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Lecture | LIAS Lunch Talk Series

Of Monsters and other Men: green Islam and the tidalectics of ecological crises in maritime Asia

Wednesday 3 May 2023

1.04 (Verbarium)


In maritime Southeast Asia, the Suangi (neither human nor inhuman), the Erok (neither water nor wind), the multilingual Jin (bouncing around, from body to body) and more, are daily manifestations of oral traditions of ecocriticism. These hybrid beings (neither alive nor dead) often appear to mediate in instances of ecological crises. They inhabit the realms of dreams and songs, among other. Their existence, whether visible or not, reminds us that we have work to do. As mixed-plastics waste is exported from the Netherlands to Indonesia (through forms of waste neo-colonialism), places regarded as ‘natural heritage’ by islanders have become even more articulated- speaking the many tongues of the sea. Mbo Tibe, a mother-well on Pulau Nain, tells stories of absence: calling islanders, near and afar, to gather around and reflect collectively. This talk is an introduction to a new research project in which I explore the role of environmental sexism and racism in constructing and regulating not only the macroprocesses of waste import and accumulation but also the ways in which islanders in small archipelagoes across the world deal with such crises. Oral forms of ecocriticism come hand-in-hand with resistance against imposed gender conventions and vice versa. Here, green Islam is a collective day-to-day practice embodied by encounters with hybridity (as essence of all islands and seas). This new project also ponders: how can a liquid, maritime area studies contribute to problematizing human-environment relations.

About the speaker

Elena Burgos Martinez is an Assistant Professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies and a fierce advocate of more fluid, liquid and maritime area studies- as they can challenge neocolonial remnants in the field. She has dedicated her entire career to pursuing reflexivity and positionality in research and teaching to allow spaces for epistemic diversity to coherently exist. She works with the intertidal and in conversation with the everyday, through songs, dreams and stories.

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