From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

Can nature speak? A peasant perspective on decolonizing the human-nature relationship through multispecies communication



In our article, we examine the hegemonic human-nature relationship through a postcolonial lens. Our inquiry starts from the assumption that the human-nature relationship needs to be reworked in order to find better ways to respond to the climate crisis and ecological devastation. By radically questioning the current human-nature relationship, we challenge hegemonic understandings of ‘human’ and ‘nature’ and call for thinking with rather than about ‘nature’. We take our cue from Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the subaltern speak?” and ask the question: “Can nature speak?” We outline how ‘nature’ is understood as the voiceless ‘other,’ and is continuously silenced through misleading representations. Thus, hegemonic discourses on climate change are revealed to be intertwined with colonial continuities and epistemological violations, which we examine through indigenous and decolonial approaches as well as the statements of five Baltimore farmers, who were our interlocutors during a research stay. We focus on existing alternatives – especially from agricultural contexts – in which ‘nature’ is not understood as an “it” (Kimmerer 2017). We ask what potential for change might lie in communication with ‘nature’, since the etymology of the word (Lat. communicare) leads to worlds of co-becoming and sharing. In sum, we follow calls for epistemological and ontological shifts that not only challenge hegemonic discourses on climate change, but also decolonize hegemonic ways of researching, (academic) thinking and understandings of ‘the other’.


Human-nature relationship, othering of nature, decolonial listening, communication, care, silencing



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