Humans have lived in intimate relationship with so-called “Wild” landscapes since time immemorial. But our current notion of Wilderness is a fabrication, an ongoing colonial project of cleansing under a racialized veil of purity.[1] It relies on a myth of nature without people, consecrating the human-nature binary. The separation of nature and culture is a feature of the “one-world world,” the Eurocentric vision that there is only one reality, which can be understood through the modern Western sciences.[2] The one-world world “present[s] itself as exclusive and cancels the possibilities for what lies beyond its limits.”[3] It inscribes its ideas of who should be in the Wild, and what they should be doing there, on the landscape itself.

The production of Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’s Girls at the Yale Repertory Theatre this fall evoked a lush jungle. Plants in every shade of green glowed onstage, enshrouded in mist. Insects hummed in the back-ground. In this Edenic, mystical forest, Deon, the Dionysius character in this riff on Euripides’s The Bacchae, sets up a sound system. Soon, the jungle transforms into “The Clurb.” Self-identified “girls” flock to the forest to air their grievances against society and let loose. To the white, male law enforcement in town, these black, brown and queer bodies dancing in the forest are deviant and untamed, a threat to be controlled with violence. These people aren’t supposed to be in this park, acting like this in the woods. Challenging a rigid, singular ideal, Girls teaches us to consider another kind of Wilderness, messy and impure, composed of a plurality of voices, relationships, and realities.

For this issue of Paprika!, we invited contributors to enter into a radical rethinking of Wilderness. We received a diverse cast of submissions—some from architects, some from scholars in other fields—all searching for cracks in the artifice of the human-nature binary. Many of these contributions, themselves acts of optimism, experiment with ways to “relinquish our hold on the one-world world” and “embrace pluriversality.”[4] With regards to the Western notion of “Wilderness,” the point is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, because, in fact, there is no baby to be found.[5] Instead, our contributors commune with archival mold, reframe the layers of the Camargue, orienteer the contradictions of the Guadalupe Mountains, reject Mars, reimagine land sharing, and encounter living rocks. In sum, they embrace multiple realities, co-existing and intersecting across space and time.

As a practice, this type of work opens us up to new modes of thinking about our role here on Earth. By engaging alternate methods of seeing and understanding the world around us as neither natural and wild, nor fabricated and controlled, we hope this issue serves as an entry point into the larger collective and ongoing work of reimagining our planetary relationships and opening spaces for abundant futures.[6]

[1] Kosek, Jake. 2006. “Racial Degradation and Environmental Anxieties.” 142-182. in Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
[2] Law, John. 2015. “What’s Wrong with a One-World World?” Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory 16(1): 126–39.
[3] Cadena, Marisol de la, and Mario Blaser, eds. 2018.
A World of Many Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.
[4] At this month’s International Society of Tropical Foresters conference, Juanita Sundberg challenged the audience to “relinquish our hold on one-world world, which gives us so much authority, and embrace pluriversality, an openness to other ways of being and worlding.”
[5] See Sandra Harding’s introduction to Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?: Thinking from Women’s Lives where she calls for the creation of diverse New Sciences rather than a complete overhaul of a monolithic science. See also our weekly cartoon.
[6] Collard, Rosemary-Claire, Jessica Dempsey, and Juanita Sundberg. 2015. “A Manifesto for Abundant Futures.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105(2): 322–30.

Comic by Paul Meuser, M.Arch I, 2022