Call for papers

Tropics journal
Issue to be published in June 2024
Ecologies of the Indian Ocean Worlds

Léo Abgrall, Daphné Bérenger et Élisa Huet

Pierre Schoentjes states in his book Ce qui a lieu:

the writing of nature is never essentially descriptive, and certainly never ‘objective’, but [...] it evokes [...] willingly the history of the country, the customs of the inhabitants, the etymology of the localities, the literature, the data of the natural sciences, the myths and the popular stories...All this cultural heritage situates the experience of nature in time and gives depth to the view1.

This essential link that Schoentjes points out between the writing of nature and a certain relationship to the world is at the heart of this call for contributions. More specifically, this issue to be published is concerned with the ecologies of the worlds of the Indian Ocean in a colonial and post-colonial context. One of the questions underlying the reflections of the authors of this call for papers is that of Indian Ocean ecology. If the starting point of the reflection of the authors of this call for papers is first of all a Creole island (Reunion Island) and the south-western Indian Ocean, the contributions and works that we call to consider - the Indian Ocean that we invite to consider - are by no means restricted to it. Any space in and around the Indian Ocean, bordering it or connecting to it, as well as any approach aiming to compare the ecology, the relationship to the living, between the places of this ocean (Madagascar, East African coast, Middle East coast, Indian world, South-East Asia, Oceania and Western Australia) and other spaces2, can therefore be taken as objects of study. This call is therefore interested in research dealing with the ecologies of the Indian Ocean. This plural thus wishes to emphasize the plurality of relations to the environment in the Indian Ocean, which can certainly not be limited to a univocal understanding. We therefore invite contributors to think about ecologies and ecocriticism within this oceanic space, in the tradition of Alain Suberchicot, in a comparative manner3.

As this issue is intended to be inter/trans/pluridiciplinary within the human and social sciences, several reading methodologies may be mobilized. All the approaches related to ecopoetics, ecofeminism and especially ecocriticism enter into the line of thought of the present argument. This central relation of the human beings, notably by the imaginary and the practices, to the nature could be questioned by the landscape. For Yves Lughinbul, the latter is « above all an image elaborated from memories, myths, knowledge, in short, culture4 ». Augustin Berque, for his part, conceives the relationship to landscape as a « mediance5 » of a society to its environment. It will be possible to study the landscapes of the interior of the land (insular or not), gardens or the seascape. The very notion of « transported landscapes6 », these landscapes migrating from one place to another, is of interest to the reflections that this issue tends to generate. In the desire to deepen the reflection on the consequences of human action on nature in the Indian Ocean, contributions may also focus on the notion of « ecological grievance7 ». Thus, if « ecological grief » refers to environmental degradation, environmental changes, the loss of the known landscape or the break with a certain relationship to the landscape, the way in which this grief resonates in the Indian Ocean can be questioned: what does it mean, for example, in the Creole islands? What relationship to place, to history, to memories does it speak of? In literature, it is possible to question its representations: does a « grievance » inhabit the landscapes and the writing of places? This can be, in our opinion, conceived in two ways: that which touches contemporary problems linked to the environment (climate change, environmental degradation and the relationship to the ecosystem) and a grief residing in landscapes haunted by the spectres of violence, woven of silences, inhabited by subalternized narratives. The relationship of predation towards nature and the living, the filiation between modes of exploitation of humans and the living in the post-colonial era are also tracks that we invite to explore.

Central to this space, connecting places and humans, the Indian Oceanic maritime space belongs to the elements that the present argument wishes to consider and discuss. Trying to think about ecologies and the relationship between humans and non-human living beings, both physically and through the imaginary and writing (in the case of literature), a reflection on the Indian Ocean could not do without this space (especially its seabed and its ecosystem). The studies will be able to focus on this space of liminality par excellence that is the coastline, but also on « coastal » thoughts and poetic « amphibians8 ». In short, the interest of the contributors will be focused on the oceanic thought of the societies of the Indian Ocean. The corpus considered could be composed of literary texts, travel accounts, iconographic data, maps... The diversity of approaches and corpus responds to one of the objectives of this issue, which is to propose to grasp the Indian Ocean in a « multifaceted9 » way, or as Bertrand Westphal would say, a « multifocal10 » way. Another of the aims of this issue is to open up research on the Indian Ocean both geographically and in terms of discipline by proposing articles from various disciplines (literature, geography, history, anthropology...) dealing with the different territories of the Indian Ocean space.

Two main axes are to be invested:

Axis 1: Ecologies of spaces

In this first axis, the focus is on reflections on climatic phenomena such as the cyclone (its impact on the islands, their nature, their inhabitants and its place in writing), the monsoon (a phenomenon specific to the Indian Ocean), the ecology of soils (burial, impacts of chemicals) or the relationship of humans and their imagination to plants. It will be interesting, for example, to reflect on the implicit and preponderant place of vegetation in language and representations, the (re)vegetation of urban spaces as well as the "renaturation" (Laslaz and Guyot) of marginalized areas... Humans and their activities have an increasing impact on both marine and terrestrial flora and all proposals for studies on the latter will be welcome. However, we do not wish to reduce the reflections to the impact of humans on nature, but rather propose to consider the way in which these "non-human living beings" shape, work, modify and speak to humans. If Alexandre Van Humboldt proposed, in another context, the existence of a "geography of plants", in a different perspective, we would like that which we invite to think, corresponds to the itineraries that the plants carried out between the places, the spaces, the practices and to the way in which they allow to rethink at the same time the relation between the spaces but also the relations to the world. In short, it would be a question of a geography that plants (re)trace by listening to and carefully studying their language, their discourse. 

