Pollution as a Paradigm: Property, Dignity, and Absorption in Poth and Tezuka
Pollution, this article suggests, challenges the fundamental structural premises of contemporary state institutions such as the law. These institutions are based on the premise of human exceptionalism via the construction of a human-nature divide. This divide only allows one point of connection between human and nature: the human ability to absorb nature as property. Such metaphorical understandings of absorption become a problem as soon as the physical human body is faced with a situation in which we constantly absorb pollution (e.g. nitrogen oxides, microplastic, ionizing radiation, but also other life forms such as airborne viruses). As a result, contemporary institutions are ill-equipped to deal with pollution as a central element of the contemporary human condition.
This article suggests that comics are a model for rethinking these categorical issues productively and sustainably. By using visual elements, comics have already been able to reframe and recontextualize categorical premises such as the human-nature divide that otherwise tend to be reproduced in critical theory and the law. To make this point for the potential of a new categorical language that centrally draws on visual elements in text, the article uses two central examples from Japan and Germany: Osamu Tezuka's story "Space Snow Leopard" from the Astro Boy series, and Chlodwig Poth's short comic "Jörg the Limelight Hog."