Bitter Shade asks an age-old question about the relationship between human consciousness and the environment: How do we think about our own thoughts and actions? How can we transcend the exigencies of daily life? How can we achieve sufficient distance from our own everyday realities to think and act more sustainably?
To address these questions, Michael R. Dove draws on the results of decades of research in South and Southeast Asia on how local cultures have circumvented the "curse of consciousness" – the paradox that we cannot completely comprehend the ecosystem of which we are part. He distils from his ethnographic, ecological, and historical research three principles: perspectivism (seeing oneself from outside oneself), metamorphosis (becoming something that one is not), and mimesis (copying something that one is not), which help a society to transcend the hubris and myopia of everyday existence and achieve greater insight into its ecosystem.
Michael R. Dove is Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology in the Yale School of the Environment, professor of anthropology, and curator in the Peabody Museum of Natural History. His previous books include The Banana Tree at the Gate and Climate Cultures.
"Bitter Shade is an original, important and timely book drawing on a unique lifelong academic trajectory. Michael Dove writes with tremendous nuance – paying equal attention to a deep theoretical literature as well as to political economic and ecological contexts."
– Eduardo Kohn, author of How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human
"From divination to mythology, from ritual to plant management, this beautiful book persuasively shows how plants, animals, and cultivation systems have inspired invaluable human perspectives upon how to live well."
– Andrew S. Mathews, author of Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise and Power in Mexican Forests
"Michael Dove asks us to consider what human consciousness will become in the face of extinction, ecosystem destruction and environmental disaster. This is a masterful work."
– Paige West, author of Conservation Is Our Government Now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea
"Michael Dove guides us brilliantly, situating superbly crafted case studies amid pathbreaking theoretical "turns" to show how consciousness is the deep key to ecological challenges and true sustainability."
– Karl Zimmerer, author of Agrobiodiversity: Integrating Knowledge for a Sustainable Future
"Bitter Shade explores the moments when a volcano's spirit mirror turns society inside out, when our answers prove inadequate and the animals look back at us. A wonderfully provocative contribution to anthropology, environmental studies and contemporary philosophy."
– J. Stephen Lansing, author of Islands of Order: A Guide to Complexity Modeling for the Social Sciences
"Innovative, insightful, incandescent – Michael Dove's meditation on what it means to be a person, to be a subject, to be different will attract and provoke anyone who wants to think through the long history of philosophical writings, from Kant to Levi-Strauss to Foucault."
– Arun Agrawal, author of Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects