This panel invites papers on emptiness as an increasingly common feature of contemporary political and economic landscapes, as well as a powerful analytical lens for understanding shifting patterns of global (dis)connectivity.
There is a proliferation of stories and images of emptiness in the global public domain: from a rapidly depopulating Eastern Europe to post-Fordist ghost towns in North America; from sites of industrial or natural disaster, such as Chernobyl in Ukraine and Beichuan in China, to fishing villages in Bangladesh and Alaska that are disappearing under water due to climate change; from war-ravaged and militarized Afghan cities devoid of civilians to securitized African borderlands. These stories and images conjure up a pervasive sense of emptiness as ruination of material, social, and economic life, and the coming of a radically different future. And yet, emptiness remains poorly understood, empirically understudied, and theoretically underconceptualized. This panel invites papers on emptiness as an increasingly common feature of contemporary political and economic landscapes, as well as a powerful analytical lens for understanding shifting patterns of global (dis)connectivity. The papers will take up emptiness as an observable reality, a modality of experience, a constitutive category of modernity, or a trope for reflecting on modernity's demise. Some papers will be based on studies of "left-behind" people and places, while others will consider emptiness as a constitutive feature of accumulation of capital. Some papers may undertake historical analysis of emptiness in contexts of settler colonialism, while others may reflect on emptiness as a malady of modern life or a commodified aesthetic. Taken together, the papers will explore the multiple faces of emptiness and reflect on the analytical potential of the category of emptiness.