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Probing the limits of languaging: material ecology and thing agency in Yu Jian’s poetry


Riemenschnitter, Andrea (2019). Probing the limits of languaging: material ecology and thing agency in Yu Jian’s poetry. International Communication of Chinese Culture, 6(1):39-61.

Abstract

This paper introduces the concept of material ecology and explains the pedagogical approach that is embedded in the notion of environmental awareness by applying these methods to examples from contemporary art production and Yu Jian‘s thing poetry. Material ecology is a method of cultural analysis that opens up new perspectives on the relationship between human and nonhuman agents, ecosystems in particular, and on a planetary level. This new outlook is meant to engender a consensual set of environmental values that can transcend national borders. As a concept, environmental awareness applies to efforts by official or unofficial agents to change behavioral patterns that can harm the environment. This is done by demonstrating the consequences of said actions. The two approaches are at the core of the quest for a global polity that can support and integrate different communities in their various endeavors to implement rules and incentives for sustainable ways of living based on environmental justice. These must be widely agreed upon in order to commit all social levels, be it individuals, local communities, or transnational stakeholders. Since cultural representations fulfill a seminal role in changing world-views, I will discuss a selection of Chinese literary and art-works which serve as examples of this new perspective on things in material ecology. Highlighting the transformation of landscapes through globalized, unsustainable patterns of urbanization, agri-industrial production, electric power generation, resource extraction and waste disposal, the paper will first explore how nonhuman agency needs to be reimagined, perceived, researched and taught as well as aesthetically represented and narrated in the wake of this transition. In a second step, it will introduce Kunming poet Yu Jian’s thing poetry. I will argue that the poet aims at the cultivation of an aesthetic sensibility that can overcome the modern world’s obsession with façades, masks, and surfaces in general—be they composed of words or images. Subverting the regimes of data and information acquisition by means of a kind of haptic epistemology, Yu Jian’s creative bricolage of Anglo-American nature writing, European modernist realism, Chinese Taoist animism, and traditional shanshui, or landscape art does not only promote environmental awareness, but moreover transcends linguistic and visual modes of communication. Hence, his poetry brings to the fore humanity’s material embeddedness and protests against the materialist annihilation of nonhuman worlds and things.

Abstract

This paper introduces the concept of material ecology and explains the pedagogical approach that is embedded in the notion of environmental awareness by applying these methods to examples from contemporary art production and Yu Jian‘s thing poetry. Material ecology is a method of cultural analysis that opens up new perspectives on the relationship between human and nonhuman agents, ecosystems in particular, and on a planetary level. This new outlook is meant to engender a consensual set of environmental values that can transcend national borders. As a concept, environmental awareness applies to efforts by official or unofficial agents to change behavioral patterns that can harm the environment. This is done by demonstrating the consequences of said actions. The two approaches are at the core of the quest for a global polity that can support and integrate different communities in their various endeavors to implement rules and incentives for sustainable ways of living based on environmental justice. These must be widely agreed upon in order to commit all social levels, be it individuals, local communities, or transnational stakeholders. Since cultural representations fulfill a seminal role in changing world-views, I will discuss a selection of Chinese literary and art-works which serve as examples of this new perspective on things in material ecology. Highlighting the transformation of landscapes through globalized, unsustainable patterns of urbanization, agri-industrial production, electric power generation, resource extraction and waste disposal, the paper will first explore how nonhuman agency needs to be reimagined, perceived, researched and taught as well as aesthetically represented and narrated in the wake of this transition. In a second step, it will introduce Kunming poet Yu Jian’s thing poetry. I will argue that the poet aims at the cultivation of an aesthetic sensibility that can overcome the modern world’s obsession with façades, masks, and surfaces in general—be they composed of words or images. Subverting the regimes of data and information acquisition by means of a kind of haptic epistemology, Yu Jian’s creative bricolage of Anglo-American nature writing, European modernist realism, Chinese Taoist animism, and traditional shanshui, or landscape art does not only promote environmental awareness, but moreover transcends linguistic and visual modes of communication. Hence, his poetry brings to the fore humanity’s material embeddedness and protests against the materialist annihilation of nonhuman worlds and things.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy
290 Other religions
Language:English
Date:1 March 2019
Deposited On:21 Mar 2019 13:28
Last Modified:25 Sep 2019 00:30
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:2197-4233
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40636-019-00146-0
Official URL:https://rdcu.be/bq1Oh
Related URLs:https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40636-019-00146-0

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