UPDATE: Postcolonial Environmental Criticism: Towards a Transnational Turn in Environment

full name / name of organization: 
The 2013 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) Biennial Conference

Ecocriticism has been a flourishing field of inquiry for the past three decades. However, literary critics have only recently begun to explore literature and the environment from postcolonial perspectives. In an attempt to theorize postcolonial environmental criticism, this panel examines the intersections of postcolonialism and environmentalism in the context of contemporary globalization. With the intensification of globalization in the 1990s, there has been an explosion of local environmental movements in the global south protesting neoliberal agendas, such as development, modernity, and progress, often collaboratively implemented by national governments and international finance. These local struggles have arisen out of specific socio-historical circumstances and differ vastly from each other. Nevertheless, they share some common concerns: environmental destruction, grassroots democracy, sustainable development, human rights, local land rights, cultural identity, and global social and environmental justice. While postcolonial theory has always trenchantly critiqued Western modernity or capitalist forms of exploitation, development, the environment, and the commons are its less prioritized terrains. Hence, this panel aims to explore the cross-over of these categories within the broader intersectional framework of postcolonialism and environmentalism.
One of the central tasks of this panel will be to historicize and radicalize the discourse of the common/commons as a form of what the French termed "mentalité" – literally 'a widely shared attitude/worldview' or ecology of attitude and sensibility – during the early modern quarrel of moderns against the ancients. The idea of commons has experienced a powerful revival in the last decade. It remains the central figure that unifies all the works produced jointly by Michael Hardt and Toni Negri starting with Empire (2000). Similarly, digital and creative commons have remained the rallying cry of scholars and activists working in the area of Internet governance and open software movement directed against efforts to privatize the Internet. More importantly, this concept has managed to draw scholarly attention of a large number of academics from across the disciplines, e.g. David Harvey (geography), Peter Linebaugh (history), James Boyle (law), Elinor Ostrom (economics/ political science), John Frow (literary and cultural studies) and countless others. Despite this multi-disciplinary surge in attention, the idea of the commons remains deeply contradictory and fiercely contested. In keeping with some of these recent discourses, this panel will explore a more radical ('root') approach to the notion of common/ commons and conjoin it with discourses of modernity, development, and the environment. Some of these ideas, for example, will be contextualized within the discourse of climate change set in motion in the last few years by humanities scholars from across the disciplines, including historian Dipesh Chakrabarty ("The Climate of History"), philosophers Arran Gare, Bernard Stiegler, and Catherine Malabou, literary scholars Tom Cohen, J. Hillis Miller, Robert Markley, Timothy Clark, and Claire Colebrook.

This proposed panel at the tenth Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) Biennial Conference invites the papers that explore the relationship between development, modernity, the commons, and the environment from postcolonial eco-/environmental perspectives.

Please send us an abstract or a proposal of 300-400 words (in word doc or rich text format) for your proposed paper to be presented at the tenth ASLE conference by November 12, 2012 via email to apokhrel@ufl.edu (Arun K. Pokhrel) or poudel.a@husky.neu.edu (Arjun Poudel). All proposals should include the title of the paper, author's name, email address, and author's institutional affiliation.