full name / name of organization:
Sustainability and the Literary Imagination:
Transdisciplinary and Intercultural Perspectives
November 18th, 2006
Department of English
National Taipei University of Technology, Taipei, Taiwan
Call for papers
Since being put into circulation in the famous Brundtland report of
1987, the term â€œsustainabilityâ€œ has come to play an indispensable part
in the global debate on environmental issues. Its ascendancy has closely
paralleled the emergence of ecological modernization as a dominant
paradigm at the beginning of the 21st century. There is now hardly a
international organization that does not at least pay lip-service to the
imperatives of sustainability, and an extensive and diverse literature
on the topic has emerged in the fields of economics, social and
political science, environmental studies, and engineering.
Yet until now, the growing number of literary scholars concerned with
environmental issues has failed to engage in a rigorous interrogation of
the concept of sustainability. It is not only ecocriticism that stands
to benefit from such an enterprise: after almost two decades of debate,
it has become clear that even if it were possible to define
sustainability in a universalist and strictly scientific manner, its
implementation immediately opens up ethical and aesthetic questions
which traditionally belong in the domain of the humanities (e.g. the
definition of human needs, the relationship of the individual to the
community of which it forms a part, the place of human history within
the wider world) - questions that in turn can no longer be answered
without taking into account technological innovation and developments in
the natural sciences. Situated at the crossroads of a wide range of
discourses, seeking to square off the technically possible with the
ethically desirable and the economically expedient, and staking a claim
to permanence in a terrain that in all its dimensions (natural,
cultural, and technological) seems to be marked by inexorable change,
the language of sustainability presents a conundrum that needs to be
addressed from a variety of perspectives in order to work towards a
genuinely transdisciplinary and intercultural understanding.
Greg Garrard (Bath Spa University, UK)
Ursula Heise (Stanford University, USA)
For this conference, we welcome contributions from all disciplines that
address questions such as the following:
How may literature help us to imagine sustainability? What kinds of
narratives and tropes form the rhetorical underpinnings of the concept?
Where can we locate the historical roots of the concept, how have the
terms of the debate shifted, and what is to be learned from these shifts?
In what ways is the concept of sustainability rooted in occidental
traditions, and how would it need to be (re-)formulated in order to
resonate in other cultural environments?
How can ecocritical theory contribute to a viable concept of
sustainability, and vice versa?
How do notions such as risk, probability, and uncertainty bear on the
concept of sustainability? How can literary texts help us understand how
communities recognize or repress environmental risks?
Do the imperative for intergenerational justice and the privileging of
permanence implied in the concept of sustainability entail or reflect a
reconfiguration of our idea of history?
How can notions such as â€œbio-powerâ€ (Foucault) and â€œbare lifeâ€ (Agamben)
be used to elucidate and/or critique the concept of sustainability?
How is the concept of sustainability linked to traditions of utopian
What is the relation between the different types of knowledge offered by
literature and the arts on the one, and the natural sciences on the
other hand, and what is their respective role in defining and
How do cultural factors enter into the administrative implementation of
sustainability, e.g. into indices and procedures for deliberation and
Please send 250-300 word abstracts by email to:
Deadline: August 31st, 2006
Please include in your abstract: Name and affiliation, email address,
postal address, telephone number
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or write Jennifer Higginbotham: higginbj_at_english.upenn.edu
Received on Tue Jul 18 2006 - 17:41:05 EDT