GSA 2014: The Metabolism of Cultures: Consumption, Waste, and Desire in EH II: The Aesthetics of Waste

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

The Aesthetics of Waste

(Session Sponsored by GSA Environmental Studies Network)

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. Nuclear Waste, Hyperobjects, and Aesthetic Form – Wilczek, Markus: Harvard University

2. Toxic Sublimes: Work, Waste, and Ruin in W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants and Michael Glawogger’s Workingman’s Death – Svendsen, Christina, Harvard University

3. Trashing the Archives: Political Iconography of the Landfill in East German Films from the Wende – Lessard, John: University of the Pacific

4. German Film, Turkish Trash? Fatih Akıns documentary “Müll im Garten Eden” – Dayioglu-Yucel, Yasemin: University of Pennsylvania

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