Archive | September 2014

CFP: Being Modern. Science and Culture in the Early Twentieth Century

Institute of Historical Research, London 22-24 April 2015

Engagement with science was commonly used as an emblem of “Being modern”, across culture in Britain and the western world in the years around the First World War. Today, historical studies of literature, art, design, lifestyle and consumption as well as of the human sciences are exploring intensively, but frequently separately, on that talk of “science”. Historians of science are exploring the interpenetration of discourse in the public sphere and expert communities. This pioneering interdisciplinary conference is therefore planned to bring together people who do not normally meet in the same space. Scholars from a range of disciplines will come together to explore how the complex interpretations of science affected the re-creation of what it was to be modern.

Please see the website for more details:

Submissions for four types of presentation and discussion are sought:

1.      disciplinary panels of three x15 minute papers and discussion

2.      cross-disciplinary panels of three x15 minute papers and discussion

3.      Focus on research presentations of 5 minutes plus two minute discussion each will provide opportunities particularly for graduate students

4.      Poster sessions

Closing date 19 October 2014. Get in early – competition will be strong!

Submissions to:

Enquiries to:


Plotting the Crisis: Ecologies, Commodities, and the Arts

Organised by Kerstin Oloff, Michael Niblett and Chris Campbell

The seminar, which was jointly sponsored by the Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience, Warwick Global Research Priorities, and the Arts and Humanities Faculty (Durham), took place on May 24th 2014 and featured talks by scholars from a variety of disciplines, including environmental history, postcolonial literature, visual arts, and critical geography. It was well attended throughout the day, with participants coming from a range of universities, including York and Newcastle. The symposium formed part of a series of events held over the past year in different universities (including University of Warwick, University of Guyana and University College Dublin) and concerned with developing new analytical approaches to the relationship between cultural forms and ecological and economic crises.

The day consciously situated itself within the current global crises. In his keynote speech “The Capitalocene: On Nature and the Origins of our Ecological Crisis”,  Jason W. Moore, an important environmental historian, questioned the usefulness of the increasingly popular term of the “Anthropocene” for understanding these crises in their interrelatedness. Instead he proposed a world-ecological perspective as a method that would transcend what he terms the consequentialist bias, that is, an understanding restricted by the Cartesian dualism between Nature and Society that would see the latter as impacting on the former. The current crises therefore need to be understood within a longer history of periodic booms and busts — simultaneously economic and ecological — that foster the conditions for, or exacerbate the effects of, hazards and disasters of all kinds, from soil erosion and extreme weather events to epidemics and social violence.

Andrei Molodkin, “Democracy”, 2005.

In her talk on oilscapes and visual arts, Janet Stewart addressed the relation between society, ecology, politics, economy and crisis from a perspective focused on energy. She was particularly interested in how visual artists render our over-reliance on oil visible, and thus help conceptualize the fuel-drenched habitus of those living in the developed world. Further, she discussed the way in which these critical artworks help to shed light on global inequalities that are entrenched by oil, as its extraction is facilitated by violence and accompanied by the dynamics of boom and bust.

Chris Jordan “Midway – Message from the Gyre” (2009 – present)

Treasa deLoughrey was similarly concerned with how the arts engage with the omnipresence of oil. In her talk, she discussed, for instance, Chris Jordan’s photographs of bird cadavers filled with plastic alongside Edward Burtynsky’s notion of the Toxic Sublime, reflecting on the ways in which these artworks complicate notions of “natural” disasters.

The second keynote speech spoke again directly to the symposium’s key theme, exploring how aesthetic forms have responded to the crisis-ridden logic of capitalism. Like in the two preceding talks, the underlying question revolved around the role of the arts in helping to think through and interrogate narratives of crisis, reconstruction, and development.  Sharae Deckard, a literary scholar from the University College of Dublin, sought to apply such an integrated perspective to the current endeavors to theorize the field of world literature, as previously advocated by Michael Niblett in “World-Economy, World-Ecology, World Literature” (2012). In particular, she examined the irreal aesthetics produced within the context of violent neoliberal social relations and ecological degradation in Mexico, focusing on, for instance, a literary engagement with the maquiladoras on the border to the United States.

The day ended in a lively roundtable discussion, in which Durham and Warwick faculty engaged with the speakers and shared some of their own perspectives. As a result of this day, a new research group on “Ecology and the Arts” will run in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures in 2014-2015. The next conference organised by a member of the World Ecology Group – “World-Society, Planetary Natures” – will take place at SUNY Binghamton in summer 2015.


Islands, Images, Imaginaries

islandsWith this special issue of Third Text, ‘Islands, Images, Imaginaries’, we seek new ways of seeing and imagining spaces, particularly the complex places of islands. Whereas several other studies in this vein have usefully probed different insular image-making processes to intervene within existing area studies or shift the understanding of national or imperial imaginations, this collection attempts to think through a more global arc in order to examine processes that unexpectedly cross boundaries. Our focus highlights the longue durée of colonialism, particularly the ways in which advanced capitalism has amplified the dispossession of insular subjects in the wake of shifting forms of imperial tourism and militarism. We investigate how fantasy, politics and economics work together to produce islands and the stakes of such imbricated discourses.

Sean Metzger, Francisco-J. Hernández Adrián and Michaeline Crichlow, ‘Introduction: Islands, Images, Imaginaries’, Third Text 28.4-5, pp 334-5.