Axis 2: (Sub)marine and aquatic ecologies

Shifting the perspective, so as to no longer consider the world and the question of ecologies in an « earth-centred approach11 », this second axis will turn its gaze towards the sea12. To consider the ecology of this maritime world, we must understand, or at least try to understand, its actors. Thus, the studies may focus on the marine world, the coastline, underwater spaces, marine ecosystems... We will try to see if a way of "writing with the sea" is emerging in literature in the productions of the Indian Ocean. The studies will focus as much on the representations of this ocean in literature as on the way in which the presence of this marine expanse conditions the imaginary and the writings. Thus, understanding the ocean floor and its "creatures" will be central to this axis, which aims to think, not the rupture, but the suture between the marine world and humans. The relationship to the sea of both the actors (sailors, fishermen, marine animals, creatures of the abyss...) and the actors of the area will be interesting to develop. In the same way, the works concerning the economic and tourist actors will be considered in this axis. The evolution of this space, and thus of its ecology, having been strongly affected by human activities, proposals dealing with marine ecology and questions on the relationship of humans to this ocean will be highly appreciated.

This aquatic axis will also be open to all works dealing with streams, rivers, and other freshwater areas. Studies on the ecology of these different spaces and their place in geography, history and literature will be developed. The energetic contribution and the questions linked to the implementation of river infrastructures will interest the reflections of this axis.

Submission of proposals

The deadline for submitting proposals (a title and abstract between 300 and 500 words, accompanied by a brief bibliographic note) is April 30, 2023, to the following address: ecologiesmondesOI@gmail.com

Contributors will be informed of the acceptance of their proposal on May 30, 2023.

After acceptance of the proposals, the return of the articles is expected for February 1, 2024. These articles (between 25,000 and 35,000 characters in length, including spaces and notes, excluding the bibliography) will then be submitted to our double-blind reading committee.

1 Pierre Schoentjes, Ce qui a lieu. Essai d’écopoétique, Paris, Éditions Wildproject, coll. « tête nue », 2015, p.206-207.

2 The notion of "island of nature" both in the sense of the Indian-oceanic island world, from which this call for papers emanates, and in that of "

3 Alain Suberchicot, Littérature et environnement. Pour une écocritique comparée, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2012.

4 Yves, Luginbuhl, Paysages. Textes et représentations du paysage du siècle des Lumières à nos jours, La manufacture, coll. « Les beaux livres de La

5 Augustin Berque, Médiance de milieux en paysages, Montpellier, Reclus, coll. « Géographiques », 1991.

6 Edgar Anderson, « I. Man and His Transported Landscapes », Plants, Man and Life, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1952, p. 1-15.

7 K. Kevorkian, Environmental Grief : Hope and Healing, Ph.D. diss., Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio 2004 ; Eaton M., Environmental

8 Meg Samuelson, « Coastal form : amphibian positions, wider worlds and planetary horizons on the African Indian Ocean littoral », in Comparative

9 Sabine Lauret, Re-Mapping the Indian Ocean in Amitav Ghoshs Sea of Poppies”, Commonwealth Essays and Studies [Online], 34.1 | 2011.

10 Bertrand Westphal, La Géocritique. Réel, fiction, espace, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, coll. « Paradoxe », 2007, p.199.

11 NamrataPoddar, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, Island Tourism and a Geopoetics of the Beach” International Journal of Francophone Studies 16.1&2 (2013

12 The word sea is privileged here because it seems that this term, much more than ocean, is used in the societies of the Indian Ocean.

Anderson, Edgar, « I. Man and His Transported Landscapes », Plants, Man and Life, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1952, p. 1-15.

Baratay, Éric, Le Point de vue animal. Une autre version de l’histoire, Paris, Le Seuil, 2012.

Blanc, Guillaume, L’invention du colonialisme vert. Pour en finir avec le mythe de l’éden africain, Paris, Flammarion, 2020.

Berque, Augustin, Médiance de milieux en paysages, Montpellier, Reclus, coll. « Géographiques », 1991.

Chivallon, Christine, L’humain & l’inhumain : Matérialité, ontologie, plantationocène : l’impensé des nouveaux matérialismes, Selles-sur-Cher, Atlantiques déchaînés, 2022.

Deloughrey, Elizabeth and George B. Handley, Postcolonial Ecologies. Literatures of the Environment, Oxford, Oxford UP, 2011.

Deloughrey, Elizabeth, « Ecocriticism: The Politics of Place », Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature, Ed. Alison Donnell and Michael Bucknor, 2011, p. 265-275.

