Global ‘overpopulation’, considered the central environmental issue in the 1970s, became an almost taboo topic in the twenty-first century, often dismissed as drawing attention away from international capitalism as the primary cause of poverty and environmental destruction and at worst catering to forms of bigotry or oppression. Yet the environmental concerns still associated with question of populations – habitat destruction, mass extinction, global warming – resist being translated without remainder into the more morally and politically familiar issue of overconsumption.
Virginia Woolf’s famous statement that round about 1910 human nature changed was a piece of well-judged social observation. However, if one said the same thing of humanity in the late twentieth or early twenty-first centuries, might the statement be taken literally? It would be to acknowledge the disjunctive emergence of an alarming ecological dynamic—that humanity en masse becomes of a nature and impact quite different to and discontinuous from that of individuals and societies at smaller scales. At a certain scale, a new kind of thing emerges, Michel Serres’s ‘dense tectonic plates of humanity’, the human becomes the peculiar agent of a global violence and irrational self-destructiveness it cannot command, however individually ‘rational’ any one person may be. The question of overpopulation renders newly and disturbingly imponderable some basic categories for the thinking of human beings (what/who, human/animal, nature/culture, zoe/bios).
This issue of Oxford Literary Review invites papers in the field of literary criticism and philosophy that consider the ‘dehumanizing’ nature of overpopulation and its effects, in the sense just described or otherwise. Proposals of up to 400 words are welcome by 15th June 2015 and a selection will shortly after be invited to submit the full paper. Final versions of papers up to 7,000 words in length would be due by February 15th 2016, for possible publication in July 2016.
Inquiries and proposals to Tim Clark: firstname.lastname@example.org