Konferenzen – Call for Papers

Uncanny Futures: Speculative Ecologies of Waste

Call for proposals for the Workshop in Bremen/Delmenhorst, March 15th-16th 2018, which is part of the research project “Knowing the Seas as Naturecultures”.

  • Zeitraum: 15.03.2018 – 16.03.2018
  • Institution: Universität Bremen
  • Ort: Bremen/Delmenhorst / Deutschland
  • Einzureichen bis: 01. Dezember 2017 Einreichtermin beachten
  • Unterlagen an: s.bergmann[at]uni-bremen.de

In recent years waste has become an increasingly contemplated issue in the humanities and social sciences, as made evident by a plethora of related conferences and an increasing number of books, edited issues, volumes etc. (i.e. for the German-speaking context: Kersten 2016 and Lewe et al. 2016). What counts as waste is highly contested and not evident at all. Dependent on both attributions and allocations as well as material properties, nearly everything can turn into waste and back into something of use.

Building upon that broad consensus, the workshop wants to use waste as an entry point to ask more encompassing questions, pointing to fundamental issues at stake. In this way, waste, or rather: litter, garbage, debris might serve as a lens to zoom into past_ current_ future issues and questions of life in the Anthropocene:

How can we make decisions when faced with uncertainty (Murphy 2006)? How does dirt and pollution challenge the concept of reversibility? How to cope with not knowing how different materials behave in the future (Hird 2012), e.g. atmospheric fallout of polyester fibres? What are the consequences of “burying & forgetting” wastes (especially harmful refuses), respectively of maintaining their memory? How do we rethink environmentalism without playing off the environment against waste? How is it that ideas of pollution change over time “from ‘matter out of place’ (Douglas) to allowable limits” (Liboiron 2016)? How can we responsibly challenge recycling as a panacea solving all waste problems to come? And how does recycling serve to de-politicize the handling of waste through pushing individual responsibilities? How do waste and affiliated practices challenge ideas of linearity (Lepawsky and Mather 2011)?

Finally, what are the roles of sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasanoff and Kim 2015) in handling waste, such as cleaning up large amounts of ocean plastics? And how can we link these projects to trans/national efforts of managing and regulating waste and its related issues?

The workshop is part of the research project “Knowing the Seas as Naturecultures” (tinyurl.com/natcult-hb) that addresses anthropogenic marine litter not only as waste (that could get separated easily from the water) but something that yet becomes part of the environment. Therefore, the organizers are looking for proposals that engage with or move beyond the strong connection between waste and the (human and non-human) environment. We also invite researchers who tackle related issues.

As the organizers wish the workshop to be a small and focused “discussion-environment”, they are looking forward to contributions and proposals for discussions and more uncommon formats! Nonetheless, short paper-inputs (approx. 10 min.) are welcome as well.

The proposals can cover but are not limited to one of the following topics:

  • Scaling, (dis-)location, linearity vs. complexity
  • Concepts of pollution
  • Not in my body: environmental and/or health issues?
  • Waste vs. the environment and other dilemmas
  • Waste, environmental justice and the postcolonial
  • Micro- and nanoplastics in the oceans
  • Litter and debris as habitats for biological life-forms
  • Micro-biopolitics of degradation: bacteria and waste
  • Toxics: the uncanny valley of micro-waste & emissions
  • Individualization vs. collectivization of responsibility
  • Temporalities, slow violence and deep time
  • The paradoxes of recycling and technospheric mining
  • Technological fixes: solutions as part of the problem?

Due to the workshop-size/-format, the number of participants is limited. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words and be submitted (together with a short bio) no later than 01.12.2017 in English or German to s.bergmann[at]uni-bremen.de. The organizers will decide on the workshop language due to the composition of the participants.

You will be notified about acceptance by the end of December.
Travel expenses may be covered partially in accordance to the workshop-budget and according to access to own resources of participants.


Sven Bergmann, Department of Anthropology and Cultural Research, University of Bremen

Yusif Idies, Institute for Geography, Münster University

Franziska Klaas, Department of Anthropology and Cultural Research, University of Bremen


Douglas, M. (1966): Purity and Danger. An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge.

Hird, M. J. (2012). Knowing Waste: Towards an Inhuman Epistemology. Social Epistemology, 26(3–4), 453–469.

Jasanoff, S. and Kim, S.-H. (2015). Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power. University of Chicago Press.

Kersten, J. (ed.) (2016): Inwastement. Abfall in Umwelt und Gesellschaft. Bielefeld: transcript.

Lepawsky, J., and Mather, C. (2011). From beginnings and endings to boundaries and edges: rethinking circulation and exchange through electronic waste. Area, 43(3), 242–249.

Lewe, C. et al. (eds.)(2016): Müll. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf das Übriggebliebene. Bielefeld: transcript.

Liboiron, M. (2016). Redefining pollution and action: The matter of plastics. Journal of Material Culture, 21(1), 87–110.

Murphy, M. (2006). Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience and Women Workers. Durham N.C.: Duke University Press.

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