CfP: (Re)thinking (Post)Colonial Landscapes in the Francophone World

Call for papers, deadline 31 May 2021

Friday 12th & Saturday 13th November 2021 – online conference


Land and landscape are at the heart of both colonial project and anti-colonial struggle: in its conquest, possession, exploitation, development and representation, these are, literally and metaphorically, the battleground of colonialism. Seminal works such as Alfred Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism (1986) and Richard Grove’s Green Imperialism (1995) have demonstrated how European colonialism has transform­­­ed landscapes. Both human landscape and natural world are physically altered through urban planning, aggressive agricultural practices, the introduction of animals, plants and diseases, and the extraction of natural resources. Yet such transformations also occur on the level of the imaginary, in the ways in which colonisers and colonial writers, travellers, artists and historians have portrayed the landscapes around them, as exotic, hostile, uninhabitable or devastated, violated and destroyed, as is evident in texts such as François Leguat’s Voyage et avantures de Francois Leguat et ses compagnons, en deux isles desertes des Indes Orientales (1708), R.P Jean-Baptiste Labat’s Voyage aux îles de l’Amérique (Antilles) 1693-1705 (1722), Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s Voyage autour du monde (1771), or Pierre Odinot’s Monde marocain (1926). 

Reconfiguring the landscape has been central in the postcolonial era, in such diverse sites as the architecture of Mobutu Sese Seko’s ‘recours à l’authenticité’ in the DRC, or the Caribbean ‘jardin créole’. Yet the legacies of the transformations brought about by colonialism, both physical and mental, remain not only in the continued imprints of the past on the landscape but also in new forms of neocolonial territorial exploitation, and contemporary environmental movements which reproduce colonial practices of conservation (John Mbaria and Mordecai Odaga, 2016) and exclude activists from the Global South from Western environmentalist narratives. Socio-environmental scandals such as the use of chlordecone in Martinique, the exploitation of the Montagne-d’or mining project in Guyana, and French nuclear testing in Algeria, Moruroa and elsewhere, foreground the question of the neocolonial relationship between France and its (former) colonies. As Deborah Jenson (2010) and Martin Munro (2015) have argued, contemporary neoliberal humanitarian narratives also portray countries from the Global South, such as Haiti, as synonymous with catastrophe.  

In a context of global climate emergency and increasingly urgent calls for action, the ever-growing field of ecocriticism has also drawn attention to the importance of the study of landscapes and environments in artistic works. As preparations are made for the COP26 UN climate conference in November this year, the need to rethink our relationship to the environment and radically transform our behaviours has become imperative, its urgency only increased by the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic in a digital world replete with images of ecological disaster. The global imbalance in the intensity with which the effects of climate disaster are felt also underscores the need, as Malcom Ferdinand argues in Une écologie décoloniale (2019), to bridge the divide between environmentalism on the one hand and decolonization and anti-racist struggle on the other.    

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to interrogate how landscapes past, present and future have been portrayed, developed, responded to and remembered. What role does the landscape play – and what role is played out on the landscape – in colonial, anti-colonial and postcolonial literature, arts and critical studies in the Francophone world? We encourage a debate on the problématiques concerning urban and environmental studies, memory of place, colonial history, and modes of thinking about the world which highlight the contribution of cultural and literary studies to mapping new paradigms. We welcome theoretical and critical contributions on topics including, but not limited to:    

·         The shaping of urban, rural and natural landscapes   

·         People/nature relations   

·         Indigeneity and ancestral land   

·         Belonging, displacement and nostalgia   

·         Imaginary geographies   

·         Decolonizing environmentalism  

·         Landscapes as artistic genre    

·         Links between colonialism and ‘green imperialism’   

·         Disaster study and stories of disaster   

·         Neo-colonial exploitation    

·         Relationship between landscape, time and memory   

·         Conceptions and critiques of the anthropocene 

·         Postcolonial responses to climate emergencies   

·         (Post)colonial maps and borders   

·         Extractivism    

·         Petro-exploitation and petrofictions   

·         Territorialisation and appropriation   

·         Eco-tourism and travel writing   

·         Heritage sites and nature reserves   

·         Greening the canon   

·         Ecofeminism   

·         Exoticism   

·         Ecocriticism and ecopoetics  

·         Geocriticism and geopoetics  

Please send abstracts of 200-250 words plus 50-100 words of biography in a Word document to Conference Secretaries Sky Herington and Orane Onyekpe-Touzet at Papers can be in English or French. The deadline for the receipt of abstracts is 31 of May 2021.  

The conference will take place entirely online on the 12th and 13th of November. Registration to the event will be free however, presenters will be expected to become members of the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies ( Free associate membership is available for scholars and students from the Global South.