Ferdinand, Malcolm, Une écologie décoloniale. Penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen, Paris, Seuil, coll. « Anthropocène », 2019.

Ghosh, Amitav, Le grand dérangement. Dautres récits à l’ère de la crise climatique, [2016] Marseille, Wildproject, coll. « le monde qui vient », 2020.

Grove, Richard, Green imperialism: colonial expansion, tropical island Edens and the origins of environmentalism, 1600-1860, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hofmeyr, Isabel, “Literary Ecologies of the Indian Ocean », English Studies in Africa, 62:1, 2019, pp. 1-7.

Huggan, Graham. « “’GreeningPostcolonialism: Ecocritical Perspectives.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 50.3 (2004): 701–33 ».

Kevorkian, K., Environmental Grief: Hope and Healing, Ph.D. diss., Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio 2004; Eaton M., Environmental Trauma and Grief. Esej pro Curriculum for the Bioregion, 2012.

Kohn, Eduardo, Comment pensent les forêts. Vers une anthropologie au-delà de lhumain, Zones sensibles, Paris, 2017.

Marimoutou, Carpanin, Françoise Vergès, Amarres. Créolisations india-océanes, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2005.

Mies Maria & Vandana Shiva, Écoféminisme, Paris, L’Harmattan, coll. « Femmes et Changements », 1998.

Morizot, Baptiste, « Nouvelles alliances avec la terre. Une cohabitation diplomatique avec le vivant », Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines, 33 | 2017, 73-96.

Morizot, Baptiste, Manières d’être vivant : Enquêtes sur la vie à travers nous, Arles, Actes Sud, 2020.

Poddar, Namrata, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, Island Tourism and a Geopoetics of the Beach” International Journal of Francophone Studies 16.1&2 (2013), p. 51-71.

Rangan, Haripriya, « The Movement of Plants and Creolisation of Landscapes in the Indian Ocean Region », in Moving spaces: creolisation and mobility in Africa, the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, edited by Berthet, M, and Rosa, F, et al., BRILL, 2019, p. 23-49.

Rodary, Estienne, LApartheid et lanimal. Vers une politique de la connectivité, Marseille, Wildproject, coll. » Le monde qui vient », 2019.

Samuelson, Meg, « Oceanic Histories and Protean Poetics: The Surge of the Sea in Zoe ̈ Wicombs Fiction », Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 36, Number 3, September 2010, p. 543-557. 

Schoentjes, Pierre, Ce qui a lieu. Essai d’écopoétique, Paris, Éditions Wildproject, coll. « tête nue », 2015.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, Les Subalternes peuvent-elles parler ?, Traduit de l’anglais par Jérôme Vidal, [1988], Paris, Editions Amsterdam, 2009.

Suberchicot, Alain, Littérature et environnement. Pour une écocritique comparée, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2012.

Westphal, Bertrand, La Géocritique. Réel, fiction, espace, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, coll. « Paradoxe », 2007.

Zapf, Hubert, « Ecocriticism, Cultural Ecology, and Literary Studies », in Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment, vol. 1, No 1 (2010): New Ecocritical Perspectives: European and Transnational Ecocriticism.

1 Pierre Schoentjes, Ce qui a lieu. Essai d’écopoétique, Paris, Éditions Wildproject, coll. « tête nue », 2015, p. 206-207.

2 The notion of "island of nature" both in the sense of the Indian-oceanic island world, from which this call for papers emanates, and in that of "natural island" in an anthropic ocean can be invoked here (ecofragmentation and parkings having created real enclaves of "nature" on a territory conceived as belonging to the human)

3 Alain Suberchicot, Littérature et environnement. Pour une écocritique comparée, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2012.

4 Yves, Luginbuhl, Paysages. Textes et représentations du paysage du siècle des Lumières à nos jours, La manufacture, coll. « Les beaux livres de La Manufacture », 1989, p.11.

5 Augustin Berque, Médiance de milieux en paysages, Montpellier, Reclus, coll. « Géographiques », 1991.

6 Edgar Anderson, « I. Man and His Transported Landscapes », Plants, Man and Life, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1952, p. 1-15.

7 K. Kevorkian, Environmental Grief : Hope and Healing, Ph.D. diss., Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio 2004 ; Eaton M., Environmental Trauma and Grief. Esej pro Curriculum for the Bioregion, 2012.

8 Meg Samuelson, « Coastal form : amphibian positions, wider worlds and planetary horizons on the African Indian Ocean littoral », in Comparative Literature 69.1, 2017, p. 16-24.

9 Sabine Lauret, Re-Mapping the Indian Ocean in Amitav Ghoshs Sea of Poppies”, Commonwealth Essays and Studies [Online], 34.1 | 2011.

10 Bertrand Westphal, La Géocritique. Réel, fiction, espace, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, coll. « Paradoxe », 2007, p.199.

11 Namrata Poddar, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, Island Tourism and a Geopoetics of the Beach” International Journal of Francophone Studies 16.1&2 (2013), p. 51-71.

12 The word sea is privileged here because it seems that this term, much more than ocean, is used in the societies of the Indian Ocean.