This Ain't Mere Eco-Nationalism: Undervalued Cultural Roots of the Lithuanian Green Movement

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
A nation state embodies the political order of the modernity in contrast to contemporary Green movements foreshadowing its end (Hurrel, 1994; Lash et al, 1996). Consequently, nationalism and environmentalism are considered to be hardly compatible companions (Hamilton, 2002). Therefore a puzzle of the Greens, found at the vanguard of independence movements of Central and Eastern Europe in late 1980s, is often resolved with a simplistic disavowal of their “green” identity. In words of American scholar Jane I. Dawson, here Green movements were no more than a manifestation of eco-nationalism, a mere surrogate for a hidden nationalist strife (Dawson, 1996, 2000). The paper aims to challenge the eco-nationalist thesis, a reductive and homogenizing reading of eco-mobilization of 1980s in the region, bringing to the fore a deeper empirical look into complex and diverse cultural origins of pioneer organisations of the Green Movement (Lietuvos Zalieji) in Lithuania. Archival analysis and in-depth interviews with surviving fathers and active members of the Movement reveal tangible distinctions in the collective identities (Melucci, 1995) of three earliest voluntary environmental associations, Zemyna, Aukuras and Atgaja, in Lithuania. The identity work and differences among the early Greens are poorly explained by eco-nationalist argument, however, their mutual tensions are well represented by the classical distinction between anthropocentric and ecocentric wordviews (Næss, 1973; Eckersley, 1992), embedded in peculiar local cultural meanings of ‘nature’ and conflicting logics of soviet environmental modernization, (neo)traditionalist apotheosis of indigenous ‘ethnoscape’ (Smith, 1999) and lively postmodernist celebration of the ecology of countercultural lifeworlds. These findings urge for a more rigorous and subtle approach to the play of cultural fields and cultural notions of ‘nature’ in environmental/ ecology movements not only in Europe but also worldwide, including Asia (Thomas, 2002).