Vol. 33:1 (2023) ► pp.61–90
Storytalk and complex constructions of nonhuman agency
An interview-based investigation
Recent work in environmental philosophy has uncoupled the notion of agency from the human domain, arguing that the efficacy of nonhuman entities and processes can also be construed as a form of “agency.” In this paper, we study discursive constructions of nonhuman agency as they appear in a set of interviews revolving around fictional narratives. The participants were asked to read microfiction engaging with the nonhuman perspectives of entities such as a melting glacier or an endangered tree species. The analysis of the interviews centers on “complex” attributions of nonhuman agency – that is, attributions that involve a combination of agencies attributed to the nonhuman. We show that these complex attributions emerge more frequently in discussing the story (what we call the “storytalk”) than elsewhere in the interviews. We also explore the way in which such complex constructions of nonhuman agency challenge widespread assumptions about the natural world.
- Beyond the human (“The Giving Tree”)
- Wholeness (“Seekers and Fools”)
- Overpowering nature (“Icebergs”)
- Two agents (“Seekers and Fools”)
- Human rule (“Icebergs”)
- Disconnection (“Seekers and Fools”)
- Complexifying nonhuman agency
- Acknowledging the limits of human knowledge
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