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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 41-51

Nature Interrupted: Affect and Ecology in the Wake of Volcanic Eruption in Japan

Japanese Studies Program, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, USA

Correspondence Address:
Eric J Cunningham
Japanese Studies Program, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_16_50

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On September 27, 2014 Ontake-san, a volcano in the highlands of central Japan, unexpectedly erupted sending a plume of ash and rock miles into the atmosphere. Lodge and shrine structures were heavily damaged and more than 60 climbers lost their lives as a pyroclastic flow engulfed the mountain's summit. Humans have long dwelled on and around Ontake-san, maintaining their livelihoods through farming, gathering, and hunting. The mountain has also been the focus of religious devotion and spiritual training for hundreds of years, and spiritual practitioners still visit the mountain regularly. However, in the modern era, Ontake-san and its surrounding environment has also been a site of resource development and exploitation, including industrial forestry, dam building, and tourist recreation. Thus, the mountain occupies, and its eruption occurred within, a landscape of contested meanings and values embodied by various entities and materially inscribed through their actions and interactions. In this article I employ an affective ecology framework to consider Ontake-san's eruption as an interruptive 'destabilizing moment' within which new trajectories and life projects may emerge. I argue that the affective qualities of local life projects present challenges to dominant modes of conservation, resource development, and capital accumulation.

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