Enviornmental Trajectories: Modes, Debates, Reconfigurations
ELN 55.1 (Spring/Summer 2017)

Call for Papers

ELN—English Language Notes—announces a new volume bringing together scholars in the humanities to critically engage current trajectories in the burgeoning area of environmental humanities. In recent decades, academic study of the origins, sources, and social, economic, and political consequences of cultural understandings and representations of the “environment” has  moved to the forefront of  much new work in the humanities. This work, in fields such as literary studies, cultural and post-colonial studies, media studies, arts, history, cultural geography and anthropology, and philosophy has unmasked cultural assumptions and practices involving “nature,” scientific “objectivity,” and the role or roles played by different forms of mediation in the experience and treatment of multiply constructed “environments.”

Much of this work has moved beyond critique as such to suggest new modes of understanding human, non-human and even post-human relations and environments. Debates have arisen about the limits of these modes, and alternative ways of conceptualizing and addressing environmental issues are being explored. Desiring to open a conversation in which no questions are foreclosed or belated, our proposed volume invites humanities scholars in the parallel but often divergent areas of ecocriticism, environmental philosophy, history, cultural anthropology, cultural geography, and arts and media to explore as well as to critically address newer as well as older modes of humanistic approaches to the “environment,” to examine the kinds of debates arising within and between such modes, and finally, to meditate on possible intellectual and institutional reconfigurations within the environmental humanities as a whole. Rather than approaching the environmental humanities in terms of one mode or even one debate, we prefer to keep in play a range of “trajectories.”

Accordingly, we pose questions like the following:

  • What significant older questions or modes of approaching human/non-human interrelations and “environments” may have been foreclosed or ignored by many environmental humanists’ past or current theoretical reliance on certain forms of “critique”?
  • What, from the point of view of environmental humanists past and present, have been/are some of the limitations as well as possibilities of the assumption that “nature” is a human (i.e. cultural) “construct”?
  • What trajectories (past, present, future) have been opened or shut down by what some see as the consolidation of the environmental humanities around the concept of the Anthropocene?  What are the affordances and limitations of the alternate “cenes” that have recently been proposed, such as Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene, and so on?
  • What possibilities and what limitations have ensued, are ensuing, or might still ensue from humanist efforts to displace the “human” from its traditional place within a variously conceived cosmic hierarchy?
  • What roles have humanists played or are they currently playing in imagining a post-humanist metaphysics in ways that might enhance not only the status of all earthly life, but also the materiality of terrestrial nature?
    • From what position(s) might theories and practices of “environmental justice” be redefined in a post-human as well as post-colonial world in which the traditional ethical and political bases of such “justice” are assumed to have been dismantled?
    • What are the possibilities and limitations of approaches such as new materialism, speculative realism, and actor-network theory, as alternative avenues for post-human environmental literature, cultural studies, philosophy and art?
  • What roles could past as well as current literary, artistic, and theoretical practices that imbricate scientific and humanist inquiry play in promoting and shaping new affective responses to (post) human and non-human relations? What, more generally, will be/should be the role of a new or older aesthetics in the environmental humanities?
  • How might environmental humanists across disciplines respond to the networked and elemental aspects of 21st century media, on the one hand, and to the historical, ethical and political consequences of the neo-liberal control and distribution of such media, on the other?
  • How have the environmental humanities spoken in the past and currently to techno-scientific developments that not only imagine, but also enable the creation of artificial (synthetic) life and artificial intelligence? How will these developments affect environmental humanities?  
  •  What specific interventions in environmental crises have been/might be played by new institutional configurations that reimagine and restructure the traditional relations of the natural sciences and humanities?

Taken together these kinds of questions and the series of multi-disciplinary position papers we envision as critically responding to them will encourage the re-assessment of the trajectories of current as well as past humanist scholarship on the “environment.” In a moment almost daily marked by new global environmental crises and political responses to them, these essays call for the environmental humanities and those allied with them newly to defend, re-imagine and even renegotiate their own histories, objects, aims, methods, structures and responsibilities.

We would appreciate an expression of your interest in participating by April 7, 2016.  Prospective authors should submit a 12-15 page essay (3000-3750 words) accompanied by a brief biographical note and a two-page CV, to the editors by September 7, 2016.  Acceptance for publication is contingent on an external peer-review process. Date of publication is scheduled for Spring/Summer 2017.  

Beginning in the spring of 2018, ELN will be published by Duke University Press. This volume will be available on the Duke University Press online content platform as well as Project Muse. Please direct queries and proposals to the special issue editors Teresa A. Toulouse (teresa.toulouse@colorado.edu) and Michael E. Zimmerman (michaelz@colorado.edu). Please put “Environmental Trajectories” in the subject line.