Agricultural Imaginaries

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Conference 2024

Boston, MA

March 7-10, 2024

While the industrial food system has been lauded for positive changes to global diets, it has also resulted in remarkably uneven patterns of food scarcity and excess. As Mike Davis explains in Late Victorian Holocausts, “although crop failures and water shortages were of epic proportion—often the worst in centuries—there were almost always grain surpluses elsewhere in the nation or empire” (11). Rather than a condition of hunger amidst scarcity, in other words, the industrial and imperial global food system was characterized by hunger amidst abundance. “Equations may be more fashionable,” Davis writes, but “it is necessary to pin names and faces to the human agents of such catastrophes, as well as to understand the configuration of social and natural conditions that constrained their decisions.” Equally, he says, “it is imperative to consider the resistances.”

This panel looks to late twentieth and twenty-first century global Anglophone literature as one mode of tracking the human conditions, constraints, and resistances of the contemporary agricultural system. From Bessie Head’s 1968 When Rain Clouds Gather to Ruth Ozeki’s 2003 All Over Creation to Eleanor Catton’s recently published Birnam Wood, narratives of farming community and political resistance have formed a lively sub-current in environmental literature. Taking a relatively narrow temporal scope but a broad geographic and generic one, this panel welcomes papers that interrogate agricultural narratives’ relationships to race, colonialism, technology, and the environment. Topics might include, but are in no way limited to:

-Legacies of enclosure

-Literature and the metabolic rift

-Farmworker futurisms & agricultural labor

-Food systems and novel form

-Plantation logics

-Agriculture and utopian communities

-Industrial farming and chemical ecologies


Please submit abstracts of up to 300 words, 100 character titles, and a brief bio through this link by 30th September:

For general inquiries contact Molly MacVeagh at