Detritus, Refuse, and Other Castoffs - CONFERENCE CANCELLED

deadline for submissions: 
April 17, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English


We're sorry not to be seeing you this summer, but please stay well, and we'll be back next year!


Surely the wake left behind by mankind’s forward march reveals its movement just as clearly as the spray thrown up elsewhere by the prow.

 – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


Few would dispute the validity of Teilhard’s analogy itself: a society is defined as much by what it rejects as what it values. What we might question is the very forwardness of the march he imagines. Moreover, would an exhibit of what any given society has “left behind” constitute a tribute or a condemnation?

                Humans generate waste. From basic bodily functions to lofty philosophical and religious dogmas, the idea of letting go of what we don’t need seems, in various forms, to be built into many of our psyches, including in the disturbingly persistent ideology of linear progress that motivates positions like Teilhard’s. Focused on the thrill of surging ahead, Teilhard’s rhetoric conceals the harsh and often bloody process by which the wake – the detritus – is defined and the power structures that underpin the question of who gets to decide. Though some things must be discarded, much is wasted because its value merely goes unacknowledged by those in power, and too much of that waste is measured in lives.

                Our conference this year focuses on how societies, both contemporary and historical, determine what to let go of and how. We invite submissions for papers (15-20 min) and posters (approx. 3.5’ x 3.5’, costs covered by presenters) from across the disciplines that engage critically with issues related to physical, technological, and social disuse, including those that engage with the ideologies of progress that frame these issues. Proposed topics include but are not limited to:


Waste management and reduction                                          Acceptance and rejection

Repair vs replacement practices                                                Outcasts (social, economic, or otherwise)

Obsolescence (planned or otherwise)                                     Outsider art

Adaptation and evolution                                                            Abjection

Development and maturation                                                    Return of the repressed

Anomalies and throwbacks                                                         Canonicity

Categorization and systemization                                             Archive theory

Technological advancement                                                       Utopia and dystopia

Burial and body disposal practices                                            Artistic representations of any of the above



Submissions: Please send a 250-word abstract plus a 50-word bio along with your name, current level of graduate study, affiliated university, and email address to Panel submissions are also welcome. Please include the words “Detritus Conference Abstract” in the subject line.