Call for Papers: Ecology, Economy, and Cultures of Resistance: Oikoi of the North American World

A two-day symposium at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh.  29-30 June 2017

Ecology and economy are inextricable. From the ‘oeconomy of nature’ theorized by Thomas Burnet, and later Carl Linnaeus, to the recent turn in the social sciences that reconsiders the Anthropocene as the Capitalocene, the interwoven global history of these two fields of thought makes their conceptual separation impracticable.

This two-day symposium considers the roles of cultural production and critique under these conditions of inextricability. It takes as its locus the North American world. We use the term North American world to denote the world-view as conceived by or through North American social conditions, governance, cultures, politics, and institutions, but which is global in its influences and effects. Scholars working in Anglophone universities, primarily in the United States, have dominated discussions on the role that the humanities should play in the theorization of and response to global environmental and economic crises. Amidst a ‘crisis in the humanities’ in Western higher education, many scholars have responded by directing their methods and knowledge towards resisting processes of environmental degradation and/or capitalist exploitation, in order to turn the humanities to the resolution of pressing global problems. This has also led to the rise of new forms of activist-scholarship, which seek to advocate for the political and social agency, and social relevance, of the humanities disciplines.

We wish to explore the implications of presuming the resistant power of the humanities, and the agency of its scholarship and pedagogy, in environmental and economic fields. We invite proposals for 30 minute papers that discuss any aspect of North American culture, politics, or history that responds to, or theorises the relationship between, the interlinked global concerns of capitalist exploitation, ecological degradation, and climate change. Our object is to foreground discussion of the methods and objectives of culture’s response, and of culture’s responsibilities. We are particularly interested in discussing the following questions:

* Given the inexorable expansion of capitalist ideology, and a climate crisis which is developing at a rate that vastly exceeds all efforts to implement strategies for its resolution, must the cultural products of the world’s richest and most powerful industrialized states acknowledge an obligation to resist? What is at stake in adopting this stance?

* To what extent are existing models of culture’s political, social, economic, and environmental agency viable, and (how) can the humanities advocate for massive systemic change?

* How can our field(s) of study be employed to guide us, as students and as teachers, toward asserting and implementing the political agency of our work?

* What are the epistemological conditions that might allow us to theorize the massive systems of capital and ecology, and where might we find or create these conditions within humanities disciplines?

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Professor Regenia Gagnier, University of Exeter

Professor Stephen Shapiro, University of Warwick

Topics for submission may include:

* North America in world-systems theory

* Anthropocene; Capitalocene; Chthulucene; the terms of grasping the singularity of humanity’s global impact

* Histories and legacies of environmental and/or economic activism in/associated with North America

* Representations of capital’s part in climate change/environmental destruction in art/literature/culture; the agency of representation with respect to global crises

* The extent of the culpability of the arts and humanities in the negative effects of capitalism and environmental degradation

* Spaces of resistance and/or extrication: refugia, wilderness, occupations

* Subjectivity, collectivism, and the conditions of freedom under globalization

* Radical or revisionary forms of agency: epigenetics, post- and trans-humanisms, new materialism

* Global and/or ‘Third-world’ critiques of North American scholarship and/or activism

* The scope for the political agency of a ‘humanities in crisis’

Please send abstracts of not more than 500 words, together with a short CV, to by 28 February 2017. For further information, please email the symposium organizers — Dr Sarah Daw ( and Dr Benjamin Pickford (

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