Transformative Geographies and Ecodiscourses in the Post-1989 Cultures of the Central and Eastern Europe

Friday, July 14, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 132 (University of Glasgow)
Irene Sywenky , Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta, Canada
Since the disintegration of the Eastern bloc, Central and East European cultural narratives have consistently engaged in transformative rereadings and re-imaginings of geographic spaces, especially through intra-regional and local micro-narratives. This paper focuses on the ecocritical and environmentally transformative potential of some of the representative geographically conscious narratives. Using examples of fictional and non-fictional writing, I examine the construction of landscape as a space that, after the collapse of totalitarian structures, is both symbolically inscribed and ecologically empowered. Drawing on the recent contributions to ecocritical theory (Garrard; Murphy; Snyder), the paper explores the idea of bioregionalism as a conceptual framework which allows to examine environmental values and concerns “through a politics derived from a local sense of place” (Lynch et al. 2). The bioregional approach emphasizes the arbitrary nature of political and socio-administrative boundaries to privilege “those that emerged from a biotically determined framework” (ibid.), while also destabilizing the anthropocentric philosophy of the geographic place. Examination of today’s literary ecodiscourses posits the possibility of a transformative practice of re-inhabitation (as developed by Berg and Dasmann), which, on a literary level, opens the potential of re-embracing and reclaiming the natural place that was “disrupted” and violated through past socio-political turmoils, neglect and exploitation. Through the inscription of a bioregional “difference” these narratives also posit resistance to universalist ecologies of the homogenizing, globalizing cultural trends.