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South Asian Literature and Film in the Anthropocene: Multiscalar and Heterotemporal Narratives

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Organizer: Amit Baishya

Co-Organizer: Jill Didur

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The concept of the Anthropocene poses three big challenges for literary and cinematic narratives. The first challenge is spatial. Elements of the background in setting or mise-en-scene, often taken for granted or considered passive, are pushed to the foreground. The second challenge is material. Elements like soil, air, fire and water and entities like rocks, sand or plants intrude into narrative spaces as they demonstrate their material and agential capacities. The third challenge is temporal. On the one hand, the deep past intrudes into the everyday insistently (as for instance in narratives about fossil fuel extraction); on the other hand, as Patrick Whitmarsh writes, the Anthropocene endows a sense of “lived futurity to everyday life” (narratives of extinction are examples). The present and the moment of the “now” are entangled with explorations of deep pasts and near and distant futures.

The seminar asks how South Asian literature and film have responded to this triple itinerary. How do literary and cinematic works from the region explore deep pasts, deep futures and their entanglements with the present and with materiality? How are elements and concepts like the lithic, the oceanic, the archipelagic, the plantationocene, the capitalocene, the arboreal and the planetary contended with in South Asian literature and film? Do representations of Anthropocene time complicate narratives of transnational capital, nation and region? What are the generic innovations that enable representations of the vicissitudes of the Anthropocene? How do multiscalar and heterotemporal Anthropocene narratives fuse with (or work against) narratives of environmental and social justice? We invite proposals dealing with such questions in both Anglophone works/productions and literary/cinematic works in South Asian languages.

Please contact the seminar organizers—Jill Didur ( and Amit Baishya ( you have any questions.   

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