Throughout the semester, our readings and in-class discussions have introduced us to “weird nature” — “freakish” or “uncanny” people, places, animals, vegetables, minerals, practices, and events that exist on the peripheries, defy borders, and confound anticipations of where and how they belong. We have discovered how accepted relational dynamics, taken-for-granted taxonomies, and notions of normality are actually quite unnatural, yet pervade our social, political, and cultural discourse with often life-and-death consequences for those/that which challenge conformity to the current model.
This course has sought to cultivate our attentiveness to that which is considered “weird nature,” deepen our understanding of the ideologies, relationalities, and actions that create such categorization, critique these modes of being, and present alternative ways of inhabiting the world with others. Potentially productive tensions have emerged as a result, when we’ve inquired: What do we mean, what do we imagine when we use the word “nature?” What are the assumptions we have when we claim that something is “natural?” How do our notions of “nature” and “natural” inform our sense of what is worth attention, ethical consideration, inclusion, and exclusion? And, what happens when “extremophile” forms of life evade categorical distinctions? How do we, and should we, respond to such porous boundaries?
So, naturally, the end of the semester is a time to contemplate and reflect, to look back on what we’ve studied and look forward, considering how the content of the course might impact our future relationships with species, bodies, environments, disciplines, and politics. This final field notes assignment is designed to assist in this process of reflection by giving us an opportunity to gauge how our ability to identify, explore, and explain strangeness has developed over the course of the semester.