• Epistemic Location and Discussions of Place: Ecocritical Methods for a Pluriversal World

    Laura Barbas Rhoden (see profile)
    Latin American literature, Methodology, Philosophy
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    2016 MLA Convention
    Conf. Org.:
    mla16, Epistemology, Literary theory
    Permanent URL:
    In a special 2014 issue of the Latin American Research Review, scholars Jeffrey W. Rubin (history), David Smilde (human relations), and Benjamin Junge (anthropology) develop the idea of “zones of crisis,” or “spaces of material deprivation, exclusion, violence, and environmental destruction” (8) in which “struggles for rights, recognition, and survival are enacted” (7). Zones of crisis appear frequently in environmental literature, and their representation figures in more general imaginaries of crisis, apocalypse, and dystopia, as well as occasional representations of resilience and resurgence, that recur in contemporary written texts, films, and digital media. How does the scholarly exploration of imaginaries of crisis (which are often portrayed as the product of conflicting worldviews), as well as those of escape and resilience (many of which involve retreats from Western, capitalist worldviews) benefit from methodologies that incorporate an understanding of epistemic location into discussions of “place” and crisis? I advocate for ecocritical methodologies for a pluriversal world, and in particular, ask how the integration into the study of literature and the environment of the work of proponents of decolonizing knowledge, such as Linda Martín Alcoff, Enrique Dussel, and Walter Mignolo, might serve to advance environmentally-oriented scholarship and teaching. Methods for a pluriversal ecocritical practice, I argue, facilitate a sort of “Google-Earth style reasoning that permits us to zoom in and zoom out on issues” (Bennett, et.al. 37) in ways that reveal interconnections among imaginaries, worldviews, geopolitical configurations, and their underlying epistemologies. They orient practitioners toward a consideration of processes, relationships, and interplays of discourse, as well as the exploration of competing, overlapping, and intersecting epistemologies at work in cultural products that circulate in scholarly research, classrooms, and society at large.
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