limits of poststructural analysis

As I immersed myself more deeply in readings of poststructural theory, I found myself asking: Is there room in poststructuralism to challenge human/nature boundaries, binaries and hierarchies? (personal journal, 2005). I was finding much of my initial reading to be incredibly anthropocentric (see Bell & Russell, 2000).

In the context of this study, the visible (to me) limits of postructural analysis in an activist project have been fourfold:

  1. given that speech is productive, the continued speaking (or writing) of a particular subjectivity/identity risks further reinscribing it as marginalized. In other words, poststructural analysis can maintain and reproduce, rather than disrupt, a marginalized position;
  2. poststructural analysis (seems to) privilege the intellect and does not (seem to) acknowledge nor encourage animist and other trans-rational (Astin, 2002) ways of knowing;
  3. unless the analysis conceives of the more-than-human world as subjects (Berry, 1999), it risks reproducing those subjects as objects (i.e. reinscribing anthropocentrism, see Bell & Russell, 2000).
  4. poststructural analysis can lead to paralysis with nowhere to go after deconstruction.

Poststructural analysis can make it difficult to engage with an animist ontology, depending on the degree to which it can be used to make visible its own inscription of: (a) the human intellect as the privileged way of knowing in Western culture (b) the potential to reinscribe anthropocentrism, and (c) the limits of its ontological perspective. It can also reinscribe socially constructed human/nature binaries though the same processes.

Yet poststructuralism can be turned back on itself to make visible ways in which its own analyses may be limited and reinscribe particular forms of dominance and marginalization – thus enabling the statements above to be made.