CFP: Ghost Light: Folkloric Non-Humanity on the Environmental Stage

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A NiCHE Series

Proposal Deadline: 6 September, 2022

First Draft Deadline: 30 September, 2022

Series Publication: late October 2022

“It was not long before I discovered with deep, silent delight that the country-side was peopled with ghosts.” – C.A. Fraser.1

Who are the non-human (or other-than-human) actors in folkloric stories, and what relationships do these stories have with environment? Into what roles are non-human beings cast on the stage of history, culture, or anthropogenic environmental change? What does what we fear, venerate, or mythologize tell us about the environments with which interact, or that we study?

Recent scholarship has argued for “broadening the purview of folklore as a discipline to include nonhuman agents” as a means by which “to connect the discipline of folklore to other studies.”2 Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism (1986) reminds scholars studying environment that European settlers (and the domesticated non-human animals which accompanied them) are “never really alone in the natural world” — automatic ecological adulterators on an environmental stage.3 What Dr. Jessica DeWitt refers to as the “stories that society tells” in her 2021 “‘Parks Are Not For Profit,’ or Park Mythology and White Denial,” rightfully casts story itself in a leading role.4 Actors in a folkloric landscape, whether their character is based upon biologically human or other-than-human beings, have power to impact environment. As does the ritual ghost light of an otherwise-dark and empty theatre, the presence of non-human beings, even if unseen, offer the shadowy areas of history, and humanity, sharper relief.

NiCHE seeks contributions to Ghost Light which illuminate the relationships between non-human beings, folklore, and the environmental humanities. We welcome proposals for blog posts of 800-1200 words, as well as proposals for topics better suited to multimodal formats (photo essays, video essays, audio content, and visual or multimedia art).

Contributors might consider the questions which open this call alongside any of these topics, or introduce their own:

  • Environmental histories of non-human folkloric beings (e.g. folk tales, ghost stories, monstrous mythologies, science fiction)
  • Plant mythologies (e.g. exotic or endemic ruderals, invasive species, threatened, or “rare” cultivars, or the dichotomies between these)
  • Animal histories (e.g. colonization and historically-vilified predators, mythologies of hybridity, agriculture’s impact on wild-versus-domestic interactions)
  • Considerations for the intersections of non-humanity and Queer frameworks (e.g. gender and sexuality studies, reproductive rights)
  • Ecocritical reflections, especially those which can offer intersectional context
  • Transnational studies, including those focused on species or folkloric beings whose mythology involves the subversion or establishment of borders (be they national, provincial, state, or park; First Nations territories and ancestral lands, recognized or unrecognized; areas of interest to natural resource management)
  • The medical humanities and the non-human (such as the concurrence between disease or pandemic and the outbreak of superstitiously-enforced mythologies or rituals)
  • Explorations which put non-humanity in conversation with the blue humanities or nautical history
  • Power dynamics and the non-human (e.g. the impacts of settler-conceived mythologies, close economic readings which explore national or global intricacies)
  • Social rituals and the transmission of non-human folklore (e.g. annual story-telling gatherings, settlements and communities whose infrastructure is dependent upon dark tourism)
  • Pedagogical methods which work towards contextualizing the non-human actors of history
  • Media and cultural study (including visual culture, video game, film, and television study, considerations for print media, digital art, or government propaganda campaigns)

Expansion upon these themes is encouraged, but all contributions should remember an environmental lens.

Please submit proposals of 200-250 words with a short bio of 100-150 words to series editor Caroline Abbott at abbott.caroline.ce [at] gmail.com by 6 September 2022. Drafts are requested by or before 30 September for series publication in late October.

An honorarium is available to NiCHE contributors who work without equitable, adequate access to institutional support. If you could benefit from an Honoraria, please indicate this in your email.

We look forward to hearing from you!


1 C.A. Fraser quote here extracted from her 1893 article “Scottish Myths from Ontario” in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 6, No. 22, p. 185.

2 Tok Thompson’s 2018 article in The Journal of Folklore Research explains this potential, including specific conclusions which may be to the benefit of those interested in exploring posthumanist frameworks.

3 This quote explaining of Crosby’s theory paraphrases a quote from Browning & Silver’s 2020 publication An Environmental History of the Civil War in conjunction with considerations for Crosby’s 1986 work (second edition, published 2015, here).

4 This CFP is greatly indebted to Dr. Jessica M. DeWitt’s work, as well as Dr. DeWitt’s subsequent Parks and Profit essay series, especially for its comprehensive discussions of settler mythologies. Contributors are encouraged to revisit the essay of Dr. DeWitt’s cited here pertaining to her theory of park mythology.

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