, 114, 125, 127, 128, 174, 205, 206, 207, 217 Capitalocentrism 206 Carbon Cops 76, 81 Carol Adams 100, 104 Carolyn Merchant 19 Catastrophe 15, 17, 35, 39, 44, 47, 56 Category 6: Day of Destruction 43, 48 Category 7: End of the World 43, 48 Catherine Simpson 71 Cauliflower 227, 231, 232, 237 Celtic Tiger 123, 124, 125, 126, 127 Ceyyul 175, 178, 181 Characterization 122, 255 Charlton Heston 37 Chengara land struggles 143 Cheryll Glotfelty 8, 139 Christian 174, 180, 182, 244, 252, 253, 254 Churam 148 Cinematic representation 43, 163 Cinematography 36, 104, 106, 122, 141, 155 Civan/Sivan 173 Clara Momanyi 255 Climate change xiv, 2, 5, 34, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 51, 54, 60, 62, 66, 67, 68, 74, 75, 77, 80, 82, 84, 109, 115, 127, 130, 241, 258, 260 Clinical psychology 53 CNN 56

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations Coconut 223, 226, 227, 237 Comic Complexity 7, 85 Commodity 5, 59, 74, 189, 202 Communication 66, 69, 80, 85, 86, 88, 95, 104, 250 Community xv, xvi, 7, 8, 18, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, 35, 38, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 94, 119, 120, 124, 125, 128, 132, 136, 137, 138, 144, 146, 150, 151, 153, 154, 161, 164, 171, 176, 184, 197, 199, 204, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 215, 216, 217, 219, 227, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 254, 258 Computer Graphics Interface (CGI) 54, 90, 91 Conservation 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 27, 65, 70, 72, 73, 81, 156, 199, 211, 214, 216, 219, 246, 251 Consumption 37, 55, 74, 75, 76, 81, 82, 84, 98, 100, 101, 107, 126, 127, 179, 227, 228 Cool Aid: The National Carbon Test 76, 81 Cormac McCarthy 58 Corn 228 Craftsmanship 181 Cross-species 104 Culture xiv, xv, xvi, 1, 4, 7, 8, 17, 18, 29, 40, 66, 67, 69, 70, 72-76, 79, 80-84, 86, 87, 89, 95, 96, 101, 108, 110, 114, 122, 126, 128, 129, 131, 135, 139, 150, 153, 154, 157, 164, 166, 168, 174, 181, 184, 186, 189, 199, 204, 208, 209, 214, 218, 219, 221, 223, 229, 234, 235, 237, 241, 247, 248, 250, 251 D. Bruno 69, 83 Dalit xvi, 141-144, 146, 149-151, 153, 154, 156 Dances with Wolves 67, 81 Daniel S. Roberts 157 Dark Age 71, 81


Dark City 67, 81 Darwin’s Nightmare 99, 111 David Briggs 149 David Ehrenfeld 58 David Ingram 114 David MacDougall 132 David McWilliams 126 David Sobel 52 Deane Curtin 104 Deep ecological 119-126 Deepa Dhanraj 26 Deer 20, 170, 176, 191 Deforestation 86, 91, 134 Deleuze 111 Dennis Quaid 50 Derek Bouse 16 Desert Hydroglyphs 190 Determinism 127 Diagetic sounds 135 Diasporic 2, 122 Didacticism 78, 99 Digital Community Archiving 204, 216 Dionysius Thrax 170 Dirk Eitzen 106 Dirtgirlworld xiv, 75, 82, 84 Disaster film/movies 45, 49, 59 Discovery Channel 54 Dislocation 57, 72 Disney 50 Displacement 2, 57, 135, 142, 230 Docudrama 55, 119 Docufiction 29, 141, 142 Documentary xv, 7, 12, 19-25, 2733, 49, 51, 69, 79, 97-100, 106, 107, 111, 112, 113, 119, 120, 121, 123-125, 128, 129, 135139, 141, 142, 146, 148 Documentation 21, 26, 28, 30, 98, 137-139, 205, 209, 212, 216 Dogme 95 30, 33 Dolphin xv, 97, 98, 100-113 Donna Haraway 123 Doris Lessing 39 Dr. Johnson 174 Dr. Plonk 70, 72, 82, 83

