Paradise on Fire: 2019 ASLE Biennial Conference

Davis, California, United States

Jun 26 - Jun 30, 2019


TUITION / COST:Estimated Registration is $175 Regular / $90 student
Travel Awards to assist with conference attendance of $500 can be applied for starting in December 2018

CONTACT: Amy McIntyre
PHONE: 603-357-7411

The 2019 ASLE Biennial Conference will be held at the University of California, Davis. Call for Panels has a deadline of September 1, 2018. A Call for Papers will follow in October 2018, with a deadline of December 15.

Conference Information:

Conference Theme: Paradise on Fire

“If paradise now arises in hell, it's because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”

? Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

The Biennial ASLE Conference will be held in Davis, California, in June 2019. Following a longstanding tradition, this conference gathers scholars and artists working in a diverse array of environmental humanities projects and offers a special focus on some themes that resonate well with the location of the meeting.

Paradise does not exist, and yet that never seems to stop people from finding it, or building it, or dreaming its contours – often to the detriment of humans and nonhumans on the wrong side of its walls. Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy imagines a walled city with a climate-controlled dome called Paradice where genetic engineers create new forms of life, a bubble breached by human violence and climate catastrophe. In the sixteenth century Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo imagined a place called “California,” an island ruled by a dark skinned Amazonian queen with an Arabic name, Califia (Las Sergas de Esplandián). California was affixed to our maps by conquistadors, eager readers of Montalvo who believed the Earthly Paradise to be nearby. The price of its establishment was the genocide of the land’s indigenous populations. The Greek word for Eden is “Paradise,” a walled garden that bars entrance to most. Yet as Octavia Butler’s dystopian vision of California on fire has shown, walls seldom lead to lasting safety and cannot exclude a turbulent world for long (The Parable of the Sower). If as Rebecca Solnit contends, “paradise arises in hell,” when democratic communities are built from the ground up during times of disaster that leave us “free to live and act another way,” what might life in catastrophic times entail for the environmental humanities? How should we write, teach, protest, live, and act during this era when “paradise” is on fire, figuratively and literally?

The Biennial ASLE Conference “Paradise on Fire” explores the connections among storytelling, real and imagined landscapes, future-making, activism, environed spaces, differential exclusions, long histories, and the disaster-prone terrains of the Anthropocene. Plenary addresses will be given by Ursula Heise, Cherríe Moraga, Melissa K. Nelson, and Nnedi Okorafor.

Topics may include but are certainly not limited to:

• reckoning with “paradise” in the face of colonial histories, environmental injustice, and ecological catastrophe

• the intimacy of myth to possibility, alternative realities, and catastrophe

• the reduction of diversity after the arrival of settler colonialists, especially but not only in California

• cross-cultural currents and global vectors, human and nonhuman

• the relation of imagination to discovery, settlement and transformation

• extinction, ecological imperialism, monstrosity, megafauna, and scale

• gender, race and ecology in dystopian times

• the proliferation of material and ideological walls around enclaves, states, and nations

• attending better to the people, animals, plants, and natural forces that find themselves on the wrong side of the gate, forced into communities not of their choosing, or forced to migrate without safe destinations

• radical welcome: creating more just, capacious, and humane modes of living together across species

• how the past matters to the imagination of a more capacious future

• climate fiction (CliFi), climate fact, and the future of ecological science studies

• archives of recovery and enclosure

• Afro-futurisms, Indigenous futurisms, Latinx futurisms, Asian futurisms, queer futurisms

• California and beyond: exceptionalism, secession, natural and unnatural disasters, green gentrification (the L.A. River), evacuation zones, Sanctuary Cities and States, gated communities, immigration and Dreamers, Trump’s border wall, housing and being humane

• The Trans-Pacific: imaginaries, cultures, materialities, flows

• Fire as emblematic of the strange agencies and hybrid onto-epistemologies of the Anthropocene, and fire as emblematic of the passion, energy, and incendiary creativity of activism

ASLE is a diverse professional community that is enriched by the multiple experiences, cultures, and backgrounds of its members, and we strive for access, equity, and inclusion in the conference.


Featured Writers Include:

Nnedi Okorafor, Nigerian-American writer of fantasy and science fiction, author of many books including The Binti Trilogy, Lagoon, Who Fears Death, and The Book of Phoenix

Cherríe Moraga is an essayist and playwright whose works include The hungry woman: A Mexican Medea and A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness

Ursula Heise, Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies at UCLA, is the author of Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global, and Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species.

Melissa K. Nelson, ecologist, writer, editor, media-maker and native scholar-activist, is author of Original Instructions – Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future, and produced the documentary The Salt Song Trail: Bringing Creation Back Together


Poetry, Fiction, Creative nonfiction


University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave
California, United States

Association for the Study of Literature & Environment Biennial Conference

ASLE seeks to inspire, support, and promote creative and intellectual work in the environmental humanities and arts. Our vision is an inclusive community whose members are committed to environmental writing, research, education, literature, art, environmental justice, and ecological sustainability.