NEMLA 2015 CFP: The Environmental Picaresque: Narrating 'Slow Violence' in the Global South (4/30-5/3, Toronto)
In Rob Nixon's work on "slow violence," he notes that the "environmental picaresque" is "uncannily effective" in illustrating the living conditions of persons displaced by agricultural enclosures, environmental catastrophes, and land expropriation and exploitation more broadly. Citing Indra Sinha's Animal's People (2007), Nixon argues for the picaresque genre as a means of narrating the experiences of persons whose daily lives are circumscribed by the exigencies of survival—persons like Sinha's protagonist, who is a survivor of the 1984 chemical explosion in Bhopal. Like old "Lazarillo," new picaros like Sinha's "Animal" do not enjoy the normative bildung so lauded in more popular narratives of globalization and "progress." Animal belongs, instead, to what Amitav Ghosh calls "the disinherited ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs." For Animal it is always "now-o-clock," because there is no discernible future for the victims of Union Carbide's corporate violence.
Sinha's is one of many novels that have appropriated the picaresque form to narrate environmental violence. Amitav Ghosh has likewise produced novels that similarly narrate the sorts of land expropriation and commercial cultivation that marked and continue to mark, in his case, the Bay of Bengal. His Hungry Tide (2006), Sea of Poppies (2008) and River of Smoke (2011) offer portraits of colonial enclosure that effectively produce the same conditions as their "postcolonial" correlates. And beyond the South Asian context, novels like Chris Abani's Graceland (2004) offer similar portraits of displacement, this time in Lagos. Abani's protagonist is himself a picaro, but it is oil and not poppy that looms on the horizon.
This panel will discuss the new picaros living in the global south—the "shadow people" displaced by ecological imperialism. I welcome papers that consider the picaresque genre specifically as well as work on environmental displacement and enclosure more broadly.
We welcome papers that consider the picaresque genre specifically as well as work on environmental displacement and enclosure more broadly. Please email abstracts of 250-300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 30 September, 2014.