Composing Climate Change: Atmosphere, Affect, Attention

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Departures in Critical Qualitative Research
contact email: 


Composing Climate Change: Atmosphere, Affect, Attention

GUEST EDITOR: Joshua Trey Barnett

How to write of that which escapes linguistic capture? How to form into words and images precisely what slips the shackles of representational thought? How to describe what cannot, strictly speaking, be perceived? How to change climates in and through the activity of composition? How to compose climate change?

In some significant sense, such questions have become perennial. Of climate change, writers routinely ask and are asked, What can we do? Will it be enough? Such inquiries are all too often launched in the shadow of an unannounced instrumentalism aimed at somehow overcoming the challenges of composing climate change—its quality as both actual and virtual; the speculative and incomplete understandings of the phenomenon offered by modern science; the massive temporal and spatial scales on which climatic changes play out; and the feelings of guilt, indifference, and apathy that often infuse any mention of the anthropogenic causes of climate change and their parallel proposals for a technological “fix.” It is presumed that the task of writing is not simply to tell us of climate change, but to do so in ways that move us—to feel and think differently, perhaps, but primarily to act otherwise.

This special issue of Departures in Critical Qualitative Research seeks to hit the pause button to create a delay within which we might dwell on the ways that writing as both practice and product engenders heterogenous modes of feeling and thinking with and in and of and through climate change. How might halting the jump to evaluation, judgement, and representation help us to focus on atmospheres, affects, and modes of attention? How might experimental, aesthetic, creative, innovative, situated, grounded, poetic, formally rigorous, and reflexive writing generate and shift atmospheres and their attendant moods; stoke and stimulate affective sensibilities; and hone habits of attention that enable us to apprehend changes in and to the climate?

When we hit the pause button, when we refuse to reduce writing to its instrumentality, interesting projects pull into focus. Contributions to this special issue might, for instance, 
• Describe rigorously the affective and atmospheric “feel” of climate change in high-definition prose that attends to the acute
• Grapple with the representational and writerly challenges of composing climate change
• Explore modes of writing as so many ways of cultivating forms of attention and awareness (in)appropriate to the Anthropocene 
• Evoke and consider the feelings of indifference, carelessness, pleasure, and apathy that are pervasive in everyday lived experience, but are all too frequently deleted or derided in scholarly accounts of climate change 
• Investigate how shifts in climate, often registered as shifts in the weather, portend shifts in attention 
• Articulate the interrelationships among weather, atmosphere, and mood through close and careful consideration of diverse bodily experiences of climatic shifts 
• Reflect on the limits of conventional climate change discourse while contemplating the risks and promises of other ways of composing climate change 
• Speak to and from the margins, from positions of induced precarity, to bring into focus the dangerously unequal distribution of the impacts of climate change and a warming planet
These are just a few ideas, though they suggest the general thrust of this special issue.

Part of what is at stake in the assembling of this issue is the open question of which genres, which modes and styles of scholarly discourse, might pull climate change and its attendant atmospheres, affects, and attentions into focus in novel, innovative, interesting, thought- and feeling-provoking, formally rigorous and reflexive ways. Thus, following the journal’s aims and scope, “performative writing, performance texts, fictocriticism, creative nonfiction, photo essays, short stories, poetry, personal narrative, autoethnography, and other arts-based critical research” are welcomed.



DEADLINE: 15 November 2019

Manuscripts must be submitted electronically through the ScholarOne Manuscripts site for Departures in Critical Qualitative Research:

In the Cover Letter section, please indicate that the submission is intended for this special issue. 

Manuscripts should be prepared in Microsoft Word using a 12-point common font, double-spaced, and between 4,000 to 5,000 words (including endnotes). 
If you wish to submit a manuscript that is significantly shorter or longer, please contact the Guest Editor in advance. 

Please refer to and follow the journal’s manuscript preparations instruction for authors:

In keeping with the journal’s current practice, submissions will undergo rigorous peer review, including screening by the guest editor and review by at least two anonymous referees.

Please direct inquiries about this special issue to:

Joshua Trey Barnett, PhD 
Department of Communication
University of Minnesota Duluth