Being in an environment: a performative perspective
Meetings and Proceedings
This essay lays out my general perspective on human relations with the environment. The central thread is a conviction that our thinking on this topic should start from a concern with performance and agency—the actions of people and things—rather than from scientific knowledge as a given point of departure. My approach is ontological rather than epistemological. It grows out of my earlier work in science studies, and I begin by reviewing some concepts developed there, and why they clash with mainstream academic discourses, before moving on to environmental topics and examples. Key threads there include a distinction between two paradigms in scientific and engineering approaches to the environment, and an attempt to put science in its place—to see from the outside just how science figures in our relations with the environment. I am especially keen to establish the possibility of engaging nature in a directly performative fashion—one that does not centre itself on knowledge, science and the laboratory.
A talk given at Oxford University, 2 February 2012 as part of a series of Linacre Lectures on ‘Environmental Governance and Resilience’