Eco-criticism in Times of Crisis: Nature, Capital and Culture in the Hispanic and Lusophone Worlds

A symposium that considers the role of cultural narratives in interpretations of the relationship between the state, capital and nature.

Ever since the colonial period, dominant narratives have represented the ‘natural’ world as a source of capital to be exploited for political power and financial profit. At the same time, however, nature has been viewed as an ungovernable threat, a source of danger, anxiety and otherness that is situated beyond the reaches of human control and impact. Today, as new hazards arise from the consequences of the seemingly boundless capacity of capital to exploit natural resources, the natural world has been brought to the forefront of a number of different and often conflicting agendas. With the rise of environmental politics, the development of "green" economies, a surge in ecological warfare over limited resources, and the spread of cultural concerns surrounding ecological crises, nature has come to represent more of a threat and an opportunity than ever before.

In a context in which the turbulence of the new millennium derives largely from the encroaching 'triple crises' of food, finance and energy (Moore 2015), it is no longer possible to ignore the importance of ecological perspectives. Even as the world of scholarship has recognised that 'nature' is largely a cultural construction, citizens across the globe are suffering the very material effects of environmental exploitation that is often justified in dominant narratives. With the endemic drought in the Iberian peninsula, overfarming in Portuguese-speaking Africa, and the increasing presence of criminal actors in the business of resource extraction in Latin America, the symbiotic relationship between culture, capital and the devastation of the natural environment has never called out for more urgent attention. In these times of the intensification of ecological crises, this symposium will evaluate a range of eco-critical perspectives and their role in challenging the exploitation of nature and proposing alternative ways of interacting with the environment, particularly in the emerging and precarious economies of the Hispanic and Lusophone worlds.

What is eco-criticism?

We understand eco-criticism as an interdisciplinary movement that engages with different concepts of nature from a global perspective. By interrogating fetishized visions of the natural world and the environment, we seek to understand ‘nature’ in all its complexities and different interpretations. Dealing with landscapes, environments, and natural resources as they are mediated in different contexts, we understand nature, above all, as a fluid and changing concept. At the same time, we trace similarities between the ways in which the idea of nature is appropriated in different historical, cultural and geographical contexts. In so doing, we respond to current debate surrounding environmental catastrophes and energy crises, foregrounding Hispanic and Lusophone voices against the dominance of Anglophone scholarship.


As part of the symposium, film director Eugenio Polgovsky joins us at the University of Leeds for a screening of his documentary Resurrección (Mexico, 2016). The film depicts the contamination of the Santiago river in Jalisco, Mexico.

Download the symposium programme (PDF 84.98 KB)       

Download the symposium poster (PDF 519.52 KB)

The ecocriticism symposium was supported by The Leverhulme Trust, CHIA, Institute Cervantes, HLCS, and Camoes.