Climate Fictions / Indigenous Studies

deadline for submissions: 
September 25, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
University of Cambridge
contact email: 

Critical Indigenous studies can neither be perceived as niche, nor trivialized as topical. In the way climate-capitalism has become an existential threat, a sincere engagement with Indigenous knowledges has become ineluctable. This conference seeks to initiate a multidisciplinary conversation on climate change, as conceived by, and re-inscribed within, Indigenous literatures. So far within the small domain of English Humanities, contemporary climate fiction by Indigenous authors have presented an urgent need to converse with scientific and social-scientific approaches to climate change. Centring these literatures, especially at a University such as Cambridge that is itself implicated in climate capitalism, is vital to confront the racial nature of climate change discourse which overlooks those who are leading the resistance in theory and praxis. These literatures tie the material to the literary, forging new links between resurgence movements and academic scholarship. These literatures also provide a narrative space for the local exigencies of land to feature within a global discourse on climate.

Climate fictions by writers like Alexis Wright, Linda Hogan and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, among others, have shone critical light upon the effects of slow violence of climate change and the global political nexus of extractive governments and industries on the ecology and human lives. Within Indigenous climate fictions, much as within academic, journalistic and new hybrid forms of writing, long entrenched binary between the ‘human’ and ‘nature’ is itself reshuffled, just as existing anthropocentric anxieties of climate change are destabilized by the re-interrogation of the place of the human within the ecological.

At the same time, the change in climate is not in postponement, making it predictive, but in continuum with human history’s interaction with nature, tying settler-colonialism and resource-capitalism to catastrophes like flash floods, melting glaciers, and rising temperatures. Indigenous populations around the world are affected through forced dispossessions, that, in turn, have had a profound impact on their politics, cultures, languages, and literatures. The complicity of governments and academic institutions in abetting the ramifications of capitalism induced climate change has brought together an allied community of writers, scholars, activists, artists and filmmakers to form a network of strength and solidarity across nations. Several movements and landmarks like Idle No More, Dakota Access Pipeline Protest, Niyamgiri, and Uluru Statement from the Heart, builds upon a strong culture of protest within and outside the realm of Indigenous fictions.

Some questions:

How have path-breaking Indigenous fictions extended a tradition of storytelling that has shaped contemporary modes, genres and critical paradigms of fiction?

What critical, formal and generic relationships do climate fictions, or cli-fi, bear with established literary traditions of dystopia, Anthropocene and science-fictions? In what ways do contemporary Indigenous writers resist or respond to western academic paradigms of knowledge?

How do modes and materialities of Indigenous expression, like oral, written, performative, digital and multimedia, intersect and affect the social, political and cultural dimensions of protest and resistance? How do these dimensions treat ecologies of time and space?

What is the relationship between critical Indigenous studies and decolonization? How does the Indigenous transnational imaginary (as understood within literary studies) consolidate the plurality of Indigenous identities and relate not only to the national imaginary, but also to radical imaginaries that stem from race, gender or caste oppression? What would a critical comparativism look like?

How do Indigenous fictions by and featuring female and/or Queer protagonists speak to the global issue of gender violence against Indigenous women and non-binary persons? In what ways do the fields of feminism, Indigenous Studies, and Queer Theory intersect through climate fictions?

How do conceptions of land and ‘country’ respond to the traditions of landscape in English and Euroamerican canons? How do genre-defying Indigenous literatures re-envision the meanings of land rights, repatriation, and sovereignty?

In what ways do emergent Indigenous fictions problematise and rethink ideas of sustainability and development? How do these literatures rewrite and project anti-capitalist forms, aesthetics, geographies, and economies?

How do Indigenous short forms, like short fictions, memoirs, life-narratives, songs, travelogues, and testimonies, often collected and anthologised as part of the colonial archive, resist and recreate the idea of ‘archive’ itself? How does the Indigenous archive relate to technologies of memory and memory-making for Indigenous people?

How does the conscious use of Indigenous vocabularies, grammars and syntactical forms within these fictions “re-invent the enemy’s language” (Joy Harjo, Gloria Bird) to affect a dialectic between English and Indigenous languages? What political purpose do these dialectics serve?

For more details visit (Climate Fictions / Indigenous Studies Research Network, Cambridge)