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STAGNATION in a Changing World is a one-day conference for doctoral students in social and cultural anthropology, organised by the University of St Andrews. The conference aims to bring together doctoral students who are interested in developing and exploring their ethnographic material through the lens of stagnation. Through a range of paper panels, a photo exhibition and video footage, the goal of the conference is to open avenues of discourse that theoretically and ethnographically explore issues surrounding stagnation, to disseminate postgraduate research, and to facilitate networking.

Following the focus in recent years on mobility, movement, change and future aspirations, this conference looks to explore the theme of stagnation – a theme that has been somewhat discursively absent from contemporary anthropology. More broadly, stagnation implies not only stasis, but deterioration and decay. Taking stagnation as a conceptual framework allows for a theoretical exploration of what happens when flux freezes; when momentum dissipates and falters, and when conditions of life leave people behind. We ask how people come to perceive themselves or their wider circumstances to be stagnating; how people negotiate stagnation in everyday life and how change and progress may grind to a halt in different worlds.

We invite contributions that speak to themes of political, economic, environmental, geographical, imaginative, bodily and physical (non-human objects) stagnation. Acknowledging that one form of stagnation may lead to another, and that some interlocutors find themselves navigating several spheres of stagnation, we take stagnation as a layered and complex state, and as an avenue to re-balancing theoretical focus from motion, movement and progress. The conference aims to both theoretically and ethnographically address stagnation as an overarching theme, asking in what ways the structural, the political, the social, the local and the intimate come to foster stagnation in both the extraordinary and the everyday. Finally, is stagnation merely a destructive force in life, or could we also look at the productive forces of stagnation?

Through papers, photos or video footage, we encourage participants to explore how a focus on stagnation may contribute new contrasting and complementary perspectives on anthropological topics such as the anthropology of hope and future aspirations, mobility/movement, waiting, as well as works exploring political, social and infrastructural decay. Also, participants are encouraged to contribute thoughts that aim at the definition of the term “stagnation” for anthropological theorising, a term so far mostly present in academic works addressing recent economic and political transitions.

We are very fortunate to be able to welcome Associate Professor Jessica Smith (Colorado School of Mines) as a keynote speaker. Following the conference, we are planning a special issue on stagnation in the Open Access student-led journal The Unfamiliar, published by the University of Edinburgh.

Abstracts of max 250 words (for 7 min presentations) should be sent to stagnation@st-andrews.ac.uk. Deadline for abstracts is 12 October 2018.

Lunch, tea and coffee will be provided during the conference.

The conference is funded by the Ladislav Holy Memorial Trust.