deadline for submissions: 
January 26, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Free Exchange Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference, University of Calgary
contact email: 


Free Exchange: University of Calgary Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference

9-11 March 2018

Abstract Submission Deadline: EXTENDED to January 26th, 2018


In the essay “Unpacking My Library,” Walter Benjamin describes the desire to collect as a tension between order and disorder. He argues: “Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories. More than that: the chance, the fate, that suffuse the past before my eyes are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books” (Illuminations 60). To the extent that a collection always constructs a semblance of historical order, there exists for Benjamin another, implicit project in the figure of the collector. In The Arcades Project, Benjamin elucidates his vision of collectors as “physiognomists of the world of things” ([H2,7]). For Benjamin then, collecting plays a crucial role in the practices of historiography, memory, Marxist materialism, criticism, and—Benjamin analyses his book collection, after all—the study of literature itself.


To this end, the University of Calgary’s Free Exchange committee is hosting its annual interdisciplinary graduate student conference on March 9-11, 2018. We welcome both critical and creative presentations that investigate these issues in Literature, Philosophy, Fine Arts, History, Political Science, Psychology, Pop Culture, Economics, and similar disciplines. Presentations may range from traditional seminar papers to works of short fiction, poetry, film, or multi-modal works which themselves develop out of such considerations.


We are interested in submissions that deal with any type of collection, and of any cultural objects. Potential avenues of inquiry include, but are not limited to:

  • How do instances of re/collection relate to history and memory?
  • How do material objects relate to problems of subjectivity and agency?
  • How do cultural objects stage the relationship between a collection, the world, and the representations of both?
  • How, as scholars, do we critique existing collections so as to identify their gaps or misrepresentations? How do we modify existing collections?
  • How do discourses of survival and trauma stem from, utilize, or reframe re/collection?
  • By what criteria do we police the inclusion into, or the exclusion from, various collections or collectives?
  • What might a collection of collections look like, and how do we engage with such a multiplicity?
  • What are and are not considered collections—and can we mine them for activist, revolutionary potential?


For academic papers, please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words. For creative projects, please submit an artistic statement of no more than 200 words and a sample of your work.


All submissions are to be sent in an electronic e-mail attachment (preferably MS Word) to and are due no later than December 30th, 2017.



Will Best, Co-Chair

PhD Candidate

Department of English

University of Calgary


Ben Groh, Co-Chair

PhD Student

Department of English

University of Calgary