CFP – Ecologies

Ecology has stood for the study of interactions between organisms and their environments, and at times has been used interchangeably with the environment. Ecological approaches often stress connections and interdependencies, but the persistent language of entanglements to describe systems has also come under criticism for focusing on particular relationalities, and thereby excluding others. The global outbreak of Covid-19 has unleashed numerous relations and ecologies with ventilators, masks, and aerosols/droplets being as much a part of the coronavirus networks as grocery delivery workers and epidemiologists. While some scholars have argued for tracing the connections between the different constituents of the coronavirus network, others have called for identifying a more absolute cause, that is, Capitalism. 

A term with myriad resonances, ecology has been applied to refer to information systems and study of cybernetic environments. That ecology can both be the study of “nature” and the information environment, is realized in this moment of pandemic as news about coronavirus has gone viral with novel rumors and memes seeking to clarify and extend earlier news cycles of information circulation about the virus. The language of crisis and disaster to describe the global pandemic with its manifold politics of temporality has more persistently been used to explain the onrushing (if not, impending) condition of climate change, or still better, “climate collapse.” Furthermore, media technologies measuring and sensing global warming themselves leave behind ecological footprints if one considers the minerals and energy required to manufacture them and continue to make them work. 

Whether the invisibility of SARS-CoV-2 virus or the imperceptibility of wireless signals or the impalpability of radioactivity to human senses, the perception of environmental risks and threats from these biophysical phenomena have their own politics of visibility and invisibility. Here, the visual cultures of representing and performing posthumanist “natures” such as a bacteria and virus, or cesium isotopes and 5G signals, play a role in disrupting conventional environmental politics. While discussing environmental (in)perceptibilities, ecology scholars are not just examining satellite imaging or radiation detectors, but also the bureaucratic and mediatic infrastructures of power that render the toil of workers at the nuclear reactor or the death of Covid patients in hospitals simply invisible to the wider public. 

Another pressing concern for scholars of social ecologies is comprehending the pervasive sense of precarity and relentless uncertainty that mark ecological crises. With necessary quarantine measures and social distancing norms in place amidst global pandemic, the familiar alliance of social and biological life has been ruptured. That said, environmental crises and controversies can also be moments of learning, where attention can be focused on yet unaccounted for multispecies relations and socio-economic distributions. Microbes and viruses mutate and reassemble across animal species and reservoirs, causing infections and spreading contagion. We are interested to hear from scholars about both historical and recent discourses that seek to redefine human relationship with nature and culture, and thus reshape contemporary politics.     

This Ecologies dispatch series hopes to publish urgent and sustained analysis of past and present environmental crisis and phenomena. Understanding the importance but also the limitation of the temporalities of disasters, we also hope scholars will provide reflections on key concepts about ecologies from interdisciplinary fields of study such as ecocinema, critical animal studies, plant ecologies, ecodesign, and ecofeminism. Such reflections might also include ecocritiques of the steady informatization and environmentalization of “our” worlds today. Dispatches can be upto 1500 word interventions, visual essays, or a combination of both. 

Possible topics include: 

  • Socio-ecological analysis of environmental crises
  • Relationship between environmental crises and embodied notions of sexuality, gender, and race.
  • Ecological footprint of digital (streaming) technologies/Digital Media and Environmental Degradation
  • (A)visual Politics of Environmental Sensors
  • Visual Cultures of representing and performing “natures” at the intersection of arts and sciences, humanities and social sciences.
  • Study of Transmediality, Intermediality, and Media Ecologies 
  • Possibilities and limitations of relational ontologies in ecological thinking. 
  • Multispecies Intra-actions and Becomings in the Anthropocene
  • Political Economy and Social Ecologies
  • On-ground reports, vignettes, or responses to context-specific cases around the world. 
  • Mediatic Visualization of coronavirus, climate change and other ecological crises.
  • Beyond Visual (and human sensory) observations of viral and environmental phenomena.

Dispatches is a rolling submission initiative of the Journal of Visual Culture. Please send your essays to the Dispatches Series editors David Ayala-Alfonso(davidayala@gmail.com) and/or Rahul Mukherjee (mrahul@sas.upenn.edu).