Language Matters: Social and Environmental Justice in Creative-Critical Practice

Friday 7 July, Nottingham Contemporary

Keynote Speakers: Malika Booker and Hanan Issa

I want a word for beingness. Can we unlearn the language of objectification and throw off colonized thought? Can we make a new world with new words?

– Robin Wall Kimmerer, ‘Speaking of Nature’ (2017)


Calls for social and environmental justice have, in recent years, been amplified in response to inequalities across race, gender, class and geography brought to the fore by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter and Hands Off My Hijab movements, and the acceleration of anthropogenic climate change. Across the cultural spectrum, institutions are beginning to reckon with their imperial legacies, publishers are questioning their frames of reference, and universities are addressing the sustainability of their curricula. But what is the role of practice research in this and what might this work achieve? How might creative-critical writing contribute in constructive and meaningful ways to contest hierarchies of knowledge production? And how might other languages, forms and genres destabilise Western epistemologies and promote inclusive pedagogies?

Drawing on Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui’s (2012) statement that ‘there can be no discourse of decolonisation, no theory of decolonisation, without a decolonising practice’, the aim of this event is to explore the role of creative-critical practice and hybrid methodologies in contesting global injustices and inequities. Featuring workshops and readings by Malika Booker and Hanan Issa, the symposium will explore the ways in which different modes of writing can perform ‘epistemic disobedience’ (Walter Mignolo, 2009) and how each of us might, in the words of Robin Wall Kimmerer, ‘make a new world with new words’.

Recognising the critical intersections of global environmental, economic and social injustices, and valuing the contributions of activists, artists, academics, practitioners and community workers, we aim to provide an inclusive space in which to welcome voices from a wide range of academic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Seeking to open up the status of creative-critical writing and its role within the context of social and environmental change, the event will ask how alternative forms of knowledge production and dissemination might help us to forge ecologically and culturally sustainable futures.

Call for Participants

We invite contributions from writers, artists, activists, academics and practitioners and welcome proposals of up to 150 words for: (1) 30-minute workshops; (2) 20-minute creative-critical papers; or (3) 5- to 10-minute micro-performances or readings. If you have an alternative format for your presentation in mind, please get in touch with us to discuss the options.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

Social, environmental, economic and racial justice
Radical writing and activism
Indigenous practices
Interdisciplinary methods
Creative Criticism
Non-western epistemologies

Please email your proposal (up to 150 words) with a brief biography (up to 100 words) to both: and Please include ‘Language Matters proposal’ in the subject of your email. The deadline for proposals is 12 June 2023.

The symposium is free to attend and we especially welcome proposals from those from disadvantaged backgrounds as part of our commitment to accessibility and engagement. If you have any access needs, please indicate these in your proposal. We also have a limited number of travel bursaries available. Please contact us for details.

Malika Booker is an international writer and multidisciplinary artist whose work is steeped in anthropological research methodology and rooted in storytelling. The founder of Malika’s Poetry kitchen, her collection Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press, 2013) was shortlisted for both the OCM Bocas Poetry Prize and the Seamus Heaney Prize in 2014. In 2019 she received a Cholmondeley Award for her outstanding contribution to poetry, and in 2020 she won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem for ‘The Little Miracles’.

Let us partake in the language of wake, lick down dominos,
and make ole talk, come nah man. Meaning, be my brothers tonight.
– Malika Booker, ‘The Garden of Gethsemane’ (2022)

Hanan Issa is a Welsh-Iraqi poet, film-maker, scriptwriter and artist. Her publications include her poetry collection My Body Can House Two Hearts and Welsh Plural: Essays on the Future of Wales. She is part of the writersroom for Channel 4’s award-winning series We Are Lady Parts and is co-founder of the Where I’m Coming From open mic series. She is the current National Poet of Wales and 2022-2023 Hay International Fellow.

Two hearts my body can hold,
so I mould my legacy:
to make space enough for all,
standing tall, I rise, breathe free.
– Hanan Issa, ‘My Body Can House Two Hearts’ (2019)

This event is organised by the Critical Poetics Research Group, based at Nottingham Trent University in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary.


Image credit: “Ogham” by adactio is licensed under CC BY 2.0.