Abundance and Scarcity (extended deadline)

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Méliné Kasparian-Le Fèvre


Abundance and Scarcity

International conference for young researchers (CLIMAS-Culture et Littérature des Mondes Anglophones)

Bordeaux Montaigne University, 17-18 February, 2022, Bordeaux, France


            Abundance and scarcity appear as opposites and yet both mark a deviation from a state of harmony, balance, or neutrality. Seeking out or fleeing from one of these two extremities engages the way we relate to resources, or to desire and need, and invites us to think on issues of value, norms, and excesses. Primarily an issue of basic survival, our relationship to abundance and scarcity can be observed through the organisation of our societies and of language, but also in our concerns around aesthetics and expression.


            From a cultural and historical perspective, issues of abundance and scarcity evoke the realm of resources, markets and consumerism. The current ‘era of abundance’ is defined by an abundance both of consumer goods and of information. In regards to conspicuous consumption, an abundance of wealth is used to amass cultural capital. Among resources that can be either scarce or abundant, food is a particularly useful example for calling into question the ambivalence of abundance; though a feast may play a positive role in reinforcing social ties, or a host’s prestige, today’s overabundance of processed foods has shown perverse side-effects in regards to certain populations’ health, including the more disadvantaged. Abundance may also have more positive effects – such as during times where economic prosperity is combined with creative and artistic growth, during America’s ‘Roaring Twenties’ for instance (though of course times of need may also be a drive for innovation.) Conversely, abundance may also bring creative stagnation in intellectual and artistic movements as well as the adverse effects of rampant consumerism – notably in terms of the environment but also in regards to cultural, ethical, and spiritual concerns.


            From a literary angle, papers might consider representations of abundance and scarcity as well as the way literary form can play with these two opposing concepts. These issues might be considered via eco-criticism, for instance, in looking at how the losses associated with environmental degradation are evoked in literature or looking at whether nature is seen as a place of overflowing abundance or as a place of lack and loss. Similarly, writings about the decadence and vacuity that are associated with consumerist profusion or unscrupulous displays of wealth question the morality of abundance and encourage a distinction between quality and quantity. Playing with gaps and wholes, with saturation and omissions, may affect a text’s reception, sometimes creating challenges to comprehension or even gaps in our understandings and interpretations – from les écritures blanches and texts that create aporia-producing gaps, to texts that seem to inflate and overflow, that hoard words and intertextual references, sometimes to the point of saturating meaning. Attention might also be given to artistic forms that derive from scarcity and paucity. Junk art, the DIY aesthetic, collage, creating something out of whatever is left over… These approaches show the creativity that can be born from times of need. Papers might also consider works that play on the oppositions between the void and the whole, between equilibrium and extremes, as well as the issue of filling, or not filling, spaces – whether a panel, a page, a canvas, a workspace, a horizon of expectation.


            We would also like to welcome papers discussing issues specifically relating to language and that show how we might think about meaning and discourse in terms of abundance and scarcity. Scarcity shows itself as a lack or as an absence in various phenomena related to gaps. Translation studies, for instance, must navigate the lexical gaps that exist in either the target or the source language – either wading through an abundance of choices or stranded where solutions are scarce. Yet translating also requires keeping in mind the much larger gaps between cultures or between readers. Thinking about translation practices also asks the question of reception. Which texts are translated? Why are some texts re-translated and some literatures so scarce on the shelves of other cultures?

Scarcity also prompts the question of what’s missing. Applied to language and expression, this can be seen in the case of accidental gaps – parts of language (whether words, morphemes or phonemes) that could exist but simply don’t. Once noticed, they beg the question of whether or not every part of life can or should fit into language. Can excessive labelling and an over-abundance of terminology not be harmful or hubristic?

The lacks and gaps of scarcity also manifest in language’s semantic issues. Grappling with ambiguous signs destabilises our habitual mode of knowledge and understanding – faced with an abundance of interpretations one may either thrive in the creative joys of instability or on the contrary search for the certainty brought by a singular authoritative definition.


            The conference is open to all but priority will be given to doctoral candidates. We invite proposals for 20 minute papers from all areas of Anglophone Studies and focusing on any place or time-period within the English-speaking world. Papers may be given in English or in French.


Topics may include but should by no means be limited to:

- Representations of abundance and scarcity in literature and the arts

- Narrative and textual forms, stylistic and rhetorical devices that play on abundance and/or scarcity

- Aesthetics of abundance and/or scarcity (baroque, minimalism)

- Symbolic motifs such as famines and floods

- Empty or full spaces (creative or physical)

- Over-consumption, shortages

- Social inequalities and disparities

- The value of rarity

- Abundance or scarcity of food

- the Pareto distribution

- Belief in a Golden Age


Please email a 250 word abstract as well as a short biographical note to nina.eldridge@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr by 15th November 2021. Your submission will be examined by the full committee.


Committee: Nina Eldridge, Méliné Kasparian-Le Fèvre, Riyad Moosoody, and Aurélien Royer (CLIMAS, Université Bordeaux Montaigne)


Bibliographical references


Angel-Perez, Elisabeth, and Alexandra Poulain, eds. Hunger on the Stage. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.

Bataille, Georges. La part maudite : précédé de la notion de dépense. Les           Éditions de Minuit, 1967.

Bauman, Zygmunt. Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

Bouisset, Maïten. Arte Povera. Editions du Regard, 1994.

Delville, Michel, and Andrew Norris. The Politics and Aesthetics of Hunger and Disgust: Perspectives on the Dark Grotesque. Routledge, 2017.

Hawkins, Gay. The Ethics of Waste: How We Relate to Rubbish. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006.

Hilton, Matthew. The Politics of Consumption: Material Culture and Citizenship in Europe and America. Berg, 2001.

Humphery, Kim. Excess: Anti-consumerism in the West. Polity Press, 2010.

Jones, Gavin. American Hungers: The Problem of Poverty in U.S. Literature, 1840-1945. Princeton University Press, 2009.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Knowledge, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions, 2013.

Lewis, Tania, and Emily Potter, editors. Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction. Taylor & Francis, 2013.

McCulloch, Ann, and Pavlina Radja. Food and Appetites: The Hunger Artist and the Arts. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

Morrison, Susan Signe. The Literature of Waste: Material Ecopoetics and Ethical Matter. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Potter, David. People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character. University of Chicago Press, 1954.

Rasula, Jed. This Compost: Ecological Imperatives in American Poetry. University of Georgia Press, 2012.

Scanlan, John. On Garbage. Reaktion Books, 2005.

Scholl, Lisa. Hunger Movements in Early Victorian Literature: Want, Riots, Migration. Routledge, 2016.

Stresser, Susan. Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash. Henry Holt and Company, 2014.

Vernon, James. Hunger: A Modern History. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Ybarra-Fausto, Tomas. “Rasquachismo: A Chicano Sensibility.” Chicano Aesthetics: Rasquachismo, Movimiento Artistístico del Río Salado, 1989, pp. 5-8.

Whiteley, Gillian. Junk: Art and the Politics of Trash. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010.