Hybrid Hierophanies: Where Rastafari Meets Religious Ecology in Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion

Author:Karen McCarthy Woolf Time:2019-07-09 Click:

Ecocriticism is a comparatively new and vital discipline that responds to the literatures of an increasingly urgent environmental crisis. Yet, while its remit within materialist and secular thought is diversifying to include postcolonial, cultural, and queer theories, alongside geography and other earth sciences, there is less conversation with complementary and syncretic disciplines such as ecotheology and religious ecology. This paper seeks to diversify the secular as a singular epistemological paradigm. It suggests the “sacred hybrid” as a transdisciplinary framework through which to read, critique, and write contemporary ecological poetry that connects to emotional and spiritual procedures and content as well as intellectually-driven aesthetics. Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion demonstrates the critical amplifications that the sacred hybrid can elicit. It suggests a sacred yet asymmetric “center,” with the capacity to incorporate diverse notions of Otherness. These expressions include spiritual modalities constructed via strategies of juxtaposition, shamanic chant, and interbiotic utterance that correspond to pre-Christian and syncretic indigenous religiosity. This reading uncovers how the poems resituate the terms and conditions under which cultural epistemologies are formed. In this instance, Rastafarian “reasoning” as a literary tactic maps onto third and fourth wave ecocriticism in its reconstitution of national, gender-based, and social identities. Viewed through a decolonized lens, and by extension a conduit for spiritual and political merger and coherence, poetry’s potential as an agent of societal healing and knowledge production may be revealed.

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