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Legibility, Materiality, and the Weather

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Organizer: Jayme Collins

Co-Organizer: Kathryn Crim

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“Architecture, fashion – yes, even the weather—are, in the interior of the collective, what the sensoria of organs, the feeling of sickness or health, are in the individual…They stand in the cycle of the eternally selfsame, until the collective seizes upon them in politics and history emerges.” 

—Walter Benjamin

We take the weather to comprehend those socio-historical, political, and natural conditions experienced as “total.” Christina Sharpe writes, “the weather is the totality of our environments; the weather is the total climate; and the climate is antiblack.” The weather is what we are ceaselessly talking about and yet what we can never wholly keep in mind. The weather is both force and symptom of environmental and historical change. The weather exposes and buries and recycles the past.
This panel invites papers from literary and art historical scholars that consider how language and materials degrade, fray, break, or wear away, and how these seemingly subtractive processes nevertheless preserve, resignify, or make differently legible political or historical residua—as feeling, as meaning, as ethical obligation or belief, as marks or monuments, as enigmas. What might iconoclastic marks in an early modern devotional text and a geometry textbook left exposed - to ‘weather’ - on a balcony in 1919 Buenos Aires have in common? How and when do certain materials and material forms become newly legible? What political, social, or environmental conditions put pressure on how and what we read? And when might there be an investment in being or becoming illegible? 
We are interested in papers that take up these questions through materials, histories, and methodologies of many stripes. Papers might especially focus on textual and/or material objects that cross genres and historical moments to consider the temporal, ecological, and social conditions of ‘climates,’ potentially as productive of residues or new forms across time, or in the ‘legibility’ or not of such materials and forms across time. Papers may also be interested in the materiality of language, the politics of materials, and/or dispersed, emergent, or non-human agencies.

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