ACCUMULATION: The material ecologies and economies of plastic

A one-day interdisciplinary symposium in London organized by the Centre for Invention and Social Process and the Department of Design (Goldsmiths, University of London), and the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies (University of Queensland, Australia)

More than any other material, plastic has become emblematic of economies of abundance and ecological destruction. If the postwar ‘plastics age’ was cleaner and brighter than all that preceded it, its boosterism has now become intertwined with anxiety as the burdens of accumulating and leaching plastics wastes are registered in environments and bodies.

Plastic accumulates meanings, functions, concerns, visibilities, values, properties and futures – how then to make sense of this?

The purpose of this interdisciplinary workshop is to explore the vitality, complexity and irony of plastic and, as such, to examine a range of issues that cut across arts, humanities, natural sciences, politics and the social sciences.

Among the questions to be addressed will be: How does plastic act simultaneously as raw material, object and process? How might recognition of the material force of plastic prompt new forms of politics, environmental responsibility and citizenship? Is it possible to engage with the processual materiality or plasticity of plastic without fixing it as an object of study or illustrative case? What is the future of plastic as an assemblage of carbon in the context of peak oil and the shift toward new carbon economies? How can we develop an analytics attentive to how plastic might provoke invention and invite certain forms of material thinking? In the realm of natural-cultural ecologies how does the recalcitrance of plastic, its durability and persistence, reveal the relational exchanges between human and nonhuman?

Speakers will include: Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Tom Fisher, Jennifer Gabrys, Gay Hawkins, Celia Lury, James Marriott, Mike Michael and Richard Thompson.

The symposium is free but seats are limited. To reserve a place please contact

Event Information

Location: LG01, New Academic Building
Cost: Free. Refreshments and lunch will be provided.
Department: Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process
Time: 21 June 2011, 10:00 – 18:00