CFP Autumn 2022 ”The Postcolonial Non-human"

2021-08-03

Guest Editors: Erin James (U. of Idaho), Cajetan Iheka (Yale U) and Juan Ignacio Oliva (U. of La Laguna)

In her seminal discussion of the term “postcolonial” in Colonialism-Postcolonialism (1998), Ania Loomba turns to the Oxford English Dictionary to begin the conversation. She notes that the OED defines colonialism as “a settlement in a new country . . . a body of people who settle in a new locality.” Strikingly, she comments, the OED definition “avoids any reference to people other than the colonizers, people who might already have been living in those places where colonies were established,” thus alleviating colonialism of “any implication of an encounter between peoples, or of conquest and domination.” Loomba articulates a postcolonial project to correct this injustice.

Loomba’s definition of “postcolonial” is nuanced and dependent upon context and situation. But it retains the OED’s focus on people, drawing attention to the varied and various human experiences of encounter, conquest, and domination. As such, it is illustrative of the broad focus on people--colonizers, colonized, and the formerly colonized--in postcolonial studies.

The environmental turn in postcolonial studies since the late 1990s has not fundamentally altered the preoccupation with the human. With an emphasis on environmental justice, scholarship on postcolonial ecologies, slow violence, and the afterlives of colonialism has prioritized deleterious environmental consequences for human communities (Mukherjee 2010; DeLoughrey and Handley 2011; Nixon 2011).

Inspired by the environmental justice framework, scholars have examined the dispossession of land and inequitable distribution of the commons, interrogated the implications of energy extraction, especially oil, in the postcolony, and unearthed the dumping of toxic waste among other forms of violence inflicted on formerly colonized people (Caminero-Santangelo 2014; James 2015; Wenzel 2019). But humans are not alone in peopling postcolonial environments. There is a growing awareness that environmental harm affects more than humans and that comprehensive accounts of postcolonial contexts must appreciate the interconnection of humans with nonhumans, questions of nonhuman subjectivity and agency, and how these complex factors play out in cultural texts as “aesthetics of proximity” (Huggan and Tiffin 2010; Iheka 2018).

The attention to more-than-the-human is inspired by indigenous cosmologies from Africa, to the Americas, and Asia that have always considered the nonhuman as “earth beings” characterized by an “animist materialism,” even if colonial thinking dismissed such practices as evidence of primitivity (Garuba 2003; de la Cadena 2010). Furthermore, recent writings on material ecocriticism, attuned to the agency, vitality, and vivacity of matter, have also shaped the nonhuman turn in the study of postcolonial environments (Alaimo 2010; Iovino and Oppermann 2014). Animals have been particularly studied in this new configuration of postcolonial ecocriticism but there is a broader constellation of nonhuman presences and assemblages deserving scrutiny in postcolonial settings (Mwangi 2019; Sinha and Baishya 2020).

In this special issue on “The Postcolonial Nonhuman,” we prioritize the multiplicities of nonhuman actors in postcolonial locales without losing sight of their entanglement with humans and their implications for ecological justice.

Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Nonhuman agency and subjectivity in colonial and postcolonial contexts
  • Assemblages of the human and non-human in colonial and postcolonial contexts
  • Animals and the postcolonial
  • Non-charismatic microfauna, such as insects
  • Postcolonial flora, especially those beyond plantation monocrops
  • The nonhuman in decolonizing projects
  • Multimedia representations of the postcolonial nonhuman
  • Infrastructure, energy, and the nonhuman in postcolonial contexts

 

We invite contributions in English, Spanish, French and Italian that discuss the postcolonial nonhuman in any postcolonial geographic or linguistic setting. Manuscripts should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words including abstract, keywords, and bibliography. We highly encourage potential contributors to submit an abstract proposal by e-mail before October 15, 2021 to guest editor Erin James (ejames@uidaho.edu). Completed manuscripts are due on January 15, 2022 via the Ecozon@ website, which also provides a style guide.