Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Nature without Balance
This thesis critically analyses the connection between ideology and nature, and in particular, aims to reflect on the dominant discourses on the topic of ecological crisis. The ecological thought framework that I adhere to rests on a combination of Frankfurt School and Žižekian theories. This combination is not without serious tensions and deviations; however, central to this project are the ways in which their respective works extensively critique ideology, and propose subversive alternatives to and new meanings of how we can conceptualize nature without domination. Dominant ideas and critiques of nature and natural history emerged during the Enlightenment era, and as Adorno argues, fell victim to a “reduction ad hominem,” or the claim that in order to free oneself, one must dominate, appropriate, and master nature. I claim that the extreme choices in environmental politics today - namely organic populism on one hand and increased technological intervention on the other - fail to account for the ways ‘nature’ is a socio-historical construct, and moreover, is situated within a false reality wherein the ‘essence of existence’ is reduced to technological mastery. What we encounter in this cautionary armoury of paradoxical approaches to nature, then, is the ideological currents of established belief systems. By exposing the illusions within the concept nature, such as the argumentative persuasion that there exists an inherent balance, the elementary cell of ideology reveals itself alongside revolutionary possibilities. Author Keywords: Crises, Critical Theory, Ideology, Nature, Slavoj Zizek, Theodor Adorno
Mythopoeia Sylvatica
Since British colonization of North America and the beginning of Anglo-speaking Euro-Canada and the United States, myth-making or representations of the forests have witnessed degradation and loss of old-growth forest ecosystems or intact sylvan landscapes. Canadian and American versions of the story of the North American Forests shared the same trajectory: forests as ‘wasted-land’ or the sylvan wilderness (terra nullius) divided into properties and cleared to “improve” the land for settlement/agriculture, forests as storehouses for timber and imperial expansion, forest landscapes and specific forest trees as identity politics and sources of industrial and economic power. While forests are recognized according to various stakeholders’ values today, what is commonly accepted as a forest varies widely. The meaning given to “forest” determines related terms and concepts, such as “sustainable forestry” and “reforestation.” This thesis addresses the issue of social-bioecological degradation, loss, and dis(re)membering of old-growth forests and problematizes traditional Western relationships with old wildwoods shaped by notions of space, politics, and economy. In the forest topos, the core question becomes which forest(s) are being imagined, represented, and remembered? Whose environmental imagination is shaping the landscape? As a critical topographical exploration of the North American forests through six witness trees, this thesis demonstrates how the meanings imbued in trees and wild woods come to determine the fate of the forests. It reveals how colonial values and trends persist in our societies still, and calls for an ethical social-ecological reimagining of the forests through traditions of ethical storytelling and environmental witnessing. Author Keywords: critical topography, environmental generational amnesia, environmental witnessing, forests, social-ecological systems, witness trees
Spatial Bestiary
In my Master’s thesis, I consider how the space of the animal laboratory shapes human-animal relationships, and how, in turn, these relations impact the laboratory, and more specifically, the spatially-bound practices that unfold in this space. I use the frameworks of biopolitics and animal geography, both of which help in illuminating the space of the lab as a site of power, within which human-animal agency becomes exercised. Alongside these analytics, I conducted participant interviews with individuals who work with animals in laboratories or settings similar to laboratories, which animate several themes that I locate at the intersection of biopolitics and animal geography. These themes include a discussion of human-animal relations of power, scientific biopower and scientific market economies, the animal-industrial complex, and the relationship between human binaries and their effects on spatiality. This project is as much about animal lives as it is about human lives. Author Keywords: agency, animal geography, biopower, human-animal relationships, spatiality, the animal laboratory

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