266 Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax 7, 85, 86, 90, 95 Drew Morgan 46 Dying Breed 71, 82 Dystopias 39 Eagle 191, 193-195, 259 Eamon de Valera 116, 119 Earth Day 75 Earthlings 99, 111 Eco House Challenge 76, 82 Ecoart 1, 198, 200-203 Ecoartist xvi, 1, 7, 198, 202 Ecoatonement 199 Ecocentric 1, 6, 22, 25, 26, 135, 170, 205, 206, 217 Ecocide 41 Ecocinema 1, 4, 7, 12, 22-27, 32, 109, 110, 115, 119 Ecocriticism xii-xvii, 1-4, 6-9, 26, 32, 33, 53, 58, 59, 63, 64, 66, 68, 72-74, 79, 95, 109, 112, 132, 139, 167, 187, 189, 195, 203, 245 Ecocritics xii-xiv, 1, 3, 4, 22, 52, 58, 68, 71, 74, 132 Ecodespair 59 Ecodevelopment 135 Ecodocumentation 28 Ecoeconomics 34 Ecoethics 7, 189 Ecoexceptionalism 57 Ecofilm 22, 118 Ecofriendly 12, 14, 31, 33, 75 Ecohero 70 Ecohorror xiv, 71, 83 Ecohumanities 69, 82 Ecological alteration 4, 39 Ecological citizenship 4, 67, 73 Ecological consciousness 4, 23-25, 67, 71, 153, 154 Ecological crisis 4, 34, 83 Ecological debates 115, 123 Ecological devastation 86 Ecological diversity 37 Ecological ethic 38, 104, 111, 255 Ecological harmony 70

Index Ecological heritage 200 Ecological imbalance 125 Ecological issues 7, 34, 85, 255 Ecological knowledge xvi, 4, 209, 217, 248, 255 Ecological modernization 116 Ecological morality 70 Ecological renewal 73 Ecological Representation 4, 7, 17, 31, 49, 114, 131, 155 Ecological sensibility 4, 69, 115, 120, 123 Ecological thinking xiii, 35 Ecological tragedies 40 Ecomedia xvii, 6, 7, 9, 84, 107, 109 Ecomythos 120 Econarrative 125 Econationalism 71, 83 Econs 103 Ecophobia 36, 51-55, 59, 61, 62, 64, 65, 111, 167 Ecopopulist 116 Ecoproverbs 249 Ecopsychology 53 Ecosystem xiv, xv, 23, 24, 36, 86, 88, 99, 156, 189, 205, 211, 212, 242, 247, 249, 253, 255, 256 Ecotheme 126 Ecothriller xiii, 97 Ecotouristic 123 Ecotragedy 86, 88 Ecotypes 103 Ecowarning 70, 83 Ecowarrior 20, 125 Ecozone projects 196 Ecozones 196 Edgar Thurston 131 Egocentric 132 Electrocutions 191 Emma Marris 85, 88 Endangered species 113, 200 Envirofriendly 14 Environmental actions 97 Environmental art xiii, 201, 202, 203, 245

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations Environmental awareness 23, 24, 71, 199 Environmental citizenship 106 Environmental crises 79 Environmental degradation 37, 60, 91 Environmental dilemma 107 Environmental disasters 40 Environmental discourse 85-87, 93, 128 Environmental documentary 20, 22, 27, 97, 100 Environmental education 73 Environmental ethics 52, 55, 82, 109, 199 Environmental film 6, 19, 22, 26, 71, 75, 99 Environmental footprints 37 Environmental impact 42 Environmental issues 4, 35, 49, 50, 76-78, 83, 153, 189 Environmental movement xiii, 115, 116, 129, 190 Environmental policies 51 Environmental Protection Agency 116, 129 Environmental resources 30, 66, 80 Environmental sensibility 67 Environmental struggle 133 Environmental thinking 73 Environmental threat xiii, 37 Environmentalism xii, xiii, 35, 48, 68, 72-74, 78, 80, 81, 84, 85, 95, 96, 115, 116, 127, 130, 239 Environmentalist movement 60 Environmentally oriented films 34, 35 Envirophilosophical 22 Envirotheoreticians 17 Epsilon 70, 82, 83 Eric Friedenwald-Fishman 189 Ernst Haeckel 13 Erythrina abyssinica 241, 251, 254 Ethnographic documentaries 15 Ethnologists 208 Ethos 97, 101, 103, 105


