Call for Participation: Waste in Motion Panel on the Inaugural Conference of the German STS Association stsing “Leakage”, TU Dresden, March 19-22, 2024
Panel: Leaks, Cracks, Spills, Overflows – Waste, Pollution and Toxic Substances in Motion
Deadline: October 11, 2023
In this panel, we as part of the research network “Waste in Motion” want to trace the movements and relations of materials and substances that have supposedly been disposed of, buried, dumped or submerged. The supposedly safe containment of substances and materials seldom works as planned, and often the sink becomes the site of a new leak or spill. For example, the management of waste, pollutants and toxic chemicals rarely runs smoothly – incomplete disposal and recovery processes are the rule rather than the exception. On the one hand, this can manifest itself in “disruptions”, for example, when pollutants leak from landfills or waste and toxic substances escape from infrastructures built to manage them. The components and relations of such infrastructures often only become visible in the event of disaster or collapse.
In addition to the spatial diffusion of waste – especially through water and air – leakages usually also have a particular temporal dimension. Modern waste streams are increasingly complex and are constituted by substances with varying rates of decay. Certain materials rot away more quickly or become the object of entry themselves, while others need a longer time span – such as radioactive waste which decays over several generations of human lives. The emerging materials always carry a temporal trace that marks the time of their input into an environment either via planned dumping or via unexpected leakage.
The specific relation of pollution to land is characterized by Max Liboiron as a form of colonialism and identified by Rob Nixon as “slow violence”, the effects of which humans and other living beings on the contaminated land are often still exposed to decades later. The planned removal of waste away from sites of privilege and power is done to encourage disposability while the pollutants are shipped elsewhere to be managed by inherently leaky structures like landfills or incinerators. Due to the complex, emergent structure of these discards, their flows can be understood as “wicked problems” that systematically elude their own containment and clear problem-solving strategies.
In the panel, we want to explore practices, structures and entities that generate waste, discards and pollutants as such and set them in motion in the first place based on the following questions: When/ in which context/ under what circumstances does leakage occur? Which consequences result from the notion of unintentionality the concept of “leakage” carries? How / to which extent is leakage being controlled spatially and/or temporally? How/ in which regard is leakage governed and applied productively? Who is being included in resp. excluded from governing leakage?
Topics for papers might include:
- Long-term effects of pollution and their often unpredictable and speculative effects
- Histories of dumping and their aftermaths
- Slow disasters and environmental justice
- More generally waste management infrastructures, recycling plants etc.
- Ways of leaking: leaching of additives (flame retardants, plasticizers etc.), mechanical abrasion such as tyre dust, paints and coatings, leaking of landfills (e.g. methane)
- Radioactive waste and war remnants such as corroding munition
- Banned vs permitted leakage
- Un/intentional leakage
- Governing leakage
- Forecasting and modeling contamination
- Strategies and technologies of containment
- Problematisation of cleanings and other “technological fixes”
In addition to the issues and problem areas we have raised as possible fields, we are definitely curious to hear more about your approaches and perspectives on these issues, even unexpected and irritating perspectives are very much welcome. We are looking forward to your contributions that might range from traditional papers towards other non-conventional formats.
Please submit your abstract of max 200 words (together with a short bio of max 150 words) to us until 11 October. You will be informed by 13 October (until 12:00 pm) if you are included in the panel. If we do not include you in the panel, you can still submit your abstract to the conference (deadline 15 October).
For inquiries and further information, please visit the conference website https://sts-leakage.org/ or contact us at the emails above.