Date of Graduation

Spring 2013


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

Julia Belser


Contemporary debates involving ethics and the environment have often emphasized the difference between anthropocentric or biocentric conceptions of value, distinguishing the ethical treatment of humans from that of nature. In this thesis, I aim to highlight connections between ethical concerns for humans and ethical concerns for the environment. I locate domination as a central concept that intertwines people and place, society and ecosystem. Emmanuel Levinas's ‘ethics of the Other' provides a framework for my analysis, but I expand his ethical construct to include both human and nonhuman Others. A key text for this step is Levinas's talmudic commentary "Promised Land or Permitted Land," in which he criticizes what he sees as a colonial project by the Israelites to dominate both people and place. I refer to this new orientation as ‘ethics of Otherness,' which specifically emphasizes connections in resisting domination as well as recognizing alterity in all beings. I draw on postcolonial and environmental ethics to argue that shared ethical concerns regarding domination unite both fields. Building on the work of ecocritical, postcolonial scholarship, I analyze Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's novel The River Between. In this postcolonial work, I pay close attention to the interrelationships between human characters and the environment. I argue that themes of resisting domination and recognizing human and nonhuman Others in the novel provide an example of what I mean by the term ‘ethics of Otherness.'


otherness, ethics, environment, postcolonial, ecocriticism, domination, ecology, landscape, alterity, place

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