Nonhuman Publics and Human Politics: In Defense of an Ecological Political Sphere

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Mousie, Joshua
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University of Guelph

In this dissertation, I argue for a conception of the political sphere that includes the nonhuman, which I call the ecological political sphere. Modern theories of the political sphere consider political commonalities, the relationships that ground the political sphere, to be limited to human beings. However, I argue that there are clear reasons for considering the political sphere to consist of a nonhuman dimension, especially if we are attentive to entrenched ecological networks existing today due to practices like industrial farming. Nonhumans, I argue, are of great political significance, insofar as they shape power relationships and are often key agents that motivate our practical and conceptual projects; they are also integral to understanding contemporary forms of injustice. I use traditional and critical theoretical frameworks, like the political theories of Hannah Arendt, John Locke, Iris Marion Young, and Michel Foucault, in order to develop my argument for a nonhuman political sphere. I argue that a conception of political sphere that includes nonhumans can 1) amend the theory of environmental domination that is popular in environmental theory, 2) help us to understand the affective political agency of nonhumans and the significant role these agents play in our human lives, and 3) be a boon to participatory democratic initiatives, which seek more just political arrangements and equality for those who are politically marginalized. The third point in particular provides support for the reasonableness of contemporary ecological political movements that defend experimental forms of political representation for the nonhuman environment, like the rights for nature defended by the 2008 Ecuadorean Constitution.

Ecological Politics, Environmental Political Theory, Environmental Philosophy, Rights for Nature, Nonhuman Political Sphere, Nonhuman Politics, Locke's Political Philosophy, Arendt