Unpure Imagination

Edge Effects seeks submissions of essays, multimedia exhibits, and other creative pieces pertaining to themes of toxicity, purity, pollution, and restoration in an always compromised world.

At the foundations of modern environmentalism is the premise that nature must be protected from contamination. “Purity” is invoked as a paramount value for land, water, air, and bodies. Yet the impossibility of returning to some untouched Eden of the Western imagination is increasingly apparent. Nature was never pure and never will be.

The slate has never been clean, and we can’t wipe off the surface to start fresh—there’s no “fresh” to start. . . . All there is, while things perpetually fall apart, is the possibility of acting from where we are.

Nevertheless, it is vital to acknowledge the ongoing, uneven realities of how toxicants and trash impair the flourishing of human and more-than-human life. Environmental illnesses, caused by often invisible substances that have become ubiquitous in an industrial world, are increasingly common, with poor and otherwise marginalized communities often the most prone to harm. The ways that scientific and governmental institutions conceive of and respond to environmental contamination has profound implications for which futures are made possible and which are foreclosed.

In this context, we ask: how do discourses around (im)purity affect environmental thought and action? How do we live well in an environment marred by pollutants? What constitutes environmental justice in a compromised world?

We welcome submissions on topics that may include but are not limited to:

Additional Details

Anyone is welcome to submit to this series. As always, we aim to highlight the research and writing of graduate students, postdocs, and early career scholars from a variety of disciplines, as well as work by practitioners and activists who work beyond academia’s walls. We especially welcome submissions from people of color, Black and Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and those with underrepresented genders, including trans men, women (both cis and trans), and nonbinary, gender-fluid, and two-spirit individuals.

How to Submit

  • Deadline for submissions extended: Monday, March 21, 2022

  • Accepted pieces are eligible for a $250 honorarium. If you have questions or would like more information about this, please feel free to reach out to us at edgeeffects@nelson.wisc.edu.

  • If you submit a previously unpublished essay (~1000 to ~2000 words), please send both a complete first draft of your piece and a brief pitch to the Edge Effects team at edgeeffects@nelson.wisc.edu. See our submissions page for pitch guidelines.

  • If you submit an oral history or a creative piece—visual art, poetry, video, photo/comic/graphic essay, a hybrid or multimodal exhibit, etc.—please send both your piece and a brief pitch to the Edge Effects team at edgeeffects@nelson.wisc.edu. See our submissions page for pitch guidelines.

    • If your creative piece has been previously exhibited or published elsewhere, please let us know where and when in your pitch.
    • We encourage those who are interested in submitting creative work to get in touch with us before submission to make sure that our website can accommodate your format.
    • Before publication, anyone contributing a creative piece will be asked to write a brief introduction to their work; editors will be happy to work with you on this introduction, and the pitch will give us a good place to begin.

  • Please note that Edge Effects publishes for interdisciplinary and public audiences. Accepted pieces will move through our editorial process with this in mind.

  • If you have any questions about how or what to submit, feel free to reach out to us. We look forward to reading, viewing, and listening to your work!

Featured image: Swirls of an oil slick in a parking lot. Photo by Arbyreed, 2011.