Spectator Special Issue: "Waste"

deadline for submissions: 
November 20, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Eszter Zimanyi, University of Southern California
contact email: 

Call for Papers
Spectator Special Issue: “Waste"

Volume 42.2 (Fall 2022)
Edited by: Eszter Zimanyi

Description of topic

Look around and all the eyes can see is waste. From piles of face masks used during the COVID-19 pandemic to heaps of fake lifejackets left behind by migrants along Europe’s shores, we seem to be surrounded by discarded objects—used, abused, and left behind. As climate change accelerates and racial capitalism continues its relentless agenda of extraction and consumption, human and nonhuman life grows increasingly disposable as well. Despite—or perhaps because of—ongoing calls for better “management,” governments seem more than willing to sacrifice the elderly, disabled, and poor in order to “save” the economy. Over the past few years, we have watched states detain migrant children in cages and abandon refugees stranded at sea. We have witnessed communities around the world endure increasingly extreme weather events while environmental regulations are dismantled by autocrats and democrats alike.

Waste, materially and conceptually, is marked by a certain excess. The term ‘waste’ can signal excessive practices of extraction and production, or improper habits of consumption (wasting food, wasteful spending). It can describe an excess of the body (excrement), and the refusal or inability to make the body productive (wasted talent, waste of time, to waste away from disease or malnourishment). As a verb, ‘waste’ can also mark excessive acts of destruction (laying to waste). Across these uses, waste seems to connote a transgression, a violation of an intended order.

This special issue of Spectator asks what media studies can tell us about our waste-full world. How do we come to understand what is valuable and what can be thrown away? What role does media play in producing and representing waste? How does a logic of disposability shape labor practices in media industries? And how can media studies help us reclaim the discarded and forgotten, and revitalize it anew?

We encourage essays that span a wide range of historical and geographical case studies and that take an expansive approach to the definition of media. We welcome both single-authored and co-authored submissions as well as non-traditional submissions, including photo-essays, critical creative writing, and interviews with media-makers engaging waste.


Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Wasteful media (such as e-waste, disposable cameras, film stock, media infrastructures, etc.)
  • Aesthetics of waste and disposability (including theories of the “poor image”)
  • Media representations of waste
  • Environmental media and eco-criticism
  • The “forensic turn” in media studies
  • Temporalities of waste and degradation
  • Wasting time
  • Mediatizing bodies as waste / wasted bodies
  • Making media from waste (recycling, remixing, reimagining waste)
  • Book reviews of recent scholarship examining media in relationship to waste, pollution, disposability, and sustainability


Deadline for Submission: November 20, 2021

Spectator is a biannual publication by the University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, Division of Cinema & Media Studies.

Manuscripts to be considered for publication should be sent to:

Eszter Zimanyi, Issue Editor
Division of Cinema and Media Studies
School of Cinematic Arts, Room 320
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211

Email: zimanyi@usc.edu

Submissions should be e-mailed directly to the issue editor. Manuscripts should include the title of the contribution, name of author(s), postal address, e-mail address, and a phone number for the author who will work with the editor on revisions. Contributions should be between 3,000 - 5,000 words. Please include a brief abstract and author bio for publicity purposes.

Articles submitted should not be under consideration by any other journals.

Book Reviews may vary in length from 300 to 1,000 words. Please include title of book, retail price and ISBN at the beginning of the review.

Additional section contributions can include interviews, works about new archival or research facilities as well as newly developed methods related to the field.

Authors should send copies of their work via e-mail as electronic attachments. Files should be formatted in the latest version of Microsoft Word and endnotes should conform to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Upon acceptance, a detailed format/style sheet will be forwarded to all contributors as to the requirements for the submission of images and text.

For questions or enquiries about this CFP or review process, please contact the Issue Editor: zimanyi@usc.edu

Current Board for Spectator

Founding Editor: Marsha Kinder
Managing Editor: William Whittington
Issue Editor: Eszter Zimanyi


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