Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

From Little Acorns Big Oaks Grow: Exploring the nature metaphor in anarchist discourse

From Little Acorns Big Oaks Grow: Exploring the nature metaphor in anarchist discourse

Jaroslava Maria Pallas

The metaphor of nature in the contemporary English language serves a number of purposes from marketing to political activism. This metaphor is a prominent and frequently used representation because of the close relationships that humans have to the natural world around them. In the past, this metaphor has been used to juxtapose nature and culture as well as to include culture as a part of the natural realm.   The overtone of the metaphorical meaning of nature has also changed over the years, from the negative representation of natural state as wild and untamed to the positive representation of nature as peaceful and healthy. One of the political ideologies that employed the use of the nature metaphor in the most profound way is anarchism. The metaphorical use of nature in the anarchist ideology has influenced many groups and movements today, from punk communes to organized resistance movements. Scholars including Santa Ana (1999), Clark (2004), and Verhagen (2009) have contemplated the meaning of nature metaphor in anarchist ideology. This paper examines the patterns associated with nature metaphor in contemporary anarchist discourse and explores the reasons and implications for the use of these metaphoric structures. Nature metaphor is a tool available to contemporary resistance movements to relate their ideological agenda into the mainstream. The importance of understanding the metaphorical structure of political discourse is critical, as the relationship that people form with nature can be indicative of the power relations in a society. The metaphor associated with human-nature relationship can be a useful tool for understanding the contemporary anarchist ethos and the contribution of this ideology to contemporary political movements.

Keywords: anarchist discourse, nature metaphor, anarchist community, political discourse, anarchist anthropology, punk anthropology


April 6, 2015 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I can’t help but feel a little giddy when “anarchy” or “punk” is the subject of conversation. I gives me a sense that things don’t have to stagnate and the hope for positive change is real. While reading through the abstract, my train of thought went to how throughout history Homo sapiens have mastered their environment in such a way that we don’t adapt to it as much as it will made to suit us. The anarchist or punk would turn away from that to be at peace with their environment exemplifying the possibility. Anarchism is going back to nature as opposed to keeping up with mainstream society which seems to destroy the natural setting that gets in the way of progress. This sounds like a very intriguing piece of punk anthropology!

    Comment by Sarah Beste | April 16, 2015 | Reply

  2. I’m particularly interested in the way you talk about shifts in the portrayals of nature vs. culture. Regardless of whether nature is presented as wild and opposed human cultural civility, or if it is depicted as “tamed” by man through agriculture and pastoral activities, in each case nature and culture are positioned as binaries of the other. You abstract causes the reader to question how DIFFERENT understandings of nature are employed to variable ends at different times, not only within anarchist discourse, but at large and within mainstream culture.

    Comment by Kathryn Nowinski | April 21, 2015 | Reply

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