Call for Papers: Commonwealth Essays and Studies 43.2 (Spring 2021)

CFP Commonwealth Essays and Studies 43.2 (Spring 2021)

Special issue: “In Other Worlds: Imagining What Comes Next”

 The pandemic of Covid 19 and the world-wide lockdown it entailed have plunged us into bewilderment. The virus has redefined for an unpredictable length of time, and perhaps permanently, the way we interact with others, and more broadly, the way any sort of exchange is conducted, be it economic, social, or sexual. It has put on hold or at best slowed down any kind of circulation, and our lives, although it has not prevented large scale demonstrations from taking place as the Rhodes Must Fall and Black Lives Matter movements have shown. The pandemic has brought us to reconsider the way we live, and to rethink our links to the environment, to the state, and to globalisation. The editorial team at Commonwealth Essays and Studies would like to respond to this exceptional situation by reflecting collectively on how literature and the visual arts can help us see more clearly through this major crisis, especially since a much more serious ecological crisis, the origins of which are clearly rooted in colonialism, is already well underway.

This call for papers invites proposals for a special issue entitled “In Other Worlds: Imagining What Comes Next” that will examine how writers have anticipated or responded to what is happening. The perspective reaches far beyond the pandemic itself, and touches upon related questions, such as biopolitics; the question of surveillance and the limitation of freedom in the name of public health; the social, racial, and gender divisions this type of crisis exacerbates; the relations and dividing lines among species; and the environmental crisis and our attitude to our habitat, which the pandemic is a result of. The genre of science-fiction, or speculative fiction (Margaret Atwood’s preferred term to describe her own work), is a prolific one through which writers have warned us about the devastating consequences of climate disaster and the risks it represents to life, both human and animal (“In Other Worlds” alludes to Atwood’s study on that genre). But other types of writing also address these questions. The notions of “biopolitics” and “state of exception,” as developed by Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben, are particularly useful as theoretical tools to analyse what is at stake. Amitav Ghosh’s call for us to imagine other forms of existence in The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) or Malcom Ferdinand’s Une écologie décoloniale (2019) are just two examples of many texts that urge us to change paradigms. The main focus of this issue is how postcolonial literature and visual arts, from their own specific contexts but also as part of a world literature, can help us grasp the kind of transformations that are happening and the challenges they pose, so as to actively imagine what comes next.

Proposals should be sent to the editors of the issue by 30 September 2020: Christine Lorre-Johnston (christine.lorre@icloud.com) and Fiona McCann (mccannfiona@gmail.com). Notification will be sent to authors 30 October. Articles will be due by the end of February 2021.


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