Parallel panels, session 4

Friday, May 14, 1:20 pm (UTC+2)

Setup phase for presenters starts at 1:00 am.

4.1 – Science and Postcolonial Environments I

Dominic O’Key , University of Leeds:
‘From the Other Side of Millions of Years’: Narrating the Sixth Extinction

Since its scientific-discursive conceptualizations in the eighteenth-century, ‘extinction’ and its attendant logics of endangerment have often fed into colonial expansion, population management and genocide. Indigenous peoples across the global south were contradictorily cast as inhuman beings to be destroyed and as remnants of an earlier evolutionary stage in need of preservation. Extinction, then, has been part of the armature of colonialism. It is therefore unsurprising that postcolonial theory is predominantly humanist in its outlook, often asserting the ‘humanity’ of the colonized. Yet the spectre of bio-cultural loss that is the Sixth Mass Extinction Event compels us to reclaim extinction, to articulate a specifically postcolonial understanding of mass extinction which redeems the concept from its colonial history. To start this work, this paper turns to the writing of the Bengali author and adivasi organiser, Mahasweta Devi (1926–2016), whose texts are animated by a complex entanglement between racialized genocide and nonhuman ecocide. I will argue that her writing narrates extinction as a socio-ecological event, one which differently implicates all planetary life.


Dominic O’Key is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, where he works on the cultural meanings of the sixth extinction. His writing on literature, animals and postcolonial studies has appeared in journals such as Textual Practice, Style, LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory, and Parallax. His first monograph, Creaturely Forms in Contemporary Literature: Narrating the War Against Animals, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2022.

Alexa Weik von Mossner, University of Klagenfurt:
(Neo)colonial Histories and Scientific Futures in Fernando A. Flores’s Tears of the Trufflepig

Fernando A. Flores’s Tears of the Trufflepig (2019) sets its tour-de-force of a narrative in a futuristic version of the Mexican-American borderland. In Flores’s indeterminate future, that border features not only one but two useless border walls and transnational syndicates no longer traffic drugs but GM foods. In the aftermath of a global food crisis, a group of scientists abducted by these syndicates have developed a genetic process known as “filtering.” This new scientific technology allows them not only to lab-grow grains and vegetables to feed the poor, but also to clone long-extinct animal species such as the Dodo bird, which they serve to the super-rich at exclusive and illegal dinner parties. The same careless people who feast on these lab-cloned animals also buy the shrunken head trophies of the equally extinct Aranaña Indians and admire the Trufflepig, a multispecies creature that, according to Aranaña mythology, is capable of mirroring people’s dreams back to them and that now exists in flesh and blood thanks to genetic science. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the borderlands, who cross the border multiple times a day just to keep their families afloat, are being ruthlessly exploited.

In my paper, I will use the analytical tools of cognitive narratology to explore how Flores engages readers in his deliberately weird and harrowing tale about colonial legacies and food futures. According to Frederick Luis Aldama, reading Tears of the Trufflepig “is to submerge oneself in a sensory overload chamber” that Flores wants us to experience “at the most cognitively, emotively, and perceptually visceral.” Analyzing how exactly Flores does this is important because, like the eponymous Trufflepig, the novel itself functions as a mirror of the intertwined (neo)colonial histories of Mexico and the United States. Extrapolating longstanding border conflicts and rampant consumer capitalism into his science-fiction storyworld, Flores invites readers to viscerally experience the ruthless exploitation of humans and nonhumans alike.


Alexa Weik von Mossner is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria. Her research explores contemporary environmental culture from a cognitive ecocritical perspective. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Minds: Literature, Emotion, and the Transnational Imagination (U of Texas P 2014) and Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative (Ohio State UP 2017). the editor of Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2014), and the co-editor of The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture (with Sylvia Mayer, Winter 2014).


4.2 – Negotiating Indigenous Knowledges

Ana Carolina Torquato, Federal University of Paraná (UFPR):
Scientific and Popular Healing Practices: Complementary and Antagonistic Relationships in Works by J. Guimarães Rosa, Jorge Amado, and Pepetela

