International Virtual Conference
Contagion Narratives: Society, Culture and Ecology of the Global South

25-26, August 2020

Organised by - The Department of English, School of Social Sciences and Languages, VIT Vellore

Free Registration The last date for Abstract Submission has been extended to August 7, 2020

Concept Note

The ‘outbreak narratives’ (Wald) emerging from across the globe afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic have once again accentuated human vulnerability and have turned the spotlight back on the nonhuman (microbes, animals, climate and so on) and its ‘confederation of agencies’ (Iovino and Oppermann). The Corona pestilence, like its antecedents such as the Great Plague of London (1665-66), Spanish Flu (1918-1920), SARS (2002-2004) and Ebola (2013-2016), narrates ‘biological catastrophe[s]’ (Caduff) of varying degrees as it puts forward embodied discourses of pain, fear, fatigue, exhaustion and suffering. The permeability of bodies (Alaimo) that COVID-19 foregrounds has sharp parallels with the human survival struggles in the otherwise toxified locations like those near nuclear dumps, landfills and factories.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore astonishing discrepancies in response to the threat among different locations in the Global North and South. Emerging records of strategies and successes from different regions indicate that resourcefulness in handling the pandemic is not necessarily correlated with affluence or the availability of the best healthcare. The contagion that rapidly spread from China to Europe and the US, arguably, has effectively highlighted the flipside of both high capitalism and globalisation.

The extensive periods of nation-wide lockdowns in response to the pandemic have unequivocally demonstrated that environmental despoliation is largely anthropogenic. News reports from across the globe point to several instances of environmental recuperation such as drops in air and water pollution, fish returning to water resources and the sightings of birds and wild animals in cityscapes. The entanglement of such upbeat tales of ecological healing with stories of multiple socio-cultural problems like insanitation, stigma, unemployment, poverty, and migration that countries, mostly in the Global South, confront suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic ought to be seen as a ‘naturecultural’ (Haraway) phenomenon.

The tragic stories of deaths from COVID-19, which are increasingly becoming part of our everyday reality, make us reflect on the complex causal network that has led to the spread of this ‘zoonotic’ disease. The fact that the disease has spread from animals to human beings makes us think more closely about our relationship with members of other species. Our attitudes to other animals range from kindness and condescension to hostility and clash for resources. When they are experimented on, they serve as instruments to satisfy our quest to understand the secrets of life. This is one precise instance where this outbreak gives us a motivation for looking more closely at the relationship between us and other animals.

More questions arise as we take a look at the larger ecosystem on which the living world is dependent. It has been observed that the outbreak of this disease is concomitant with an increasing number of extreme climatic events and both are argued to be connected to global warming. As pathogens mutate and increasing temperatures create conditions for the increased breeding of disease vectors, infectious diseases could become deadlier and more difficult to contain. Further, owing to unhealthy living conditions and dependence on daily wages, socio-economically disadvantaged individuals of the Global South are more affected by infectious diseases in terms of health as well as their already low economic status.

As historian Yuval Harari noted, the virus SARS CoV 2 has affected aspects of our lives that make us human, such as the possibility of close communication in a direct, face-to-face mode. If infectious diseases become recurring phenomena in a world transformed by climate change, all aspects of human life, including our notions of literature, films and other forms of art, would have to be re-thought. The ways in which our forms of aesthetic expression respond and change would be a matter of interest to this conference.

Against this background, the two-day international virtual conference welcomes papers that analyses narratives from the Global South about deadly infectious diseases like COVID-19 by situating them in their wider medical (including biochemical), eco-social and cultural contexts. The conference is conceived as interdisciplinary and participants are encouraged to draw on theories ranging from the medical and environmental humanities, philosophy, gender, cultural and film studies, as well as various strands of social sciences.


Sub-themes include, but are not limited to

  • Contagion and literature
  • Contagion and language
  • Contagion and climate change
  • Contagion and environment
  • Contagion and the Global South
  • Contagion and social challenges
  • Contagion and culture
  • Contagion and philosophy
  • Contagion and films
  • Contagion narratives and technology
  • Contagion and gender


Abstracts of about 700-900 words on the above-mentioned themes should be emailed to on or before July 24. The abstracts, typed in MS Word (Times New Roman, 12, double space) should contain the title, name and affiliation of the author, and email address.


