Naming, Mourning, and the Work of Earthly Coexistence

Joshua Trey Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Setting out from Jacques Derrida’s assertion that every act of naming is “a foreshadowing of mourning” ([2008. The animal that therefore I am. (M.-L. Mallet, Ed., D. Wills, Trans.). New York, NY: Fordham University Press], p. 20), this paper argues that the work of earthly coexistence is underwritten by the intertwined practices of naming and mourning. The paper demonstrates that names provide access to and shape our perceptions of earthly entities; that the act of naming prepares us for the work of mourning; that the proper names given to endlings provide poignant points of access to species on the edge of extinction; that species names disclose species as such and, thus, enable us to grieve not just particular living organisms but entire ways of life; and that the name given to the current geological epoch, the “anthropocene,” simultaneously reflects and engenders a mode of awareness which enables us to relinquish those ways of being human that no longer seem sustainable and carry forth those that promise to enrich earthly coexistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-299
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Naming
  • anthropocene
  • coexistence
  • ethics
  • extinction
  • mourning


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