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This panel invites contributions that focus on engagements with plastics, plastic objects and plastic debris, and enable the theoretical framing and ethnographical fleshing out of the life-enriching, life-saving and life-threatening realities of 'the Plasticene'.
We live in 'the Plasticene'. The term refers to a planetary epoch in which plastic impacts on the Earth's systems. It might not be as widespread in academic and popular parlance as 'the Anthropocene', but theoretically it undermines the anthropocentric perspective epitomised in the latter (Crist 2016). Plastic is the first man-made material to be mass-produced, its malleability and profitability ensuring its enthusiastic adoption and resulting in 'a thoroughly plasticized world' (Roberts 2013). However, its propensity to transform has changed it into a pollutant that harms molecules, bodies and environments, in known and yet to be known ways; and its durability and endurance have turned it into matter that accumulates, rather than decomposes, a 'techno-fossil' (Westermann 2019). How is 'the Plasticene' experienced and responded to by actors from different social milieus and cultural contexts? What sort of mundane actions (e.g. selective purchase, recycling) an awareness of living in this epoch generates? What kind of material interventions (e.g. reduction, recycling, innovation) it provokes? What kind of political mediations (e.g. eco-activism, governmental decisions, (inter)national policies) this awareness engenders? What kind of global networks and geopolitical agendas it produces? What kind of exchanges between humans and nonhumans it gives rise to? What do plastics continue to do? This panel invites contributions that focus on plastic, not only as a material, and enable the theoretical framing and ethnographical fleshing out of the life-enriching, life-saving and life-threatening realities of 'the Plasticene'.