Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Borderlands of the Sacred: Bio-Cognitive Mapping in the Age of Apocalypse Public Deposited

  • As Fredric Jameson famously said, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Now that the climate crises ensures that the end of the world is no longer a theoretical abstract, perhaps we no longer need to only imagine the end of capitalism; perhaps the end of the world can be something radically different from its usual conception. I will begin this thesis by reading Yeats’s “The Second Coming” through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History and within the context of contemporary scholarship on the climate crisis in order to reconceptualize apocalypse as a moment of radical transformation, rather than cataclysm, that affords us the opportunity to build a better world in the ruins of the old. The necessary question this raises is, what philosophical and cultural changes are necessary to navigate this transformation? In order to argue for biocentrism as an organizing principle, I will explore the historical contingency of anthropocentrism as an outgrowth of Enlightenment rationality via a Foucauldian reading of Pynchon’s masterpiece, Mason & Dixon. I will combine this with a reading of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, to show how this novel imagines a biocentric reunification of the human and the biosphere and the healing that offers to both. I will argue that this provides us the framework to reimagine a humanity that is no longer constructed as the Anthropos, and prefigures how we might live after the anthropocene. I will conclude by relating both of these to the present moment of global pandemic. I will explore how contagion disrupts our understanding of borders between nations, as described by Pricilla Wald, and as dramatized by Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow. Where Wald and Mpe’s work falls short, in my estimation, is that both envision a cosmopolitanism which is strictly humanistic and thus anthropocentric. I will thus attempt to expand on this scholarship to illustrate how contagion is the basis for an eco-cosmopolitanism. While Wald’s and Mpe’s own work already contain the potential for eco-cosmopolitanism, examining contagions as sites of trans-corporeal exchange further destabilizes the Anthropos and further locates the human within the global biological community. I therefore argue that the climate crisis and the pandemic are best understood as mutually informative, and belonging to a shared discourse of global ecology.

Date Awarded
  • 2020-11-02
Academic Affiliation
Committee Member
Granting Institution
Last Modified
  • 2020-11-04
Resource Type
Rights Statement


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