Politics & Aesthetics of Obsolescence Conference


A University of Minnesota
Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature and MIMSGG Conference
October 12-13, 2018

Keynote Speakers:
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. 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.