Chapter 5 considers the relationship of adaptation to the first stage of theorization: definition, showing that, how, and why adaptation resists definition. Definition aims to fix; by contrast, defined as changed and changing to suit new environments, adaptation refuses to be fixed. Even so, adaptation and definition have things in common: both establish themselves via navigating similarities and differences between entities and by assessing relations of entities to their contexts. Like adaptation, theorization resists its own first stage, refusing to be defined, as scholars disagree about its definition. The task of redressing “the problem of theorizing adaptation” at the level of definition, then, is not one of agreeing on a theoretical definition of adaptation: rather, it is a task of redefining what theorization is and does in the humanities and redefining its relationship to adaptation. If adaptation studies is to be a field, not simply a sub-category of many fields, it cannot be defined solely by definitions of other things patched together from other fields: it needs to be defined first and foremost as adaptation. The chapter concludes with some proposals for how to begin this process of redefining theorization and adaptation in relation to each other.
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