CFP: Making Common Causes (June 2016, Canada)

29 Jul CFP: Making Common Causes (June 2016, Canada)

Making Common Causes: Crises, Conflict, Creation, Conversation
ALECC Biennial Conference — Call for Papers, Panels, and Other Presentations
June 15-18, 2016, Queen’s University, Kingston ON
Deadline: September 1st, 2015

  • What makes an environmental crisis common or uncommon?
  • How do our understandings of environments depend on causes—both as ideas of causality and ideas of action?
  • What ways of imagining, re-imagining and making our environments are held in common, or perhaps just as valuably, are uncommon?
  • What can our common and uncommon cultures contribute in addressing environmental crisis?
  • How might we understand culturing as an experiment, and thus as a means of creation and conversation? What might we seek to culture?
  • What kinds of environmental commons and means of conversation do we already have, or should we create?

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Global climate change, soil depletion, the enclosure of the commons, the acidification of the oceans, ground water contamination, mass extinctions: in a context in which the environmental crises of the day seem to us so intractable, at such large scales and dominated by such powerful interests, the
making of common causes seems especially urgent. But imagining how to do so, across multitudinous and diverse lives and situations, is a challenge. Even if our environmental crises seem commonplace, and even if the problems we face sometimes seem to have a common cause (as in Naomi Klein’s recent subtitle, “Capitalism Versus the Climate”), the responses, alternatives, and critiques are often contentious. We might ask, then, to what extent are ecological investments common? How do conflicting interests and varying positions of power and privilege shape how we view the projects of environmental cultural work? How do ideas of crisis itself differ depending on embodied experience and global location? What might a turn to the historical archives offer in attempting to ground future orientations of environmental crisis? How have writers, artists, and critics played a role in representing existing crises and conflicts, and in imagining alternatives to them? To what extent has this cultural production found common cause in activist work in and outside of the academy?

Putting emphasis on the active work of “making,” the 2016 ALECC conference invites reflection on the diverse ways in which common causes—including the commons as cause—might be crafted. Contributions are, however, not limited to these concerns. Recognizing the many ways in which environmental work is enacted, we are first and foremost deeply invested in the process of conversation—and in the creative potential that perspectives from all areas of environmental studies can offer. In the interest of fostering such conversation, we welcome both traditional panels and alternative formats, such as performances and collaborations; roundtables; readings of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, or memoir; and film and other media. We also welcome a range of participants, including ecocritics and ecocultural studies practitioners; environmental humanists, social scientists, and scientists; artists, activists, and interested members of the larger community.

Participants may wish to address (but are not limited to addressing) some of the following questions:

  • How have the commons been lived, experienced, and represented in different cultural traditions and global locations? Must the commons end in tragedy, as Garrett Hardin famously suggested, or is there potential for an abundant commons? A reinvigorated commons? Can the commons provide a counterforce to capitalism?
  • How might Indigenous views of the environment and of creation, as the relationships between people, other living beings, and spirits that share the land, support or challenge western notions of the commons, common causes, conflict, and crisis?
  • How might environmental artists and scholars challenge inequities arising from sexism, heteronormativity, racism, colonialism, ableism, and speciesism? What conceptual tools might assist in accounting for the diversity of experiences in the pursuit of common goals?
  • With whom can common causes be made? What must be “in common”? Must all constituencies be human? To what extent might Stacy Alaimo’s, Donna Haraway’s, Karen Barad’s or Bruno Latour’s various understandings of material agency allow us to think the ‘in common’ without a volitional subject?
  • How might the digital environmental humanities allow us to think “the commons” in a new way? Can the digital commons contribute to preservation or revitalization of the terrestrial, oceanic, or atmospheric commons? And, in the spirit of the new materialisms, to what extent must the material underpinnings of the digital—from mining, to manufacturing, to server farms, to e-waste—be a consideration of any digital environmental humanities project?
  • What is the relationship between aesthetics and responsibility? To what ends might ecocritical work focus on the aesthetic form or experience of literature or other arts? How might an ecocritical consideration of “form” trouble aesthetic categories, or the way we conceive of the political?
  • To what extent is environmental thinking necessarily futural? How might thinking environmental histories (and/or literary histories) complicate our thinking? To what extent is environmental temporality “common” (as in the landmark text, Our Common Future, the source of so much contemporary thinking on sustainable development)? How might we think difference within the common space-time of the Anthropocene?
  • Taking the word “creation” in more spiritual directions, how have contemporary articulations of enchantment, religiosity, or secularity (or “post-secularity”) contributed to our thinking of environmental crisis? How might these concerns help to navigate the gaps between the power of what Mark Lynas calls “the God species” and the seeming incalculability of the consequences of our actions?
  • Mindful that environmental crises are ideological, institutional, historical, and deeply material, how might environmental scholars be better attentive to the material conditions and consequences of their labour, and to all unevenly shared properties, in the food systems that sustain us or in the energy systems that power our laptops or the waste streams that issue from our institutions?
  • As scholarly pursuits related to the “environment” diversify and multiply, to what extent are different disciplines engaged in “common” work? How should we take stock of and negotiate fractures between various kinds of environmental humanities, both internally and in relation to natural sciences and creative work? How do we tell the stories of fields such as ecocriticism, ecofeminism, or environmental philosophy? Which voices gather in these commons, and who remains outside? How does this disciplinary border work shape our understanding of environmental crises?

To propose an individual paper, creative or other work, including a reading (20 minutes), please submit a blind (no name included) proposal that includes a title; a 500-word (maximum) abstract; your preference for a scholarly, creative or mixed session; and any requests for audio-visual equipment. In a separate document, please send name, proposal title, current contact information, and a one-page curriculum vitae (used for funding applications).

To propose a pre-formed scholarly panel or creative session (three presenters, 90 minutes session total), please submit as a complete package the following:

  • session title
  • 200-word session abstract
  • one page curriculum vitae and contact information for the session organizer and each presenter
  • blind 500-word abstracts for each paper/presentation (as possible).

To propose some other kind of format or presentation (e.g., workshops, roundtables, exhibits, performances), please contact the organizing committee in advance of the September 1 deadline to discuss proposal submission requirements.

Proposals should indicate clearly the nature of the session and all requests for audio-visual equipment and any other specific needs (e.g., space, moveable chairs, outdoors, etc.). We ask that panel organizers attempt to include a diversity of participants (e.g., not all from the same institution).

Proposals must be submitted by September 1, 2015 to

Official submissions should include the word SUBMISSION, the abstract type (panel, paper, other), and your (or the panel proposer’s) name in the subject line. Example: SUBMISSION paper Gayatri Spivak. We will acknowledge all submissions within 3 days of receipt.

Any general questions or queries for the organizing committee should include the word QUERY in the subject line. Example: QUERY regarding accommodations.

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