Climate change has a huge footprint—and not just on the planet. It touches nearly every academic discipline, including many in the humanities. This multidisciplinary reach has the ability to not only alter conversations within areas of research, but also to encourage dialogue among them. It is in our best interest to encourage considerations of climate change across disciplines so as to draw as many voices and perspectives into the conversation as possible.
For some, this seems wrong-headed. They aim to localize discussion of climate change to scientific calculations of greenhouse gases and average surface temperatures. These individuals tend to believe that discussions of climate change are more the province of science than the humanities or critical theory. Readers of symplokē will appreciate the value of moving beyond basic greenhouse physics to a consideration of the political, aesthetic, ethical, and economic impact of climate change. And it is here that discussions within the humanities can interweave with discussions in the sciences—and hold the potential to radically transform both areas.
Climate change asks of critical and cultural theorists nothing more or less than a re-evaluation of our work, and challenges us to rethink how we use the critical tools we have at hand. It calls for us to ask how critical concepts like power, ideology, mediation, capital, colonialism, gender, oppression, society, and construction help to understand the challenges presented by climate change. In addition, it asks whether the current crisis wrought by anthropogenic climate change defies or affirms the assumptions that underpin cultural critical theory, and to what extent. Can we respond through established critical modes, such as those signaled by deconstruction, post-structuralism, genre theory, psychoanalysis, Marxism, and science studies, or those practiced under the rubrics of Agamben, Badiou, Butler, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Habermas, Latour, and Žižek? Or does climate change demand a new kind of theory?
While the impact of critical theory on the examination of climate change is yet to be determined, what can be determined is that merging the critical and the scientific may be our only hope to deal with the unprecedented challenges we face. Focus editor Adeline Johns-Putra from the University of Surrey has done a fantastic job in this issue assembling an international group of contributors to critically explore the discursive shape and texture of what we call climate change. These contributions collectively demonstrate the continued value of intermingling critical theory, literary analysis and [End Page 5] cultural studies not merely as ends in themselves—but rather as a means of addressing the complex problems currently facing academe, society, and our planet. This provides hope not only for the future of the planet, but also for the future of the humanities—and journals such as this one rooted in them.
Looking forward—albeit on a much smaller scale than that of climate change—we currently have two issues in preparation. The first is entitled Austerity (Vol. 22, No. 1-2 ). Welcome are contributions that theoretically engage the referential and figural use of austerity. What is austerity? What are the social, political, economic and intellectual dimensions of austerity? Who is the paradigmatic subject of austerity? Is its meaning transhistorical and transcultural? Or is it imbued in ideology and thus irremediably discursive and historically contingent? Whose austerity is acknowledged and whose is ignored? Is austerity an ontological concern? Does austerity have an aesthetics? Can an inquiry into austerity ever be disentangled from neoliberalism? How have austerity measures affected the contemporary academic culture? Submission deadline: Closed.
The second issue under preparation is entitled Digitopia (Vol. 23, No. 1-2 . Welcome are contributions discussing the nature, promise and limits of digital technology in all aspects of the academic culture. Will digital culture save the academy or bring it down? How about the humanities? How do digital technologies affect reading, writing, and teaching practices, as well as other aspects of academic performance, such as tenure and publication? What are the social, political, economic and intellectual dimensions of digital technology in contemporary academic culture? Submission deadline: 31 December 2013.
I would like to thank the contributors to this issue for sharing their reflections on climate change with us, and Adeline Johns-Putra for her editorial work on this issue. Special thanks also to Keri Farnsworth for her extraordinary assistance in the production of this issue; to Katie Moody for production support; to Vicki Fitzpatrick for keeping the books straight; to Sandra Wood for administrative assistance; and to UHV, for providing financial support for our editorial office and staff. Also, as always, I would like to thank the advisory board for their help in the preparation of this issue.
Finally, I am proud to announce that this journal was recognized earlier this year by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) in the category of Best Special Issue. The recognition was for our issue on Hunger (20.1-2) edited by Zahi Zalloua of Whitman College. This is the second time that the CELJ has recognized us, the first being for Significant Editorial Achievement (2000). We appreciate the recognition of the CELJ—and thank the organization for all of the work it does on behalf of scholarly journals. [End Page 6]
Jeffrey R. Di Leo is Dean of Arts & Sciences and Professor of English and Philosophy at the University of Houston—Victoria. His latest books include Turning the Page: Book Culture in the Digital Age (2014) and Corporate Humanities: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (2014).