Ensemblist Identities and the Ecological Self



I’ll be presenting October 5, 2016, 6:30-8:30pm at the California Institute of Integral Studies on the book I’m working on, Interspecies Politics.

The presentation, “Ensemblist Identities and the Ecological Self” is part of my larger project of decentering autonomy into situational cues (à la Kwame Appiah’s work), our biological contingency within and without, and the vulnerability and porosity of human and nonhuman life, borrowing from 4E cognitive science, autopoeisis, biosemiotics, and feminist and postcolonial critiques to democratic theory.

This talk is open to the public, and is a part of CIIS’s Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Forum.



The Greening of Everyday Life


The Greening of Everyday Life (2016, Oxford) is a new volume edited by John M. Meyer and Jens M. Kersten. A international collection of essays, it originates from a highly productive and original 2014 Rachel Carson Center symposium by the same name.

I’m happy to have contributed Chapter 14 in the book on Bicycling and the Politics of Recognition, drawing on the literature of the politics of recognition to ask what would it look like politically for cyclists to be given fair voice and equal standing in our urban streets. Based on a case study from my work with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition from 2008-2010, I identify the importance of safety in determining cycling equity between the sexes. In cities like Berlin or Amsterdam, an equal or higher percentage of cyclists are female. In LA, by contrast, only 10-20% of cyclists are female. I point to infrastructure as a determinate element in such outcomes. If cities wish to provide freedom of mobility–and cycling certainly is an inexpensive, autonomous mode of mobility–then attending to cyclists, rather than rendering them illegible to the state, is an important institutional commitment. Building on Danielle Allen’s politics of neighborliness and concretization of recognition through distributed social and political sacrifice, and Andrew Szasz’s critique of the rise of personal commodity bubbles (like cars) to deflate the political urgency of collective action problems (like clean air sustainable cities), I offer a reading of cycling as the urban activity par excellence for cities to address the dual matters of social justice and environmentalism.


The Wood Wide Web

The Wood Wide Web is the term used to encapsulate the communication systems between trees in forests. Through the mycorrhiza (fungal networks) in the soil, trees trade and share nutrients.

Jennifer Frazer’s blog at Scientific American, The Artful Amoeba, explores how our animal-based modes for all organisms simply don’t stick. Animals are anomalies in the biological world in their discreteness. Most of this planet cannot be captured via individuals, but organisms can only be made sense of qua networks, assemblages, cooperative ecologies.

That animals too are composed of multiple species, and that we to are reliant on our fellow symbionts for life, is not an insight confined to the plant, fungi, and bacterial kingdoms. It is the persistent myth of the individual self alone that instigates actions and policies failing to respect and cultivate in healthy ways are always already unavoidable connectivity. Perhaps if we acknowledged the interspeciality and interpenetration animals also share with our environments and the other creatures making up our Umwelten, then we would take better care of the habitats we live in and visit.

Radiolab’s recent interviews of both Simard and Frazer help make accessible the complexities of phyto-myco relationships and symbiosis.