‘But what about indigenous cosmologies?’ This kind of question is becoming more and more common in debates in International Relations, human geography and other fields. Whether articulated in terms of decolonisation, worlding, ontology, lifeways, cosmopolitics or pluriversality (other terminologies are available), there is a strong and growing conviction that making space for modes of collective existence beyond, besides and despite the hegemonic naturalism of the West is a pressing intellectual and political priority.
Indeed, this is a question that I am asked (and ask myself) on a regular basis. However, it is a more conceptually, ethically and politically complicated question than it may first appear. This essay explores some of these complications in relation to the research project that I am currently embarked upon – namely, a history of how ‘environment’ became a conceptual commonplace of Euro-American scientific, literary and political conversation by around about 1910.The article basically constitutes my attempt to think through how such a question must be approached with regard to my current research. It is, then, looking a little bit beyond my thesis project, although it certainly feeds back into and problematises various aspects of what I'm currently writing.
It also puts me a little way outside my comfort zone, which makes me apprehensive but, nevertheless, I am glad to have written it.
Particular thanks to Kerem Nisancioglu for his able editorship.