Media Systems and the Circulation of 20th and 21st Century Ecological Thought

deadline for submissions: 
December 3, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Twelfth ASLE Biennial Conference: Rust/Resistance: Works of Recovery
contact email: 


CFP: Media Systems and the Circulation of 20th and 21st Century Ecological Thought

Twelfth ASLE Biennial Conference: Rust/Resistance: Works of Recovery

June 20-24, 2017

Wayne State University, Detroit MI


In his exploration of the close-knit link between scientific and religious thought, Jacques Derrida puts the relationship between ecology and media technology front and center. Explaining how science and religion compete for epistemological footholds through the utilization of media technologies, Derrida sees ecological thinking responding to the threat of the “tele-technoscientific” media apparatus in two ways: rejecting it in order to prevent the inevitable desecration of ecology’s holistic philosophy through the slipperiness of interpretation and appropriation, and embracing the media machine in order to “autoimmunize” itself against irrelevancy, using mechanically reproduced image and word to spread its message despite the risk of dissolution (“Faith and Knowledge” 92). On the one hand, “a certain vague ecologist spirit can participate” in a religion that “domesticates” the apparatus as a means of inoculating its threat (92). On the other hand, ecology, either alone or alongside other threatened religiosities, rejects the machine in “a protest that is universal, cosmopolitan or ecumenical: ‘Ecologists, humanists, believers of all countries, unite in an International of anti-teletechnologism!’” (92). How can ecological thought, competing like so many other ways of knowing for the attention—and belief—of the populace, maintain its theoretical integrity while also finding its broadest outreach?

This panel probes this question further, calling for an interdisciplinary set of papers that think through the circulation and propagation of ecological thinking through a variety of new and old media, including literature, photography, film, music, visual art, radio, television, and social media. In keeping with the conference theme, “rust,” which addresses issues of industrialization and decay, the panel focuses on how new and old media systems compete for prominence in the distribution of ecological thinking: how might shifts in technological innovations—and the subsequent decay of other media platforms—offer waxing or waning venues for ecological thought?

Some questions to consider include:

  • How do we understand the shifting definition of ecology as it operates as a metaphor for media systems? Does/how does our contemporary media climate alter the usefulness of the term “media ecology”? Is this term itself a rusty concept, in need of refurbishment?
  • Do/how do media systems affect particular shifts in 20th and/or 21st century ecological thinking? For example, what role do media play in promoting the development of ecological science as a unique discipline, or the establishment of second-wave and third-wave environmentalism?
  • How might media encourage the adoption of the term, “ecology,” by various environmental and political movements, not to mention its role as a modifying prefix for a variety of environmentally conscious consumerisms? How has the circulation of this term throughout these discourses updated our understanding of its political and epistemological values?
  • How do media technologies draw attention to heavily industrialized, often rusty spaces and places, including, for example, urban and suburban factory communities, rural industrial agricultural areas, and urban neighborhoods undergoing economic revitalization efforts? How do these representations prompt, construct or redefine ecological thinking, as you define the term?
  • Does/how does the fine art, film, or literature of the 20th and 21st centuries interface with media technologies in circulating, forming, and revising ecological epistemology?
  • What are the environmental impacts and ethical considerations of using particular media to promote ecological thinking? How might the issue of space junk, for example, force questions about how we use media apparatuses to circulate and promote ecological thought?


Contributions from a variety of fields are welcomed, including but not limited to literary history and criticism, the history of science, media studies, cultural studies, ecocriticism, film studies, and rhetoric and composition; contributions may be critical or creative.


Please provide a 300-word abstract by December 3rd, 2016, emailed to:


Katherine Greulich

PhD Candidate, Department of English

Michigan State University