Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Review of "Genealogies of Environmentalism: The Lost Works of Clarence Glacken"

In 1967, Clarence Glacken published Traces on the Rhodian Shore – an encyclopaedic masterpiece in the history of geographical ideas describing, as per the book’s subtitle, Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century. Despite writing many more pages prior to his death in 1989 at the age of 80, most of these, tragically, were lost, destroyed or simply unpublished – until now.
My review of "Genealogies of Environmentalism: The Lost Works of Clarence Glacken" has just come out at the journal Local Environment. This link apparently gives subscription-free access to the first fifty clicks (the standard link is here; if anyone can't access it and wishes to, feel free to get in touch).

It's a fairly short and sweet affair. I basically summarise the text and discuss its circumstances, weaknesses and (not inconsiderable) strengths. The one conceptual point I draw out of it in particular is from p.183, where Glacken writes:
Environmental determinism in fact has been so strong that only with the greatest difficulty have systematic studies of man’s role in changing the physical environment been made.
This connection between environmental determinism in the sense of that which imposes upon and moulds the environed and environment in the post-1960s sense of something to be concerned for is, for me, crucial.

Borrowing a phrase from Bruno Latour, I call it an example of the redistribution of agencies – something that I am trying to further develop in my thesis work.

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