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A Gathered Dialogue: Eco-afterlives and Slow Hope

May 13, 2024 - May 14, 2024

Co-conveners: Dr. Zimu Zhang (LCS); Dr. Jamie Wang (LCS)

Location: May 13: C-LP-02, The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, HKSAR;
                 May 14: Lamma Island

Registration deadline: 6 May 2024, 23:59. Online participation is available upon request. For further information and to register for the event, click here.

Amid the environmental degradation and mass extinction, life and lifeforce is cut short, ruptured, recomposed by industrial capitalism and technocratic development. The afterlives of many become the witness and/or embodiment of slow violence (Nixon, 2013) and entangled colonial, racial and environmental injustice.

As agricultural drug diclofenac kills the Gyps Vultures, as ghost fishing nets around the world drown various marine mammals, and as transcorporeal toxicity enacts new modes of “toxic kinship” (Alaimo, 2010; Cielemęcka and Åsberg, 2019), the multi-dimensional afterlives of “multi-being” (Reid, cited in Price and Chao 2023) require urgent attention and new modes of thought and engagement. Thinking of and with the afterlife in the Anthropocene is to move beyond the human timescale, to dismantle the life and death binary, and to take seriously the ongoing “intra-activities” (Barad 2010) of biotic and abiotic matters. 

How might our “weather bodies” (Neimanis and Walker, 2014) continue to index the afterlives of heat, rainfall, flood, toxins and the half-lives of radioactive waste? What are the by-products of some supposed sustainable technological (techno-optimistic) methods, and their impacts? As we grapple with these tensions and intricacies, we propose the term “eco-afterlives” to explore and foreground the interconnection and valence of “eco” and “afterlives”, and their spatial, temporal and material dimensions. Approaching eco-afterlives not only attends to the ecological and metabolic cycles of the many beings, but also considers them as relational and situated phenomena. It seeks to explore the way in which these relations impact, structure, make and unmake worlds. The possible ecomediation of afterlife confronts the uneven environmental debt, the hierarchized life and lifeforms, and the unmourned more-than-human death and loss. It invites us to befriend the ghosts and monsters from the Anthropocene ruins, and to speculate with our “oddkin” (Haraway 2016).  

The proposition of eco-afterlives also channels us to commoning, reconciliation and hope. Christof Mauch (2019) proposes “slow hope” as a much needed constellation to engage with and counter “slow violence” and its associated paralysing scenarios. Slow hope points to gradual, quiet yet processual endeavours. It inspires us to both explore alternative ways towards a more just and sustainable future and re-story hopeful narratives that are often untold. Practising slow hope compels us to tell stories of vulnerability and counter-stories that attest to both the tenacity of eco-mediations and the limits of extractive logic and ecological traps.    

This interdisciplinary symposium seeks to create a space where theory, praxis gather to imagine an onto-epistemological shift in accounting for the ongoing aftermath of anthropocentric disasters and enacting new modes of hope and worlding through the notion of eco-afterlives and slow hope. We are concerned with life, loss, and unevenly distributed environmental impacts. More importantly, we ask: How might the thinking of eco-afterlives enable other kinds of relations of a more-than-human world through eco-mediations? As militarisation, colonialism, nuclear power, plantations and their afterlives continue to haunt and sustain slow violence, how might a different approach to the ambivalent notion of hope (re)story human-environment relations? What are some of the ecological practices that resist the death narrative, and sustain death into life (Rose, 2004)? 

The opposite of fast is rarely slow (Wang, 2023). Rather being slow may be a radical process of unlearning and learning hope otherwise, opening up ways for transformation and reflective reproduction. While highlighting some of the ecological narratives, we also ask: What are the temporal and material dimensions of hope and slowness contextualised in and animated by Hong Kong and other translocal areas? What are the issues, frictions and compromises that may be associated with some ecological initiatives themselves? 

We invite you to think of, with, through these questions with us, and one another. By centring environmental humanities scholars and practitioners with particular grounding in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, and beyond, this symposium attempts to create a space for situated dialogues, collective visions, and the development of practices and actions inspired by the translocal tenacious sparks despite the seemingly overwhelming Anthropocene challenges.


Further Information

Refreshments and light snacks during coffee breaks will be provided.