Panel: Naturecultural histories of violence: (de)visual perspectives

Convenors: Stephanie Benzaquen-Gautier, University of Nottingham & Kimberley Lustina Weir, University of Hull  

Aligning itself with the fields of posthumanism, environmental humanities and critical area studies, this panel aims to explore the interrelatedness of genocide, ecocide, and ‘cosmocide’ (Sony Labou Tansi 1973) in Southeast Asia. There has been much focus on the impact of colonial and postcolonial violence on people but less examination, however, of the ways in which it connects with the effect of this violence on environments, places, sentient beings, and entities. As literary scholar Rob Nixon has shown in his seminal book Slow Violence (2011), violence unfolds and persists at different scales and in different temporalities. This continuum is best captured by the idea of ‘natureculture’ (Haraway 2003), a term that illuminates the entangled relations of the human and the nonhuman and recontextualizes multi-species interdependency. By suggesting ‘naturecultural’ histories of violence as a framework, we seek to shed light on the linkages between past forms of domination and environmentality and present-day practices of extraction and socio-economic exploitation in Southeast Asia. The lens we propose is the visual. The panel asks questions such as:

  • What are the visual regimes of violence and how have they transformed the ‘natureculture(s)’ in the region? 
  • Conversely, to what extent has the colonised sphere shaped the coloniser’s own sphere and how can this influence be assessed in the realm of visuality?     
  • What are the visual archives of the ‘naturecultural’ histories of violence, and how do they integrate human and more-than-human actors?
  • How were visual practices constituted as micro-sites of resistance against macro-economic forces, and how do they shape current forms of activism?
  • How do we ‘de-visualize’ (Mirzoeff 2020) the ‘naturecultural’ histories of violence in Southeast Asia: what does it entail and what does it produce? 

We invite papers and multimodal presentations by academics, activists, and artists, dealing with a range of media – visual arts, photojournalism, documentary and fiction films, social media, maps, illustrated books and magazines. We are interested in historical and contemporary case studies as well as in the theoretical discussion of visuality and ‘natureculture’ as historiographical and analytical tools. Understanding the impact of trauma and violence in such an integrated way offers salient lessons for understanding today’s relationship between people and place within Southeast Asia. Our objective is to use the panel as a jumping board for further exploration of the intersection of postcolonial-decolonial theory and the Anthropocene-Capitalocene-Plantationocene nexus in the region (with a view to publishing a special issue), a topic that is still underexplored (Ammarell 2014) and, to date, has mostly been addressed through the prism of eco-critical literature (e.g., Ryan 2018, Pham et al. 2019) and cinema (e.g., Chulphongsathorn and Lovatt 2021).  

To submit a paper proposal to this panel please send an abstract of 300 words and a short biographical statement to and by 8 July 2022