Decolonial Hope: Planetary Sustainability, Solidarity, and Transformation

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Journal of Postcolonial Writing
contact email: 

Journal of Postcolonial Writing

Special Issue on

Decolonial Hope: Planetary Sustainability, Solidarity, and Transformation


Link to the CFP on the journal's website:


Special Issue Editor(s)

Goutam Karmakar, Durban University of Technology, South Africa

Janet Wilson, The University of Northampton, UK


Hope is generally conceived as a fervent emotion, a desire for moral excellence, and a catalytic kind of action. Though the concept of hope has garnered significant attention in the field of social sciences in recent decades, the origins of this concept can be traced back to biblical references to redemption and the Christian understanding of human nature. Thomas Aquinas conceptualises hope as a passion or virtue, primarily emphasising its comprehension as a force that draws one towards something desirable yet challenging to achieve. According to Aquinas, hope is typically individualistic in nature, propelling humans towards an optimistic future (Schumacher 2003). This conceptualization of hope as an impulse for a positive future also formed the cornerstone of western Enlightenment philosophy, consequently shaping the aspirations of colonial modernity. The Enlightenment philosophers prioritised human rationality, empiricism, and scientific methodologies in order to define progress and work towards a better future for civilisation and humanity. The motives of colonial missions have been characterised by hope for a sophisticated civilisation and a standardised set of values, suppressing everything that was deemed degenerative, primitive, or regressive. These influences from western Enlightenment and theology have significantly shaped the study and exploration of hope in the 20th century, expanding into the domain of secular intellectualism.

The subject of hope, as recognised by Christian thinkers, western philosophers, and intellectuals, has widely embraced the relevance of qualities such as resilience and forwardness in human life, thereby confirming their prominence in personal, interpersonal, and social progress. Nevertheless, hope also assumes political significance, as found in anti-colonial, anti-patriarchal, and anti-racist movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the 1960s and feminist movements for emancipation in different postcolonial states. Martin Luther King’s famous declaration, “I Have a Dream,” is an assertion of his hope for an integrated, non-discriminatory, and non-racialized world.  In the writings and public movements of feminist scholars, hope is reiterated as an aspiration that assists vulnerable individuals in navigating their daily challenges, critically thinking about their own past and encounters with injustice, and envisioning alternative outcomes. One of the influential thinkers of the 20th century, Erich Fromm perceives hope as a crucial factor in any attempt to achieve societal transformation towards increased vitality, consciousness, and rationality. Ernst Bloch, a German Marxist philosopher and key thinker on the concept of hope, posits it as a forward-looking awareness of the future. Bloch accentuates hope as the pivotal cognitive element that channelises the innate human desire for transcendence towards the future. In the late 20th century, the rise of postcolonial cultures and the growing prominence of neo-liberal globalisation have prompted a focus on investigating new expressions of postcolonial hope and affirmative utopianism—an exploration that involves examining spatial movements, cultural imaginaries, and the aesthetic connotations of “re-locations” and “re-routings” (Williams 2009). In the field of positive psychology, Charles Richard Snyder’s psychological interventions on ‘hope theory’ celebrate it as a fundamental component of human cognitive processes that stimulates agency and enables one to exert willpower in crucial situations.  

In continuation with existing studies of hope, the special issue seeks to unravel the need to redefine the parameters of this concept and debunk the anthropocentric or humanistic bias that it inherently subscribes to. The present issue attempts to go beyond the conventional ways of conceptualising hope around human wellbeing or a human-centric future. In the current era, people across the world are experiencing exponentially high levels of environmental hazards and face a sense of planetary catastrophe, evidencing how the desire to improve human existence is a monolithic way of perceiving and practicing hope. The overarching threats from various material, social, and environmental conditions have prompted a reconsideration of the concept of hope. It is now being argued that instead of “hoping” solely for peace and stability within individual humans or human groups, the aspiration should be towards a planetary solidarity that comprises both humans and non-human entities, as well as the ecological realm. Scientists caution that we have already exceeded many critical thresholds for our sustainable life and are rapidly nearing massive devastation (Rockstrom et al. 2009). Amidst the apprehended ecological catastrophe and ongoing precarious conditions, emancipatory politics has expanded beyond fair resource allocation, calling for the safeguarding of all forms of life and minimising vulnerabilities in entrenched forms. This aspect poses a challenge to not only the conventional notions of progress but also the essence of human existence and the traditional methods of dualistic thinking in which human beings have placed themselves in a position of privilege and reduced nature and non-human surroundings as subordinate to human benefits. In this context, the irreversible understanding that emerges is that the continuity of life on the planet is in jeopardy until the hegemonic methods of interacting with the environment and fostering goals for the future are altered.

