CFP: [Postcolonial] special issue of New Formations on "new enclosures"

full name / name of organization: 
Ashley Dawson
contact email:

In his 1992 essay “Petrofiction,” novelist and critic Amitav Ghosh put his
finger on a surprising lacuna in the world of letters. There have,
according to Ghosh, been few fictional representations of the cultural
encounters and frictions catalyzed by that most central lubricant of the
global economy: oil. Perhaps the very centrality of this resource to the
global economy has guaranteed its mystification. This absence seems
particularly puzzling today, however, in a period of global competition for
increasingly scarce fossil fuels, precious minerals and ores, arable land,
staple grains, and even fresh water. Control over these strategic
resources fuels not just local conflicts but, as the Iraq war has
demonstrated, global geopolitical maneuvering. Looming literally above all
such clashes, of course, are the increasingly fractious disputes concerning
control of our most precious common resource: the earth’s atmosphere. With
leading scientists warning that we have passed the tipping point for global
warming, the only certainty in the looming climate chaos we face is
increasing disruption in and antagonism over supplies of the resources that
underpin global modernity.

If, as David Harvey has argued, “accumulation by dispossession” has become
the leading edge of imperialism during the neo-liberal era, to what extent
are new modes of governance being articulated to cement control over the
natural resources that are necessary to further rounds of accumulation?
How, indeed, are historically contested definitions of “nature” mutating in
an era that has witnessed galloping bio-piracy such as the patenting of
genes from indigenous plants and peoples? Further, how might we parse and,
ultimately, dismantle the lexicon and the institutions through which
accumulation by dispossession takes place using the critical tools
developed by cultural studies? This special issue of New Formations
intends to extend recent initiatives within cultural studies not simply to
paraphrase studies of uneven development and dispossession, but rather to
elaborate critical histories of the key institutions (e.g. the World Trade
Organization) and other modes of environmental and social regulation that
have shaped the neo-liberal era. The issue aims to sharpen understanding
of a geopolitical system rubbing up against unprecedented environmental
limits and shot through with increasingly unmanageable tensions.

Some questions that contributors might explore include the following: If
economic systems are always culturally (as well as materially, socially,
and physically) constituted, what are the specific rhetorics through which
dominant “development” institutions represent themselves to various global
publics during the neo-liberal era? To what extent do analyses of the
workings of green imperialism in previous historical periods remain
relevant today? Are we simply witnessing a repetition and intensification
of previous forms of dependency, or are there important analytical
distinctions to be made between contemporary enclosures and the forms of
“primitive accumulation” described by Marx and subsequent commentators?
Does Ghosh’s observation concerning the lack of representation of
resource-based conflicts still hold true (if it ever did), and why so?
What, finally, are the unfolding contradictions that bedevil contemporary
forms of expropriation, and what openings do such contradictions offer
groups struggling to reclaim the commons? Papers should be 6000-8000
words. Further information for potential contributors is available on the
journal website. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2008.
Please send your queries and submissions in Word format via email to Ashley
Dawson ( Submissions should adhere to all New
Formations formatting guidelines. All submissions will be peer reviewed.

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Received on Wed Jul 02 2008 - 09:06:14 EDT

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