‘Emptiness: Ways of Seeing’ call for papers [closed]

Virtual project launch conference

29 Sep 2021-1 Oct 2021

The Call for Papers is now closed. We will be announcing more information about the conference, including how to register, in the summer. So please check our website again for updates.

Emptying as the disappearance or radical reconfiguration of material, social and political relations that have until recently constituted a place is an increasingly common global phenomenon. There are villages half-abandoned by labour migrants in Ukraine and Moldova, spaces of contested sovereignty in the post-Soviet periphery (e.g. Donbass and Transnistria), uninhabited ‘cities of the future’ in China, industrial ruins in the north of Britain, and decaying atomic weapons test sites in Russia. Explanations and representations of emptying – along with the kin concepts of ‘ruination’, ‘decay’, ‘abandonment’, ‘extinction’ and more – proliferate alongside emptiness itself. Some of them aestheticize emptiness, while others strive to reconnect emptying places to the world or reconstitute them from within. Remaining residents post images of dying towns and villages on social media sites, artists incorporate industrial ruins in their artwork, photographers produce coffee table books about decaying modernist monuments, and local entrepreneurs turn abandoned churches into bingo halls or carpet warehouses.  

We invite contributions that examine ways of seeing and experiencing emptiness (ruins, decay, abandonment, deindustralization). Who are the subjects experiencing it and who is doing the observing and the representing? What political solutions, ethical orientations, and affective states do representations of emptiness appeal to? Do images of emptiness reveal the blind spots of the present, or are they themselves reflections of contemporary ideologies? What utopias/dystopias/heterotopias are presaged by today’s emptying? What motivates the selection, framing and foregrounding of certain depictions of emptiness (for instance, the prominence of flora and fauna)?

While the project with which this conference is associated focuses on post-Soviet contexts, we welcome contributions from a variety of regions. We especially welcome contributions from scholars writing within the regions of their study. We also encourage contributions that engage with ways of seeing emptiness beyond discursive representations and in a variety of settings – remote villages, urban centres, military zones, and at sea.

The conference will take place virtually and consist of a mix of live and pre-recorded content. The University of Oxford team will assist with incorporating audio-visual materials in live presentations and with pre-recording presentations after the acceptance of your proposal. All presenters, regardless of presentation format, will be asked to join the session at the scheduled time in order to participate in the discussion.

We invite proposals for the following kinds of contributions (whole panels are not accepted):

  • Individual papers (live or pre-recorded);
  • Virtual art exhibits, art pieces, or conversations with artists (pre-recorded);  
  • Documentary film submissions to be streamed during the conference.  

All submissions should contain:

  1. Name and institutional affiliation of the author;
  2. Title of paper/exhibit/artwork/film;
  3. Substantive abstract of 250-300 words;
  4. Description of the envisaged multimedia content (if applicable); and
  5. Indication of preference for live or pre-recorded presentation.
Submissions are to be emailed to emptiness@anthro.ox.ac.uk by 12.00 midnight GMT, Friday, 30 April 2021.

For streaming purposes pre-recorded multimedia content accepted for the conference must be in .MP4 or .MOV format. Please do not submit any multimedia files to us for the call, although do send relevant links to your work for consideration.

If you have any questions, please contact us at emptiness@anthro.ox.ac.uk.

Collaborate with us

If you would like to find out more about the project or contribute a blog on a resonant aspect of your own research to the Field Reports section of our website, please get in touch by writing to emptiness@anthro.ox.ac.uk.