Narratives of Nature and Culture: The Cultural Ecology of Elisabeth Mann Borgese
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Elisabeth Mann Borgese, born in Munich in 1918, the youngest daughter of German novelist, Thomas Mann, and Katia Pringsheim, made it her moral duty to consider the future of humanity. For her, the ocean, with its densely interconnected structures, acts as a natural model for paradigmatic changes to cultural systems. Arguably, this was only the beginning of a wide-ranging utopian plan envisioning a dynamic, equitable, and ecological world order comprised of a world government and functional ‘world communities’ based on the common heritage of mankind concept. The works and biography of Mann Borgese are viewed mostly through the lens of the international law of the sea and as another chapter of the Mann family history. As a result, the interconnections between her thematically diverse writings are often ignored. Using an interdisciplinary narrative approach, this thesis examines Mann Borgese’s nonfiction and fiction work as well as archival materials originating from the late 1950s to the early 2000s. More specifically, Mann Borgese’s work is situated here within the contexts of cultural ecology or Kulturökologie and is explained against the backdrop of politico-historical events. A broader understanding of narrative both as a concept and as a tool for interdisciplinary scholarship in the Anthropocene serves as methodological background. A close reading of Mann Borgese’s works first analyzes Mann Borgese’s ‘philosophy of continuity’, highlighting the interconnectedness between the individual, society, and nature based on evolutionary and complexity theories. Secondly, it reveals that Mann Borgese’s philosophy of continuity constitutes the link between her work, both fiction and nonfiction, which is articulated through leitmotifs, metaphors as well as intertextual and thematic interrelations. Thirdly, it showcases that Mann Borgese’s emphasis on continuity and cooperation between agents of nature and culture constitutes the basis of her extended understanding of humanism and the common heritage of mankind concept. Lastly, it illustrates the ideological setting of her cultural ecology in which society and its cultural subsystems of law, economy, science and education are organized in such ways to be able to deal with complex global problems ecologically and for the benefit of all humanity.