Politics of Boredom

6 April 2018

Call for Papers for a workshop at University of Amsterdam, organized by Aylin Kuryel, Adam Gisborne, Helen Weeres. 20-21 September 2018 Deadline for proposals: 20 May 2018. Confirmed keynote speakers Mieke Bal (University of Amsterdam) Michael E. Gardiner (University of Western Ontario)

The white suburban middle class housewives of the 50’s and 60’s, confined to the home, were overcome with a strong sense of boredom. The punk youth of the 70’s, with no prospect on a future, but with a fiery desire to reject, shouted “London’s burning with boredom” in unision with the Clash song. In the 2000s, the Apple factory claimed that the workers in China committed suicide “out of boredom”, even though their working conditions were “just fine.” The phones produced by these workers began to be considered the remedy eliminating boredom in their users. Boredom is a pervasive experience and theories about its causes and symptoms are as numerous as they are diverse.

In psychology, for instance, boredom has often been seen as resulting from a lack of stimuli and being stuck in routines, as a case that can be “treated” scientifically. It has been studied in various contexts, including the home, the factory, the university and the military. In philosophy and sociology, boredom is associated, at times, with depression, loneliness, and lack of inspiration. At other times, it is associated with artistic creativity or the will to venture out into new experiences and practices. Furthermore, boredom has been widely discussed as a defining feature of modernity and the modern urban experience, no longer confined to the lives of the rich with their abundance of leisure time. More recently, boredom has been revisited as one of the manifestations of marginalization and precarization in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Such diverse interpretations reveal the productivity and versatility of boredom as a conceptual framework to unpack social critique. The workshop Politics of Boredom attempts to approach boredom as a travelling concept across different fields and contexts, aiming for an interdisciplinary analysis including media, feminist and literary studies, and affect and political theory. One of the aims of this workshop is to explore the cultural, political and affective environments that boredom is situated in and distributed accordingly. Another goal is to ask whether boredom may also trigger reorganizations of everyday life: Can it work as a collective force for creativity? Can it be an affective entry point to build new political subjectivities?

We invite papers and artistic projects that can help us to better understand different manifestations of boredom and to critically examine how we conceptualize it. Themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Different conceptions of boredom in history
  • Boredom as a gendered, classed, racialized, sexualized, and/or affective state
  • Critiques of boredom and the critical potential of boredom
  • Boredom as counter-revolutionary
  • Economies of boredom – its relation to production, consumption and leisure time
  • Boredom as a luxury or as a symptom of precarization
  • Aesthetics of boredom: visual, literary, filmic, musical treatments of boredom 
  • Boredom in relation to theories of anxiety, community and/or everyday life
  • Boredom in literature, literary boredom, boring literature

Participants are welcome to submit formal academic-style papers or to experiment with the form of presentation. We also welcome artistic responses to be displayed alongside the workshop. The workshop will be held in English. Please email an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biographical note (100 words maximum) to boredomworkshop18@gmail.com by May 20, 2018.

Published by  ASCA