GSA 2014 – The Metabolism of Cultures: Consumption, Waste, and Desire in EH 1: Waste and Power

The Metabolism of Cultures: Consumption, Waste, and Desire in the Ecological Humanities 1:

Waste and Power

(Session Sponsored by GSA Environmental Studies Network) [Twentieth/Twenty-First Century Germanistics and Cultural Studies]

The anthropologist Mary Douglas noted in her landmark work Purity and Danger that social perceptions of endangerment from pollution or efforts to eliminate dirt or excrement rarely correlate directly with objective levels of environmental contamination. Attempts to regulate waste, she argued, were instead creative acts used to enforce particular moral codes, maintain cultural or political hierarchies, or atone for past sins. The GSA Environmental Studies Network invites papers for a series of panels on “The Metabolism of Cultures” that explore historical, literary, and ecological meanings of consumption, waste, and desire from a variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches. We welcome papers that examine narratives of scarcity and abundance, analyze shifting definitions of “waste” in German culture, conceptualize the poetics of dirt or the aesthetics of toxic landscapes, investigate the intersection of gender, race, and class with discourses of pollution or hygiene, or interrogate the dialectic of pleasure and guilt that has emerged in consumer and post-consumer societies.


1. “Material and Moral Waste”: Christian Environmental Critique of Pollution in the GDR, 1980-1990 – Ault, Julia: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

2. Metabolisms of Waste/ing: Power and the Materiality of Waste – Surak, Sarah: Salisbury University

3. “Gefahr ist der Fluß geworden…”: Kaschnitz and Enzensberger Interpreting Water Pollution – Melin, Charlotte: University of Minnesota

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