Politics & Aesthetics of Obsolescence Conference CFP and Submission Form

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. 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. NEW DEADLINE MAY 28th 2018. Please use the paper submission online form below. For any questions, feel free to contact the conference committee via mimsgg@umn.edu.