Politics and Aesthetics of Obsolescence
Call for Papers:
Politics and Aesthetics of Obsolescence
Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature /
Moving Image & Media Studies Conference
October 12th-13th, 2018
Professor Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Michigan State University)
Professor Joel Burges (University of Rochester, NY)
Has human society fully done away with the pre-modern ideal of permanence and gradual change? With the establishment of “planned obsolescence” as a fixture in business practices that accelerate the cycle of consumption to breakneck speed, time and history feel past their “best before” date: one is born too old, always already behind on the most recent “disruptive” trends in fashion, lifestyle choice, or current verbiage. The logic of obsolescence has left no domain of socio-cultural practice unturned and the metastases of ‘limited shelf life’ are innumerable across the close and distant histories of technological innovation, public discourse, commercial consumption, creative production, and theoretical-methodological trends in academia. Melting glaciers, automated-away workers, genocidal erosion of social welfare, and precipitate disappearance of animal and plant species unless they make profit, are among the symptoms of this impetus to move forward and never look back, presented to us in a rapid-fire news cycle that survives by the very same logic.
On the other hand, this whirlpool of obsolescence is not without its resistances: a number of counter-waste and anti-consumption movements and initiatives, ranging from municipally sanctioned recycling programs to a reactivated interest in localism, minimalism, DIY culture, as well as the call for a “right to repair” mark growing areas of contention, or at least corrective, to the logic of perpetual novelty.
The CSCL/MIMS Interdisciplinary Graduate Group will hold a weekend of conversation, debate, illustration and performance around these issues. We welcome papers from a wide range of disciplines, and invite submissions on, but not limited to, the following topics:
- Representations and critiques of obsolescence in media and literature
- Media/literary genres, intertextuality and the notion of “post-” as a marker of obsolescence
- Media ecologies
- Historicity of aesthetics/taste and nostalgia across various academic disciplines
- Trends, fashions, popular cultures and subcultures
- Nihilism, apathy, and ironic non-committal
- Rapid turnover of academic discourses, methodologies, theories, and the pressure to “publish or perish”
- Cognitive labor, technology, machine intelligence, automation, and economies of information
- Critical discussions of politics, identity and personhood (nationality, ethnicity, age, ability, gender, race, class) deemed or becoming obsolete and the power dynamics driving these discourses
- National and international politics, activism, globalization and refugee crises
- Environment, waste, freeganism
- Deserted/dysfunctional architectures, infrastructures, and geographies
- Decay and surplus
As a conference organized for and by graduate students, preference will be given to submissions from graduate students and early career scholars.
The conference committee welcomes abstracts for individual papers and proposals for panels and roundtable discussions. Please also include a list of 3-5 key terms; a biographical by-line of no more than 50 words; and specification of any AV-technology and/or other equipment needed. For your abstracts, please use one of these formats:
- For individual 20-minute contributions: up to 300 words.
- For themed paper sessions or panel discussions: up to 300 words per contribution plus 300 words outlining the rationale for the session.
- For sessions of up to 120 minutes in innovative formats such as work presentations, artist talks/readings, videographic essays, workshops, and other presentations not covered by the usual format of academic papers: up to 750 words outlining the form, content and rationale for the session.
The conference will take place October 12th-13th, 2018 on University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis, MN, and will include some off-campus evening events. Proposal submissions will be due May 13th, 2018. Please visit mimsgg.org for further information and the online submission form. For any questions, feel free to contact the conference committee via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University. Prior to assuming this role in 2017, she served as Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communication of the Modern Language Association, where she was Managing Editor of PMLA and other MLA publications, as well as overseeing the development of the MLA Handbook. During that time, she also held an appointment as Visiting Research Professor of English at NYU and Visiting Professor of Media Studies at Coventry University. Before joining the MLA staff in 2011, she was Professor of Media Studies at Pomona College, where she had been a member of the faculty since 1998. Fitzpatrick is author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (NYU Press, 2011) and of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). She is project director of Humanities Commons, an open-access, open-source network serving more than 10,000 scholars and practitioners in the humanities. She is also co-founder of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons, where she led a number of experiments in open peer review and other innovations in scholarly publishing. She serves on the editorial or advisory boards of publications and projects including the Open Library of the Humanities, Luminos, the Open Annotation Collaboration, PressForward, and thresholds. She currently serves as the chair of the board of trustees of the Council on Library and Information Resources.
Joel Burges is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and the Graduate Program in Visual & Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester, where he is also affiliated with Film and Media Studies and Digital Media Studies. He is the author of essays and reviews that have appeared in New German Critique, Post45, Cinema Journal, and Twentieth Century Literature. The question of time animated his first two book projects: a collection of 20 keyword essays, edited with Amy J. Elias, entitled Time: A Vocabulary of the Present (NYU Press, 2016), and a book entitled Out of Sync & Out of Work: History and the Obsolescence of Labor in Contemporary Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2018). He has approached the question of time through commodity and worker obsolescence as a cultural and theoretical phenomenon that is urgent to the tradition of critical theory and materialist thought. His next book is provisionally entitled Literature after TV. It charts how television, the most significant mass medium of the second half of the twentieth century, changed how novelists, dramatists, and poets wrote, moving from the poems of Anne Carson, Howard Nemerov, and Claudia Rankine and the fiction of A. S. Byatt, William Gibson, and Salman Rushdie to mini-series such as The Thorn Birds and War and Remembrance and shows such as MTV's Def Poetry Jam. In examining works such as these together, a new genealogy of postwar and contemporary writing emerges at the nexus of media history and literary history. He is also involved in two collective projects at the University of Rochester. First, he is part of the newly founded Rochester Decarceration Research Initiative, the aim of which is to research and transform, from a multitude of disciplinary and community perspectives, the landscape of mass incarceration that defines upstate New York. Second, with the Digital Scholarship Lab of River Campus Libraries, he is collaborating on a moving image annotation tool called Mediate.