Global South Conversations: Eco-Cosmopolitanism in the Time of Climate Change

Full title:

Global South Conversations: Eco-Cosmopolitanism, Ethics of Proximity and Anthropocentric Anxieties in the Time of Climate Change

March 5-6, 2020

A Two Day Conference organized by a RUSA 2.0 Major Research Project “Literary Ecology in 19th Century Bengal”

Jadavpur University
Kolkata, India

Submission deadline: February 15, 2020



This conference envisions a conversation between scholars, activists, writers and artists and local communities. We would, through the proceedings of this conference, like to explore the range of concerns and objectives that span the polarities of “eco-cosmopolitanism” and the “ethics of proximity”, exploring varied critical responses to complex geological and biological interactions and ecological transformations in the Global South. According to the United Nations’ environmental risk index, a by-country report on the effects of global climate change, the inhabitants, locales, and economies of global south nations will be disproportionally affected as global warming intensifies. Many of these nations are projected to be hit by a three factors: rising populations, combined with already-vulnerable economies and spikes in severe weather events will result in massive disruptions to livelihoods and cultural practices, as well as mass migrations as environmental refugees flee to more habitable areas.

In her seminal text Sense of Place, Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global, Ursula K. Heise defines the eco-cosmopolitan impulse as “environmental world citizenship” that “attempt[s] to envisionindividuals and groups as part of planetary “imagined communities” of both human and non-human kinds”. The thrust of her work is aimed towards developing “a more nuanced understanding of how both local cultural and ecological systems are imbricated in global ones” (2008, 59). From the position of an environmental world citizen it may become possible to incorporate within the known world an unseen complexity of human and non-human systems. However, as Heise understands, while the potential richness of the eco-cosmopolitan worldview has the capacity to transcend the “ethic of proximity”, “such a perspective needs to be attentive to the political frameworks within which communities begin to see themselves as part of a planetary community, and what power struggle such visions might be designed to hide and legitimate.” It might even be regarded as a utopian perspective given the reality of the power wielded by global trade organizations, the ability of individual purchase-power to nullify political and environmentalist initiatives and the absence of a functioning global environmental regulation. The lack of progress made more than two decades after the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development” (1992) substantiates the skepticism of many environmentalist scholars and activists. There is also the danger of eco-cosmopolitanism being co-opted by climate capitalists to continue capitalist petro-industrial exploitation of the environment. At the same time grassroots environmentalism is frequently liable to fail as the way it conceptualizes resistance to ‘development’ – roads, power-plants, industries - is perceived as perpetuating the impoverishment of ‘backward’/ ‘underdeveloped’ places. However, grassroots environmentalism or as Ramchandra Guha terms it “environmentalism of the poor” has flourished through the South, from the Chipko Andolan of the Himalayan peasants to the struggle to protect the Brazilian Amazon forests by Chico Mendes and the local communities. While nation states and international bodies argue for ‘development’ at the cost of conservation, Guha points out that it is environmental degradation that often intensifies economic deprivation of the local communities whose lives and livelihood are inextricably connected with the natural world. At the grassroot level concern for the environment inevitably overlaps with concern for social justice.

We envisage this conference as a space for articulation of hesitation and a moment for pause in our march for ‘development’, when we examine such ideologies and responses as eco-cosmopolitanism and ethics of proximity and analyze our anthropocentric anxieties about our life-sustaining planet transforming into a space that is hostile to the survival of humans and non-humans equally.

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:

Theoretical approaches to the depiction of climate change in the Global South 

v  Making a case for eco-cosmopolitanism

v  Traditional and scientific knowledge of local ecosystems

v  Whose forests are these? Analysing the human-non-human contact

Nature fighting back: Representations of nonhuman agency

v  Wetlands and mangrove forests 

v  Managing water resources

v  Conservation of flora and fauna

Nonhuman animals in narratives of environmental change

v  Development and clean energy

v  Sustainable living practices

Representations of habitat loss

v  Religion, rituals and the non-human world

v  Women and conservation

v  Ecology and indigenous art forms

Submissions & Deadlines

We invite abstracts of up to 400 words, together with a short bio (80 words, more or less), in a single .doc/ PDF file to be sent by email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

All submissions will be read and adjudicated by an academic panel.

The closing date is 15th February 2020.

Selected abstracts will be notified by 20th February 2020.

Conveners: Dr. Saswati Halder and Dr. Sutanuka Ghosh

For more queries, please contact Project Fellow Ankana Das at 9051411789/ .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Basundhara Chakraborty at 8902641798/ .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)