Crime Fiction and Ecology
Discourses of contamination and pollution have long figured in crime writing. Since its emergence in the mid-nineteenth century, crime fiction has frequently elucidated a correlation between transgressive acts and the topographies in which they occur. Within this, it is the detective’s heightened capacity to interpret material and spatial signs – often through the embracement of new technologies and innovative modes of deciphering the social body – that allows for the containment of deviancy and restoration of order. Whilst crime fiction’s mutability has enabled it to adapt in response to shifting political, national, ideological and social contexts, the spectre of climate change and environmental crisis raises profound questions, not only regarding the traditionally restorative operations of the genre, but also of justice, legality and indeed, criminality.
Donna Leon and Carl Hiaasen are examples of contemporary writers who have spearheaded an emergent sub-genre of overtly ecologically-orientated crime fiction in recent years, using the environmentally precarious landscapes of Venice and Florida to interrogate a contemporary moment where the previously restorative and reassuring functions of the genre no longer seem adequate. Further contemporary examples include texts such as Attica Locke’s Black Water Rising (2009) and Helon Habila’s Oil on Water (2010), both of which examine the destructive operations and global legacy of ‘petro-capitalism’. Whereas crime fiction has historically articulated a social unease regarding the potential violence that one individual might perpetrate against another, eco-crime fiction redirects this unease towards environmental ends. The spectre of climate catastrophe, one which problematises boundaries of agency and liability, creates a dissonance that forces individuals to confront their own fraught, dialectal position as both perpetrator and victim. The interpretive, typological foundations of detection therefore find themselves under threat, confronting us with vital yet challenging questions. In a climate where much of the world’s ecological and environmental damage is being undertaken 'legally' by governments and corporations, to what extent do notions of criminality and agency need to be reconsidered? Moreover, how can justice be enacted when criminals are no longer deviant/perverse individuals but abstract, transnational corporate powers? And how can crime writers reconcile the traditionally restorative imperatives of the genre with the paralysing uncertainty of our future?
This volume will be the first to engage extensively with the diverse articulations of crime writing and ecology, representing a unique opportunity to map this emerging theoretical landscape. We are particularly interested in articles which challenge and/or expand the critical perspectives of crime fiction studies, ecocriticism, and the environmental humanities. Whilst it is anticipated that the volume will include essays addressing contemporary eco-thrillers and other ‘explicitly’ ecological crime narratives, we also encourage submissions that engage with texts that are less explicitly ecologically-orientated. This might include, but is not limited to, whodunits, golden age mysteries, hardboiled and noir fiction, police procedurals, psychological thrillers and more. Contributors are also encouraged to consider familiar areas of crime fiction scholarship – such as gender, race, sexuality, criminality and formal approaches to genre – in conjunction with current concerns and interests in areas such as (but again, not limited to) ecofeminism, petroculture, ecoterrorism and environmental security. Scholarship that addresses the global circulation of crime fiction and/or crime fictions from the Global South will also be of particular interest to this volume.
Topics may include, but are not restricted to:
Space and Topography: gendered landscapes, spatial theories, postcolonial spaces, crime scenes, pastoral and antipastoral, drought, flooding, oil, urban and rural, country houses, ‘seaside noir’, the global south.
Bodies and Violence: posthumanism, the anthropocene, animal studies, agency (human and non-human), ecofeminist approaches to genre, monstrosity, deviancy, slow violence.
Epistemology: causality, temporality, modes of knowing, climate change denial, truth/post-truth, sciences/modes of detection.
Criminality and Justice: resolution, criminality, eco-terrorism, accountability, individualism, corporate responsibility, green activism, environmental racism.
Security: petrofictions, surveillance, environmental security, environmental thrillers, energy conflict.
Please email abstracts of no more than 400 words along with a short biographical statement to Nathan Ashman (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 31st October 2020. Essays will be commissioned by 1st December 2020 for delivery in Summer 2021.