Call for papers, Ecotones #8, “Utopia and Ecotone: Contemporary Stakes”

Ghent University, Belgium

29 September – 1 October 2022

In partnership with

EMMA (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3), DIRE (Université de La Réunion) & Maison Française d’Oxford

https://emma.www.univ-montp3.fr/fr/valorisation-partenariats/programmes-européens-et- internationaux/ecotones

Conference venue: Ghent University, Belgium
Dates: 29 September – 1 October 2022
Languages: English, French
Deadline for abstracts: 30 April 2022
Notification of acceptance: 31 May 2022

After a series of conferences held at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Université de Poitiers and Université de La Réunion (France, 2015, 2016, 2018), at the Centre for the Study of Social Sciences in Calcutta (CSSSC, India, 2018), Manhattanville College (USA, 2019), Concordia Universitý (Canada, 2019) and University of Cape Town (South Africa, 2021), this international conference at Ghent University will be the 8th opus of the “Ecotones : encounters, crossings, communities” (2015-2022) conference cycle. This interdisciplinary programme aims to open up the term “ecotone”, a concept hitherto used in geography and ecology, to the humanities, political and social sciences. The “Utopia and Ecotone” Conference will focus specifically on utopias that emerge from or relate to ecotones.

An “ecotone” initially designates an ecological transitional area between two (or more) distinct ecosystems, the passage between two habitat types (forest/grassland) or the flow between two natural environments (freshwater/sea water). In explaining how this transition zone can be studied from a sociological as well as a biological perspective, Misrahi-Barak and Lacroix (2019; see also Arnold et al. 2020) have broadened the definition: an ecotone can thus also refer to a cultural space where communities meet, at times creolizing or germinating into a new community. As a place (oikos) of identity tensions (tonos) at work, the ecotone represents a shared alternative space, enabling connection, transformation, and potentially reinvention. This 8th conference intends to continue the discussions led in previous editions on the “complex chemistry” of creolizing worlds (Cohen 2009), the “contact zones” between cultures (Pratt 1992) in contexts such as migrations, diasporas, refugee movements, postcolonial displacements, human movements linked to climate change and other major historical events of the contemporary period (1980 to the present) through the prism of “utopia”.

The definition of the ecotone, as given above, echoes that of utopia in the contemporary era: through the power of the imagination, utopia would be the revealing place of a knot of tensions (Benjamin 1997) that must be observed, questioned and reinvented. The hypothesis of this conference is the following: an ecotone is a fertile space for the reawakening of utopia, a hypothesis that will be specifically posed in the face of contemporary issues. For the past twenty years, utopian proposals have been emerging, not in the traditional, largely pejorative sense, evoking a future so bright that it seems unreal, which led to political practices oscillating between impotence and dictatorship; but in the sense that they would go against the current of dominant social relations in a resolutely active approach (Balibar 2020). Utopia would therefore not be the anticipation of the future, but, in the present, the exercise of a concrete thought, which invents counter-narratives and experiments with alternative modes of relation. This pragmatic aspect of utopia reactivates Ernst Bloch’s Principle of Hope (1976), according to which true utopia would not be an “image of consolation”, a fictional recourse in the face of “disenchantment”, or even a chimerical abstraction, but rather an overcoming, a figure of the imaginary to be inscribed in the materialitý of the world (Wright 2010). As an anticipatory consciousness, experimental thinking, far from the totalitarian temptation, utopia would rather be an open floor to possibilities, to feasible projects of transformation, here and now. For example, the idea of “Refugia” coined by Robin Cohen (2015), which the sociologist and expert in migration studies, is exploring in greater depth alongside Nicholas Van Hear (2020): Refugia is the proposal to create a deterritorialised, transnational entity between different sites developed and self-governed built on initiatives essentially led by people in a migratory situation. This pragmatic utopianism draws on both the ecotone as a socially shared space and the archipelago as a space for relation (Glissant 1997) to challenge the model of the nation-state in terms of its ability to offer hospitality to displaced people. In the current context of the asylum crisis – otherwise known as the “migration crisis” – utopia could be more than a principle of hope, it could also be an attempt at resistance that summons a principle of responsibility (Delmas-Marty 2011).

