CFP: Looking at Junk


Video still from “Junk Thought” by Adbusters, 2013.

Binocular Graduate Conference 2016
“Looking at Junk”
April 29-30, 2016
Toronto, ON, Canada 

Abstracts Due: March 11, 2016 

The York University Science and Technology Studies Department (STS) and the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science (IHPST) welcome submissions for their second annual joint Binocular Graduate Conference on the theme “Looking at Junk,” April 29-30, 2016, in Toronto.

The recent explosion of Discard Studies points towards a world in which it is increasingly accepted and encouraged to look at not just what is successful, useful or present, but also what is unsuccessful, useless, or discarded. The material focus of Discard Studies is one way to understand this tendency, but there are also discarded ideas, useless theories, and tracks that research just doesn’t take in the course of its formation. There is also knowledge that is deliberately obfuscated or ‘junked,’ as Proctor and Schiebinger’s Agnotology and Oreskes and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt detail. This call for papers is therefore focused on bringing to the foreground that which has, out of necessity or choice, been relegated to the background.  

“Junk” is a purposefully broad theme, encompassing the junk of the world and the process of “junking”:

  • rejected or obfuscated scientific and technological methods, data, and theories
  • the history of neglected or abandoned objects, instruments, ideas
  • the messy process of research that has not led to productive ends

But the theme also encourages reflexivity and invites us to look at our own junk:

  • a discarded paper, train of thought, dead end in research
  • a paper that has been floating around in the back of your head/hard drive that you do not quite know what to do with

Presenting on these allows us to acknowledge that research –particularly as graduate students—is a messy process. We hope this can be an opportunity to be reflexive, share our pitfalls, talk about different kinds of junk, and present unfinished thought processes in a collegial environment. We will examine the limits of knowledge in a disposable world and how that shapes us as graduate students and people. 

We invite graduate students to submit 200-300 word abstracts for a 15-20 minute presentation related to any of the aforementioned or similar theme(s). Proposals for panels will also be accepted. Interdisciplinary contributions from beyond HPST/STS are encouraged and welcomed.

Keynote: Max Liboiron, Assistant Professor in Sociology and Environmental Sciences at Memorial University, NL

Abstracts are due March 11, 2016.

Please send all submissions or questions to 

For more information on the conference, visit the website.