Ruin Porn: Essays on the Obsession with Decay (Edited Collection)

deadline for submissions: 
November 1, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Siobhan Lyons, Macquarie University
contact email: 

The newly-coined term ‘ruin porn’ provokes both obsession and criticism; signalling the eventual decay to which we will all invariably succumb, contemporary ruins inspire fascination and fear, a furious denial of our collective immortality and a wary flirtation with death. Contemporary ruins such as those found in Detroit and Chernobyl attract thousands of ‘ruin tourists’ or ‘ruin photographers’, many of whom attempt to engage on a meaningful level with the existential threat that these sights arouse. The terrifying beauty that we associate with contemporary ruins appears to be a modern symptom of the post-natural, architectural sublime. 

In lieu of ‘ruin porn’, which tends to focus solely on the aesthetic pleasure with which such sites are associated, Kate Brown talks of the concept of ‘rustalgia’ in her book Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten (2014). For Brown, while some people speak of their ‘lustful’ attraction to such sites, ‘others will speak in mournful tones of what is lost, what I call rustalgia.’

Modern ruins are fascinating to us because they prompt interrogation into our place in the overarching narrative of history and utterly re-configure ordinary conceptions of time. As Tong Lam argues in his photographic work Abandoned Futures: A Journey to the Posthuman World (2013), ‘in a way, we are already post-apocalyptic’.

How might we respond to the growing interest in contemporary ruins, and how does the term ruin porn strengthen or undermine this development? What does an obsession with ruin culture suggest about contemporary society, especially with the parallel emergence of anthropocentric discourse?

This essay collection seeks to produce a dialogue on contemporary ruin, ruin porn, and urban decay. Abstracts are invited that discuss topics on, but not limited to:          

  • Ruins and catastrophe (environmental, economic, etc.)
  • Ruin photography, ruin photographers, and the aesthetics of decay
  • Ruins, ecocriticsm, and the anthropocene 
  • Ruins and posthumanism
  • The term ‘ruin porn’ and its potential problems
  • Ruins, nostalgia, and solastalgia
  • Ruins, beauty, and the architectural sublime
  • Ruins and the conception of time, history, and progress
  • Ruins and war
  • Artistic and fictional depictions of decay
  • Abandoned cities and economic downturn 

Interested authors should send abstracts of 350-500 words to siobhan.lyons@mq.edu.au by November 1, 2016. Completed papers will be due in 2017. Palgrave has expressed interest in the project.