“Invasive Species, Postcolonial and Critical Global Theory” (12/20/09 due) Crossroads in Cultural Studies (June 17-21, 2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Chingling Wo/Sonoma State University, U.S. and Tsung-yi Huang/National Taiwan University, Taiwan
contact email: 

We are organizing a panel entitled “Invasive Species, Postcolonial and Critical Global Theory” for the Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference (June 17-21, 2010) in Hong Kong. Please submit your paper proposal (500 words) by Dec 20th, 2009 to wochingling@hotmail.com

How do we understand the intersection of the environmentalist discourse on invasive species, post-colonial theorization of hybridity, and the tension between localization and global flow? This call-for-paper invites scholars working in environmental studies, critical global studies, post-colonialism, science studies, geography, and other relevant fields to generate critical analysis and develop a cultural studies project on invasive species such as apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata).

Apple snails (“Fu Shou Luo” as its Chinese name) originated from the Amazon. Since the 1980s, it has become invasive to many East Asian water systems (Japan, Vietnam, Philippine, Taiwan, mainland China, Indonesia, and Thailand). Since 2006, following a case of Beijing Fu Shou Luo food poisoning, many fisheries released apple snails (Fu Shou Luo) to native water ways. Thus, many rice irrigation systems in China have been infested with apple snails. While a new wave of apple snail infestation of local waterways begins, many websites are still listing apple snails for sales. This sober story generates its tragic-ness in its continual repetition in different parts of the world. It makes an interdisciplinary project aiming at spreading the words on Fu Shou Luo as one of the world’s 100 most invasive species an urgent one.

In its wake, this silent crisis calls attention to the danger of disciplinary expert knowledge’s uneven distribution as well as the ineffectiveness of existing popular frameworks on the issue. Popular narratives on environmental crises are often top-down and moralistic. They also do not produce desirable effects. A cultural studies project on apple snails would explore the intersection between stories people tell about apple snails, knowledge production, agriculture policies, and critical theory.

The project hopes to serve interdisciplinary dialogues and pave the way to actual policy changes. The project calls for using postcolonial and critical global theory to examine the issue; it will also re-examine these theories in light of the apple snail’s life; while other approaches will be thoroughly considered and encouraged. With the increasingly severe apple snail infestations in China, we strongly encourage scholars from China to submit a proposal. Scientists who specialize in apple snails and would like to have dialogue with scholars from other disciplines are also encouraged to participate. Other interested members of the scholarly community are very welcome as well.

Possible topics or directions (any innovative approaches are welcome)–
1. 18th century to pre-1980s account of apple snails: this would help us understand knowledge distribution in a long and uneven global history. (When connected to cultural geography, the slow but alarming history of apple snails’ colonization shows that geography and taxonomy are far from universal, stable, and objective. While apple snails might be known to be environmentally damaging in one area, various language, knowledge, and economic barriers might prevent people from bridging the gap.)
2. 1980s: what contributes to the spread of apple snails in Asia?
Narratives produced on how the Apple snail became a local pest. The similarity of the narratives in different regions; how the narratives prevent more aggressive preventive measures; and what new narratives we need to tell about invasive species to garner a greater effect?
3. The dissemination of eco knowledge; first world scholarship and third world farmers; to what extent the uneven distribution of knowledge/power limits the effectiveness of environmental measures. How do we move forward from there?
4. When economic opportunities enable apple snails to flow, the loss of economic values free the snails to a different life cycle. How does this help us understand the life-history of objects beyond capital flow? The widely studied apple snails provide a body of rich and well-documented literature for such questions (intersection between science studies and globalization theory).
5. Thinking globally without endorsing wholesale global capital flow: transnational studies on the life history of apple snails in different areas would be extremely beneficial; similarly, efforts to document and understand irrigation systems and river systems systematically would help highlight the fact that individual, isolated organic farming would only yield very limited results, as pest control measures often need systematic efforts. How to envision ways of thinking about water and the rivers holistically as a system? Does systematic understanding necessarily lead to an effective governance/management mentality? To what extent does centralized government efforts help in coping with this and similar crises? Are there ways to promote coordinated efforts and shared consciousness with or without centralized efforts? (These questions may indirectly help us think about ways to think ecologically without a totalizing control mentality).

Paper proposals on these concrete aspects are also welcome:
1. research on government actions (central and local) to understand government measures.
2. oral history on the ways farmers around the world cope with the snails; their observation of the snails’ life cycle as well as their experience of the government’s policies
3. systematic connections: conduct research on the rivers and irrigation as a system. Examine existing scientific studies on the connections between fish ponds, farmlands, rivers, urban plumbing system and other water bodies. Analyzing the stories told about apple snails’ naturalization may yield knowledge about how systematic connections have been conceptualized in existing narratives and help develop new ways of understanding and theorizing the connection.
4. history of apple snails activism: studies of campaigns on apple snails and related ecological awareness raising projects.

With this call for interdisciplinary work, we hope to develop innovative ways to estimate economic and cultural costs, ways to help manage an ecological crisis, ways to articulate history of living together with alien species, and ways to understand naturalization and “cross-cultural” interactions (between people and people, and between people and other living beings).

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