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Call for Conference Papers for World Weary: Cultures of Exhaustion

Posted on 18 December 2019

Organisers seek papers for conference to be held 21-22 May 2020 in York.

How does contemporary culture make sense of weary worlds? Exhaustion can be used to describe both the depletion of planetary resources and a structural waning associated with the demands of neoliberalism, one which is magnified by socio-political and technological change (Schaffner, 2017). The burden of bodily and planetary exhaustion is increasingly justified by an ideology of commitment and resilience, even as its effects are carried disproportionately across populations. As of 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) formally recognises ‘burnout’ as an occupational phenomenon, appraising negative affects such as ‘cynicism’ and ‘negativism’ as formal characteristics of ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. Whilst the varied impacts of climate crisis are felt collectively, in public discourse the crisis is often bound to the wellbeing of individuals under the rubric of ‘climate anxiety’. Similarly, ethical consumerism uses market logics of ‘mindful’ consumption to frame individual action as a strategy for mitigating climate collapse. When it comes to conceptualising extinction, sequestration, burnout and loss, then, what do these terms tell us about the limitations of the imaginary of exhaustion itself and how are they extrapolated through visual, literary or theoretical modes?

We are interested in academic and non-academic responses to the varied intersections of exhaustion and culture, particularly with regards to counterstrategies working in response to more entrenched formations of exhaustion. A secondary purpose of the two-day conference is to rethink the binary terms of action and inaction, sleep and ‘sleepwalking’ (through crisis) upon which political expectations are forged. As such, the conference will attempt to think through ethical and political recourse to exhausted states that do not simply suggest ways of ‘overcoming’ or converting difficult or ‘ugly’ forms such as inertia and hopelessness (Cvetkovich, 2012; Ngai, 2005). Instead, it looks to generate critical and coalitional axes for analysing the shape and feel of exhaustion in contemporary life.


The conference welcomes papers from all disciplines and crossgenre work in the humanities, sciences and at the intersection of art and activism. The organisers are particularly interested in hearing responses to the theme through the lenses of critical race, disability/crip, feminist and queer studies, research and art practice.

Related topics include, but are not limited to:
– Endurance, waiting and deferral, ‘wasting’ time (e.g. the ‘prosumer’)
– Affective and immaterial labour e.g. refusal, complaint and ‘not doing’
– Spectacle, immediacy and disparities of exhaustion between the Global North and Global South
– Temporalities of extractivism, disaster capitalism and waste
– Decolonial, queer, feminist, accessible and more-than-human futurities
– Hope/lessness, green fatigue, doomsday and apocalypse rhetorics
– Gallows humour, satire and irreverence
– Cultural responses to biodiversity, extinction and ecosystem loss
– Timescales beyond the human, Anthropocene and epochal thinking
– Expendable bodies in the humanities and sciences, disposability and remediation practices
– Mitigation cultures (e.g. climate offsetting) and the financialisation of nature
– Carbon footprints of global art exhibitions/biennales, petrocultures, divestment and the art institution
– Conceptual impasse, absurdity and reaching for other ontological perspectives, the rhetoric of ‘why bother’
– Neoliberal scales, duration and legacy (e.g. slow scholarship; slacktivism).

The venue is wheelchair accessible with accessible toilets on all floors. As we have several conference bursaries available, please contact the organisers should either the ticket price or travel to the venue prove prohibitive, and for any access information or requirements.

Please send a 250-word proposal and short biography to the conference organisers. The deadline for proposals is 10 January 2020. If you plan to propose your work in a performance or multimedia format, please specify your media requirements along with your proposal. We ask that all speakers bear in mind the interdisciplinarity of this event. A description of the work and its wider implications is highly recommended for all papers.

Please direct proposals to:
Gabriella Beckhurst
Francesca Curtis
Cecilia Tricker-Walsh

For more information, visit the conferece website.