Enviromental Humanities

The Limits of Care: Vitality, Enchantment, and Emergent Environmental Ethics among the Mapuche People


Piergiorgio de Giminiani


Drawing on the experiences of caring in agriculture and forestry among Mapuche landholders of Chile, this article advances a definition of care as an act of relating intervening mutual articulations of vitality. Caring for nonhumans entails a reflexive awareness of the ontological and ethical limits of human care, limits made visible by the nonhumans’ potentials to respond to our actions and affect us. Reflections on the limits of care foster an attentiveness to the conditions responsible for nonhumans’ ability of enchantment, a term that in Bennett’s proposal concerns an awareness on the singularness and surprising character of life.


First, this article characterizes care as a human intentional action targeting dependent nonhumans, such as crops. Second, it illustrates the recalcitrance of some nonhumans to human care, as in the case of forests in Indigenous southern Chile. Third, it shows how care emerges from ethical aspirations and concerns, such as those at the core of Mapuche engagements with cultural reclamation and conservation.