Call for Papers (CfP) for a workshop on ‘(Re)constituting a South Asian Environmental Humanities’; Krea University & ICAS:MP

Environmental humanities scholarship emerging from South Asia is either situated within a narrative of catastrophe, or the destruction and dispossession wrecked by colonialism, capitalism, neoliberalism, and market-based solutions. While such lines of inquiry are crucial in understanding the current ecological crisis, this workshop sets forth a research agenda that departs from an exclusively historical or political economy approach to the environmental crisis unfolding in the subcontinent. It seeks to foreground an environmental humanities approach embedded in the contexts of South Asia.

But what exactly constitutes the environmental humanities? The neologism of environmental humanities has functioned to bring disciplines such as literary studies, environmental history, environmental philosophy, urban studies, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, and political ecology into a broader discussion on the environment. We acknowledge the need of a broad-based commitment to theorise the environment in the humanities and social sciences and to formulate a distinct coherent definition of the environmental humanities. This commitment is evident in the quest for interdisciplinary dialogues to replace methods that have so far exclusively privileged narrative, representation, and social interpretation in ways that are distinct from the natural sciences.

Often scholarship in the environmental humanities can be traced to Western intellectual genealogies, with the ‘rest of the world’ adopting these concepts in their specific social, cultural and ecological milieu. Our interest is to (re)explore the dialogues, debates, timelines and concepts necessary for charting what might constitute a distinct South Asian trajectory of and for the environmental humanities. This might include rethinking movements between borders, boundaries, and languages even within ‘South Asian’ traditions of thought. We intend to ask fundamental, even seemingly elementary questions, such as who is an ‘indigenous dweller’ or adivasi? What constitutes the nonhuman in South Asia? What are the ontological differences in perceiving, relating to, and dwelling in a specific ecology—be it a forest, river, village, city or neighbourhood? What might be different/similar ways of perceiving the environment and one’s surrounding landscape between different castes, tribes, religious groups in South Asia? How might gender, generational and class differentials inform these ontological differences.

Alongside questions that speak to the current political and ecological moment, we are interested in themes that open up conceptual possibilities embedded in South Asia. These might range from the ways in which climate change and environmental crises call forth new strategies of research and engagement to how we reimagine environmental regions going beyond political boundaries? Furthermore, what ways can new material histories or infrastructural histories be inflected by the linguistic, aesthetic and social histories of South Asia? How can environmental and aesthetic histories of South Asia speak to the natural sciences?  What new concepts or equivalences can be found for the “environment” or “nature” within non-anglophone languages? These questions are only indicative of the vast possibilities for inquiry open to scholars of and from South Asia. In short, we hope to interrogate and trace the specific genealogies, archives and philosophical underpinnings of South Asian thought, perception, and practice.

This workshop also seeks to catalyse a greater degree of interdisciplinary dialogue within South Asia not only by acknowledging how several acclaimed modern and contemporary scholars, poets, artists, filmmakers, and photographers have responded in stunning and compelling ways to the changing material and social environment, but also through incorporating several neighbouring disciplines such as art history, film studies, gender studies, linguistics, media studies, philology, philosophy and others that still remain somewhat marginal to constituting the terms of the discussion with regard to the “environmental turn” in South Asia.

The workshop aims to open lines of inquiry embedded within South Asia’s context, genealogies, and specific philosophical underpinnings. Comparative perspectives are also welcome. The workshop is especially interested in fostering a space for exchange for Early Career Scholars who are working on these themes and are interested in formulating this new interdisciplinary domain of knowledge. Early Career Scholars will also have the opportunity to be in conversation with more established scholars who will act as discussants for their papers.

We invite scholars, writers and those working with alternative forms (art/ fiction/film/ image) to think alongside new (and old) archives, methods, regions, concepts and categories within their disciplinary training. We are interested in inviting scholars who seek to open up vibrant discussion on the following themes:

Rethinking Archives

Research Methods

The Constitution of Regions

Emerging Concepts

Please submit a 500-word abstract by 15 December 2022, along with a paragraph length bio to envhumanities2023@gmail.com. In your abstract please foreground at least one of the themes mentioned above as an organising frame for your paper. We are less interested in analysis of a single text or individual unless they can be interwoven with an engagement with methods or concepts that seek to theorise an environmental humanities approach.

Selected participants would be required to submit a full draft of approximately 7000 words by April 2023 to be able to pre-circulate amongst participants prior to the workshop in August. As already mentioned, other multimedia or creative forms of expression beyond academic writing are also welcome. Selected participants will be invited to attend a two-day in-person workshop  in Delhi. This  workshop is co-organised and co-hosted  by  ICAS:MP and Krea University. Costs of travel, accommodation and meals for the duration of the workshop will be covered by the organisers. The workshop is scheduled for August 2023  (exact dates will be confirmed by December 2022).

Co-organised by:

Kalpita Bhar Paul (Krea University)

Joya John (Krea University)

Megnaa Mehtta (University College London/ ICAS:MP)

For any further query please write to us: envhumanities2023@gmail.com


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