Selfhood in Question: The Ontogenealogies of Bear Encounters

Open Philosophy 5 (1):532-550 (2022)
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Recent years have witnessed an increase in bear sightings in Latvia, causing a change of tone in the country’s media outlets, regarding the return of “wild” animals. The unease around bear reappearance leads me to investigate the affective side of relations with beings that show strength and resilience in more-than-human encounters in human-inhabited spaces. These relations are characterized by the contrasting human feelings of alienation vis-à-vis their environments today and a false sense of security, resulting in disbelief to encounter beings capable of challenging human exceptionalism. In a broader sense, the unease connects to human self-constitution and the fragility of the self, fueled by the domination of substance ontologies. This article considers bears as beings “in exile,” as potential threats to human self-pronounced exceptionality, and thus, examples of experienced abject regarding human subjectivity. The article aims to analyze the way the constitution of human selfhood is tied to the alienation of wildlife and its genealogical and biopolitical context and to question if a reconceptualization of the human/nonhuman relations via process, instead of substance ontology, is needed.

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Anne Sauka
University of Latvia


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