Borders of New Earth: Blue Ecocriticism, Geophilosophy and Decoloniality
Very few attempts have been made so far to decolonize the expanse of Blue Humanities, yet it stands as an ensemble of creative renewals. With Ian Buchanan’s ‘Must we eat Fish’ we get to encounter the topography of such renewals. With his essay Buchanan effects a relation between ‘the foundational non-humanity of our being’ and oceans while Probyn, whose standpoint he critiques, seeks a persistence of exploitative humanist relationality with the same in the guise of “amplifying the level of felt relatedness to it”. Further, the critical disposition of blue humanities proudly showcases a performative mix of Deleuzo-Guattarian geophilosophy and Heideggerian planetarity by standing as an effective means to actualize the idea of abolishing the anthropocentric earth and striving for a new Earth driven by a reconstructive ‘non-human orientation’. If with its emphasis on co-becomings of Land and Ocean blue humanities connects with Deleuzo-Guattarian geophilosophical ‘worlding’ of our Earth, a process that approaches earth as a mesh of micropolitical becomings, by treating history as a ground for the play of geological immanentism it connects with Heideggerian notion of ‘deep history’. However, with its non-humanistic orientation, an orientation it acquires by becoming a dwelling for the interplay of such philosophic influences, suffers an auto-poetic collapse into tangles of inhumanity. One realizes this as the emergent critical approaches to blue humanities mirrors its suicidal collapse into colonialism’s ‘inhumanly’ mechanistic and instrumental ordering of earthly entities. Amitav Ghosh indicates such orderings in his In an Antique Land (1992) and Sea of Poppies (2008) as he goes on to map the colonial exploitation of oceans as an inhumanly reductionist affair by showing the narrow colonial cartographization of Indian ocean. This stands as a cartographization that works with an aggressively empirical and a-historicist temper, depicting Indian ocean as ‘an empty blue body’ or capturing it as some kind of metaphysical abstraction, altogether drained of traumatic memories of slave ships and exploitative colonial voyages. One encounters the nomadic play of such colonial reductionist temper in the creative becomings of blue humanities. Instead of showing how oceans stand as a surface for meeting neoliberal goals and agendas, which betray their genesis in the dynamics of colonial historicity, blue humanities in its current form stands as a ground for generating ambivalences. However, in his The Nutmeg’s Curse (2021) Ghosh sketches the lines of decolonial intervention as he goes on to describe what he calls Ocean’s ‘choke points’. These points, for Ghosh, do not stand merely as cartographical passages for oil and gas transportation, but exact locations for which European colonial powers fought over when Indian Oceans most important commodities were cloves, nutmeg and pepper. In this sense, we need a decolonial hydro-analytical perspective that while situating itself around and critically engaging with growing body of research on poetics and politics of water by oceanic humanities scholars like Serpil Oppermann, Stacy Alaimo, Stefan Helmerich, Laura Winkiel and Sidney Dobrin could show how nuanced particularities of Water bodies affect and stand affected by politics around it. We need a decolonial critique that could even ask what prompted a field like new thalassology or oceanic or blue humanities in the first place? The answer to such questions may lie in Karin Dirke’s findings in her brilliant essay “Sapphire Stories: Disenchantment and Sense of Wonder in the Underwater World” or in Ann Elias’s Coral Empire (2019). Karen argues that primary instances of epistemologization of water bodies rests in processes of underwater colonialism and Western visual culture’s obsession with depicting oceans as a tabula rasa (2019, 3) or what Virginia Marshall calls aqua nullius (2017). In fact, at this juncture we need a kind of decoloniality that may aim at interrogating certain specific representations that leads scholars such as Isabel Hofmeyr and Nienke Boer to effect and work with formulations such as the Subaltern Sea or the Briny south only to deconstruct the urgent demand for an oceanic turn and universalist conception of wetscapes. Instead of merely revivifying the existent decolonial demand for ‘water rights’ such a decoloniality will work towards creating a decolonial sensibility by disrupting and destabilizing the hegemonic provinciality of Western epistemologies and allowing space for thinking beyond the established structures of ‘thought’. To this end, we invite interventions, interpretations and contentions that would respond, speculate, and critique any of the following concerns:
- Critiquing western blue humanities.
- Problems of universalising a “blue turn”
- Contesting hydro-colonial obsession with oceans
- Blue-bias as a colonial obsession
- Human and Non-Human Entanglements with coastality in the Globalsouth
- Critiques of land/sea polarity.
- Hydro-aesthetics for decolonial enquiries.
- Hydro criticism in the South Asian diaspora
- Exploring alternative hydro-humanities
- Memories and politics of Kaala Pani and slave ships.
- Practising an experimental tidalectics
Interested scholars may send their abstracts (approx. 300 words) and a brief bio-sketch or any inquiries regarding the CFP to any one of the mail ids mentioned here:
Deadline for abstract submission: March 23, 2023
Dr Saswat Samay Das is an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India. He has jointly authored (Taking place of Language, Peter-Lang Oxford, 2013). He has jointly edited Technology, Urban Space and the Networked Community (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Deleuze and the Global Terror, forthcoming, 2021) Deleuze and the Global Pandemics (Edinburgh University Press, Deleuze Series, forthcoming, 2023). He has published in well-known international journals such as Philosophy in Review, Deleuze Studies, Cultural politics, Contemporary South Asia and EPW.
Dr Ananya Roy Pratihar is Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at the Institute of Management and Information Science, Bhubaneswar, India. She has jointly edited Technology, Urban Space and Network Community (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) and is currently co-editing Deleuze, Guattari and the Global Pandemics and Deleuze, Guattari and Inquiry into the Postneoliberal both forthcoming with Bloomsbury in the series Schizoanalytic Applications. Her book reviews and articles are published in Philosophy in Review, French Studies and Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Research Journal (University of Warwick).
Dipra Sarkhel is a Research Fellow at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur who works in a broad area concerning recent continental thinking and critical theory, under the supervision of Prof. Saswat S. Das. He has been awarded the Research Fellowship by the University Grants Commission for securing one of the highest ranks in the National Eligibility Test. He is currently guest-editing a special issue titled Deleuze, Planetarity and Decoloniality for Deleuze and Guattari Studies, Edinburgh University Press. His research interests include Planetary Studies, Ahumanities, Ecophenomenology, Deleuze studies, Process Philosophy, Cosmic Humanities and other interrelated fields of inquiry.