Tara Lynne Clapp, Iowa State University
Literature is not only equipment for living, but equipment for social organization. In this paper, I propose the construct of a ‘social identity’ to name a grammatical interpretation of the world that is used rhetorically in social organization, identification and division. The worldview of the ‘citizen’ in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
is an identity for organizing against contamination, came to life through the media, and has been activated in the environmental justice movement. First published in 1962, Silent Spring
was an attack on the large scale use of pesticides and herbicides without regard for ecological consequences. The war on insects is a war against our own bodies. Through an innovative ecological application of the pastoral, Silent Spring
created ambiguity in the boundary between the ecological scene and the (scene)-agent of the housewife. This ambiguity of substance provides resources for identification between the ecological scene and our ecologically scenic selves. The social identity of Silent Spring
was taken up almost immediately in the immediate fight against DDT. Since then, the basic grammar of Silent Spring
has been taken up in several characteristic types of environmental activism. I argue that a Citizen Housewife social identity – innovative in its ecological identification – can be traced from Silent Spring through to its uses in local environmental justice organizing.