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Humanity and the Earth: The legacy of Elisée Reclus

Conference Announcement

Humanity and the Earth / L'Homme et la Terre:
The legacy of Elisée Reclus
October 27-29, 2006
Loyola University
New Orleans, LA USA

Last year marked the 175th anniversary of the birth of Elisée Reclus and the 100th anniversary of his death. A conference in New Orleans scheduled on the occasion of this double anniversary was postponed because of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, but it has been rescheduled for this Fall. At that time we will gather to discuss the life and work of Reclus and to investigate the ways in which his legacy is relevant to our world today.

Reclus is considered by many to be the greatest geographer of his age and is generally recognized as a pioneering figure in the development of social geography. His eighteen-thousand page Nouvelle Géographie Universelle was a monumental intellectual achievement which, as geographer Gary Dunbar observes, “for a generation was to serve as the ultimate geographical authority” and constituted “probably the greatest individual writing feat in the history of geography.” His work culminated in the thirty-five-hundred-page L’Homme et la Terre, a grand synthesis of his ideas concerning geography, history, philosophy, politics, sociology, religion, anthropology, and many other fields.

Reclus, perhaps more than any other 19th century social thinker, contributed to the development of a comprehensive ecological world view. His focus on our place in nature is expressed in the opening words of L’Homme et la Terre: "Humanity is Nature becoming self-conscious" Reclus can be seen as a founder of both social ecology and political ecology, inasmuch as he carefully traced the interconnections between the social, the political and the ecological, and he saw the solution to ecological problems as necessitating a wide-ranging, and indeed revolutionary political and economic transformation of society.

In addition, Reclus was a major social philosopher and one of the foremost theorists of anarchism. His analysis of the state, capitalism, technology, racism, patriarchy, authoritarian culture and the domination of nature constitutes perhaps the most far-ranging critique of domination in the history of anarchist thought. He was also an important figure in the development of urbanism, was one of the most original theorists of libertarian education, and made important contributions to ethical vegetarianism and the consideration of our treatment of other species.

Finally, Reclus lived an extraordinary life as a scientist, scholar, revolutionary and human being. He saw all his diverse activities as integral expressions of his commitment to the struggle for human freedom and of his concern for the good of humanity and other living beings. Biographers have described his life as an inspiring example of compassion, solidarity, egalitarianism, dedication, humility, intellectual curiosity, joy in living, and a deep love of humanity and nature.

Conference presentations, which should be in English, may address any area of the legacy of Reclus, the person, the revolutionary, the geographer, and the social and ecological philosopher. Requests for further information and proposals for presentations (which are due by May 31), should be sent, preferably by email, to:

John P. Clark
Department of Humanities
City College
Box 79
Loyola University New Orleans, LA 70118