Insect affects the big and small of the entomological imagination in childhood

Stephen Loo, Undine Sellbach*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on a scene in J.M.G. Le Clézio's novel Terra Amata, which tells the story of the instincts of a small boy, the minute sensoria of some bugs and a cosmic catastrophe, this essay demonstrates the ambivalence around insects in animal studies, their contingent location in psychoanalysis and the conundrums they place in ethical philosophy. By reading Le Clézio's tale through Uexküll, Freud, Dodds and Stengers we argue for more nuanced, imbricated and critical connections between ethology, psychoanalysis and ethics these connections become imperatives in the face of the current environmental crisis, where we urgently need to attend to co-affecting relations that are too distant or proximate, tiny or vast to register as familiar sentient states or ethical feelings. In the process we demonstrate the performative dimensions of what we call the entomological imagination-present in the strange proximity of child and bugs, the powerful unthinking god, the indifference of the insects to human commands, and the innitesimal catastrophe in Le Clézio's story-that facilitates an epistemic fluidity required for a contemporary understanding of ecologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
JournalAngelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • insects


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