Picking Through the Trash - May 10th and 11th, 2013
Picking Through the Trash
English Graduate Students' Association Conference at York University, Toronto
May 10th and 11th, 2013
"Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures." – Ray Bradbury
"I love trash!" – Oscar the Grouch
How many of us are willing to agree with Oscar, without any reservations? Even when claiming a love of trash culture, many of us take care to emphasize that this admiration happens at a distance. Phrases like "guilty pleasure" often accompany the admission, for we are aware we might be saying too much about ourselves, or aligning ourselves too closely with something whose main attraction might be its ability to be consumed easily, rapidly, and in large quantities. Yet designating someone or something as being trash or trashy reflects as much on the cultural commentators as on the given object. In this sense, "trash" is a political term, premised on notions of hierarchy and exclusion, even when we try to collapse these through kitsch or camp reclamations.
Oscar, however, is undoubtedly speaking of literal trash, the broken and decaying refuse of society. In this era of escalating environmental crises, our trash is creeping up on us: we are faced more and more with the problems of reducing, reusing, and recycling, and with the ever-political question of where exactly to pile our trash up. Thus the explosion of discussions in urban planning, environmental studies, and other disciplines on how to restore some form of balance to a world that has been overwhelmed by the human ability to "trash" the planet.
These are just some of the topics that will be explored in the Picking Through the Trash Conference, taking place at York University in Toronto on May 10th and 11th, 2013. We invite participants from across disciplinary borders to submit papers that engage with any aspect of this highly mobile field of inquiry. Possible topics could be inspired by, but should not be limited to, the following thematic concerns:
"Trashy" pleasures, in literature, film, television, and popular culture ● Notions of cultural capital and evaluation
Sorting practices, both cultural and literal ● Found art and readymades (Duchamp)
"Matter out of place" and the politics of location ● Kitsch, camp, reappropriation, and resistance
Eco-criticism, environmentalism, and urban planning ● The abject, decay, and decomposition
Hoarding and other "dirty" habits ● Consumerism and appetite ● Deletion and destruction
Trash talking and insult culture