ACLA: Environment as Comparative Method

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association 2023 Annual Meeting
contact email: 

Organizer: Christine Okoth (

Co-Organizer: Trisha Remetir (

We are seeking participants for a seminar for the 2023 American Comparative Literature Association Meeting, which will take place at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Illinois, March 16-19, 2023.

In ACLA seminars, participants share drafts of their work with seminar panelists prior to the conference. The seminar meets over multiple days to discuss their pre-circulated drafts.

Deadline to submit abstracts to the ACLA website: October 31, 2022:

Seminar Summary:

In a 2021 piece for The Funambulist, Renisa Mawani asks: “what would it mean to foreground the role of European ships as agents and expressions of international law implicated in the genocide of Indigenous peoples and in ongoing struggles over land, waterways, and sovereignty; in the theft and forced transport of 12.5 million captive Africans and the (after)lives of transatlantic slavery; in Chinese and Indian indentured labor, forced migration, and in ongoing migrant deaths at sea?” The question is part of a long critical genealogy that positions oceans at the center of humanistic inquiry, including the work of Paul Gilroy, Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, Epeli Hau’ofa and Lisa Kahaleole Hall. Mawani’s comparative method, however, also constitutes a novel approach to literary and cultural criticism, prompting “alternate views of climate catastrophe and historical responsibility” that can be extended to other environmental sites (Mawani, The Funambulist). This seminar takes up and extends Mawani’s call for alternate views of climate catastrophe and historical responsibility to ask how various environmental formations can constitute a methodological basis for literary and historical comparison. We are interested in the comparative potential not only of the ocean, but also of geological and geographical entities like the quarry, the mine, the mangrove, or the forest, as well as historical examples in which the environment has been invoked as part of an anti-colonial or revolutionary strategy across the global South. 

Such an emphasis on comparison around the environment chimes, for instance, with the archipelagic thought of Caribbean intellectuals like Édouard Glissant, Suzanne Césaire, and Brian Russell Roberts or Tiffany Lethabo King’s focus on the shoals to name the possibility of Black and Native convergences. We are also interested in exploring the wider implications of Quito Swan’s history of Pauulu Kamarakafego’s work between the Caribbean, East Africa, and the Pacific or the centrality of environmental knowledge exchange across Tanzania and Oceania to the political project of the Sixth Pan African Congress. Or one might turn to art produced during fluvial protests in the West Philippine Sea and mangrove reforestation efforts across South East Asia. Revolutionary articulations for freedom are deeply informed by people’s specific relationship with land, water, and geology but also reverberate outward to join anticolonial movements. We invite papers that engage with the debates and contexts listed in this abstract as well as papers that stage new comparisons through environmental categories. We are particularly interested in conversations that reach across languages and periods.

Submit your abstract on the ACLA website, here:

If you have questions, feel free to contact us: Christine Okoth ( and Trisha Remetir (