2020: Rethinking Human-Nature Relationships

Source:  The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 16 | Number 6 | Article ID 5455 | Aug 15, 2020

Rethinking Human-Nature Relationships in the Time of Coronavirus:
Postmodern Animism in Films by Miyazaki Hayao & Shinkai Makoto

Shoko Yoneyama

Issues we are confronted with in the age of the Anthropocene, such as climate change, extinction, and the coronavirus pandemic demand a fundamental rethink of human-nature relationships, but at the same time we are faced with a ‘crisis of imagination’, which is highlighted by the paucity of stories or narratives that enable us to fully engage with these issues. We have a ‘climate crisis’ as well as a ‘crisis of culture’ and both derive from the same source: epistemological limitations in the paradigm of modernity. The most problematic limitation is the fact that our social scientific knowledge has blind spots when it comes to nature and spirituality which makes it almost impossible for us to rethink human-nature relationships in a meaningful way. Miyazaki Hayao and Shinkai Makoto, however, directly illuminate these blind spots by making nature and spirituality central features in their animation films. This opens up new epistemological and ontological spaces in the hearts and minds of a global audience, making it possible to imagine something new. And that ‘something new’ is ‘postmodern animism’ which emerged from the fusion of a critique of modernity with the intangible cultural heritage of grassroots Japan. Postmodern animism is a philosophy that sees nature as a combination of the life-world and the spiritual-world thus enabling us to engage with climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic in a radically different way. It helps us to conceive a new paradigm that is more suitable for the Anthropocene.

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