Other Worlds, Different Humans: Indigenous and Traditional Myths as Ecological Knowledge

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Moira Marquis
contact email: 

This panel will take place at the “Paradise on Fire,” the 2019 ASLE Conference from June 25-30th in Davis, California

What do you see when you look at the moon? 

Ancient Mayans saw a rabbit. Taoists saw a toad. Modern, western cultures saw a man’s face. Contemporary science sees clues to the origin of life on earth. 

The various ways our closest celestial body has been seen illustrates how cultural stories can literally change the way people see and understand our world. The animals, plants, fungi, and rocks of the earth are understood in vastly different ways but always entangled with and enmeshed in cultural ways of knowing. The way people see our world has profound consequences. Ways of seeing enable and justify human actions from the way we treat each other to the way we treat animals and our ecosystems. 

In the contemporary moment, one way of seeing dominates most of the world and has resulted in vast ecological ruination and climate change. This way of seeing is the legacy of the Enlightenment, which sees animals and the living world as resources for the intentionality of humanity. It is the lineage that sees a man in the moon and therefore colonizes the cosmos with man’s self-importance. Human beings, in this view, are not only capable of mastering Nature, it is in Human Nature to do so—most of the time with violence and competitive self-interest. This view of humanity was first spread through colonialism and imperialism and subjugated other ways of knowing that offered ways of seeing that did not assert such innate human mastery. 

Increasingly decolonial and indigenous scholars have asserted the power and potential of indigenous and alternative myths to articulate an understanding of humanity as interdependent with the earth and other beings, rather than natural masters—seeing the rabbit not the man, in the moon.

This panel is interested in ecological indigenous or traditional myths. These examples should provide a counter-example, to challenge the conception that people are unavoidably environmentally destructive and biologically determined. Proposals are invited on any traditional or indigenous myth that understands human being as different than the biologically determined, self-interested and innately competitive subject the Enlightenment legacy asserts and/or any narrative about other beings or the natural world that challenges conceptions of humanity as capable of mastering other beings or nature.

All submissions to this panel must be via Submittable at this link: https://asle.submittable.com/submit/126679/other-worlds-different-humans-indigenous-and-traditional-myths-as-ecological-kn