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“The pained and silent song of a branch”: Ecological precarity in the poetry of Taufiq Ismail and Khairani Barokka

Papers (in PDF)

By John Charles Ryan

In this article: Khairani Barokka Taufiq Ismail
Published in Journal of Postcolonial Writing,
May 24, 2020

This article aims to illuminate how Indonesian poets Taufiq Ismail and Khairani Barokka narrativize late-20th- and early-21st-century ecolo- gical precarity, including urgent issues of deforestation, pollution, biodiversity loss, and Indigenous dispossession. Ismail set the ecocri- tical agenda in Indonesian poetry early on with “I Want to Write Poetry” (1975), “Reading the Signs” (1982), and “The Pained and Silent Song of a Branch” (1982). Barokka’s long poem Indigenous Species (2016) similarly warns against neocolonial appropriation of land and advocates ecojustice for Indigenous communities of Kalimantan, centre of Indonesia’s palm oil industry. Their poetry links ecological change and catastrophe in Indonesia to the “imperial debris” of globalization. Focused on preserving the value of tradi- tional Indonesian relationships to the more-than-human world, their work gives prominence to the affective dimensions of ecological precarity. The article adopts a postcolonial environmental humanities framework integrating Laura Stoler’s “imperial debris” and Akhil Gupta’s theorization of environmental precarity as “immiserization”.

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