[AIW] CFP: Indigenous Environmental Artistic Practices Responding to Pollution: Comparative Research between Oceania and the Americas, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest/France, 19-20 November 2020

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Wed Jan 22 11:56:53 CET 2020

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Call for Papers

International Conference

Indigenous Environmental Artistic Practices Responding to Pollution:
Comparative Research between Oceania and the Americas

Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest/France

19-20 November 2020



Organised by Estelle Castro-Koshy, Senior Researcher, James Cook University

Géraldine Le Roux, Ass. Prof., UBO (France), James Cook University

Jean-Marc Serme, Ass. Prof. US Studies, IdA-Brest and HCTI, UBO (France)


Scientific committee members

Tamatoa Bambridge, PSL Paris University: EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR 3278 CRIOBE

Sophie Gergaud, Director of the Cinema Festival Alter’Natif

Lionel Larré, Université Bordeaux Montaigne

Talei Luscia Mangioni, Australian National University

Magali McDuffie, SAE Creative Media Institute, Perth

Ocean Mercier, Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka

Miguel Olmos Aguilera, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A.C.



By analysing creative practices by Indigenous artists or artists working
closely with Indigenous communities, this conference aims to determine how
Indigenous societies perceive and interact with pollution and toxic
substances that affect their territories or environment. It examines how
conceptions of waste, and its recycling, enlightens discourses on Indigenous
sovereignty. We explore in particular how the notion of sovereignty – as
understood, lived, and defined by Indigenous peoples – informs and
influences artistic practices that respond to contemporary environmental


Social science shows a growing interest in ‘waste’, also defined as
‘discarded materials’, ‘litter’, ‘remains’ (Joulian, Tastevin & Furniss,
2016). Studies have examined what our rubbish bins say about us (Rathje &
Murphy, 1992) and what recycling processes are undertaken by individuals
(Duclos, 2015), artists (Laviolette, 2006) or institutions and industries.
R. J. Garcier, for example, has also analysed the recycling of metal and
toxic residues (2014).


This conference aims to be a platform that articulates reflections about
pollution, recycling, art, and Indigenous sovereignty. It will pay
particular attention to the relationships established and nurtured by
Indigenous artists and communities with the ocean and water. Papers are
invited to discuss these themes in relation to the following areas of study
and/or questions.


Treatment, perception, recycling, and transformation of materials

We are interested in the artistic approaches deployed in or around spaces
faced with different kinds of pollution and waste. How do artists speak
about the journey of waste – for example due to marine currents, rivers or
human actions? Is waste treated as exogamic or endogamic material? Is waste
perceived as a negative effect of consumerism in society or taken as
potentially interesting material that can be valued like any local natural
resources? One subtle answer may be drawn from the work of Brian Jungen
(Dunne-za, Canadian and Swiss) who in the early 2000s shaped recycled
plastic chairs into whale skeletons, thus establishing a powerful link
between the great totem animal of the Pacific Northwest and basic North
American consumer society discards. In what circumstances is ‘waste’
precisely redefined as ‘material’? Géraldine Le Roux’s study (2016), for
example, has demonstrated that this redefinition took place with the
recycling of ghost nets in northern Australia and the Torres Strait Islands.
Is this re-definition linked to an awareness of the finite nature of
resources? This conference will ask how elements collected on the beach for
example inspire artistic – visual, filmic, poetic – works – and how such
works can become, in Flora Aurima Devatine’s words (2018), ‘re-building
blocks’ that support and reveal a philosophical approach regarding the
evolution of society (Tahitian society in Aurima Devatine’s context).


Proposals are invited to highlight the symbolic dimensions of these new
materials, and – through the analysis of the negotiations or conflicts that
surround their extraction or circulation – to unveil the values given to a
territory. We welcome approaches that link the anthropology of technics and
symbolic anthropology, as well as studies about the way artists position
themselves in relation to pollution and waste left behind by large mining
projects (in New-Caledonia-Kanaky or in Australia for example). Participants
can address cases in which the artists’ reinvestment and reclamation of a
contaminated site serve to express their communities’ continuing occupation
of a territory and thus a form of sovereignty. Photographer Will Wilson
comes to mind with his ‘Dineh (Navajo) post-apocalyptic man’ surviving in an
environment made ‘toxic’ not only by uranium contamination, but more
generally by the colonialism that has been imposed in America for several
centuries (Rife, 2016).


We will ask if, and under which circumstances, the arrival or potential
recycling of waste leads people to renew or create inter-island alliances,
in Oceania in particular, or inter-nation relationships, in Amazonia or in
the Western Olympic Peninsula (Washington state, US) where the Quinault and
Quileute tribes cooperate to collect abandoned crab traps.


