ASLE Panel: Health and Environment

deadline for submissions: 
November 10, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Ben Murphy / UNC-Chapel Hill
contact email: 

Seeking presenters for a panel proposal for the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) Biennial Conference in Detroit, MI, June 20-24, 2017

Health & Environment

In a 2012 article in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (part of the 19.3 special issue on “material ecocriticism”), Greg Garrard proposed adding the term “health” to the list of tropes analyzed in his Ecocriticism (2012). Taking its cue from Garrard’s helpful and provocative consideration of health, life writing, and queer ecology, this panel will consider ecocriticism and the environmental humanities in light of “health” and its negative obverse (whether defined in terms of illness, sickness, pathology, or death).

At issue will be the productive reflexivity characteristic of much new materialist work: how do concepts of “health” structure our relations to material environments, and how are “we” actually constituted—healthy or otherwise—by these same trans-corporeal environments?

In choosing “health” as the angle of approach, this panel will hope to draw on a wide range of approaches benefitting from—but not limited to—the history and philosophy of medicine, disability studies, medical humanities, critical race theory, feminist science studies, queer theory, and the philosophy of science.

Possible topics might include—but are of course not contained to—the following:

-How does the paired idea of “health & environment” change with respect to different periods, places, and contexts? 

-How does “health” operate as a normative “master metaphor” (Garrard)? What are environmental stakes and possibilities—positive or otherwise—of being Against Health (to name Jonathan Metzl’s 2010 edited essay collection)?

-How can the environmental humanities and ecocriticsm attend to matter and materiality without constraining focus to (abled/white/male/straight/healthy) bodies?

-How do different discourses of medicine—such as pharmaceutical biomedicine and alternative holistic healing—differentially map health onto bodies and ecosystems?

-What texts—fictional or otherwise—help us understand how “health” conditions our environmental imaginary?

-How might the idea of “health” (whether personal or ecological) limit, challenge, or enable commitments to environmental justice and risk?

-How has “toxic discourse” changed (or mutated) in light of the “slow violence” of the Anthropocene?

-How might ecocriticism address national debates about healthcare?   

-What does “healthy” scholarship in the humanities and ecocriticism look like?

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with a brief bio, to by November 10, 2016. Paper presentations should be a maximum of 15 minutes long.