One of the big themes that I took away from this book is the idea of "dissociation." Chellis talks about the similarities between dissociation and posOne of the big themes that I took away from this book is the idea of "dissociation." Chellis talks about the similarities between dissociation and post-traumatic stress (forging a link between personal healing and the healing of our relationship with the Earth). Dissociation involves a fragmenting of what Chellis calls the "primal matrix": the interconnectedness we inherently share (as worldly beings) with the natural world as well as the psychological wholeness that constitutes personal integrity (so, for example, a Cartesian mind/body split is an instance of a dissociated self; another example is a fragmented identity).
In the first part of her book, Chellis talks in detail about the psychological and social characteristics of nature-based people which nurture a self that is engaged with the primal matrix. She also describes the process of our historic dissociation from nature beginning with the advent of agriculture and moving up to our present, mass technological society.
People who have experienced trauma enter into a state of dissociation (which can be mended; Chellis describes her own ongoing process of weaving herself back into the primal matrix). But even people who have not experienced major psychological trauma are compelled to participate in our widely-dissociated and fractured society, and that also constitutes a state of oppression and denial. In our society, we are prevented from knowing, from a very early age, our true place and purpose, our real belonging, intertwined with the web of life.
In the latter section of the book, Chellis introduces some ideas for solving this dilemma. She notes that such a solution cannot take place on a merely individual psychological level; that it must involve interwoven restoration efforts on personal, social, and ecological scales.
I'm running out of time here, so in summary - I highly recommend this book. It's a seminal work of eco-psychology, well-researched, on point, intelligently and poignantly written....more
I read the Metamorphosis when I was 18 or 19. Liked it then, and I liked it this summer, too ... but not as much as In the Penal Colony! Wow! I've becI read the Metamorphosis when I was 18 or 19. Liked it then, and I liked it this summer, too ... but not as much as In the Penal Colony! Wow! I've become a pretty blase, detached person in a lot of ways. In the Penal Colony was a nice little recess from that mindset. I was 100% there.
Overall, however, 4 out of 5. 5 for In the Penal Colony (do I even have to say)....more
Some of the essays written for this book are *excellent.* Others are weaker, but none are not worth reading. The line that divides the excellent essaySome of the essays written for this book are *excellent.* Others are weaker, but none are not worth reading. The line that divides the excellent essays from the others often has to do with the salience and staying power of the topic (the first publication was approx. 1993, and so a few pieces will seem old hat). The tone of the book ranges, but for the most part it moves between personal reflections, academic writing (citations included), and activism.
If you think you don't have to read this book because you've seen/read The Vagina Monologues, give it another thought. If I had to summarize the difference: The Vagina Monologues are great for raising awareness and eliciting emotion, but Transforming a Rape Culture does all that AND substantially digs into the psychological, historical, and philosophical roots of sexual violence; moreover it presents alternative social/interpersonal schemas. The personal reflections are not written by your average joe/josie selected off the street (as in the Vagina Monologues); they are profound, insightful and interspersed with cultural examination, written by those who deal with these issues in some aspect of their professional lives. In other words, they're more like guides or maps than personal reflections.
Another thing I like about this book is that you can read it in bits at a time. The writing is meaningful, direct and transformative, so it's best to absorb it in bits. You can read an essay a day, like a meditation, without having to devote long periods of time to it. I dog-eared a number of pieces to revisit after finishing the whole book, which turned out to be a good idea.
A final note: some of the best essays in this book were written by men.
My favorite essays ( *** ~ capital-F Favorites):
***Religion and Violence: The Persistence of Ambivalence (Joan H. Timmerman) Outside In: A Man in the Movement (Richard S. Orton) ***The Lie of Entitlement (Terrence Crowley) ***Seduced By Violence No More (bell hooks) Radical Heterosexuality (Naomi Wolf) ******In Praise of Insubordination (Inés Hernandez-Avila) A Woman With a Sword (D.A. Clarke) ***Up From Brutality (W. J. Musa Moore-Foster) Whose Body Is It, Anyway? (Pamela R. Fletcher)...more
Favorites are Bernice Bobs Her Hair, The Ice Palace, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, The Captured Shadow, At Your Age, and Babylon Revisited. Not oneFavorites are Bernice Bobs Her Hair, The Ice Palace, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, The Captured Shadow, At Your Age, and Babylon Revisited. Not one of my very favorite books, but I would recommend it to anyone. ...more