Yesterday, I acted in my first scene for the short film we are creating for our final field notes assignment. In order to play my part I have to wear a certain amount of makeup to transform myself into a human-tree hybrid. This makeup included a combination of paint, vines and bark. The practice of wearing makeup in itself is considered harmless by most people, especially if it aids actors in presenting characters for shows and movies. I agreed with this notion until I started to remove my costume. The paint left my skin slightly stained, the vines and bark left a slight rash, and tiny particles of wood covered most of my body and clothing until it was washed away. These after effects got me thinking about my daily interactions with the non-human elements of the world. Over the course of a lifetime most people will have experienced having a splinter or sneezed because they breathed in dust, but nobody acknowledges that these seemingly normal interactions with the environment impact our bodies.
This idea exists because the popular ideology is to ignore that, “there is a viscous porosity of flesh – my flesh and the flesh of the world” (Tuana). The relationship between people and their environment results in the changing of both entities due to their interactions. When a person breaths in dust, which is a culmination of various “natural” elements, the composition of their lungs shifts ever so slightly to be less human, after many years of this process who is to say whether those lungs are more human or dust. This idea of a bodily shift challenges the traditional binary separating nature and culture, “But the bodies of plastics industries workers – indeed, my body, your body – are [emblematic] of a divide that is richly porous, and one that we ignore at our own peril” (Tuana). While, the dust example is relatively benign other interactions are more dangerous, such as the one referenced by Tuana who explains the bodily harm caused from workers in the plastic industry absorbing toxins in factories.
My experience with the makeup, specifically the paint, made me think about how some parents tell their kids not to write on themselves because they can get ink poisoning, but they rarely forbid their children from swimming in chlorine pools for fear of the the water’s impact on the child’s body, and even less often do they forbid the children from going into the pool because of the impact they would have on the water. It is weird for a young child to eat dirt on the playground, but perfectly okay for adults to breath in dirt while gardening, but they have the same results. There is no way to avoid interactions with our environment, but we should be more informed about the impact of this relationship. I believe this is an important topic for discussion because increased awareness of viscous porosity, not only eliminates a relative danger for humans, but may also lead to a spike in appreciation for our environment.
Following, the ideas I have expressed regarding modern culture’s division of natural and human impacts our social constructs significantly. For example, if we were to acknowledge that humans are not entirely human we are forced to surrender our belief that we are superior to nature because we exist separate of it. Furthermore, by acknowledging vicious porosity we admit the power nature has over our lives, physically and socially. This is best exemplified by Tuana’s descriptions of New Orleans and the Hurricane Katrina victims. This is evidenced when she says that the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina solidified the existence of global warming, which subsequently advocated for a cultural shift to green energy and elimination of green house gases. In essence Tuana’s depictions of the world speak to the belief that, “The viscous porosity of bodies belies any effort to identify a ‘natural’ divide between nature/culture” (Tuana). This means that the aforementioned relationships between human and non-human entities exemplifies how each type of body is incorporated within the other. Humans change and shape nature, while nature changes and shapes humans.
– Jamie Eiseman
Tuana, Nancy, Stacy Alaimo, and Susan Hekman. “Witnessing Katrina.” N.p.: Indiana UP, 2008. 188-213. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.