Austere Cultures, Cultures of Austerity: Reactions to the Erosion of Critical Spaces


8-9 September 2011

School of Cultural Studies, Leeds Metropolitan University

Key note speakers: Professor Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds); Dr Rebecca Bramall (University of Brighton); Professor Les Back (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Picture this: an internationally renowned art historian, barefoot and on her knees, scrabbles amongst piles of books in an attempt to salvage a valuable collection about to be pulped because of lack of space; a distinguished sociologist shreds papers from his now defunct role and department whilst university management 'suits' scurry past him; Conservative Party Headquarters are 'stormed' in the most ardent expression of student dissent for decades.† Such images speak to the prevailing cultural zeitgeist of austerity.

In this culture of austerity no area of higher education is immune, however, it is the 'luxury' of the arts, humanities and social sciences that is perceived as no longer affordable.† Arguably, these repositories of critical inquiry are the first spaces to be eroded. Yet, paradoxically, the discourses surrounding austerity are also provoking debate, resistance and creativity across the cultural spectrum.† Austere times, then, may engender a critical abundance that reshapes relationships between theoretical analysis, political activism and cultural production.

The aim of this conference is to provide an interdisciplinary space for countering and challenging the erosion of critical thought. We invite interventions/papers - from both inside and outside the academy - which interrogate discourses of austerity around the following themes:

  • Aesthetics and Ascetics
  • Cultures of Impoverishment
  • Environmentalism and Austerity
  • Critical and Cultural Histories of Austerity
  • Geographies of Austerity
  • Sociologies of Austerity
  • Literatures of Austerity
  • Material and Visual Cultures of Austerity
  • Popular Culture and Austerity
  • Activism and Austerity
  • Political Cultures in Austere Times
  • Austerity of Knowledge
  • Austerity and Regionality/Localism

We encourage the submission of proposals for both individual papers as well as for panels.† Abstracts for individual papers should be no longer than 200 words. Panel proposals no more than 700 words, and should include a panel rationale along with individual abstracts.† Abstracts should be sent to by 15 April 2011.†

The conference is being organised by Dr Dario Llinares (Leeds Metropolitan University), Dr ZoŽ Thompson (University of Leeds), and Dr Fiona Philip (University of Leeds).†