The Global Biosphere and Its Metaphysical Underpinnings: Ecumenical Alternatives in Animism and Astrobiology

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Abstract

The term biosphere designates the “zone of life” on Earth. Outside this sphere, everything becomes “alien.” In this view of things, which I take to be canonical in the modern West, terrestrial life and biosphere overlap more or less neatly. Yet this idea of an almost perfect convergence is not the only view possible. This study presents two anthro- pological cases which demonstrate, a contrario, that the modern tendency to envisage the biosphere as “our home environment” or as “our familiar world” is in many ways a his- torical accident. Other ecumenical possibilities (by which I refer to the ancient Greek notion of the “inhabited world,” the oikumene) are by no means unthinkable. Examining the ecumenical originality of two communities that at first sight seem unrelated – Chachi indigenous people in Ecuador and scientists involved in the search for extraterrestrial life – will allow us to cast new light on the metaphysical underpinnings of the modern biosphere concept.

© 2021, The Author(s). The attached document (embargoed until 01/01/2022) is an author produced version of a paper published in SOCIOLOGUS uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-72
JournalSociologus. Journal for Social Anthropology
Volume71
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

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