Saturday, August 08, 2015

ACLA seminar proposal: Nomadic Waste & Ecological Materiality in Neoliberal Space (Hispanic Studies)

Neoliberalism, consumer society, sends mass populations and material resources on rapid, nomadic itineraries around the planet, creating extreme abundance and scarcity in places we usually cannot see. Many of us interact with these objectified subjects or objects for a short amount of time—consuming and discarding resources without a second thought of where they come from or where they go after we discard them. As a result of the global economic crisis and our virtual connectedness, we are witnessing an increase in individuals and collectives who are re-appropriating, redistributing, and re-signifying the uneven flows of materiality—whether it be food, housing, cultural materials, trash, or ecological resources. The motives behind these initiatives may be for personal survival or for collective politics; regardless—their actions counter the neoliberal “order of things” as they perforate neoliberal spatial controls and often provide resources or agency to subjects that have none or very little (J. Rancière). We can think, for instance, of the politics of gleaners (chatarreros) who rummage and recycle trash; informal or black-market economies (piratería, top manta…); artists and activists that create Do-It-Yourself or advocacy projects with discarded or ecological goods (cartoneras…); and cultural centers and NGOs that establish self-sustainable “commons” such as food banks, urban gardens, second-hand supplies, or community currencies.

Many of these activities are initiated in globally expanding and ecologically depleted cities. And they straddle the lines between legality and illegality, public and private, visibility and invisibility, and the urban/periphery/rural (D. Mitchell, A. Merrifield). Many of them are dynamically networked and function via independent collectives, international connections, and social media. Given the increasing interconnections and parallels amongst these phenomena, this seminar aims to bring together and put in dialogue initiatives from many Spanish and Spanglish related speaking localities as well as their coexisting non-dominant language communities.

Our seminar hopes to mediate between fiction and non-fiction and the humanities and the socio-natural sciences in order to discuss pressing political, ecological, ethical, spatial, and cultural questions regarding waste and ecological resources in neoliberal space. For instance:

  •  What does mapping the itineraries of discarded materials or their corresponding subjects reveal about neoliberal order and resistance, creativity, community, in/exclusion, political possibility? To what extent and for whom is resistance effective? What is needed to optimize these initiatives?

  • What forms of control (surveillance cameras, police, gentrification, economic capital, physical barriers…etc.) are these phenomena working with/against? And who specifically dominates these controls/barriers?

  • What types of engagements and results have emerged between autonomous initiatives and direct political protest? Between autonomous initiatives and government-corporate powers? 

  • What do these material trajectories of use and non-use reveal about contentious temporalities?
  • What is or should be our role as researchers and educators within these urgent problems?

Plan: Early December participants will be asked to share one or two texts (of any type) that may be significant in thinking about and/or taking action in relation to these themes. The week before the conference we will share our written paper or work-in-progress by email. Finally, during the seminar days, we will meet 3 times across 2 or 3 days. During this time each presenter will present his/her ideas, images, and/or questions related to his/her research project.

Theoretical keywords (definitely not limited to--)
New Materialism, Eco-systems, Action Research, Globalization; Border/Transnational Studies, Urban Studies, Mobility Studies, Object Oriented Ontology, Anthropocene, Hispanic Cultural Studies.

Resulting Program:

(image from Vagabundos de la chatarra, Sagar & Carrión)

"A saber lo que arrojan por las ventanas a estas horas de la noche. Vecinos desesperados. En las redes hay botelas de cava, recipientes de plástico, medias y calcetines, condones y pájaros muertos..."
(from J. Marsé's, El amante bilingüe, image M. Saltzman, 2006.)

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