Decolonisation and sovereignty as artistic and environmental actions   

This conference looks at Indigenous concepts used by artists to express
their vision of what ‘sustainable development’ or at least a respectful
relationship with the environment that recognizes their sovereignty would
be. Environment might be described here in relation to the understanding
that land is a ‘living entity’ (Watson in Castro-Koshy, 2018). We hope to
receive papers interrogating how Indigenous concepts (in Indigenous
languages) inspire and nurture artistic practices of engagement with a
disrupted or threatened environment. We are particularly interested in
contributions that enter into dialogue with or expand works conducted by
Indigenous academics, researchers, and artists on notions of intellectual
(Warrior, 1992), cultural (Singer, 2001, p. 2), embodied (Moreton-Robinson,
2007, p. 2), visual (Raheja, 2011), dancing (Dangeli, 2015), storytelling
(Moreton, 2017), and perceptual (Robinson, 2017) sovereignty, and of
sovereignty as action (Rickard, 2017, p. 81) and as a ‘way of life’
(Warrior, 1992). ‘Environmental justice’, a concept defined in the
1970s-1980s in the USA (Mitchell, 2011), may also be explored as it is often
put forward in Indigenous demands of equality before the law and in their
claims for more sovereignty in Indian land management.


Even though understandings of what constitutes Indigenous sovereignty vary
according to the local contexts from which it is defined, we would like to
include papers that analyse what Indigenous concepts, and their
transnational circulation, bring to the philosophical field. Goenpul Jagara
and Bundjulung poet, philosopher, and filmmaker, Romaine Moreton, for
example, was inspired by the Hawaian concept ‘ea’, which means ‘sovereignty,
breath, independence, life, air spirit, to rise up’ (Pacheco, 2005, p. 3).
The concept allowed her to underline ‘the possibility that Indigenous
sovereignty is located in [Indigenous people’s] capacity to recontrol
[their] own breaths’ (Moreton, 2006, p. 309).


This conference also looks at how artists mobilise and reinvest Indigenous
concepts to contribute to the safeguarding and protection of their
territories (eg. the projects established by the Kichwa people of Sarayaku)
or to support the blocking of mining or construction projects on or near
their lands. The ‘water protectors’ have been celebrated in songs such as
‘Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL’, by Hip Hop Caucus and Taboo, or ‘Black
Snakes’ by Prolific The Rapper in association with A Tribe Called Red. These
productions have relayed images of the violent repression by the police of
pacific demonstrations against the construction of the Dakota Access
Pipeline near the Lakota-Dakota Indian reservation of Standing Rock in South
and North Dakota (USA).


We also welcome contributions on the responses given by Indigenous artists
to situations in which the concerns and actions of the greens or
environmentalists go against the expression and claims of Indigenous
sovereignty and further dispossess Indigenous people (Bayet-Charlton, 2003).
Traditional whale hunting by the Makahs of Washington state has been taking
place every year since it started again in 1999, but it was targeted several
times by groups opposed to such fishing practices. Insofar as the
environment is most often understood by Indigenous people in a holistic way,
that is, including ‘social-ecological relationships’ (Muir, Rose, Sullivan,
2010, p. 259), we will also ask if the notion of environmental sovereignty
could be useful to develop.


Arts and knowledges of the ocean, sea, and coastline

This conference aims to substantially focus on how Indigenous people relate
to the sea, the ocean, and the coastline. Speakers are invited to examine
how artistic practices that deal with pollution mobilise Indigenous concepts
relating to the sea or ocean. Artists’ responses to either toxic mud that
leaks into the oceans or to the fish stocks that are infected with nuclear
residues could be analysed to highlight the way Indigenous people perceive
the articulation between the land and the sea; coastal environments are, for
example, for Australian Indigenous people ‘an integrated cultural
landscape/seascape’ (Sea Country: an Indigenous Perspective, 2002, p. 3). In
the state of Maine (USA), the Abbe museum displays an exhibition entitled
‘wolankeyutomon’ which means ‘take care of everything’ in Mi'kmaq and
defines the holistic vision of maritime Indigenous peoples, connecting
water, human beings, and all creatures on land and in the ocean. Looking at
the articulation between the arts, the environment, recycling, and
sovereignty will also lead us to question the very notion of borders between
land and sea that is commonly used in non-Indigenous contexts.


This conference invites contributions addressing all forms of artistic
practices, including visual arts, transmedia arts, cinema, fiction, poetry,
dance, singing, theatre, performance, etc. It welcomes scholars working in
the disciplines of anthropology, history, political science, literature,
visual arts and films, linguistic, cultural studies, environmental studies,
dance studies, performances, cinema, reception, discard and waste studies,
etc., and using interdisciplinary approaches. Studies on all cultural areas,
past or present, are welcome. Papers can focus on Oceania or the Americas,
or offer intercontinental analysis. Collective contributions are most


Please send your abstracts (250-300 word)  in English or French, along with
a short biography, to Estelle Castro-Koshy (
<mailto:estelle.castrokoshy at jcu.edu.au> estelle.castrokoshy at jcu.edu.au),
Géraldine Le Roux ( <mailto:Geraldine.LeRoux at univ-brest.fr>
Geraldine.LeRoux at univ-brest.fr), and Jean-Marc Serme (
<mailto:jean-marc.serme at univ-brest.fr> jean-marc.serme at univ-brest.fr) by 30
April 2020.


Notification of acceptance will be sent by 31 May 2020.



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