Selected papers from the conference will be published in conference proceedings with ISBN. Further information will be shared in due course of time.

Event Speakers

Here are some of our speakers

Speaker 1

Prof.Karen Laura Thornber

Professor in Literature
Harvard University, USA

Speaker 2

Prof. Dilip M. Menon

Mellon Chair of Indian Studies
University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

Speaker 3

Dr. Andrew Fenton

Associate Professor
Dalhousie University, Halifax , Canada

Speaker 4

Dr. Kalpita Bhar Paul

Assistant Professor
Krea University, Andhra Pradesh, India

Speaker 5

Ms. Arundhathi Subramaniam

The Award-Winning Author

Speaker 6

Dr. Satyajith Rath

Medical Doctor & Scientist
Working on Immunology

Speaker 7

Dr. Feroz Hassan

Assistant Professor
IIT, Kanpur, India

Speaker 8

Prof. J. Devika

Centre for Development Studies,

Speaker 6

Dr. Bindhulakshmi P.

Associate Professor
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

About Us

Vellore Institute of Technology

VIT, one of the premier institutes in Tamil Nadu, was established in 1984. It is a major, comprehensive, student-centred research university dedicated to excellence in teaching, research, and service. VIT today comprises various schools and interdisciplinary research centres offering undergraduate, postgraduate and research programs in various disciplines. The institute was established to provide quality higher education at par with international standards. The campus has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with students from all corners of the globe. Presently the student’s strength has crossed 25,000. Our Memoranda of Understanding with various international universities are our major strength. The mission of VIT is to educate students from all over India, including those from the local and rural areas, and from other countries, so that they can become enlightened individuals, improving the living standards of their families, industries, and society. VIT provides individual attention, world-class quality education, and takes care of character building. There are student and faculty exchange programmes, to encourage joint research projects for mutual benefit. VIT Vellore obtained grade “A” for all the programmes offered by the University during the re-accreditation processes in February 2015. The University was recently ranked No.1 Private Engineering Institution by MHRD, Govt. of India. VIT – Recognized as Institution of Eminence (IoE) by the Government of India.

About the Department of English

The Department of English is part of the School of Social Sciences and Languages. The school offers language courses at basic and intermediate levels for UG and PG programmes in a diverse set of disciplines that come under science, technology, commerce and management to enable all learners to avail opportunities across the globe. The department aims to build communicative competence and confidence in students of engineering and other streams. In addition to teaching communicative English, the faculty members carry out research in different areas in literature and the humanities.

Important Dates

Abstract Submission August 7, 2020
Notification of Abstract Acceptance July 31, 2020
Registration Opens August 12, 2020
Registration Ends August 21, 2020
Submission of Full Paper August 22, 2020
Registration Link Click Here

  • Registration is free
  • Registered presenters will be provided with the link for virtual presentation.
  • Details regarding the link to the webinar and password will be communicated to the registered email address by August 22, 2020.
  • The conference organisers will issue e-certificates to all the registered participants who attend a minimum of three sessions.

Organising Committee

Chief Patron

Dr. G. Viswanathan
Founder & Chancellor of VIT


Mr. Sankar Viswanathan
Vice President

Dr. Sekar Viswanathan
Vice President

Mr. G. V. Selvam
Vice President

Ms. Kadhambari S. Viswanathan
Assistant Vice President

Dr. Sandhya Pentareddy
Executive Director


Dr. Anand A. Samuel
Vice Chancellor

Dr. S. Narayanan
Pro Vice Chancellor

Dr. K. Sathiyanarayanan


Dr. G. Velmurugan
School of Social Sciences and Languages


Dr. Sarika Gupta
Head of the Department,
Department of English,
School of Social Sciences and Languages

Organising Secretaries

Dr. Sreejith Varma R.
Assistant Professor,
Department of English

Dr Jobin M. Kanjirakkat
Assistant Professor,
Department of English

Contact Us

Dr. Sreejith Varma R.

Dr. Jobin M. Kanjirakkat

Assistant Professors,
Department of English,
School of Social Sciences and Languages,
Vellore Institute of Technology,
Vellore Tamil Nadu, India PIN: 632014

Phone Number