'Ecosystem service commodities' - a new imperial ecology? Implications for animist immanent ecologies, with Deleuze and Guattari

Winter 2009

This essay is structured around the juxtaposition of two very different expressions of culture/nature relationships. The first is a current ‘imperial ecology’ constituted by the ideational transformation of ‘the environment’ into new commodity fictions called ‘ecosystem services’. I suggest that this transformation intensifies a classical and modern desire for the release of culture from nature, even as its market rhetoric speaks of a greater valuing of ‘nature’. The second is the possibility and implications of an animist ‘immanent ecology’ in which the human/non-human nexus is more explicitly experienced as one of intersubjective intensities and shared sentience. Here I work primarily with ethnographic material from a KhoeSan people indigenous to north-west Namibia. I draw extensively on the writings of philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, whose profound suggestions add much to an understanding of the constitutive conditions in which these different ecologies arise, and the social and environmental trajectories they may bring forth and sustain.

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