NANO: New American Notes Online, Call for Papers: Special Issue: The Aesthetics of Trash

Country: USA

City: New York

Abstr. due: 22.09.2014

Dates: 22.09.14 — 22.09.14

Area Of Sciences: Ecology; Technical sciences;

Organizing comittee e-mail:,

Organizers: NANO: New American Notes Online


This is why the properly aesthetic attitude of the radical ecologist is not that of admiring or longing for a pristine nature of virgin forests and clear sky, but rather of accepting waste as such, of discovering the aesthetic potential of waste, of decay, of the inertia of rotten material that serves no purpose.

— Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times

This special issue of NANO begins with a question: in what new ways can trash and waste be acknowledged or conceptualized today?

Contemporary critics are eager to laud sustainability and to celebrate modern and postmodern arts and practices that make inventive use of the wastes of industrial production and the trash of consumer capitalism. These possibilities provide compelling ways to grasp late capitalist culture because it seems to offer a potential answer to an almost unimaginable problem: the ceaseless, ubiquitous, and disastrous production of waste. Some practices of collection and creative reuse in collage, collections, and found-object arts create stunning acknowledgements of the sheer and generally unacknowledged scale of waste (think, for instance, of work of artist Vic Munoz so well documented in the film Waste Land). However, endlessly celebratory emphases on isolated examples of re-use and recycling risk becoming profound disavowals, as if such reuse solved the problem and absolved us of responsibility. Put simply, is this celebration of arts or practices that incorporate or recycle waste simply making us feel better about waste problems that we cannot adequately solve by making some waste useful? Are there ways—through art—to acknowledge or conceptualize waste that would do more than celebrate such recuperations?

How can artists, philosophers, theorists, activists, and others produce new ways to acknowledge or envision events and phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, radioactive wastelands like Fukushima or Bikini Atoll, the animal wastes of feedlots, the water wastes of fracking, or the mountains of trash produced by consumer culture? How can such new conceptualizations address biopower, in which whole populations are controlled by the industrial production of waste or by the dumping of waste? How can new ideas address the ways in which some populations are themselves figured as potential waste or treated as waste, living out what Giorgio Agamben names “bare life.”

In this special issue, we seek critical reports or multimodal notes (up to 3,500 words) that sketch new strategies, modes, or practices of acknowledging waste.

Potential topics can include, but are not limited to:

Representations of waste

New trash aesthetics

Trash beyond the dialectic of recycling

Trash and populations

Mapping waste

Collections of trash and waste

Waste and the sublime

Populations and waste

Waste and abjection


Waste and power

  • Submissions should be sent to nano as Microsoft Word documents or as RTF documents.
  • Use the most recent style/citation guidelines from the Modern Language Association (MLA), including in-text parenthetical citations and a list of Works Cited.
  • Each parenthetical citation should refer to an entry in the list of Works Cited.
  • NANO does not publish endnotes or footnotes.
  • Separate sentences by a single space.
  • Text should be free of specialized formatting, including line, page, or section breaks.
  • Text should be double-spaced, 12-point font, and use a standard font, such as Times New Roman.
  • Any unfamiliar, non-English words should be italicized.
  • Avoid using quotation marks for emphasis.
  • Titles of books, movies, and journals should be italicized.
  • While Standard American English is preferred, other English spelling conventions will be considered if used consistently.
  • Use gender-neutral language.
  • The author assumes responsibility for securing permission to reproduce media files (images, film, sound, etc.) published by NANO. Please refer to nano’s Fair Use information on the Submissions page.
  • [Please contact NANO if you have any specific questions about style, citations, or format:]

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