Ecocriticism, Biopolitics, and Ecological Immunity


  • Hannes Bergthaller National Chung-Hsing University



Biopolitics, ecocriticism, Roberto Esposito, Garrett Hardin, Lynn Margulis, Neomalthusianism, Elinor Ostrom, symbiogenesis


      Ecocritics tend to think of environmentalism as a form of resistance against the anthropocentrism of Western modernity. Such a view stands in contrast to biopolitical theory, which sees modernity in terms of a naturalization of the human and a generalized effort to increase the productivity of life that cuts across species lines. Building on the work of Roberto Esposito, this process can be described as a radicalized form of ecological immunization whereby humans and their domesticates are protected from the risks that attend membership in ecological communities, resulting in an “unnatural growth of the natural” (H. Arendt). The self-destructive strategies of immunization which characterize biopolitical modernity are based on a conception of life in terms of competition over scarce resources, inevitably leading to Malthusian crises. Lynn Margulis’ understanding of evolution as symbiogenesis offers an alternative on which an affirmative biopolitics balancing the demands of immunity and community can build.


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Author Biography

Hannes Bergthaller, National Chung-Hsing University

Hannes Bergthaller is an associate professor at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Chung-Hsing University in Tai-Chung, Taiwan. His book Populäre Ökologie: On the literature and cultural history of the modern environmental movement in the US appeared in 2007; he has published essays on the work of Rachel Carson, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Dr. Seuss, Gary Snyder, and Walt Whitman, as well as on ecocriticism and social systems theory. The edited volume Addressing Modernity: Social Systems Theory and US Cultures (co-edited with Carsten Schinko) appeared in 2011. He is a founding member and the current vice-president of EASLCE.






Articles: New Ecocritical Practices