Language, culture and the construction of Sweden’s ecological commons

My research is anchored to varying degrees within the field of Critical Animal Studies, which might be defined as a domain of academia that seeks to critique the dominant societal narratives on non-human animals and our relationships with them as opposed to merely improving their conditions within the current paradigm. Complementing this perspective, I also situate much of my work within the emerging field of ecolinguistics, a field that explores new narratives on how we view our place in the rest of nature. My research is also loosely aligned to a posthuman position, such that it critiques the notion advanced within humanism that Homo sapiens represents the conceptual centre of all agency and value in the living world.

Situated within critical linguistics and critical discourse studies, my research is based upon the premise that prevalent constructions of both aspects of the living world and our relationship with the natural world, what one might refer to as discourses, or discursive themes, have the power to naturalise and normalise certain perspectives on nature and thus can shape our understandings not only of wild animals and the living world more broadly but also our own species and our place on this planet. This era in which our species presides over ecological destruction and the 6th mass extinction, brings about a particular urgency and importance to our ability to understand, expose and challenge discursive constructions that marginalise, diminish and dichotomise wild animals and more broadly, non-human others in general and construct them as mere resource. 

I am also interested in environmental and animal ethics, ecocriticism, environmental humanities, and discourses on environmentalism and our relationship with the non-human natural world. Other (although related) academic interests involve eco-critical investigations into rewilding, cryptozoology, and monster studies. 

In terms of methodology, my research interests centre primarily on the broad field of critical discourse studies. In relation to this, I am interested in how the use of linguistic frameworks and a hermeneutical approach can be drawn on and applied to language in use in order to carry out a wide range of investigative tasks, such as understanding how texts come to mean, interpretation, exposing underlying ideational perspectives and socially shared knowledge and belief, and an attempt to understand both the mental models of the language user and how language in use might shape those of the receiver/interpreter.  

Additional particular pedagogical interests involve Michael Halliday’s concept of the use of language as a mediator for content learning in addition to the relevance of language structure and use to the development of mental schema to represent reality.  

Many of these strands converge in my research, which currently focuses on the use of a qualitative socio-cognitive critical discourse approach in conjunction with eco-critical discourse analysis and the application of hermeneutics in order to analyse the ecological discourse position held by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) in relation to wild animals. As the main government agency in Sweden that is responsible for proposing and implementing environmental policies, Naturvårdsverket’s strategy documents on Swedish wildlife carry a strong high degree of authority as well as a normative aspect in terms of how wild animals should be understood and conceptualised. 

By applying a detailed ecolinguistic analysis of the repeated and related discursive structures present within a key public strategy document, I am currently researching how the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency draws on particular environmental discourses in order to linguistically construct not only wild animals in particular ways, but also how we should orientate towards them. I look at how the fluid nature of the phrase ‘sustainable development’ is appropriated and put to use in order to persuade us to take on a very specific view of wild animals and the Swedish ecological commons. 

 

Publications Show/Hide content

Bellewes, Emile. The Use of Educational Design Research for the Application of Ecocritical Discourse Analysis to an English Teacher Degree Programme. In Haag, I., Molander Danielsson, K., Päplowand, T., Öhman, M. eds., 2019. Perspectives on Ecocriticism: Local Beginnings, Global Echoes. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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