CFP: Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change

A special issue of Humanities

Deadline for submissions: 31 August 2019

For further information and to submit a manuscript, visit the special issue website: 

‘Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change’ investigates the various ways in which we experience climate change. ‘Climate,’ writes Mike Hulme, ‘is weather which has been cultured, interpreted and acted on by the imagination, through story-telling and using material technologies’ (Weathered: Cultures of Climate). Whereas weather can be experienced directly, climate and climate change are inevitably mediated and remediated through cultural forms: particular narratives, vocabularies, images, objects, and symbols. This presents a considerable opportunity for scholars in the humanities and social sciences, who are well placed to analyse how climate change is understood, represented, and communicated in relation to specific socio-political contexts and within specific ethical and epistemological frameworks. However, it also presents a significant challenge. How can we be attentive to climate change as story without supporting the idea that it is a mere fiction? How can we move from understanding climate change as politically and culturally produced to imagining ways in which it might be mitigated? How does an understanding of climate change’s mediations remain alert to the brute facticity of environmental forces?

The special issue will bring together researchers whose work does not necessarily fit into traditional disciplinary silos. Its purpose is to explore and demonstrate the insights offered by the humanities into the cultural forms that climate change takes, and therefore to argue for the important contribution that the environmental humanities can make to climate change studies. It will be an opportunity to reflect on the broader question of the relationship between the fine-grained analytical work practised in the environmental humanities and the more instrumentalised approach to ‘climate solutions’ in the natural sciences and ‘hard’ social sciences; a relationship that it is important to address given that the problem of climate change is partly a problem of communication and imagination.

‘Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change’ will build upon the groundbreaking work of scholars such as Julie Doyle (Mediating Climate Change) and Mike Hulme, who have emphasised the political, cultural, and communicative dimensions of climate change. A special issue on the subject of the cultural forms of climate change will be able to address the diversity of these forms across time and space and beyond the scope of a single-author study. It will also be an intervention in the ongoing debate around the Anthropocene (e.g. Bonneuil and Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene; Davies, The Birth of the Anthropocene). One of the key problems with the concept is that it can be used to suggest a monolithic species-wide agency that not only exaggerates human power but also glosses over the considerable inequalities that generate climate change and to which it contributes. A more nuanced notion of the Anthropocene requires a nuanced analysis of the diverse ways through which climate change can be understood in relation to human discourse and practice, rather than seeing it simply as a measure of what ‘we’ do in a purely physical sense to an environment that is imagined as somehow external to us. Therefore, the special issue also relates to the recent development of ‘new materialist’ environmental philosophy (e.g. Bennett, Vibrant Matter; Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway) which similarly aims to complicate ideas of anthropogenic agency and to understand the ‘culturing’ of climate change as a process in which human and nonhuman actors/actants are entangled.

Dr. David Higgins
Dr. Tess Somervell
Prof. Nigel Clark
Guest Editors