Notes from Underground: The Depths of Environmental Arts, Culture and Justice, Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) 11th Biennial Conference, June 23- 27, 2015, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
In Notes from Underground (1864), Dostoyevsky explores relations between modernity and its discontents at an important historical conjuncture: the novella’s unnamed, unpleasant hero rails against capitalist industry, imperialist architecture and an emerging social scientific understanding of human behaviour premised on predictability and knowability. By writing from the underground – from the subterranean, from the murk, from the world of refuse – Dostoyevsky asks us to consider the importance of experiences that lie beneath (and both before and after) the shiny edifices of progress, rationality and industry. But the “underground” also asks us to consider what lies beneath us much more literally: crust, tectonic plates, magma, minerals, fossil fuels, aquifers, lakes, caves, fungal networks, clay, compost, worms, ants, nematodes, roots, rhizomes, tubers, seeds, warrens, nests, vaults, graves, landfills, nuclear weapons and waste, buried treasure. In this act of collection – underground elements, underground agents, underground movements, underground epistemologies – we hope to draw attention to the multiple ways in which things underground and the institutions that variously cultivate, harness and contain them, are constantly changing the terrain (literally and politically) on which we stand.
Especially in the midst of such widespread focus on atmospheric climate change, perhaps we also need to look down, under, beneath and below for imaginative aesthetic, critical, pedagogical and activist responses? At our current political and ecological conjuncture, the literal underground is very much the subject of contest – extraction, pollution, depletion, neoliberalisation, cultivation, sovereignty, equity, (re)claiming – suggesting the need for creative new ways of engaging in activism, reading, writing and education in these networks of depth: underground arts, humanities, ecocriticism, justice. For the 2015 ASLE conference, we seek proposals for panels, papers, performances, discussions, readings and roundtables that address this constellation of undergrounds. We invite participants to interpret the conference theme as broadly as possible and to imagine their work in terms not only of underground content but also of subterranean form: we particularly encourage non-traditional modes of presentation, including hybrid, performative and collaborative works; panels that minimize formal presentation in favour of engaged emergent discussion; interdisciplinary approaches; environmentally inflected (earthy?) readings of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, film, theatre and other media; and proposals from outside the academic humanities, including submissions from artists, writers, teachers, practitioners, activists and colleagues in the social and natural sciences.
THE CONFERENCE WEBSITE (INCLUDING SUBMISSIONS PAGE) WILL BE LIVE IN SEPTEMBER, 2014: www.uidaho.edu/asle
Our list of keynote speakers includes Donna Haraway, Linda Hogan, Stephanie LeMenager, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Jorge Navarro, Anna Tsing, Rita Wong, and Tanure Ojaide.
For questions about the program, please contact 2015 ASLE President Cate Sandilands at ASLE2015@yorku.ca. For questions about the conference site, field sessions, progressive event and other local activities, please contact the conference site hosts at firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions about ASLE and membership, please contact Amy McIntyre, ASLE Managing Director, at email@example.com.
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