Seminar: Hydrofictions in Israeli & Palestinian Literature Tues 8th Dec

Tue 8 Dec, 5-7pm, Ellen Wilkinson Conference Room


Hannah Boast (University of York)

“Water is the New Oil: Hydrofictions in Israeli and Palestinian Literature”

Over the past five to ten years, postcolonial ecocriticism, now being increasingly absorbed into the
‘environmental humanities’, has brought the global politics of resource extraction, exhaustion and
contamination onto literary agendas. One of the most prominent subjects of research in this area
recently has been ‘petrofiction’, with critics such as Stephanie LeMenager, Graeme Macdonald and
Imre Szeman making visible the connections between cultural products and our dangerously oil-
dependent culture. However, from the 1990s to the present day, much debate in global resource
politics has focused on the extent to which water might be the ‘new oil’, in the sense of a key trigger
of future international conflicts. While, as Selby (2003) and Zeitoun (2008) have noted, there are
good reasons to treat such predictions with caution, it remains startling that literary critics, even
with our sensibilities ever more shaped by the concept of the Anthropocene, have had little to say
about a resource so politically contested and so fundamental to life. Israel/Palestine is at the centre
of debates on water scarcity, whether as the projected future site of ‘water wars’, or the potential
source of much-vaunted desalination technologies that might help the Global North to prolong (at
least temporarily) our unsustainable patterns of water use. I argue that Israeli and Palestinian
literature, much neglected in Anglophone literary criticism, offer ideal starting points from which to
sketch out a theory of ‘hydrofiction’, which we might situate in dialogue with existing work on
petrofiction. In doing so, I show how literary approaches might productively deepen and critique the
existing political, scientific and increasingly corporate discourses on the future of the world’s water.

All welcome // Wine reception to follow

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