The specific goal of this special issue is thus to highlight the necessity to delink and decolonize hope from the Christian and western connotations of virtue or optimism for human advancement. The issue explores how to embrace and enact the decolonial notion of hope as a praxis that aims to re-center erased non-hegemonic and non-hierarchical histories and knowledge, as this is seen as crucial for planetary recovery and healing. Hope, positioned in a decolonial matrix, can enunciate that Christianity and western-defined tools of modernity do not hold ultimate authority, and scope for an optimistic future can arise from the experiences and knowledge of the oppressed and non-western populations. There is a need to dismantle colonial and capitalist frames of thinking, develop alternative methods of collective transformation, and preserve the long-term viability of the entire planet. In this regard, re-engagement with the experiences, strategies, and views of marginalised, victimised, silenced, and indigenous communities can offer meaningful scopes for envisioning a “hopeful” sustainable future, as these populations have championed a holistic, interconnected way of living with nature, have been disproportionately affected by injustices, and have struggled to survive by resisting the capitalist worldview. An acknowledgment of these non-hegemonic perspectives can aid in restoring pluriversal and multidimensional facets of envisaging hope for a collective future.

Some of the pertinent questions that this issue will address are: In what ways can the hope for a sustainable future be deciphered from the epistemologies of the oppressed? How can we reimagine the future using non-anthropogenic terms? What kind of pedagogic and intellectual changes are required for rethinking hope beyond the accepted notions? How far are the literary and cultural responses of the indigenous and marginalised capable of generating this sense of hope for sustainability and solidarity? What role do literary writers play in harnessing this form of decolonial hope for planetary survival?

Hence, this issue invites submissions on topics that include but are not limited to:

  • Literature of the oppressed and decolonial hope
  • Subaltern, environmental activism and hope for an equitable future
  • Planetary sustainability and hope for renewed environmentalism
  • Indigenous knowledge, hope and sustainable ethics
  • Literature of the Global South and hope for a sustainable future
  • Ecopedagogy, environmental education and sustainability
  • Environmentalism from the margins, hope and decolonial future
  • Cultural forms of holistic environmentalism
  • Counter narrative, hope, and decolonial environmental justice
  • Sustainable literacy and hope for planetary transformation



Bloch, Ernst. 1986. The Principle of Hope. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Fromm, Erich. 1952. “Psychoanalysis and Religion.” Philosophy 27(103): 373–374.

Rockstrom, Johan, Will, Steffen, and Kevin Noone et al. 2009. “Planetary Boundaries: Exploring The Safe Operating Space for Humanity.”  Nature 461: 472-475. 

Schumacher, Bernard. 2003. A Philosophy of Hope: Josef Pieper and the Contemporary Debate on Hope, trans. D.C. Schindler. New York: Fordham University Press.

Synder, Charles Ricard. 1994. The Psychology of Hope: You can get here from there. New York: Free Press.

Synder, Charles Ricard. 2002. “Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind.Psychological Enquiry 13 (4): 249-275.

Williams, Patrick. 2009. “Outlines of a better world.” In Rerouting the Postcolonial: New

Directions for the New Millenium, edited by Janet Wilson, Cristina Sandru, and Sarah Lawson Welsh. London: Routledge.


Submission Instructions

Abstracts should be between 300 and 500 words (excluding bibliography and 100 word bionote) and sent to special issue editors, Goutam Karmakar ( and Janet Wilson (, no later than September 30, 2024. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the special issue editor(s).



● Deadline for abstracts: September 30, 2024

● Notification of acceptance: December 15, 2024

● Submission of full manuscripts: April 30, 2025

Articles should be no longer than between 7500-8000 words in length, inclusive of the abstract of 150 words, 6 keywords, references, figure captions, and endnotes.

For more information, please see JPW’s Instructions for Authors at:

If you have any notes of interest or would like to discuss the aims and scope of your proposed submission, please contact Goutam Karmakar via email by July 31, 2024.

Contact Info: Goutam Karmakar, Durban University of Technology, South Africa