Call for Proposals

Watersheds: ASLE 2022 Symposium

June 24, 2022 - June 26, 2022

Clayton Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE

In hydrographic terms, watersheds are stretches of land that divide bodies of water from others. As the vast Chesapeake Bay watershed makes clear – draining the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia – watersheds congregate and build; obviate political boundaries; blur lines between the terrestrial and aquatic, fresh and salt; seep and produce; teem and transform. Temporality in the watershed is also messy: times sink, sediment, and circulate as the past mingles with the present. Returning to these sites raises significant questions about navigating the shifting conditions of Anthropocene life. Influenced by Black, Indigenous, and feminist voices protesting the harms of contemporary petrocapitalism (amongst other systems), the “watersheds” of our symposium acknowledge the social pressures and precarious material cultures that form, inhabit, and trouble their places both slowly and with speed.

The word “watershed” has accrued metaphorical connotations: “shed” derives from the Old English words for “sheath” (n.) and “scatter” (v.). To live in watershed ecologies is to dwell in the uncertainties of shelter and refuge; it demands inquiring who is not allowed these affordances and why certain multispecies communities have lost said protections. How, we ask, do watersheds engage with the matters of environmental, climate, and racial justice on political, ethical, and moral levels? We also accentuate the inflection point that a “watershed” signifies: a pivotal moment, a turning toward a hopeful set of futures, a wetting of arid words like “landmark” and “milestone.” What is to be gained, reimagined, and sifted through by alluvial thinking? We invite a variety of interdisciplinary approaches that seize upon the potential that watersheds, ultimately, hold out to those who think with/in their porous borders, polysemous meanings, and brimming possibilities.

Topics include but may spread beyond:

  • Multispecies justice movements and decolonizing efforts
  • Elemental mixtures and porous corporealities
  • Science studies and traditional ecological knowledges
  • Rhetoric and composition within seeping spaces
  • Mixed media and material cultures of global wetlandia
  • Literary representations across genres and periods

Friday and Saturday will be devoted to panels and plenary speakers, while Sunday will involve field trips in the surrounding Chesapeake Bay watershed.

We invite proposals for pre-formed panels and roundtables, as well as individual papers from scholars in any discipline.

To propose an individual paper, please submit an abstract of approximately 300 words and a brief speaker bio.

For pre-formed panel and roundtable proposals, please include a 300-word overall abstract for the session, as well as abstracts and brief speaker bios for each contribution.

All proposals are due by March 7, 2022

Plenary Speakers: 

Dennis J. Coker, Principal Chief of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware

Stacy Levy, a sculptor making large-scale public installations in rivers, streets, parking lots, airports and nature centers. Her projects are designed to allow a site within the built environment to tell its ecological story to the people that inhabit it. 

Hillary Eklund, Associate Professor of English at Loyola University, and author of Literature and Moral Economy in the Early Modern Atlantic: Elegant Sufficiencies. Her current book project describes how wetlands, often perceived as nature’s “mistakes,” both compel and elude human designs, demonstrating a series of “unfast” countermoves to the fast violence of colonial incursion and technological imposition, and to the slow violence of ecological manipulation and resource expropriation.

Victor Perez, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Delaware. His research focuses on self-migration/relocation from climate change impacts and environmental burdens, planned/adaptive relocation of environmentally burdened communities, green/environmental gentrification, and intensive zoning.