The Eye of the Crocodile

The Eye of the Crocodile

Val Plumwood
Edited by Lorraine Shannon
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    The Eye of the Crocodile
    Book Description:

    Val Plumwood was an eminent environmental philosopher and activist who was prominent in the development of radical ecophilosophy from the early 1970s until her death in 2008. Her book Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (1992) has become a classic. In 1985 she was attacked by a crocodile while kayaking alone in the Kakadu national park in the Northern Territory. She was death rolled three times before being released from the crocodile's jaws. She crawled for hours through swamp with appalling injuries before being rescued. The experience made her well placed to write about cultural responses to death and predation. The first section of The Eye of the Crocodile consists of chapters intended for a book on crocodiles that remained unfinished at the time of Val's death. The remaining chapters are previously published papers brought together to form an overview of Val's ideas on death, predation and nature.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-17-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Freya Mathews, Kate Rigby and Deborah Rose

    Val Plumwood was one the great philosophers, activists, feminists, teachers, and everyday naturalists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the course of her productive life she wrote two great philosophical monographs which became key texts in the emerging fields of environmental philosophy and ecofeminism. Her stature as a thinker of power and influence was reflected in the fact that she was included in the 2001 book 50 Key Thinkers on the Environment¹ along with luminaries such as Buddha, Gandhi, and Arne Naess. Val died of a stroke in 2008 at the age of 68. She was not...

  5. First section
    • 1. Meeting the predator
      (pp. 9-22)

      My story begins and ends in tropical northern Australia, in the Stone Country of Arnhem Land. This is a land of stone sculpted by sky, wind and water to immense, fantastic forms. The abrasive power of the dry season winds is matched by the erosive power of the wet season storms whose rains pound the land from December to April.

      Shrouded stone figures and great sandstone heads gaze out over country formed by a thousand million years of vigorous marital struggle between mother earth and father sky. The energy of that struggle, amorous perhaps as well as abrasive, between the...

    • 2. Dry season (Yegge) in the stone country
      (pp. 23-34)

      The ripples spread across the turquoise waters of a deep, clear rock-lined pool as I fill a billy with water. Until I shattered their reflections, the peaceful waters mirrored patterns in colour palettes of breathtaking beauty—the green of fringing pandanus and umbilik (Allosyncarpia), the unbroken blue of the early dry season skies, and the brilliant orange of the rock face on the poolʹs opposite edge. I look again at the bright rock face, wondering if the wet season flood of the creek had here exposed the unweathered face of the Arnhem Land escarpment. The top section of the pool...

    • 3. The wisdom of the balanced rock: The parallel universe and the prey perspective
      (pp. 35-46)

      I leapt through the eye of the crocodile into what I have now come to think of as a parallel universe, one with completely different rules—the Heraclitean universe where everything flows—where we live the otherʹs death, die the otherʹs life. This is the universe represented in the food chain whose logic confounds our sense of justice because it presents a completely different sense of generosity. It is pervaded and organised by a generosity that takes a Heraclitean perspective, one in which our bodies flow with the food chain. They do not belong to us; rather they belong to...

  6. Second section
    • 4. A wombat wake: In memoriam Birubi
      (pp. 49-54)

      My wombat Birubi died after a brief illness sometime around Wednesday 18 August 1999. I miss Birubi greatly and continue to catch his beloved form (or ʹghostʹ) out of the corner of my eye, a half-seen image flitting around the corner of a cupboard or across the veranda. Long after his death, my eyes continued to search out his shape on the moonlit grass. He was part of my life for so long—over twelve years—that I found it hard to believe he would no longer wait for me or greet me, that he was finally gone.

      We had...

    • 5. ʹBabeʹ: The tale of the speaking meat
      (pp. 55-74)

      I would like somebody somewhere to endow an annual prize for a work of art which takes a group of the most oppressed subjects and makes an effective and transformative representation of their situation. The work would make its audience care about what happens to those oppressed subjects and to understand something of the audienceʹs own role in maintaining their oppression. It would foster recognition of the subjectivity and creativity of the oppressed group and consciousness of the need for redistribution of respect and of cultural and material goods. Above all, it would help to support and protect them. If...

  7. Third section
    • 6. Animals and ecology: Towards a better integration
      (pp. 77-90)

      Many thinking people have come to believe that there is something profoundly wrong in commodity cultureʹs relationship to living things. That something is expressed perhaps most obviously in the factory farms that profit from distorting and instrumentalising animal lives. In numerous books and articles I have argued that these abuses are enabled and justified by a dominant human-centred ideology of mastery over an inferior sphere of animals and nature.¹ It is this ideology that is expressed in economies that treat commodity animals reductively as less than they are, as a mere human resource, little more than living meat or egg...

    • 7. Tasteless: Towards a food-based approach to death
      (pp. 91-96)

      Two encounters with death led to my becoming radically dissatisfied with the usual Western selection of death narratives—both Christian–monotheist AND modernist–atheist. I think both major traditions inherit the human exceptionalism and hyper-separation that propels the environmental crisis. However, there are encouraging signs of a developing animist consciousness and mortuary practice that challenges exceptionalism and grasps human death in terms of reciprocity in the earth community.

      It has seemed to me since my near-death experience with the crocodile that our worldview denies the most basic feature of animal existence on planet earth—that we are food and that...

  8. Works cited
    (pp. 97-100)