CfP Inscriptions 8n1: Navigating the Critical Zone: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Aesthetical Explorations, and Theoretical Paradigms


Submission deadline: 15 September, 2024 (guidelines below).

The term “critical zone” was defined by The National Research Council of the United States (2001) as “the heterogeneous, near surface environment in which complex interactions involving rock, soil, water, air and living organisms regulate the natural habitat and determine availability of life sustaining resources” (2). The French philosopher Bruno Latour takes the term further by recognizing the critical zone’s vital role in sustaining life, with consequential implications for societal organization, cultural understanding, and political engagement. By changing the focus from the Earth as resource and divided into geopolitical zones of influence, Latour, among other contemporary thinkers engaged in an ongoing effort to understand human–Earth relationships, encourages a more integrative view of how the Earth’s physical processes influence human thought, culture, policy, and ethics and vice-versa.

In our times, the critical zone has become the stage for confronting human-provoked environmental crises and extinction events. Thus, the zone serves as the ground for philosophical, literary, and artistic engagements with these crises and events – that is, for representing the ecosystems under threat, for imagining futures in which environment, species, and human heritage may not survive, and for making the impacts of human actions on the environment available for critical engagement.

Because humans shape the fragile critical zone, as climate scientists and environmental scholars have been warning, in destructive and irreversible manners, a reconfiguration of human relations to Earth is imperative. Over the last decades, various environmental discourses have emerged, with varying consequences on the aesthetic, cultural, and political scenes. Gradually, the awareness of the crucial role that the humanities, especially in their interdisciplinary approaches, can play in representing environmental processes, related or unrelated to human activity and existence, has given rise to such fields as the environmental humanities, blue humanities, hydrosociology, geoanthropology, and the like.

Inscriptions invites submissions for a forthcoming special issue that will explore the intersections of environmental studies with aesthetics, literary narratives, and critical theory. This issue aims to forge new understandings and expand scholarly conversations where these dynamic fields overlap, reflecting both the ecological and cultural dimensions of contemporary environmental challenges. Issue editors: Dr. Anda Pleniceanu and Dr. Torgeir Fjeld.

Themes and Topics

We seek original research articles, creative contributions, and critical explorations that engage with but are not limited to the following themes:

Theoretical Research Related to the Field of Environmental Humanities:
  • Theoretical frameworks for understanding the Anthropocene, extinction events, and environmental crises.
  • Critical discussions on the role of capitalism, colonialism, globalization, and industrialization in shaping ecological narratives.
  • Discursive approaches and aesthetical responses to contemporary issues related to the environment, such as the focus on catastrophe, the limits of existence of the Earth, technological Prometheanism, and economic rationalism as a response to crisis.
Critical Extinction Studies:
  • Explorations of the sixth mass extinction and its biocultural impacts through an interdisciplinary lens, integrating approaches from the humanities and social sciences.
  • Analyses of how extinction is perceived, experienced, and articulated across different communities and cultures.
  • Investigations into the role of storytelling and literary narratives in general in articulating the crises of extinction, focusing on its capacity to foster ethical proximity and engagement with non-human life forms.
  • Discussions of extinction as a broader phenomenon, which includes human heritage. The consequences of integrating a wider historical perspective when referring to extinction.
Literature and Environmental Consciousness:
  • Literary analysis of texts that explore themes of nature, biodiversity, and ecological disaster.
  • The role of narrative, poetry, and storytelling in fostering environmental activism and awareness.
  • The role of ecocritical literature, such as the cli-fi, ecopoetry, solarpunk, climate change fiction, environment-focused theatre, and other forms of speculative literature, to foment transdisciplinary discussions regarding the impact of climate change on human society.
  • Ecocriticism and the interpretation of classical and contemporary literary works.
Critical Theory and Environmental Concerns:
  • Application of critical theories such as postcolonial theory, queer theory, and feminist theory to environmental issues.
  • The intersections of race, class, gender, and species in environmental activism.
  • Critical perspectives on environmental justice and the distribution of environmental risks and harms.
  • Marxist critique of current economic, social, and cultural practices and their effects on the environment.
  • The relevance of different paradigms of thought and rhetorical strategies of approaching the environment, such as green consciousness, the Gaia hypothesis, the conservation approach, Darwinian humanism, and others, in advancing environmental awareness.
Creative Responses to Environmental Issues:
  • Contributions by artists, writers, activists, and scholars to explore and express the impacts of biodiversity extinction and other environmental concerns through creative essays, poetry, short fiction, speculative accounts, and other forms of written explorations.
  • Aesthetic explorations as dynamic processes that can generate new worlds, knowledges, and subjectivities in the context of ecological and biocultural loss.
  • We invite contributions that go beyond traditional academic formats to include artistic interventions and provocations.

For this special issue we welcome proposals and full essays that address any of these or other relevant questions.

Submission instructions: Academic essays should be 3,000 to 4,500 words. We encourage potential authors to submit proposals (150 words) ahead of writing/submitting full-length manuscripts. The editors provide an indicative review of proposals. Include title, institutional affiliation, and a brief author bio with the text of your proposal. More information is available under the Editorial Policies tab on our web-page.

Creative criticism: For this issue we solicit creative criticism under a broad ambit; we seek writers who are reflecting explicitly on their methods, practices, positionings, etc., as academic writers and/or creative practitioners. We provide space for autoethnographic explorations; lyrical, personal essays; creative non-fiction approaches; imagined dialogues; experimental oddities in which form charts “thinking in/as writing” (and vice versa); collaborative conversations and “inter-views”; interdisciplinary detournements.

Deadline for proposals: 15 September, 2024. Full manuscripts are due 15 October, 2024.