Environmenal Protests and Invisible Mental Structures

Deadline: June 30, 2019
Contact: Donna L. Potts, Professor and Chair, Washington State University
Email: donnal.potts@gmail.com
Phone: 7853172469

“Invisible mental structures”—shaped by beliefs in deities, spirits, and supernatural agents who act alongside humans—often provide the impetus for environmental protests. Formerly colonized countries or peoples, having all endured the suppression of indigenous language as well as the oral tradition conveyed through it, are often inclined to respond similarly to neocolonial incursions on the land. For example, Peter Read’s Haunted Earth examines Australian aboriginal sacred sites that have inspired protests; Paul Devereau’s Spirit Roads explores sacred roads and pathways around the world; Ramachandra Guha’s The Unquiet Woods describes sacred groves protected from deforestation because they were dedicated to the goddess Patna Devi (goddess of leaves); and Donna L. Potts examines how Irish folklore and mythology have shaped environmental protests. Devereau notes that historians are poor at studying “invisible mental structures” of this kind. However, Ranajit Guha’s Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India, which analyzes over 100 cases of peasant rebellions in British India between 1783 and 1900, depends on such “invisible mental structures.” Guha demonstrates that peasants’ protests are usually organized “along the axes of kinship, religion, and caste, and involve gods, spirits, and supernatural agents as actors alongside humans. He regards “peasant” acts here as a shorthand for all the seemingly non-modern, rural, non-secular relationships and life practices that constantly leave their imprint on the lives of even the elites in India and on their institutions of government. We welcome essays that examine environmental protests as well as environmental literature in terms of the influence of “invisible mental structures.”

Please send 5000-7000 word essays to Donna L. Potts. We hope to feature chapters on nations and regions around the globe.

Posted on February 4, 2019