Evembe 249, 250, 254 Everything’s Cool 100-112 Exceptionalism 57 Exotic vegetables 231, 232 Extinction 20, 68-71, 215 Exxon Valdez 39 F4: Vortex 37, 48 Farming stock 115 Fauna 115 FernGully: The Last Rainforest 79 Fertile land 115, 121, 164 Fianna Fáil 119 Fintan O’Toole 127 Flipper 102 Floating Islands 197 Flood 44, 45, 48 Flora 115 Food Blogging 8, 222, 233, 234, 235, 238, 240 Food chain 97, 101 Food documentary 97 Food, Inc. 97, 99, 111 Fossil fuels 40, 55 Franny Armstrong 50, 55, 66 Freeman Lowell 36 Frogs 197, 259 Gaeaphobia 53, 65 Ganesh Devy 131 Garcinia indica 223, 224 Gardening Australia 76, 82 Gayatri C. Spivak 132, 140, 154, 156 Geoengineering 38 Gill Branston 35 Global capitalism 125, 207, 217 Global warming 38-41, 43-46, 91 Glocal 1, 3, 8, 229 Goats 165 Gobi 232 Godavari 7, 157, 158, 167 Greek 39, 185, 231, 234 Green citizenship 76, 82, 123 Green criticism 114 Green lifestyle 12 Greenhouse 44, 62 Gregory J. Seigworth 99

268 Grizzly bears 20, 21 Grizzly Man 20, 21, 31 Guerrilla Gardeners 76, 82 Habitat restoration 189, 202 Hardy Jones 107 Harijan 151 Harry Joy 74 Harvey O’Brien 124 Hawks 191, 194, 195 Heather Ross 69 Herons 164 Hierarchic relationship 139 Hilary Tovey 116, 129 Himalayas 51 Hollywood 16, 35, 42, 50, 55, 56, 67, 80, 82, 90, 114, 118 Home 7, 29, 36, 40, 46, 47, 53, 117, 141, 144, 151, 158, 159, 160, 161, 166, 172, 191, 196, 214, 217, 222, 225, 226, 228, 229, 230, 233, 234, 235, 237, 244, 251, 253 Home and Away 77, 78, 82 Homo sapiens 40 Homophobia 52, 54, 62 Howling III: the Marsupials 71, 82 Humanities 12, 14, 63, 66, 69, 79, 80, 127 Hunter-gatherers 208 Hunting 52, 53, 106, 107, 112, 120, 161, 191, 209, 212 Hybrids 232 Hydroglyphs 190, 191 Ice Twisters 37-39, 48 Idiocracy 99, 112 Impressionism 69 Indigenous knowledge xvi, 7, 204, 205, 211, 216, 218, 220, 253 Individualism 114, 174, 175 Intellectual commons 205, 206, 207, 212, 215, 216 Intellectual property rights (IPR) 204 Intellectualism 73 Interdependence 123 Interdisciplinarity 12, 14, 25

Index Interspecies 19 Intraspecies 19 Invertebrates 197 Ionosfear 38 Irattat tilakam175 Ireland xiii, 3, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 122-130, 218 Irish environmental movement 116 Irish Romanticism 123 Irular 131 ISLE 53, 64, 95 James Joyce 126 James Lovelock 88 Jayan Cherian 141, 146, 149 Jeffrey R. Di Leo 59, 63 Jenukurubar 27 Jim Mason 105, 113 Jim Sheridan 117, 129 Jim Thompson 193 John Barry 123 John Boorman 125, 128, 130 John Ford 48, 122, 129 John Grierson 120 John Sweeney 115 John Wayne 118 Joseph Meeker 85, 86 Josephin Donovan 104 Jowar 228 Kaatchi 171, 178 Kakorrhaphiophobia 160 Kardhar Diary 26 Karu 170, 171 Keane J. B. 117, 120 Ken Saro-Wiwa 124 King Corn 99, 112 King Lear 65 Kiswahili 255, 257 Kokum 223-225, 234, 237, 239 Krishnendu Bose 26 Kristian Levring 30 Kudampuli 223-225, 234, 237, 238 Kurinji 29 Kurumbar 131, 139 Kurunthokai 159, 172 Lake Nakuru 255

