Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies
Vol. 43 No. 1 | March 2017
Call for Papers:
The City and the Anthropocene
Serena Chou (Academia Sinica, Taiwan) & Simon Estok (Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea)
The “Anthropocene” is an increasingly popular term describing what Diane Ackerman calls “the Human Age,” namely the period visible in a measurable and clearly anthropogenic carbon stratum developing in the Industrial Revolution. Regularly represented in opposition to more bucolic images, the city has often represented the worst excesses of human habitation of the natural environment, just as it has been seen as a symbol of the “human age,” and the epitome of waste and spoilage. However, we know from megacities of the twenty-first century that cities are more carbon efficient than less vertical assemblages such as villages and farms. Recent research on “sustainability and the city” observes that “the average urban dweller in the U.S. has about one-third the carbon footprint of the average suburban dweller” and that “from a climate change perspective, the cities are already relatively ‘green’” (Dunham-Jones 2010). The city is more environmentally friendly per capita than the farm, but this has not been traditionally the position expressed in literature.
Often a topos presaging apocalyptic visions in the literature of modernism and post-modernism, the city has a long history as an object of representation. Historically, literature has framed cities in very specific ways. A special issue of PMLA (January 2007) offers a broad set of discussions of some of these representational strategies, yet it does so largely outside the context of ecocriticial inquiry. From the early modern period to the twenty-first century, writers have addressed the city/country binary from a position that has sometimes leaned toward what is now properly known as ecocritical. Raymond Williams famously addresses the theoretical matter of the city/country binary from the perspective of class and environment, yet the theoretical trajectory within the environmental humanities since then has been to look at the ecologies of cities (Bennett and Teague 1999; Christopher Schliephake 2014). How, then, do representations of country and city in literature speak to Anthropocene moments?
In one of the many books recently published on “the Anthropocene” (six since September 2015 alone), Jedediah Purdy notes the heavy irony of the Anthropocene condition namely that “the more we understand and the more our power increases, the more our control over nature seems a precarious fantasy” (2015). This special issue attempts to answer the following questions: In what ways do writing about cities reflect an awareness of this “precarious fantasy”? How might the city be a narrative vehicle that not only addresses the excesses of environmental exploitation but also nails down things that transcend time and space and become visible in times of environmental crisis—the hyperobjects about which Timothy Morton theorizes? What contradictions characterize the modern capitalist city, and how do representations of these contradictions determine narrative forms? In what ways is the city a space for the performance and production of “the human” and the “posthuman,” of nature and the end of nature? How does class figure in the representation of cities within the context of the Anthropocene? What is the space and challenge of animals? How does food function in different mega-cityscapes? How does the evolution of cities chart class and gender?
We welcome proposals on topics that clearly address contemporary discussions about the Anthropocene and the city. These could include but are not restricted to the following topics:
- The applicability of ecocritical theories to the representation of cities in literature
- Space, environment, and environmental justice within cities
- Trees and ethics in cities
- Air, water, food, and environment in cities
- Pets and sustainability in cities
- Climate, strange weather, and their representations (dystopic visions, apocalyptic novels—Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, etc.)
- War, trauma, and the environment
- virtual spaces/real spaces
- sex and gender in the city
- questions of scale, hyperobjects, slow violence
- environmental activism
Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies, currently indexed in Arts and Humanities Citation Index, is a peer-reviewed journal published two times per year by the Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan. Concentric is devoted to offering innovative perspectives on literary and cultural issues and advancing the transcultural exchange of ideas. While committed to bringing Asian-based scholarship to the world academic community, Concentric welcomes original contributions from diverse national and cultural backgrounds. Each issue of Concentric publishes groups of essays on a special topic as well as papers on more general issues. http://www.concentric-literature.url.tw/