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Defining Environmentalism and the Anthropocene in Southeast Asia

Call for Papers now open!

Location: Palm Springs CA
Time: TBA

Over one hundred fifty years ago, naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace journeyed through the islands of Southeast Asia, drawing from the region’s rich biodiversity to co-discover with Darwin the theory of natural selection. However, even at that time he noted that forests were quickly giving way to colonial clear cuts and species from one island were showing up in the markets of others. The Anthropocene, an era in which human activity has become a dominant shaping force in ecosystems, global climate and species histories, was already underway. Wallace’s environmentalism was also deeply contingent upon imperial networks of travel and communication; the ensuing wars of empire and decolonization left many eco-cultures in tatters. A critical challenge then for policymakers, intellectuals, scientists and others in the region is to articulate new notions of environmentalism that respond to these complex intersections of ecology, history, and culture. As people and governments struggle to articulate locally meaningful responses to Anthropocene problems, scholars, artists and activists can play important roles in identifying ideas of nature, ruin, sustainability and health that resonate locally or inter-regionally. As literary critic Raymond Williams once noted, the word “nature” is one of the most complex in the English vocabulary. If this is so, then how do these ideas fare in translation?

“Southeast Asian Natures” asks participants to consider the complexities of nature and its changes in the many different languages and ecologies of Southeast Asia. Proposed themes of the workshop are purposefully broad, and they include:

1.     histories, ecologies and flows

2.     spatial practices, representations and bio-politics

3.     nature, sustainability and health in language, ritual and performance

Sponsors: UC Riverside Center for Ideas and Society & Southeast Asia Program
Organizers: David Biggs, Christina Schwenkel and Hendrik Maier

Visit the conference page for more details