Margret Grebowicz is the author of Whale Song, The National Park to Come, Why Internet Porn Matters, and Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway, as well as numerous articles on environmental imagination, gender and sexuality, wilderness, animal studies, and post ‘68 French philosophy. Her recent essays have appeared in Philosophical Salon and The Atlantic, and her forthcoming work includes Mountains and Desire (Repeater) and the co-edited Lyotard and Critical Practice (Bloomsbury). In addition to being tenured twice during her almost twenty years of university teaching, Margret has also worked as a literary translator, a jazz vocalist, and a dance instructor.
Margret is a native Pole from Łódź. She has held professorships at University of Houston-Downtown, Goucher College, and the School of Advanced Studies at University of Tyumen in Russia, and is currently associate professor at the University of Silesia in Poland. She has been awarded a Fulbright fellowship in Poland and a Leverhulme Trust fellowship in the UK. She is committed to international education, interdisciplinary research, and the public humanities.
My research is about wilderness and environmental imagination, specifically the relationship between environmental and social loss. Longing, nostalgia, desire–how do these help shape the production of wilderness in conditions where humans understand it to be gone forever? By “wilderness” I mean wild spaces, wild animals, and those aspects of domesticated life, both animal and human, that we imagine to be wild, such as inner life, sexuality, appetite, and even childhood.
I usually focus on the big, emotionally powerful, even “classic” markers of environmental experience, the money shots (as it were): charismatic megafauna, national park landscapes, ecotourism rhetorics, and extreme sports set in (and against) recalcitrant places and climates. The more spectacularized wilderness is, the murkier it becomes. Like every fantasy, wilderness gets used up and “perverted” – animal hoarding, the degradation of Everest, paleo diets for dogs, wingsuit BASE jumpers dying before the eyes of their fans on their youtube channels— and it is these moments I try to map and understand, to ground, in the many senses of that word. They are no less environmental than the well-meaning origins of wilderness, or than humans’ subsequent efforts to make things “right” again. And they have their own ecologies–both material and affective.
For me, to do situated philosophy is to ground thinking in place, in the physical, social, narrative, and otherwise-affective thickness of a place. While at ASU, I will be researching the curation of wilderness in the Phoenix area and the wider context of the Colorado Plateau, which the Park Service calls “one of the world’s premier natural showcases.” I will be conducting research around the loose and mobile theme “Wilderness and Its Outsides.” I will also design and teach some experimental, remote courses for my students in Poland, centered on themes of wilderness culture, recreation culture, the national park service, and transborder ecology. In this respect, my residency work is an extension of my 2015 book, The National Park to Come, as well as my forthcoming book, Mountains and Desire: Climbing vs. The End of the World.
I am a fan of and a specialist in the short book, and am currently writing one about dog owner culture and imaginaries of human social life. The provisional title is Rescue Me: Imagining the Social Inside Canine Practices. In this respect, my residency is a continuation of the work I have done in animal studies, on animals, intimacy, and social imaginaries, especially in my 2017 book Whale Song, my ongoing research project in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and my new work on dogs.
This opportunity to work with CPT is pushing me to think not just in and about the Phoenix region, but in and about the practice of thinking itself. Is a truly philosophical practice possible? Or: is thinking-in-the-world possible? There are many things humans do in order to come to understand the world. This kind of knowledge has traditionally been called practical, in contradistinction to theory or philosophy. But this is changing. My biggest inspiration at the moment is Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, written during WWII and published in 1977. It is extraordinary not just in itself but for what it is about: Shepherd’s experience of walking the nearby Cairngorm mountains over the course of her life. She would never have called herself a philosopher, and yet created sentences that could have come straight from Vilém Flusser, Jean-François Lyotard, or St. Augustine, like this one: “It is to know [the mountain’s] essential nature that I am seeking here. To know, that is, with the knowledge that is a process of living.”
As a member of the Center for Critical Technology Studies at the University of Silesia, I will be part of the team realizing the NesT Grant (Networking Ecologically Smart Territories).