Call for Papers

This graduate conference will be held at the University of St Andrews on 23rd September 2023, and invites proposals from postgraduates and early career researchers.

What a Waste! is an interdisciplinary conference that seeks to explicate the position of waste in the cultural output of the post-war. Amidst contemporaneous concerns about peacekeeping, uneasy alliances, and the potential for recovery, the object-lessons of the post-war have much to say to the precarity of life today. Yet literature, art, theatre, and film produced between the atomic bombings of 1945 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 exist in a specific geopolitical landscape. Looking at waste from a period of recovery, technological acceleration and economic competition opens up space for viewing what has been lost, what remains, and what is kept out of view.

Alongside ephemera, litter, and industrial runoff, this conference follows Michel de Certeau’s expansion of “waste products” to include ‘abnormality, deviance, illness, death, etc.’ Social and environmental changes may produce or leave behind those whom Zygmunt Bauman and later Susan Morrison have called “wasted humans”. This conference intends to connect the waste, wastefulness, and wastrels of the post-war to imperative questions about how writers and artists (both academic and creative) can orientate themselves towards or away from catastrophe.

Papers might include, but are not limited to, considerations of:

  • nuclear semiotics and strategies of containment
  • waste management
  • ruination, wastelands, and bombsites
  • ephemera
  • catastrophe temporalities (doomsday, Cold War anticipation, apocalypse, how we do / do not respond to the imminence of another war or nuclear annihilation)
  • wasted lives in the post-war (from delinquency to post-traumatic stress)
  • nostalgia for the pre-war
  • futility and / or nihilism as registers of waste


We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers from postgraduates and early career researchers.

Proposals should include:

  • an abstract (max. 300 words)
  • a short biographical note (max. 150 words)

Deadline: 10th July 2023 [CLOSED]
Please submit proposals to [email protected].

If you have any questions, please contact Polly Bodgener at the email above.

Successful proposals will be notified by 15th July 2023.

Creative Contributions

The conference also encourages creative contributions to turn the conference pamphlet into a short zine. There is no restriction on genre, medium or style – anything that engages with and
reflects on waste is welcome! It’s worth bearing in mind that the conference magazine will be printed in portrait A5, with some images as two-page spreads.

Written work should be submitted as a Word Document, Google Doc, or PDF, and sent as an email attachment. If there is an issue attaching something because of file limits, please let us know. Please submit to [email protected] with the subject “Creative Submission” by 30th July 2023.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!