Malaysian Ecocriticism

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
University of Malaya
contact email: 

Call for papers —        Edited Collection of Essays    

Tentative title:

Malaysian Ecocriticism: Contested Environments, Identities and the Politics of Nature

With the landmark establishment of the Southeast Asian chapter of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) in August 2016, it is both timely and crucial for member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to assess their literary and cultural artifacts from an ecocritical perspective.

Subscribing to a state-based approach—when environmental crises often do not respect national borders—may seem counter-intuitive but, as many critics have noted, to abandon the state as frame results not only in the loss of a crucial intermediary between local and global concerns, it would also mean discarding the political and administrative legitimacy and jurisdiction that it brings. To be sure, cooperation and action at state-level are imperative if global environmental initiatives are to be effective and sustainable.    

Malaysian ecocriticism, then, despite the national tag, offers an accounting that voices environmental concerns whose impacts are felt at multiple scales: inside the nation—within communities, local-level social realities, subaltern economies—and outside it, on the regional and international levels.

Malaysia’s post-Independence preoccupation with nation-building and concomitant socio-economic upheavals have provided ample fodder for writers, artists, other media practitioners as well as the scholars and researchers who critique their works following various methodologies. But an explicitly ecocritical mode and theme is long overdue.

Perhaps the methodological lateness results from uncritical adoption of monolithic and out-moded Western critical discourse, which views nature as a pure construct, or nothing more than the necessary backdrop for human drama. Arguably, what Malaysian scholars themselves risk imbibing from the western-based literature classroom is the underlying assumption that culture and nature are diametrically opposed. This opposition coupled with the general separation of the arts/humanities from the sciences in academia has created an artificial and largely unexamined notion of what constitutes both the human and the more-than-human.

As a direct consequence, environmental concerns in Malaysian texts have remained under-scrutinized and even sidelined.

To confront these lacunae of theory and methodology, this edited collection of essays proposes to offer novel readings of cultural artifacts and genres, critical evaluations of pedagogy and existing discourse, and theory of nature politics in the Malaysian context.

This work joins that of other regions and spurs the advent of the environmental humanities globally; scholars have begun the lengthy but rewarding process of recuperating and re-centering texts according to the new critical orientation demanded by the recognition of our living within a shared historical moment of ecological risk.

Scholars of Malaysian works are invited to contribute chapters to a book project on Malaysian ecocriticism and to highlight, among other matters, the challenges and pitfalls that scholars are confronted with when thinking about environmental discourse in a Malaysian context.

Essays/chapters can draw from various combinations of theoretical /analytical frameworks e.g. from eco-feminist and postcolonial ecocritical to new materialist and geo-spatial readings of Malaysian works. We invite submissions on both canonical and new/emerging writers and practitioners of film, the performing arts, popular culture and other forms of cultural expression.                  

We invite thematic and theoretical responses to the following topics:

The Malaysian environmental unconscious and imagination

Narrating nature, features/conventions of Malaysian environmental discourse

Ecological degradation (pollution, climate change, resource depletion, extinction)

Environmental and human displacement, diaspora, exile

Relations between the human and the more-than-human

Ethics, environmental injustice and the environmentalism of the poor

Toxic natures

The ‘nature’ of pandemics

Palm oil

The haze

Colonial to postcolonial natural histories

Place attachment and detachment

Tourism, heritage, the commodification of nature

The desecration and exploitation of Borneo

Animals and speciesism

Plants, forests, cash crops

Notions, politics, imagery of 'nature', identity, place

Cyborgs and the posthuman


The exotic

The city

Sacred places

From national to regional to planetary consciousness

Ecological identities / environmental subjects

The intersection of environmentalism and postcolonialism

Race and the environment

Gender and the environment

Tropical Edens and wastelands

Transcorporeality (material agency, trash, environmental illness)

Crimes against nature

Representing nature

Contested environments

Development and sustainability

North-south environmental politics

Indigenous and migrant environmental subjects

Mega-dams and energy



Malaysian eco-poetics

Industrialism and catch-up development

The Anthropocene

Environmental activism


Thinking bioregionally, reinhabitation




Ecocritical pedagogy



The editors of this volume intend to submit a book proposal to a leading publisher who has expressed interest in this project.


Please send a 250-word abstract, tentative chapter title and a brief bio to Agnes S. K. Yeow at by 15 March 2021. Essays should be between 6000 and 8000 words.