Brazil and Angola are countries that house various cultural traditions that are alive and in practice until the present time. These traditions may come from diverse backgrounds and are connected to their history as former Portuguese colonies since they descend from indigenous, African, or European knowledge. In this paper, I would like to analyse three important literary works that portray different healing methods belonging to traditional scientific and widespread knowledge. The texts selected are the short-story “Bicho-mau” (1969) and the novel Tenda dos Milagres (Tent of Miracles, 1969), by Brazilian writers João Guimarães Rosa and Jorge Amado, respectively, and the novel O quase fim do mundo (2019), by Angolan novelist Pepetela. I am particularly interested in investigating how these novels portray how medicinal treatments are operated and depicted in comparison to each other. While “Bicho-Mau” and Tenda dos Milagres portray antagonistic relationships between how science and vernacular medicinal practices treat illnesses, O quase fim do mundo illustrates these two worlds as intrinsically complementary and cooperative. To further discuss the theme, it is necessary to address racial and ethnical intolerance characteristically present in the debate. Such matters often touch on the validity of popular therapies usage when introduced in antithesis to science. The theoretical framework of this discussion will be based on studies such as Wolf Storl’s The Untold History of Healing (2017), Cristina Gurgel’s Doenças e Curas: o Brasil nos primeiros séculos (2010), Moacyr Scliar’s A Paixão Transformada: História da Medicina na Literatura (1996), to name a few.


Ana Carolina Torquato holds a PhD in Literary Studies and Animal Studies from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), 2020. Her PhD thesis presents a history of Brazilian literature through Animal Studies’ lenses under the title of “Animal Representation in Brazilian Literature: From Ecological Imperialism to Animals as Agents”. Her research focuses on the interaction of Animal Studies and comparative Literature, Ecocriticism, and Disaster Studies. She holds a master’s degree by Sheffield, Santiago de Compostela and Nova de Lisboa universities.

Sandra Neugärtner, University of Erfurt:
Lena Meyer-Bergner’s Teaching of Weaving Technology in Mexico: Attempts to Abolish Post-Colonial Rule

Motivated by a self-image of cultural superiority, the colonial powers formulated the mandate to civilize the “savages” and “barbarians” in other parts of the world. Under the pretense of this mission, they justified a practice of heteronomy and exploitation that today determines, on a large scale, how the history of modern art and science are linked to colonialism. The paper provides a counter-narrative that complicates the paradigm of coloniality as the “dark side of modernity” (Mignolo): On the example of Lena Meyer-Bergner (1906–1981) and her highly modern presentation forms of weaving technology as part of her attempts to set up weaving centers in Mexico, the paper deals with the interlink of science and post-colonial modernity as an effort to dissolve post-colonial rule. Born in a traditional weaver family and trained in the textile workshop as well as in technical drawing at the Bauhaus, Meyer-Bergner learned from scratch to combine folk art with modern approaches to art and technology. When she went to Mexico for ten years in 1939 she developed highly efficient depictions to explain weaving technology – using very similar display techniques as those evolved at the Bauhaus for planning modern architecture – to teach the natives how to weave using modern technology. She wanted to open weaving centers for the Otomi because textile work, Meyer-Bergner assumed, offered an opportunity to achieve economic autonomy. Her roots lay in a post-imperialist industrial state, still her ideal was that of a classless society. Before she came to Mexico, Meyer-Bergner had lived in the USSR and participated in the construction of socialist society. With the lessons learned, she wanted to undermine the continuation of hegemonic relations in Mexico. She believed that all strata of the population should participate equally in modern progress, regardless of their ethnicity or class. Her efforts to transfer weaving technology are a counterpoint to the aspirations of the colonial rulers under the promises of modernity that were tied to capitalist ideology and adopted by the new capitalist powers of the young, democratic nation state of Mexico. Meyer-Bergner aimed to keep the promise of modernity: independence and progress.

Sandra Neugärtner is an art historian working as a research associate at the University of Erfurt. As part of a DFG project, her research is on Lena Meyer-Bergner’s sociotransformative concept of modernity in the global social upheavals of the first half of the 20th century. Sandra Neugärtner studied design, economics, cultural studies and art history in Dessau, Berlin, Zurich and Erfurt. From 2017 to 2018 she was a visiting fellow at the Graduate School of Arts and Science at Harvard University, Department History of Art and Architecture. Her research focuses on the socio-political dynamics of artistic strategies since 1900. Her interests extend from the appropriation of artistic practices in the context of the exile movements in the first half of the 20th century, post-war art, the discourse of Cold War antagonisms to contemporary global art.


4.3 – Under Construction IV

Rita Maricocchi, University of Münster:
Intermedial Manifestations of (white) German Identity via Transnational and Postcolonial Contexts in Birgit Weyhe’s Madgermanes and Ich Weiß

