Dissolving dualisms: actor-networks and the reimagination of nature



Publication Details

Castree, N. & Macmillan, T. (2001). Dissolving dualisms: actor-networks and the reimagination of nature. In N. Castree & B. Braun (Eds.), Social Nature: Theory, Practice, and Politics (pp. 208-224). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.


The distinction between society and nature is so familiar and fundamental as to seem unquestionable. Profoundly ingrained in Western culture, it is a distinction which not only organizes the imaginations of ordinary people but one which has for decades organized the academic division of labor in schools and universities. Hence, those things which are deemed nonsocial have long been the subject of 'natural science' research and teaching, while putatively nonnatural entities are the preserve of the 'social sciences.' Located in the middle ground between this macrodisciplinary distinction, geography, since its foundation as a subject in the late nineteenth century, has been touted as the 'bridging science' which would study human-nature interactions (Mackinder, 1887). Over the course of the twentieth century, geography as the study of human-nature relations underwent several paradigmatic shifts, from the 'environmental determinism' of the 1910s (e.g. Semple, 1911) through the 'possibilist' positions of the 1930s (e.g. Febvre, 1932) to the post-1950 recognition that humans seemed to be transforming nature more than nature was affecting humans (e.g. Thomas, 1956).

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