In the Landscape of Signs and the Body of Things: un/doing Environmental Knowledge




Prof. Dr. Susan Arndt


Englische Literaturwissenschaft und Anglophone Literaturen



Donsomsakulkij, M.A. Weeraya
Ndogo, Dr. Samuel
Simatei, Prof. Dr. Peter Tirop





This research project, composed in co-operation with Prof. Peter Simatei, Dr. Samuel Ndogo and Weeraya Donsomsakulkij (PhD candidate), aims at analyzing narratives about environmental knowledge and sustainability in order to understand the intersection of literature and environmental issues and the former’s engagement with the potentially destructive forms of social/environmental development. Starting off from the assumption that different perspectives, subjectivities and agencies often produce varying and yet entangled “truths” about environmental knowledge and that the field of imagination and aesthetics open up unique approaches to representing environmental knowledge, this project will thus focus on narration in its wider sense, comprising fictional texts, ethnographic texts, sounds, visual languages, sets of images, codes and/or numbers that rely on and feed into epistemologies of environment.

Methodologically, this research is anchored in what has come to be known as ecological literary criticism or eco-criticism and post-humanism that, in a nutshell, considers what the human/ism did to the world, structurally and discursively. Transgressing the binarisms of nature and culture, human and nun-human, animated and non-animated, post-humanism accredits the archipelic spacetimes of performances beyond modes of positioned identities and their modes of othering.  Being interdisciplinary methods of criticism, literary studies will be entangled with other disciplines such as ecology, biology, anthropology and geography, in order to examine how literary works represent and nourish discourses about environmental knowledge and sustainability.

 Beginning by first establishing the grounds of intersection of these disciplines with ecological literary criticism, the project proceeds to analyze primary data (fictional texts, ethnographic texts, sounds, visual languages, sets of images) to demonstrate how by intertwining the categories of race, class, species, un/animated, non/human these texts challenge binarisms of human versus non-human; nature versus culture and animated versus unanimated and how they negotiate the hegemony of the human, by imagining nonhuman agencies, thus re/producing and subverting environmental knowledge for sustainability of the environment.

Some of the core research questions are: How is environmental knowledge re/presented and thus produced, mediated and negotiated? Which categories, topoi and aesthetics are mobilized by environmentalist activists and campaigns when re/narrating nature and environment? How do our metaphors of the land influence the way we treat it? How does human knowledge give voice to, appropriate and/or silence non-human knowledge about nature and environment? How  are agency and knowledge beyond the human/animated be identified/evaded/silenced/empowered etc.? Does the field of imagination and aesthetics open up unique approaches to representing environmental knowledge? How is environmental knowledge appropriated for the sake of different and even competing interests?