A sense of no-place: Avatar and the pitfalls of ecocentric identification

Hannes Bergthaller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


That the roots of ecological crisis lie in the alienation of modern people from nature is a recurrent theme of environmentalist thought. The related principles of ecocentric identification and sense of place are frequently advanced as providing a remedy for this problem, as well as a conceptual foundation for both Deep Ecology and environmental justice. This paper argues that James Cameron's Avatar can be understood as a dramatisation and implicit critique of these ideas. The film's imaginary Na'avi are an indigenous people whose claim to their land rests on ecocentric identification. 3D cinematography is employed to visualise the state of sensory immersion which catalyses the process of ecocentric identification, yet these techniques also produce a sense of aesthetic dislocation in the viewer. In this manner, Avatar brings to the fore a paradox that has always been implicit in narratives of ecocentric identification: in claiming to heal the split between subject and environment, they presuppose and inadvertently reproduce that split. Avatar thus highlights the need for an environmental politics that dispenses with the notion of alienation and traditional conceptions of place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of English Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Aug 16
Externally publishedYes


  • deep ecology
  • ecocentrism
  • environmental justice
  • sense of place
  • virtuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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