This MA thesis project analyzes the graphic novels Madgermanes (2016) and Ich Weiß (2008/2017) by German writer and illustrator Birgit Weyhe through a transnational and postcolonial framework. The analysis seeks to understand how German identity is constructed in both narratives, which have been described as expressions of Weyhe’s “rejection of nationalist conceptions of home or belonging.” Drawing upon Fatima El-Tayeb’s European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe (2011), this project uncovers the ways in which both texts manifest the “invisible racialization” El-Tayeb posits as “the peculiar coexistence of, on the one hand, a regime of continentwide recognized visual markers that construct nonwhiteness as non- Europeanness with on the other a discourse of colorblindness that claims not to ‘see’ racialized difference.” Through a combination of close reading and visual analysis, this study will pay particular attention to the autobiographical framing of both texts, the effects of the text-image combinations on the construction of the narratives, and associations and depictions of whiteness and Blackness. While certain formal and thematic aspects of Madgermanes and Ich Weiß , such as the intermedial graphic novel form and the acknowledgement of African presences in personal and official German histories, may appear transgressive, the way in which the narratives are positioned in transnational and postcolonial frameworks actually functions to reinforce the notion of German identity as white and prohibit the imagination and manifestation of Black German identity. In light of the overwhelmingly positive reception of the texts in the German press coupled with the relatively little critical scholarship in existence on Weyhe’s works so far, this thesis project seeks to make a productive contribution to the study of graphic novels within postcolonial frameworks as well as to postcolonial scholarship within the German and perhaps even wider European context.


Rita Maricocchi is a second-year student in the MA degree program National and Transnational Studies at the University of Münster. She completed her undergraduate studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, majoring in German, French, and Political Science. Before coming to Münster she spent one year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at a secondary school in Dresden. Her current MA thesis project focuses on the graphic novels of Birgit Weyhe, seeking to interpret their portrayal of German identity through a postcolonial lens. Her additional research interests broadly include multilingual literature, adaptation studies, and the intersection of autobiographical writing and gender performance. She is particularly interested in increasing dialogue within the university about decolonial issues, reflected in her involvement in the student-initiated Arbeitskreis Postkolonialismus, for which she co-organizes a bilingual reading group engaging with various literary and academic texts.

Francesco Costantini, Jagiellonian University, Kraków:
An Anti-Colonial and Inter-Imperial Literary Criticism of Scientism as a Post-Enlightenment Façade of Colonial Modernity

In order to recognise the role of science within the broader concept of post-Enlightenment universal Reason as a theoretical foundation of imperialism we are compelled to analyse the critical voices which arose already within European borders, especially in the interesting cases of peripheral Ireland and Poland. Ireland and Poland underwent an especially abrupt and disastrous accession to modernity—typically the experience of colonized societies—between the middle of the nineteenth century and the revolutionary period of 1916–22. In such conditions, modernization becomes explicitly associated with the culture of the colonial power. Any straightforward embrace or rejection of modernity is difficult for the colonized people, who very often seek to enjoy its benefits, but on their own terms. In early twentieth-century Ireland and Poland, a variety of cultural and political movements struggled with the difficulties and ironies of anti-colonial nationalism and decolonization. The doctrine of progress (scientific progress) legitimates imperial conquest under the guise of the civilizing mission, while the celebration of reason disqualifies other belief systems as irrational or superstitious. In this context, scientific positivism and empiricism were perceived as a crucial component of that modernism which imperialism imposed to indigenous epistemology, and as such was opposed by decolonising native intellectuals. For key anti-colonial thinkers such as W. B. Yeats the age of the scientific revolution meant the birth of what he calls “the mechanical theory,” and with it the demythologizing of the living world and its reduction, at the hands of Newton and Locke, to a mathematico-physical paradigm of celestial mechanics and a terrestrial abstraction cloven into “primary” and “secondary” qualities. Yeats’s concept of “new science,” which must take the place of the lost myths and legends could only be an old one, compounded of Vico’s Scienza nuova and, more centrally, of the occult, Romanticism, and his Anglo-Irish ancestors: all of them allies against the hated mechanical theory. In other words, Yeats theorises an indigenous epistemology of science in opposition to empire. Such was the case of the Polish Noble Laureate Henryk Sienkiwicz, which strongly criticised the presentism implicit in the scientistic positivist views of the time, against which he opposed an epic evocation of an imaginative past. A comparative study of such European, albeit colonised, oppositional voices would help to develop an inter-imperial criticism of scientific progress (as a notion exploited within the civilisational narrative) within the epistemology of European modernism.


Francesco Costantini’s PhD project is entitled “On the Way to Independence: The Role of Literature from a Postcolonial Perspective in a Comparative Context between Poland and Ireland” and includes an analysis at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries of the two cases of internal colonialisms questioning the role of literature in relation to national issues, epistemic and discursive violence, ultimately deconstructing imperialism by unravelling its colonial “sins” within modernism. Having studied in Italy, Poland, and Ireland his research interests comprise mainly Postcolonial Studies, Memory Studies and Comparative Literature, with specific attention to its relation with globalization processes and epistemic justice. He works under the supervision of prof. Ryszard Nycz.