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The Humanities Dialogue 2020-2021


A year-long conversation about the ecologies, afterlives, and politics of waste

Filth • Abjection • Accumulation • Remains • Ecosystems • Discard Studies • Degradation • Disposal • Consumption • Throwaway culture • Excrement • Bio-politics • Expenditure • Wastelands • Garbology • Spoilage • Degeneracy • Trash animals • Salvage art • Disaster • Subsistence • Reprocessing • Diversion • Surplus • Idling • Stagnation

When is something deemed expendable?
What are the costs?
What can be reclaimed?

The Kaplan Humanities Institute invites departments and programs to partner with us in our a year-long series of conversations in 2020-2021 around the theme of WASTE.

The goal of the Dialogue series is to build a multi-layered conversation showcasing ways that different humanities- and art-related approaches shape the debate around a timely subject. We seek to invite artists, public intellectuals, and scholars from a variety of disciplines, geographical areas of focus, and historical periods.

Partner with us!

We encourage Northwestern departments and programs to join us in any of four different ways:

Propose a fall keynote

Kaplan invites proposals for a fall keynote event that will showcase a different topic than the planned winter and spring keynotes:

Winter 2021
Kate Brown, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (MIT) and author of Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future, will speak about points where history, science, technology, and bio-politics converge to create large-scale disasters and modern wastelands.

Spring 2021
Kate Orff (landscape architect and MacArthur winner) and Richard Misrach (renowned photographer) will reflect on the aftermath of their book Petrochemical America, which combines visuals and narratives of the Mississippi River industrial corridor to address environmental impact and social justice.

To propose a fall keynote:

Please visit the WASTE co-sponsorship page for instructions on submitting your proposal.
Questions? Contact Megan Skord:

Kaplan will accept fall keynote proposals through June 5, 2020.

Event co-sponsorship

Kaplan will offer 6-8 event co-sponsorships for distinguished scholars and artists.

For co-sponsorship consideration:

Please visit the WASTE co-sponsorship page for instructions on submitting your proposal.
Questions? Contact Megan Skord:

Kaplan will accept co-sponsorship proposals through June 5, 2020.

Related curriculum

Are you teaching a course related to the WASTE theme in 2020-2021? We'll promote it in connection with the Dialogue. Please send the course title and quarter it will be offered to

Course enhancement grants 

Enrich the content of your WASTE-related course with funds to cover field trips, performances, or guest lecturer honoraria. Full details on the request form here (please download this form to your desktop to fill out/send).

Submit your completed form to Jill Mannor:

Kaplan will accept course enhancement grant requests through June 5, 2020.

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