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations Landscape xv, 19, 23, 24, 29, 30, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 77, 78, 81, 83, 87, 88, 93, 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 129, 134, 135, 148, 149, 157, 159, 163, 164, 165, 189, 191, 192, 194, 197, 199, 201, 226, 229, 236, 237 Lars von Trier 30 Lawrence Buell 58, 68, 109 Leena Manimekalai 29, 32 Leonardo DiCaprio 51, 55 Leonie Rutherford 69 Liam Leonard 116 Life After People 54, 64 Linda Stone 52, 65 Linguistics 170, 186, 188, 244 Lizards 50 Local 2, 3, 5, 70, 72, 73, 75, 77, 84, 97, 101, 106, 109, 114, 116, 120, 123-125, 129, 154, 191, 192, 197-199, 201, 207, 208, 210, 215, 219, 222-229, 232, 234-239, 247, 250, 253, 254 Logos 97, 100 Long Weekend 71, 82 Louisiana Story 119, 129 Lucinda Clutterbuck 69, 84 Luis Sepulveda 70 Luke Gibbons 117, 122, 129 Mackenzie 13, 14, 32 Malabar banded peacock 142, 144, 154 Mammal 16, 98, 103, 104, 111, 191 Man of Aran 115-117, 119, 120, 122-127, 129 Manoj K.R. 26 Manram 178 Mara and Donn 39 Maragoli xvi, 8, 241-257 Mark Bekoff 103 Mark Cousins 107 Mark Minster 100 Marutam 29, 159-162, 165, 167 Matt Nisbet 41 Maureen O’Hara 122 Mediascape 76


Medicine Man 67, 82 Meen vevichathu 223, 240 Meghan Lynch 235 Melissa Gregg 99, 113 Mercury 100, 101, 109, 112, 113 Mesosphere 44 Metaecological 172 Meta-narrative 114 Michael Shellenberger 85, 96 Mimesis 171, 172 Minamata disease 101 Mini-documentary 121 Miniseries xiii, 35, 43, 44, 46, 47 Mircea Eliade 179 Misrepresentation 4, 16, 17, 131133, 135, 136, 153 Modernism 253 Modes of Persuasion 97, 100 Monica Muller 124 Monocultural 36 Mother Nature 255 Mtembe 241, 251-255 Mudugar 7, 28, 29, 137-139, 176, 177, 185 Multidisciplinary 119, 239 Multinational 123, 207 Munaivan 178, 179, 184 Munnilai 175, 176, 180-183 Muriel’s Wedding 73, 83 Mutal 170, 171 Muthanga 143, 155 Nancy Stanton 191 Nanook of the North 119, 129 Nari Kuravar 208, 209, 211-216 Narrinai 172 National Geographic 54, 63, 98, 112, 122 Nationalistic 114, 118 Natives 120, 123, 124, 131, 132, 151, 223 Nature Conservancy 108 Nature Films 15, 17, 18, 19, 22, 32 Neighbours 77, 78, 83 Neimeen 223 Neo-colonial 217, 132 Netizen 222, 235

