Two calls for papers and one workshop are all due March 1, and they all have something in common: the indeterminacy of waste and pollution, and the struggle to make the effects determinant.

The CFP for the Canadian Association of Geographers states: “It seems impossible to definitively ascertain, calculate, or identify waste once and for all or always and everywhere.”  The CFP for 4S echoes this problem by looking at processes that attempt to solve it: “Forms of intervention, and even environmental justice, are often premised on the ability to define pollution, where definition refers to the distillation of the essential nature of a thing via science, but also to the action of making definite, the condition of being made into a substantive form or outline, and the capacity to render something distinct to the senses.” The call for practitioners (artists, designers, DIYers, and makers of all kinds) for a 4S workshop takes this one step further to “learn through experience about the epistemological potential of investigating everyday spaces for potential pollutants” using low-tech, make-shift, or bodily methods of making invisible, ephemeral, or otherwise indeterminate harms manifest.

This points to an interesting issue for discard studies: we all research waste, pollution, and things left behind in one way or another, but how do we go about drawing the boundaries around those things? Our objects of study are not always so obvious, and often go through changes during the course of study. How do our epistemologies of identification and fixation affect the ontology of something called waste or pollution? This is Wayne Brekhus’ question in his 1998 essay  “A Sociology of the Unmarked: Redirecting Our Focus.” He argues that things that are already determinant, or have been made determinant (he uses the term “marked”) by their political salience and ability to be mapped onto already existing categories misses a whole world of inquiry. Brekhus argues for “an analytically nomadic perspective” to better study things that are less determinant, less noticed, and taken for granted. Waste and pollution is an excellent subject for such a perspective because they are always already these things.

I’ll be submitting to, attending, or hosting each one of these calls, and I look forward to what they produce.

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Call for Papers: Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, August 11-15, 2013

Special Session: Waste and indeterminacy

Waste foments a lively conversation in geography, the social sciences, engineering, and the humanities. Specific topics proliferate – plastic bags and bottles, ocean waste, shipbreaking, e-waste, (in)formal economization, household recycling, landfilling, and sewage to name only a few – but a recurrent theme in what might be called waste- or discard studies is the indeterminacy of waste. It seems impossible to definitively ascertain, calculate, or identify waste once and for all or always and everywhere. Yet, this very indeterminacy also seems to be positive in a sense: it is a potent place from which to engage fundamental questions about epistemology, ontology, ethics, and justice for example. It generates exciting theoretical and practical interventions of many different kinds inside and outside the academy. This special session seeks papers that work with waste, understood broadly, and its indeterminacy. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

• art, literature, media, and waste
• economization/ecologization of waste
• ethics, morals, justice
• (il)legality(ies)
• inhuman and/or nonhuman agency
• methods for doing waste/discard studies
• politics of waste/politics from waste
• scale(s) and scaling(s) of waste and wasting
• sites and -scapes
• territory(ies)
• waste and decolonial thinking/doing
• waste and human exceptionalism
• waste and/as speculative fabulation
• waste/value

Deadline for abstracts to be received by the organizer: Friday March 1st , 2013. Please e-mail title and abstract to jlepawsky@mun.ca .

Conference webiste: http://www.mun.ca/cag2013/index.php

Josh Lepawsky
Associate Professor
Memorial University
Department of Geography

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CFP: Making Environmental Harm Manifest

4S Conference
October 9 – 12, 2013
San Diego, California

Some of the challenges of twenty-first century pollutants are 1) their imperceptibility to dominant scientific formations, 2) their ability to do harm in trace quantities, 3) the subtle forms of intergenerational harm they can produce, and 4) the ubiquity of exposure throughout everyday spaces across socio, cultural and physiological boundaries. We seek papers on how pollutants and/or environmental harm are being or have been made manifest–available to view, understanding, or apprehension–via science, design, art, community organizations or DIY methods. Forms of intervention, and even environmental justice, are often premised on the ability to define pollution, where definition refers to the distillation of the essential nature of a thing via science, but also to the action of making definite, the condition of being made into a substantive form or outline, and the capacity to render something distinct to the senses.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

– methods and struggles to define pollution, environment, contamination, etc
– the process for recognizing brown-fields, superfund sites, or other officially contaminated spaces
– the stakes of definition work in environmental health and justice
– technologies and methodologies for monitoring phenomena such as indoor air quality, bodily contamination, endocrine disruptors in water, etc
– the role of biomonitoring in private and public health realms
– popular epidemiology and citizen science research
– the relationships between technologies of detection and the norms, standards, or deviations they produce

To investigate material practices of making environmental harms manifest, this panel will be paired with a workshop entitled: Experiments Monitoring the Everyday: Art, Design, and DIY Methods for Environmental Health Research in STS.

Please send a 250 word abstract and CV to co-organizers Sara Wylie s.wylie@neu.edu and Max Liboiron max.liboiron@nyu.edu by March 1, 2013. Please put “4S panel” in the subject heading. We will then submit the panel to 4S for consideration. Michelle Murphy, author of Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers  will be the panel respondent.

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CFP: Workshop on “Experiments Monitoring the Everyday: Art, Design, and DIY Methods for Environmental Health Research in STS”

4S Conference
October 9 – 12, 2013
San Diego, California

Exploring the question of how to make environmental health hazards perceptible, we invite participation in an interdisciplinary hands-on, half-day workshop on emerging methods for environmental monitoring in science and technology studies. In particular we highlight methods that engage with critical making through art, design, and DIY practices. Taking the site of the conference as our space for investigation, we will use low-tech monitoring contraptions to investigate the environmental health of ourselves and our classroom and we will learn through experience about the epistemological potential of investigating everyday spaces for potential pollutants. This workshop will be linked to a panel entitled: Making Environmental Harm Manifest.

The workshop will have four parts:
1) Introduction: There will be a short introduction of pre-existing monitoring approaches from art, design, and DIY disciplines. This will build on the earlier Panel Presentation Making Environmental Harm Manifest connected to this workshop. This can include anything from infrared scanners hooked up to laptops to using our own bodies to adjudicate air quality.
2) Small group work implementing different investigation methods: groups will spend time creating an on-the-spot field guide to the room we are in, making its hidden elements manifest and open to interpretation using DIY, art, or design devices. Group members will then create a representation of their findings to share with other groups.
3) Roundtable Discussion: Participants will come together and present their findings to the group, and report back the experiences of using their devices to investigate their surroundings.
4) Documentation and Follow-up: Workshop organizers will document the proceedings and representations to create a full field guide for potential exhibition and/or publication.

If you have a monitoring device or a project idea you’d like to have groups experiment with in the workshop, please send a brief (3-6 sentence) expression of interest and description of the device, as well as a short 250-word bio or CV to co-organizers Max Liboironmax.liboiron@nyu.edu and Sara Wylie s.wylie@neu.edu by March 1, 2013. Please put “4S Workshop” in the heading. We will then submit our workshop to 4S. If the workshop is accepted, we will send out a call for participation in the workshop as a whole. Note that this is not yet the call to participate in the workshop as a device-user, but for people or groups who have devices for monitoring environmental health.

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