In everyday speech, the meaning of the term nature may seem self-evident. Nature is the opposite of culture: the outdoors, the untamed, the wild, the timeless. It is what lies before and beyond society and civilization. Toddlers use the term in this way when they say that they “collect nature” when gathering sticks and leaves in the backyard or park. Yet as Raymond Williams says, “nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language” and any effort to fix or define its meaning is a fraught venture (1983, 219). This danger arises because definitions of nature are historically specific and culturally embedded in ideological systems. The nature of nature under Western modernity was (and remains) marked by violent and racializing processes of European colonialism and global capitalism, just as contestation over the nature of nature is central to efforts to dismantle that legacy today.

This essay may be found on page 178 of the printed volume.

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