“See how we graft Utopia onto all these plants of the Creole vegetation”, said the poet, writer and philosopher Édouard Glissant in his novel Tout-monde (1993). In the same heuristic impulse, the objective of this conference is to push back the epistemological limits of utopia by observing it from the ecotone. In what way is an ecotone a circulation zone where utopias emerge, whether for economic, social, industrial and financial, or artistic and creative purposes? How does utopia help us question the ecotone, for example, concerning its borders, its margins or its flows, and vice versa? How does utopian thinking integrate the diversities generated by the ecotone? Is there an ideal, inclusive and egalitarian model of the ecotone, whether real or imagined? What new modes of relationship does the ecotone allow for in postcolonial contexts? Metaphorical or concrete, how does the ecotone renew modes of representation? How does utopia apprehend the evolution of transitional zones, especially those generated by ecological changes? And what about the mesh that is being woven between human beings and the whole of the living world? What role can utopia play in the future and in contemporary social, economic, urban and ecological achievements in the face of the migratory challenge in a globalised world when climate change occurs? What about model cities, or città ideale? How is utopianism, often perceived as an essentially Western construction, renewed by the countries in the Global South and their diasporas?

The “Utopia and Ecotone” Conference will convene, revise and extend through the lens of utopia the notions of “place” (oïkos) and “non-place” (outopos) (Agier 2013), of “heterotopia” (Foucault 1994), of “deterritorialisation” and “lines of flight” (Deleuze and Guattari 1980), of maroonage (Bona 2016) and “the inextricable entanglement of lianas” (Bona 2021). The transnational dimension of the ecotone will also be examined using concepts such as “cosmopolitanism” (Beck 2006, Vertovec 2002), “afropolitanism” (Mbembe 2005, 2019; Diop 2016; Gehrmann 2016; Balakrishnan 2018) or “afropeanism” (Miano 2020). The circulation of worlds allows for the emergence of new conceptualisations, both pragmatic and programmatic, of “emancipatory utopias” (Vergès 2017), such as “afrotopias” (Sarr 2016), which we invite to observe, both in the Anglophone and Francophone worlds. As an analogy from environmental thinking, the ecotone highlights the notion of “interconnectedness” (Morton 2008), whereby components are intrinsically linked to the whole of life, but are also continually and repeatedly reconfigured and reconnected. In conjunction with the political and social sciences, special attention will be given to literary and artistic representations of these multiple contemporary formations of utopias dealing with issues of flow and mobility in ecotonal spaces.

Information

The “Utopia and Ecotone” conference will take place on 29 September – 1 October in Ghent (Belgium). The languages of work will be English and French. Each presentation will last 20 minutes (followed by a discussion). A peer-reviewed publication of the proceedings is envisaged.

The conference will be an in-person event. Travel and accommodation costs will have to be covered by the participants. Registration fees will be requested.

How to submit

Paper proposals, in English or French, in .doc or .docx format, should include a title, a 300-word abstract that clearly specifies the corpus studied, a short critical bibliography, and a 5-line bio-bibliographic note (including name, institutional affiliation and email address).

Proposals must be sent by email to Justine Feyereisen: justine.feyereisen@ugent.be by 30 April 2022. The scientific committee’s decision will be delivered by 31 May.

