Rethinking Nature: Challenging Disciplinary Boundaries, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Rethinking Nature

Challenging Disciplinary Boundaries, 1st Edition

Edited by Aurélie Choné, Isabelle Hajek, Philippe Hamman


268 pages

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Contemporary ideas of nature were largely shaped by schools of thought from Western cultural history and philosophy until the present-day concerns with environmental change and biodiversity conservation. There are many different ways of conceptualising nature in epistemological terms, reflecting the tensions between the polarities of humans as masters or protectors of nature and as part of or outside of nature.

The book shows how nature is today the focus of numerous debates, calling for an approach which goes beyond the merely technical or scientific. It adopts a threefold – critical, historical and cross-disciplinary – approach in order to summarise the current state of knowledge. It includes contributions informed by the humanities (especially history, literature and philosophy) and social sciences, concerned with the production and circulation of knowledge about "nature" across disciplines and across national and cultural spaces. The volume also demonstrates the ongoing reconfiguration of subject disciplines, as seen in the recent emergence of new interdisciplinary approaches and the popularity of the prefix "eco-" (e.g. ecocriticism, ecospirituality, ecosophy and ecofeminism, as well as subdivisions of ecology, including urban ecology, industrial ecology and ecosystem services). Each chapter provides a concise overview of its topic which will serve as a helpful introduction to students and a source of easy reference. 

This text is also valuable reading for researchers interested in philosophy, sociology, anthropology, geography, ecology, politics and all their respective environmentalist strands.


"This book represents a wide collection of vibrant contributions on the topical issue of understanding nature and environmental challenges without remaining trapped in the horizon of the natural sciences. The book’s ambitious aim is to challenge not only the very idea of nature but also any rigid academic disciplinary framework that can prevent research from crossing both disciplinary and cultural boundaries. Thus, the collection also seeks to offer“a resolutely cross-cultural and multidisciplinary approach” that is able to include non-Western conceptions and a wide range of disciplines." - Francesco Carpanini in Environment and Society: Advances in Research Journal (2018)

"Defining nature and the various ways it features in disciplines which range from theology through geography to biology is complex, and is continually developing. Such themes and trends, involving the ever-changing relationship between nature and culture, are the subject matter of this book. The 21 contributors represent a diverse array of disciplines including philosophy, literature, history, planning, sociology, environmental humanities, social/urban geography, entomology, ecological economics and anthropology… This book is a valuable contribution to the ecological/environmental literature… It deserves a wide readership at undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as those involved in the construction and implementation of environmental policies." - A.M. Mannion in British Ecological Society Bulletin (2017)

"One of the main strengths of this book lies in its exhaustive examination of the relationship between nature and society, with comparative analyses drawn from a wide array of domains, giving the reader a global understanding of the subject. These include ethics, spirituality, psychology, aesthetics, feminism, sociology, politics, economics, anthropology, urbanism and animal protection. In each case, the authors delve into the relationship between their discipline and the concept of ‘nature’, which has sparked a flurry of ‘eco’ disciplines (eco-feminism, eco-spirituality, eco-psychology, etc.). As a result, the book brings original insights into new, little-studied emerging disciplines." -Arnault Barichella in French Journal of Political Science (2018) [translated from the original in French]

The book is a major milestone in environmental studies because it describes the ongoing ecologization of knowledge and sheds light on the reflexive impacts of such an epistemological turn on literary and social disciplines. […] For the first time in the English-language literature, Rethinking Nature sums up the contemporary controversies and debates among environmental humanities scholars from different disciplinary and geographical backgrounds, in order to go beyond national differences and encourage new ways of studying the environment. The book is essential reading for students interested in environmental issues and in the various ideas, controversies and knowledge which have shaped environmental thought and made it such a vibrant and fruitful field." Emiliano Scanu in Natures Sciences Sociétés (2018) [translated from the original in French]

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rethinking the idea of nature

Aurélie Choné, Isabelle Hajek & Philippe Hamman

Part I – Values and actions

1 Environmental ethics

Catherine Larrère

2 Ecosophy

Hicham-Stéphane Afeissa

3 Ecospirituality

Aurélie Choné

4 Ecopsychology

Dennis L. Merritt

Part II – Writings and representations

5 The aesthetics of nature

Nathalie Blanc

6 Ecocriticism

Emmanuelle Peraldo

7 Epistemocritical perspectives on nature

Laurence Dahan

Part III – Movements, activism and societies

8 From Lebensreform to political ecology

Catherine Repussard

9 Ecofeminism

Margot Lauwers

10 From environmental sociology to ecosociologies

Graham Woodgate

11 From anthropogeography to ethnoecology

Éric Navet

Part IV – Renewed ecologies

12 Rethinking rural nature in the era of ecocide

Owain Jones

13 Urban ecology

Isabelle Hajek and Jean-Pierre Lévy

14 Nature, environment, health

Lionel Charles

15 Sustainable urbanism

Philippe Hamman

16 Industrial ecology

Nicolas Buclet

17 The ecosystem services paradigm

Roldan Muradian

Part V – Human–animal

18 Ecocide, ethnocide and civilizations

Éric Navet

19 Animal studies

Roland Borgards

20 Constructing an animal history

Éric Baratay

21 Environmental humanities

Sabine Wilke

Conclusion: How nature matters

Aurélie Choné, Isabelle Hajek and Philippe Hamman

About the Editors

Aurélie Choné is Associate Professor in German Cultural Studies at the Faculty of World Languages and Cultures, University of Strasbourg, France.

Isabelle Hajek is Associate Professor in Sociology at the Institute for Urbanism and Regional Development, University of Strasbourg, France.

Philippe Hamman is Professor of Sociology at the Institute for Urbanism and Regional Development, University of Strasbourg, France.

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

From microplastics in the sea to hyper-trends such as global climate change, mega-extinction, and widening social disparities and displacement, we live on a planet undergoing tremendous flux and uncertainty. At the center of this transformation is human culture, both contributing to the state of the world and responding to planetary change. The Routledge Environmental Humanities Series seeks to engage with contemporary environmental challenges through the various lenses of the humanities and to explore foundational issues in environmental justice, multicultural environmentalism, ecofeminism, environmental psychology, environmental materialities and textualities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, environmental communication and information management, multispecies relationships, and related topics. The series is premised on the notion that the arts, humanities, and social sciences, integrated with the natural sciences, are essential to comprehensive environmental studies.

The environmental humanities are a multidimensional discipline encompassing such fields as anthropology, history, literary and media studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s and gender studies; however, the Routledge Environmental Humanities is particularly eager to receive book proposals that explicitly cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing the full force of multiple perspectives to illuminate vexing and profound environmental topics. We favor manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. Our readers include scholars and students from across the span of environmental studies disciplines and thoughtful citizens and policy makers interested in the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected]), to submit proposals.

Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):

A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.

Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters

Series Editors:

Professor Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Professor Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA

Professor YUKI Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan

Previous editors:

Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Dr Paul Warde, Reader in Environmental History, University of Cambridge, UK

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia , Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / Essays