Workshop – Call for Papers
Governing the Inorganic: Materials, Infrastructures and Care
Universidad Alberto Hurtado
Santiago, Chile
September 14-15, 2015

Keynote speakers: Professor Andrew Barry, Chair of Human Geography, University College London, United Kingdom
Professor Myra Hird, School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University, Canada
Organizers: Sebastián Ureta, Departamento de Sociología, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Santiago, Chile, sureta@uahurtado.cl
Manuel Tironi, Instituto de Sociología, Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile, metironi@uc.cl

Our social life is enmeshed in and surrounded by multiple kinds of inorganic entities. From oil to atmospheric toxins, human existence rests on the fate of minerals and chemicals whose epistemic status is all but stable. Some of them are visible and valued, while others are despised and obscured. Some of them can be transformed into “enumerated entities”, while others manifest in bodies and affections. What is undeniable is their ubiquitous presence and, as global warming remain us, their recalcitrance: the withdrawn and “inhuman” nature of the inorganic, its inherent capacity – executed daily in all aspects of collective life – of not behaving in the expected ways. Insofar chemicals and minerals are bound to the minimal conditions of the bios, their untamed behavior also points at the finitude of (human) life, its continuous demand for care, and the limits of the rhetoric, usually mobilized in science and technology studies (STS), of self-generating and always-expanding networks.

Environmental conflicts, the management of large technical systems and the affordances of non-human entities have been a matter of concern and research for STS scholars for a long time. However, the inorganic as a particular material poses new challenges around what we call ‘the government of the inorganic’: the ways the inorganic is made manifest, sensed upon, tinkered with, valued, managed and politicized. Such government raises, first, the question about the ontological condition of the inorganic and its modes of co-habitation with the social. Second, it poses the question about the type of governing practices put forward to manage the agency of the inorganic in certain specific ways and with varying degrees of success.

Following these cues, the aim of our workshop is to collectively explore, both empirically and theoretically, the distinctive specificities of governing of the inorganic. Potential themes are:

– From matters of concern to matters of care: the inorganic as affection, implication and repair.
– Making (inorganic) harm manifest: regimes of (in)visibility.
– The different modes of politicizing the inorganic.
– Infrastructures of the inorganic: pipelines, landfills, tanks, etc.
– The travels of the inorganic: boundaries, conversion and equivalences.
– Experimental politics and the inorganic: sites, scales and demonstrations.

Proposals (300 words abstract) and a short bio (100 words) should be submitted via email to the organizers until January 15, 2015. Accepted papers will be notified before February 10, 2015.

Once accepted, authors should send the preliminary paper or extended abstract (3000-5000 words) not after August 15, 2015. We plan to submit the papers presented at the workshop for an edited volume or special issue.
Participation on the workshop is free of costs. Some limited funding will be available to help with the lodging costs of postgraduate students and/or academics from non-OECD countries. Please state along with your abstract whether you are interested in applying to this aid.

This workshop is funded by a FONDECYT grant, number 1130156.

Seismic lines and well pad for exploratory drilling through the boreal forest at the Suncor Firebag Oil Sands Project. Alberta, Canada. Photo by Alex McLean. "Oilsands 10 Seismic lines and well pad   Pad140406-0573"

Seismic lines and well pad for exploratory drilling through the boreal forest at the Suncor Firebag Oil Sands Project. Alberta, Canada.
Photo by Alex McLean. “Oilsands 10 Seismic lines and well pad Pad140406-0573”