The ecology of language: Concept conservation and control in a world of ‘Climate Catastrophe’

Jamie Mcphie*, David Clarke, Lisa Fenton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Following contemporary turns to disrupt the nature-culture binary, this paper brings language into its proper worldly place. This endeavour could envision humans and our languages as belonging to realms traditionally perceived as non-human – as astronomical, hydrological, or geological phenomena. Here we play with language as ecological. Words – as concepts – perform materially, inducing trophic cascades. Concepts have the ability to display minimal or maximal entropy, form relational systems, act as keystone species, and alter the niches they fill. The relational properties of concepts are physical and nutritional. Concepts can lead to eutrophic monocultures, oligotrophic exhaustion, or periods of homeostasis. Inspired by a Deleuzian flat (rather than shallow or deep) ecology we examine the possibilities of dissolving linguistic culture as an abstract transcendent phenomenon and instead to realign language as an immanent ecological process. We explore how the performance of the vast and overwhelming concept of ‘climate catastrophe’ has been encouraged through the historical performance of the concepts ‘ecology’, ‘holism’ and ‘nature’ - each haunted by dualistic, hierarchical, and transcendent metaphysics producing a world of effects including ecocide and fascism. Our attention falls to the inequitable effects of concepts as we wonder: What might the ecological study of concepts do to the ecological performance of concepts? Two intertwined mass extinctions are underway as habitats and human languages are lost to the world due to invasive concepts. Countering these mass extinctions might mean practising concept de-extinction, seeking out endangered concepts for in situ and ex situ conservation, as well as Deleuzian concept creation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021
EventRoyal Geographical Society - Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference - Royal Geographical Society, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Aug 20213 Sept 2021

Conference

ConferenceRoyal Geographical Society - Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference
Abbreviated titleRGS-IBG Annual International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityLondon
Period31/08/213/09/21

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