Futurenatural: Nature, Science, Culture

Futurenatural: Nature, Science, Culture

Futurenatural: Nature, Science, Culture

Futurenatural: Nature, Science, Culture


We are living in an age when 'nature' seems to be on the brink of extinction yet, at the same time, 'nature' is becoming increasingly ubiquitous and unstable as a category for representation and debate. F uturenatural brings together leading theorists of culture and science to discuss the concept of 'nature' - its past, present and future. Contributors discuss the impact on our daily life of recent developments in biotechnologies, electronic media and ecological politics. Increasingly, scientific theories and models have been taken up as cultural metaphores that have material effects in transforming 'ways of seeing' and 'structures of feeling'.The book addresses the issue of whether political and cultural debates about the body and the environment can take place without reference to 'nature' or the 'natural'. This collection considers how we might 'think' a future developing from emergent scientific theories and discourses. What cultural forms may be produced when new knowledges challenge and undermine traditional ways of conceiving the 'natural' ?


Today nature is filmed, pictured, written about and talked about everywhere. As the millennium approaches, those images and discussions are increasingly phrased in terms of crisis and catastrophe but the current crisis is not only out there in the environment; it is also a crisis of culture. It suffuses our households, our conversation, our economies. To speak uncritically of the natural is to ignore these social questions.

Alexander Wilson

Any consideration of possible futures must attend, not only to economic, social and political disruptions (as in the previous two volumes in this series), but also to the dramatic changes wrought by radically new developments in science, not only on our technologies but on our sense of being and our models for understanding the world. The hazards involved in confronting 'science' as a topic for a BLOCK conference proved unmanageable and we decided to approach these issues obliquely under the rubric of 'The Future of Nature' (Tate Gallery, London; November 1994).

On one level 'nature' is like all concepts, a product of discourse, but its referent is also the subject of politics. There are real threats to whatever we conceive the 'natural' to be; the air, the land, the oceans, our bodies. The fragility of the concept 'nature' and the instability of its referent are strikingly demonstrated in the muddled vocabularies of environmental politics and in our struggles to come to terms both with the implications of new genetic and reproductive technologies and with the psychic consequences of the loss of 'nature' as a foundational concept, a ground of being, a stable otherness to the human condition.

The concerns of Futurenatural are thus threefold; the construction and reproduction of 'nature', the ways that this 'nature' is then instrumental in defining what is or is not natural, and how formulations of 'what is natural' eventually attain the status of convention that present 'nature' and 'the natural' as seemingly unproblematic. But central to these themes are also questions about the future configurations of 'nature' and 'the

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