270 Neytal 29 Niches 197 Nicole Starosielski 79 Niger Delta 124 Nigerians 124 Nila Paranjathu 26 Nirmal Selvamony xv, 3, 6, 7, 8, 26, 32, 167, 168, 172, 176, 186, 187, 240 Niyamgiri 26 Non-anthropocentric 19, 23 Non-diagetic sound 135 Nuclear war 41, 42 Oceanic Preservation Society 99 Oikos 234 Oikosemiotics 172, 187 Oil spill 40, 52, 110 Only An Axe Away 26, 133, 135, 140 Oral literature 241, 242, 253, 255, 257 Orson Welles 56 Oscar 98, 106 Overpopulation 37 Ownership 206, 248, 116, 136 Ozone hole 52 Pachilakkoodu 26 Palai 29 Palle B. Patterson 15 Papilio Buddha xvi, 7, 141-143, 145, 146, 148, 149, 153, 154, 156 Paradigmatic xiii, 35 Parakeet 164, 168 Parasitism 13 Paratha 230, 231, 233, 235, 237, 240 Paripaatal 173, 186 Parochialism 14 Participatory ethnography 137 Pastoral 74, 116 Pat Brereton xiv, 7, 67, 68, 80, 81, 114, 116, 119, 120, 122, 123, 125, 126, 128, 129 Pat O'Donnell 124 Patarkkai 175-177, 180, 182, 183

Index Pathos 35, 40, 44, 50, 55, 70, 97, 101, 103-105 Patricia Clough 102 Patrick Murphy 50, 55 Paul Revere 56, 64 Pennadi 29, 32 Perri 16 Pesticides 26, 227 Pete Postlethwait 49, 51, 58 Peter Brooks 54 Peter Carey 74, 82 Peter Singer 105 Petroglyphs 191 Pine-forest 196 Planet Green 75 Planet of the Apes 64 Plato 182, 184, 185 Popular media 85 Post-apocalyptic xiii, 87 Predation 13 Proto-fascist 120 Puliyamaram 225 Pullaattu 165 Puram 29, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 228, 229, 233, 236 Quasi-documentary 69 Rachel Carson 88 Radhakrishnan M. J. 141, 146 Ragi 228 Rajiv Gandhi National Park 135 Ramesh Menon 26 Raymond Williams 57 Razorback 71, 83 Resistance 124, 211, 216 Revivalist Irish literature 116 Rhetoric 38, 46, 50, 95, 97, 98, 100, 101, 229 Rice 165, 228, 236, 238 River Izava 247 River Kunthi 134, 135 Rob Nixon xii, xvi, 43, 101 Robert Flaherty 116, 117, 119, 122, 129 Robert Frost 59, 63, 64 Robert van Tine 53 Rogue 71, 83

Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations Rolf de Heer 68, 69, 81-83 Rural landscape 68, 117 Ryan’s Daughter 117, 129 Sajan Sindhu 26 Sakae Hemmi 108 Sangam 159, 160, 166, 168 Sarah Watts 69, 84 Saratchandran C. 26, 135, 139, 140 Scott Slovic 3, 9, 53, 59, 102 Seamus Heaney 118 Sean Cubitt xiii, 35 Sean Morey 103, 111, 128 Sean Thornton 118 Sergei Eisenstein 120 Sexism 52-54, 62, 73, 108 Sexuality 141, 145, 146 Shakespeare 53, 58, 59, 63, 64 Shamanism 179, 182, 185 Shankarrao Kharat 143 Sharon O’Dair 52, 58 Shekar Dattatri 19, 33 Shweta Kishore 79 Sidney Dobrin 103, 128 Sidney Olcott 117, 128, 129 Silent Running 36, 37, 48 Silent Valley National Park 133 Simmering Jharia 26 Sir Herbert Hope Risley 131 Socrates 182 Soren Krag Jacobsen 30 Soylent Green 36, 37, 48 Spot-billed pelicans 164 Squirrels 16 Srinivasa Iyengar P. T. 165 Stacy Woodard 16 Stephen Spotte 15 Steve Buskirk 196 Steve Irwin 72 Steven Spielberg 122, 128 Stewardship 106, 123, 128, 244, 253 Stipa tenacissima 250, 254, 257 Stream-of-conscious 69 Stuart C. Brown 95 Subalternity 137 Subramania Bharati 175 Suma Josson 26


