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World Literature and the Environment

Coordinators: dr. Jesse van Amelsvoort, dr. Jeff Diamanti, dr. Emelia Quinn


Jesse van Amelsvoort, Jeff Diamanti, Serra Hughes, Emelia Quinn, TBA


Both world literature and the environmental humanities are vibrant fields of studies, examining some of the most ingrained assumptions of the study of literature. Promising to move beyond Europe, European languages, and a Eurocentric focus (in the case of world literature) or even an anthropocentric bias tout court (in the case of the environmental humanities), these fields reconceptualize what it means to study literature in an age of globalization, transnational connectedness, and ecological crisis. This research group draws together these perspectives and centres the study of world literature that engages the climate crisis and the Anthropocene.

As part of the University of Amsterdam’s ongoing ambitions to interrogate its origins as a Western university and reorient itself towards a decolonial and inclusive future, the research group ‘World Literature and the Environment’ aims to showcase literary studies research that charts new paths into a comparative, multilingual, and decolonial future. Building on and connecting to the interdisciplinary work of colleagues from across the Faculty of Humanities and the wider Amsterdam academic community, we want to further establish the University of Amsterdam as a leading (inter)national centre for the study of world literature and the environment. The group will bring together academics working in different research schools at the UvA (ASCA and ARTES) with the wider Dutch academic community (the VU and OSL).

In the coming years, the research group will spotlight:

  • literature from the Global South, i.e., Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania, representing and reflecting on the climate crisis;
  • European literature as world literature;
  • minority and indigenous literatures from around the world;
  • the imbrications of the global, the worldly, and the planetary;
  • new regionalisms and definitions of regions;
  • comparative literature as world literature.

The group meets regularly to discuss work-in-progress of a national or international guest. Before the meeting, a draft chapter is circulated which the attendees are asked to read. After a brief presentation presenting the main points, the rest of the session is devoted to a critical and generous discussion of the material and broader issues it might raise.

The intention is to host quarterly work-in-progress seminars. The organisation of each session will be divided among the four key partners of the World Literature and the Environment group -- ASCA, ARTES, OSL, and the VU – and funded by each respective group.

Envisaged results

The researchers in this group:

  • organize regular seminars related to the group’s scope with national and international guests;
  • set up collaborations between group members;
  • work on individual and/or collaborative grant applications, articles, edited volumes, special journal issues, book chapters, monographs, and/or other forms of dissemination;
  • build a network with the artistic and cultural sector, NGOs, and other interested societal partners.

Societal relevance

As environmental crises proliferate around the globe, the cultural representation of human relations with the land, its resources, energy, and non-human animals has come to the fore. While no part of the world is unaffected by climate change, certain regions are more vulnerable than others and are more affected already. This research group departs from these two axioms, studying how a wide variety of literary texts from diverse literatures and cultures imagines the present crisis and develops alternative visions.