What is BASCE?
BASCE brings together those in the Benelux who are committed to exploring the changing relations between culture and the environment.
The Benelux Association for the Study of Art, Culture, and the Environment (BASCE) is a platform for all those who are actively engaged in ecocriticism to discuss their various endeavours with peers from different disciplines and an array of intellectual, creative, or activist pursuits.
Ecocriticism is a booming field. It emerged in the United States in the early nineties as a self-conscious theoretical approach. At the time, modern environmental was responding to a growing sense of crisis that arose out in the 1960s and 1970s through such work as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), a book that is now seen as one the classics of ecocriticism). Ecocriticism built on these concerns and developed a new approach to literary writing.
Today, ecocriticism has expanded into a broad interdisciplinary field that includes everything from interspecies justice, bio-art, and the role of grief and mourning in theories of the environment to the relation between queerness and veganism. As well-known ecocritic Timothy Clark put, ecocriticism is a “meta-contextual” form of inquiry. It is as equally diverse in its theoretical approaches, which range from posthumanist new materialism to discourse analysis, visual analysis, or phenomenology, as the genres it comprises. As a broad and flexible field, ecocriticism appears immensely productive as an intervention in postcolonial studies, gender, and queer studies, and in a sometimes overly text-oriented poststructuralism.
The productivity of ecocriticism becomes apparent in the sheer number of publications in the field. In 2011, the field of ecocriticism counted more than 100 anthologies. The US-based association ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, founded in the 1990s) now has 1300 members in 30 countries, and 750 papers were presented at its 2011 bi-annual conference. ASLE’s European counterpart and affiliated association, EASLCE (the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and the Environment) is active in expanding the scope of ecocriticism in Europe. NIES (the Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies) in Stockholm furthers this endeavor. BASCE will add to this European contingent by planting sturdy ecocriticism roots in the lowlands.
Academies across the Benelux are witnessing a growing interest in ecocriticism. In January 2010, Radboud University Nijmegen hosted an international conference at which several Dutch scholars with an interest in ecocriticism met for the first time. Moreover, one of the first humanities-master’s courses dedicated to ecocriticism was started at Leiden University in September 2011.
However, most scholars in the Benelux still treat ecocritical issues as an additional theme rather than the primary focus of research. Yet the increasing popularity of ecocriticism in subject areas such as art, social geography, sustainability, posthumanism, gender studies, or postcolonialism calls for more dialogue and collaboration. Many of those involved in ecocriticism feel they would benefit from an interdisciplinary, tri-national platform through which we can keep up-to-date on the latest regional developments as well as exchange ideas and plans for research projects. Such a platform could help shape the emerging field of ecocriticism in the Benelux, which would have a stimulating effect on cultural analysis on the whole, as it problematizes and elaborates some of the key notions in that field too.
The BASCE organization hopes to provide such a platform. Although it is now hosted by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis, BASCE may perhaps become an affiliated organization of ASLE, EASLCE, and NIES, with which it will closely cooperate. In the end, the BASCE platform will work to bring together teachers, scholars from various disciplines, artists, writers, environmentalists, students, and all those interested in the relation between art, culture, and environmental issues.
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