Call For Papers
AAG 2017 Boston (April 5-8, 2017)
Session title: “The Wasteland” and other Geographies
Organizers: Heather Agnew, UCLA; Robert Kopack, University of Toronto;
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
T.S. Eliot “The Waste Land”
From popular representations in ﬁlm and other media, to recent works within a diverse set of academic disciplines, the concept of the “Wasteland” has emerged as a cultural touchstone of the 21st century. While the concept itself is fluid and open to a variety of interpretations, certain threads lead a pathway through. These include the importance of humanity’s relationship to landscape, the imposition (or withdrawal) of value and authority in relation to both space and place, continuity/discontinuity, fear, the strange, the bizarre, and the inhabited.
Understandings and imaginations of the wasteland are deeply historical and reveal intellectual as well as cultural and political traditions. Authors such as Di Palma (2014) identify the historical construction of value through the appropriation of “wasted lands” by colonial authorities, while Roszak (1973) details the dominance of objective, scientiﬁc epistemology as causing the current “wasteland” of the technocratic dislocation from nature. Building upon these scholarly works, we aim to extend this conversation to also include modern popular narratives, for example, the zombie phenomenon in popular ﬁlm, television, and video games, which serve as lenses through which to ‘play out’ the socio-cultural fears and projections of the future.
Importantly, the ‘wasteland‘ has been treated as a particular form of aesthetic in recent years with ‘exploration’ and ‘discovery’ demonstrating a revival of the geographic tradition. Academic work, in addition to more general media interest have showcase industrial and environmental collapse in almost sublime form. Sites of ruin and abandonment are providing the narrative sequence for the march of history, the movement of capital and the disintegration of empires. Photography has no doubt played an enormous role. Yet how far can the imagery alone take us? Wastelands are a matter of perspective and quite potentially sites of contest. What are the places and landscapes behind the games?
Who is living there? Who remembers? What really is a wasteland and according to who?
It is with the collective desire to explore a genre and to better understand places imagined or held as wastelands that this call for papers emerged. We seek to put pieces of scholarship and academic experience together that look at ruin, rubble, neglect, abandonment, collapse, decay, and value. Because ‘wasteland’ is also envisioned as a site of opportunity and exploitation, the degradation of land value provides the potential for realizing alternative spatial imaginaries, even utopias. This panel invites papers that work within these themes (or others too) that thoughtfully and critically engage with historical, modernist, and postmodern analyses of how spaces of value transform into sites of neglect, disinvestment, and disgust (or other geographies). The multiplicity of perspectives of the wasteland, cries out for further inquiry and scholarly discussion.
Borrowing liberally from TS Eliot’s framework “The Waste Land” session(s) will be organized loosely along these lines:
Possible papers topics:
The Burial of the Dead
> Popular cultural representation of the wasteland
> Socio-cultural implications of the modern Zombie phenomenon
> Post-apocalyptic narratives and representations of the post-modern landscape
A Game of Chess
> Active engagements in the creation of wasteland(s)
> “Wasted Lands” – and the colonial seizure of terra nulla
> Urban development, and the designation of socio-cultural/economic values
The Fire Sermon
> The moment of destruction and the immediate aftermath of catastrophe
> Warfare, spaces of contestation, and “no-man’s land”
> Political imaginaries, and the rhetoric of impending doom
Death by Water
> The anthropocene and ecological wastelands
> Erosion and immersion of marginal regions and environs
What the Thunder Said
> The echoes of the industrial age, and rust belt abandonment
> Continuing impact of Post-Soviet landscape
Those interesting in participating should register at http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting/register and submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and his/her PIN to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com by Friday, October 23, 2016. In you’re unable to submit an abstract by Oct. 21, then please write the conveners stating your intent to submit. Participants must also formally submit their abstract by the AAG deadline, Oct. 29th.