References

Agier M.: 2013, La Condition cosmopolite. L’Anthropologie à l’épreuve du piège identitaire, La Découverte.
Arnold M., Duboin C., Misrahi-Barak J. eds.: 2020, Borders and Ecotones in the Indian Ocean, Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée.
Balakrishnan S.: 2018, “The Afropolitan Idea: New Perspectives on Cosmopolitanism in African Studies”, Delanty G. (ed.), Routledge International Handbook of Cosmopolitanism Studies (2nd ed.), Routledge, 575-585.
Balibar É.: 2020, Histoire interminable, La Découverte.
Beck U.: 2006, Qu’est-ce que le cosmopolitisme ?, Aubier.
Bloch E.: 1976, Le Principe Espérance I [1954-1959], Gallimard.
Bona D.T. : 2016, Fugitif, où cours-tu ?, Presses universitaires de France
___: 2021, La Sagesse des lianes. Cosmopoétique du refuge, Post-éditions.
Cohen R.: 2009, The Creolization Reader. Studies in Mixed Identities and Cultures, Routledge.
___: 2015, « Refugia: the limits and possibilities of Buzi’s Refugee Nation”, https://nandosigona.
wordpress.com/2015/07/30/refugia-the-limits-and-possibilities-of-buzis-refugee-nation.
___, Van Hear N.: 2020, Refugia. Radical Solutions to Mass Displacement, Routledge.
Deleuze G., Guattari F.: 1980, Mille plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie, Minuit.
Delmas-Marty M.: 2011, Les Forces imaginantes du droit IV. Vers une communauté de valeurs, Seuil.
Diop P.S.: 2016, « Des mots et concepts nouveaux en circulation dans l’espace francophone : l’“Afropolitanisme” en question », Nouvelles études francophones, 31.2, 14-28.
Duverger T.: 2021, Utopies locales, les solutions écologiques et solidaires de demain, Les Petits Matins.
Fassin D (dir).: 2021, La Société qui vient, Seuil.
Foucault M.: 1994, Dits et écrits, Gallimard.
Gehrmann S.: 2016, “Cosmopolitanism with African roots. Afropolitan’s ambivalent mobilities”, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 28.1: 61-72.
Glissant E.: 1993, Tout-monde, Gallimard; 2020, Treatise on the Whole-World, translated by Celia Britton, Liverpool University Press.
___, 1997, Traité du Tout-monde, Gallimard.
Mangeon A.: 2022, L’Afrique au futur. Le renversement des mondes. Herman.
Mbembe A.: 2005 (25 December), « Afropolitanisme », Africultures, http://africultures.com/afropolitanisme-4248.
___, Sarr F. (dir.): 2019, Politique des temps. Imaginer les devenirs africains, P. Rey & Jimsaan.
Miano L.: 2020, Afropea. Utopie post-occidentale et post-raciste, Grasset.
Misrahi-Barak J., Lacroix T.: 2019, “Ecotones: Encounters, crossings, and communities, 2015-2020”, Programme outlines, https://emma.www.univ-montp3.fr/fr/valorisation-partenariats/programmes-européens-et-internationaux/ecotones.
Morton T.: 2008, The Ecological Thought, Harvard University Press.
Pratt M. L.: 1992, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, Routledge.
Sarr F.: 2016, Afrotopia, P. Rey.
Vergès F.: 2017, « Utopies émancipatrices », Mbembe A., Sarr F. (eds.), Écrire l’Afrique-Monde, P. Rey & Jimsaan, 243-260.
Vertovec S., Cohen R.: 2002, Conceiving Cosmopolitanism, Oxford University Press.
Wright E.O.: 2010, Envisioning Real Utopias, Verso.

Organising Committee
Justine Feyereisen, Universiteit Gent
Pierre Schoentjes, Universiteit Gent 

Scientific Committee
Corinne Duboin, Université de La Réunion
Justine Feyereisen, Universiteit Gent
Thomas Lacroix, CNRS, Sciences Po- CERI, Maison Française d’Oxford
Judith Misrahi-Barak, EMMA, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 
Pierre Schoentjes, Universiteit Gent 

Ecotone Programme Coordinators
Thomas Lacroix, CNRS, Sciences Po- CERI, Maison Française d’Oxford
Judith Misrahi-Barak, EMMA, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 
Maggi Morehouse, Coastal Carolina University 


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