ASLE 2021 PANEL: MILITANT ECOLOGIES

In her 1968 collection Revolutionary Letters, Diane di Prima issued an all-caps injunction: ‘BLOW UP THE PETROLEUM LINES.’ ‘[M]ake the cars / into flower pots or sculptures or live / in the bigger ones,’ she suggests, ‘why not?’ In the thick of multiple emergencies, the contemporary re-emergence of di Prima’s resonant question – ‘why not?’ – signals the environmental movement’s return to militancy and direct action, epitomized in Andreas Malm’s recent interrogation of this quandary in How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Framing di Prima’s green anarchism and Malm’s account of environmental militancy against global struggles over resource extraction, deforestation, Indigenous autonomy, and settler-colonial land occupation, this panel proposes “militant ecologies” as a provisional framework for understanding these overlapping emergencies of the present. Notable exceptions such as di Prima, Juliana Spahr and Rita Wong aside, militant literature is starkly absent from ecocriticism, while ecocritical readings of militant writers are marked by the erasure of explicitly anti-capitalist politics as the cost of their inclusion. By the same token, the study of militant literatures rarely focuses on their attendant environments or political ecologies. Against these reciprocal critical erasures, reading militant ecologies asks us to reconsider intersections between ecocritical methodologies, ecopoetics, and radical politics.

Responding to Boaventura De Sousa Santos and Maria Paula Meneses’s call for “knowledges born in the struggle,” we propose the critical relocation of environmental literature away from neoromantic wilderness discourses of an externalized and curative “Nature,” away from the privileged sphere of consumption, and away from symbolic protest, toward the riot, the blockade, the factory, the prison, the guerrilla encampment, and the fugitive mobilities of radical literature across borders, both concrete and linguistic. Attending to militant environmentalisms, then, strategically shifts the subject and terrain of ecocriticism onto the manifold struggles taking place across land and resource struggles, supply chains, and extraction sites. Following Rob Nixon’s environmentalism of the poor, Frantz Fanon’s les damnés de la terre, and E.P. Thompson’s people’s history, militant ecologies envisages an ecocriticism and an ecopoetics “from below.” We welcome 15-minute papers that address the emergence of new militant ecologies, in response to and against conditions of contemporary emergency. Please email proposals to Fred Carter and Daniel Eltringham (d.eltringham@sheffield.ac.uk) by 21 March 2021.

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