Sunrise 76, 83 Super Size Me 99, 113 Sustainability 32, 37, 51, 66, 73, 76, 77, 78, 80, 81, 106, 118, 126, 127, 244 Suzi Gablik 202 Symbolism 103, 142, 143, 144, 153, 167, 254, 255 Synge J. M. 116, 120 Tamarind 223, 224, 225, 234, 240 Tamarindus indica 225 Tamil xv, 157, 170, 172, 174, 175, 176, 178, 179, 181, 182, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 225, 229 Tanmai 173, 175, 176, 177, 180, 181, 182, 183 T-Documentary 7, 12, 27, 28, 29, 31 Technophilia 36 Ted Nordhaus 85 Telugu xv, 157, 165 Ten Canoes 70, 83 Teresa Brennan 105 Terra firma 40 Terra nullis 71, 205, 216 Territoriality 19 Thangappa M. L. 159, 160, 166, 168, 181, 187 Thazhvaram 148 The Age of Stupid 50, 51, 55, 63 The Bee, The Bear & the Kuruba 135, 139 The Colleen Bawn 117, 128 The Coming Global Superstorm 41, 47 The Constant Gardener 99, 111 The Cove xv, 7, 97-101, 103-112 The Cranebag 127 The Dawn 117 The Day After Tomorrow 37, 42, 43, 48, 50, 51, 63 The Day the Earth Stood Still 37, 41, 48 The Eleventh Hour 51, 54, 55, 64, 111 The Emerald Forest 125, 128

272 The Emotional Lives of Animals 103, 111 The Extra-Terrestrial 122 The Field115, 117, 120, 129 The Fire Next Time 45, 48 The Future is Wild 54, 64 The Grapes of Wrath 36, 48 The Hungry Tide 79, 82 The Irish Times 127 The Lad from Old Ireland 117, 129 The Perfect Storm 34, 48 The Pipe 115, 116, 123, 124, 126, 129 The Quiet Man 117-119, 122, 123, 126, 129 The Quiet Room 69, 83 The Shaughran 117, 129 The Slow Poisoning of India 26 The Solomon Islands 106 The Story of Mudugar 28, 33, 138 The Tiger’s Tail 115, 123, 125, 130 The Truth About Tigers 19, 33 The Web 69, 84 Thelma and Louise 67, 83 Theravadin 142, 143 Thomas Vinterberg 30 Threatened species 7, 189, 195, 196 Tiger 19, 20, 68, 123-127, 176 Timothy Morton xiii, xiv, 49 Tinai xv, xvi, xvii, 3, 6, 7, 27, 29, 157, 158, 160, 163, 168, 170, 171, 172, 173, 175, 176, 184, 187, 229 Tinai criticism xv Titanic 67 Tolkaappiyam 170, 175, 178-180, 184, 188 Tolkaappiyar 178, 180 Tom McLoughlin 46, 48 Topography 116, 121 Toxicity amnesia 57 Tozhil 175 Transecological 8, 222, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238 Transspecies art 189, 191 Turai 173

Index Turtles 197 Twitter 52 Ubuntu 3, 8, 241-246, 250, 251, 252, 254, 255, 256, 257 Ulrich Beck 100, 109 Unfinished Sky 72, 83 Unsustainability 51 Uppinder Mehan 59, 63 Urban xv, 36, 44, 67, 73, 74, 76, 77, 80, 81, 82, 115, 122, 125, 164, 222, 236, 237, 239 Uripporul 170, 171, Ursula K. Le Guin 39 Vagriboli 208 Vaishali 148 Vaishnavism 183 Val Plumwood 69 Van Loon 118 Vandana Shiva xii, 205, 219 Venkatachalapathy A. R. 158, 160, 161, 162, 168 Video-Documentaries 7, 31, 155 Vindaloo 224 Visual media 4, 34, 167, 210 Visual-rhetoric 107 Wall-E 55, 64 Wally Broecker 41 Wangari Maathai 255 Waterfowl 197 Waterworld xiii, 37, 39, 40, 42, 48 Werner Herzog 20 Western Ghats 133, 142, 143, 145, 146, 148, 154, 176, 224 Whale museum 98 Wild-animal thriller 17 Wildlife Films 15-20, 22, 31 William Douglas 83 Wilson E.O. 53, 65 World Meteorological Organization 38 World Oral Literature Project 7, 137 Wyoming 190, 191, 193, 195, 196, 197 Yaattal 178 You are Still Alive 26 YouTube 52, 139, 167