Meet the BIFoR Interdisciplinary Leadership Fellow for Ecocriticism:
Dr Louise Hardwick
Reader in Francophone Postcolonial Studies
AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow
How can we innovate and think beyond the traditional barriers of what it means to study ‘Modern Languages’ and – via the prism of another language – other cultures?
Modern Langauges, and the Humanities more generally, have the potential to contribute to the study of human interactions with the environment, particularly in an era of climate change and increasing concerns about environmental catastrophes. The study and mastery of a foreign language exposes us to other ways of thinking about the environment, and to a new range of problems – and potential solutions – regarding how humans interact with the natural world.
As BIFoR Interdisciplinary Leadership Fellow for Ecocriticism, my work on ecocriticism contributes to the institute’s research into how to improve our understanding of the societal values surrounding forests and biodiversity.
In my own field of research, Francophone Caribbean studies, I analyse the tensions, conflicts and paradoxes which have arisen as a result of Europe’s colonial past. I focus in particular on Martinique, a French Caribbean island which is both Caribbean and European. Martinique is in one of the regions designated as a global ‘biodiversity hotspot’ (Myers et al, Nature, 2000) – an area of stunning natural biodiversity which is under immediate threat and which needs to be protected by the international community. The Caribbean authors that I research are becoming increasingly preoccupied by this ecological agenda.
My research analyses systems of dominance and regulation. Initially, I considered how these systems impact human life, and have received major funding awards from the EU for my work on postcolonial biopolitics, investigating translatlantic slavery and indentured labour (2012-2014, 207,000 Euros). I am now moving to investigate how non-human life – in other words, nature – has also been subject to systems of dominance and regulation. In 2014, I received a Research Fellowship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (£168,000) for a project which began to consider an ecocritical approach to French Caribbean literature and culture, and in 2016, I published an article proposing the new approach of biopolitical ecocriticism: ‘Towards Biopolitical Ecocriticism: the Example of the Manifeste pour les ‘produits’ de haute nécessité’, French Studies, Vol. LXX. The article is available to read for free online through gold-level open access.
In 2016, I received further EU funding and training through Climate-KIC (2000 Euros) the EU’s main climate innovation initiative. Climate-KIC enabled me to apply my research in Ecocriticism with community partners, when I completed a four-week placement with the charity the Small Woods Association in Ironbridge, the national organisation for woodland owners, workers and supporters.
As part of BIFoR’s interdisciplinary agenda, I am committed to engaging the international public with forest research. I regularly give public talks in the UK, France, including a round table at the Toulouse La Novela festival and several talks in the French Caribbean. You can see more about my activities on my blog: www.josephzobel.wordpress.com (including a page dedicated to Ecocriticism).