CFP: Rest, Lassitude, Inertia and Lack of Agency

American Association of Geographers (AAG) 2015 CFP, Chicago IL 21st – 25th April 2015


Convenors: Dr Felicity Callard (Durham) and Dr Jennifer Laws (Durham)


What is the status in geography and proximate disciplines of bodily and mental states that depart from, counter, or fall away from the resolutely active, practice-oriented, agentic subject so beloved of geographers and other social scientists? Such states – such as quiescence, lassitude, rest, inertia, fatigue, immobility, torpor and passivity – have commonly been understood or implicitly positioned as the under-investigated underside of their imagined opposites (e.g. activity, energy, action, work, productivity, liveliness). This panel proposes to excavate ontologies of these bodily and mental states, and, in so doing, advance our understandings of how we might best think their complex relationship with agency, action and activity.

Some of the topics and questions that we envisage the panel(s) addressing comprise:

  • When can a body or bodies be considered to be inactive, quiescent, inert or at rest?
  •  What is at stake (epistemologically, politically, culturally) in demarcating a body or bodies as inactive, quiescent, inert or at rest?
  • What methods and approaches are adequate to addressing the entangled bioculturalsocial ontologies of resting or inert bodies and/or minds?
  • Which bodies (and minds) are positioned – and by what and whom – as inactive, quiescent, inert or at rest?
  • Ontologies of rest, lassitude, inactivity, quiescence, immobility
  • Historical and geographical investigations of states of rest, quiescence, idleness, lassitude, inertia
  • Parsing states of rest, inertia, idleness, lassitude and lack of agency
  •  Individual and collective fantasies of rest, inertia and lack of agency
  • Experimenting (scientifically, aesthetically, clinically, through quotidian practices …) with states of rest and inertia
  • How best might one investigate states of lassitude and inertia?
  • How do different theoretical orientations and disciplinary domains theorize these states (e.g. psychoanalysis, phenomenology, deconstruction, Marxist studies, postcolonial theory, critical race studies, ‘affect theory’, medical humanities) – and what are the openings and constraints afforded by those accounts?
  • How might the experiences of those characterized as inert, quiescent or without agency challenge dominant models of subjectivity?

The panel organisers belong to Hubbub at Wellcome Collection. Hubbub, the first residency of The Hub at Wellcome Collection, a flagship new space for interdisciplinary projects around health and wellbeing, is investigating rest and its opposites. Bringing together a rich network of scientists, artists, humanists, clinicians, public health experts, broadcasters and public engagement professionals, the group is exploring states of rest and noise, tumult and stillness, and the health implications for lives increasingly lived in a hubbub of activity. Hubbub has been awarded £1 million to develop the project over two years. Follow Hubbub on Twitter @hubbubgroup.

To be considered for the session, please send your abstract of 250 words or fewer, to Felicity Callard and Jenny Laws. Deadline for receipt of abstracts is 20 October 2014. Notification of acceptance will be by 24 October 2014. All accepted papers will then need to register for the AAG conference at http://www.aag.org/annualmeeting by November 5. Accepted papers will be considered for a special issue or edited volume edited by the convenors.


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