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Planetary Praxes: Performing Humanity under Ecological Emergency

Brewster, Shelby E (2021) Planetary Praxes: Performing Humanity under Ecological Emergency. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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“Planetary Praxes” theorizes new forms of human/nonhuman relationships developing in response to the rapidly increasing disruption of known and lived environmental norms. Through the interdisciplinary lens of performance, I theorize the planetary as a rubric for analyzing this shift, as it emphasizes the nonhuman and the earth’s inherent alterity. This intervention derives from two conceptual shifts: the material conditions of the ecological emergency which foreground the connections among humans and planetary others, and the theorization of the Anthropocene, which emphasizes the geological power of the human species. Both produce “planetary imaginaries” best rendered through performance. Further, I argue that the ecological changes under the label “climate change” demands considerations of the planetary in order to imagine alternative environmental futures.
I examine a variety of practices—political protest, museum exhibition, and artistic production—which I argue have become sites for negotiating ecological relationships. I ask how these relationships form under the conditions of planetary emergency, including global warming, environmental racism, ocean acidification, the inequities of global capitalism, and biodiversity loss. These rapidly shifting ecological (and political) circumstances rework an extensive history of articulating humanity in relation (or in opposition) to nature. Ultimately, I argue that identifying and understanding these emerging ways of being, which I call planetary praxes, are imperative to forge a future of ecological justice.
I show how a range of planetary praxes—ways of being human—are developing during this current time of environmental upheaval. These include practices that uphold Eurocentric ways of being that perpetuate human exceptionalism and the instrumentalization of nature, as well as performance practices that can enable new ways of living by creating new relations between humans and nonhumans, displacing the centrality of humanity, and imagining new relationships to nature. This project demonstrates the significance of performance as a lens to understand how we move through the world. By attending to the ways humanity is a praxis—a doing, a performance—we might move toward those forms which are less violent and more just.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Brewster, Shelby Eshelbybrewster2@gmail.comseb146
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcKelvey,
Committee MemberGranshaw,
Committee MemberGeorge,
Committee MemberMcConachie,
Committee MemberWanderer,
Date: 3 May 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 April 2021
Approval Date: 3 May 2021
Submission Date: 8 April 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 313
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: queer temporality, extinction, animal, museum, display,
Date Deposited: 03 May 2021 15:30
Last Modified: 03 May 2021 15:30


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