Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"Literature, Art and Culture in an Age of Global Risk," Cardiff University, July 2-3, 2009.

Keynote speakers: Prof. Imre Szemán (McMaster University, Canada) Dr Charlie Gere (Lancaster University, UK) What are the cultural implications of living under conditions of global, manufactured risk? In the twentieth century, the possibility arose for the first time that a crisis of planetary proportions might result from human activities. By the early decades of the century, global economic and financial interdependence was such that a crisis unfolding in one location could radiate outwards to destabilize the entire socio-economic world-system. Through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the risk of pandemic upheaval has been heightened by an array of phenomena: the expansion and acceleration of media and telecommunications networks; the integration of financial markets and the instantaneous ramification of market fluctuations via programme trading; nuclear proliferation; international terrorism; rapid population growth; unsustainable consumption of natural resources; overload of electricity grids, leading to cascading power failures; pollution of the ecosphere and resulting climate change; computer viruses and ‘cyber-warfare’; genetic engineering; cloning; nanotechnology; artificial intelligence; bioweaponry; the emergence and rapid spread of new strains of infectious disease; and the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Scholars speak of ‘systemic risk’ (Anthony Giddens), ‘simultaneous crisis formation’ (David Harvey), a ‘general disaster’ (Brian Massumi), ‘worst imaginable accidents’ (Ulrich Beck), ‘total risk of catastrophe’ (François Ewald), ‘global’ or ‘integral’ ‘accidents (Paul Virilio), ‘global catastrophic risks’ (Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic), and ‘modernist events’ – ‘events which not only could not possibly have occurred before the twentieth century but the nature, scope, and implications of which no prior age could even have imagined’ (Hayden White). Such occurrences hover indeterminably somewhere between the possible, the probable, and the inevitable. This conference will explore how writers, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, philosophers, and critical and cultural theorists have responded to the prospect and reality of global crisis. Moreover, it will ask how the methodologies of textual and cultural criticism might offer new insights into our age of global risk. Topics might include, but are by no means limited to: • Notions of futurity, messianism, and the à venir (‘to come’) • Modernism and the first era of globalization • Figurations of the contemporary, postmodern, or technological sublime • The alteration and/or realization of textual meanings in the wake of catastrophic events • Connections between conditions of global risk and the aesthetic or intellectual ‘risks’ taken by experimental artists and thinkers • Disaster films • Ecocriticism and climate change • Future ruins • The fate of the archive • ‘Nuclear Criticism’ and its possible revival post-9/11 • (Post-)apocalyptic visions • Cyberculture and utopian/dystopian futures • The cultural implications of Kondratiev waves and world-systems theory Please send 250-word abstracts for 20-minute papers to the organizer, Dr Paul Crosthwaite, at globalrisk@cardiff.ac.uk by Monday 22 December 2008. Proposals for three-person panels are also welcome; please send a brief description of the panel along with abstracts for the individual papers. Visit the conference homepage here: http://www.cf.ac.uk/encap/globalrisk/.

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