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Repost from H-Asia


Call for Papers, ICAS 12 Kyoto 2021

Conveners: Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko & Trine Brox, University of Copenhagen

Title of panel: Plastic Asia

Deadline for abstracts: 25th September 2020

Shortly following the 2018 ban on plastic imports by China, the scale of the usage and difficulties of recycling plastic became apparent. Contaminated plastics quickly inundated other parts of East, South, and Southeast Asia in volumes and a rapidity that has surprised the world. Along with accepting the garbage of high-income nations, Asia is one of the biggest producers of plastic and plastic waste. It is estimated that together the mismanagement of plastic waste in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand accounts for half of the plastic waste that enters the world’s oceans. Cheap to manufacture and versatile in their usage, plastics, made from a variety of sources, have been incorporated into people’s everyday lives. Middle and lower-income countries are often flooded with cheap plastic products, made from materials that are designed to be disposable, yet whose material properties persist beyond their use. The overabundance of plastics in Asia (as elsewhere) has created new waste streams that have devastating effects on the health of people and the planet. Petroleum-based plastics are polluting to create and recycle, and their materiality makes them difficult (if not impossible) to dispose of.

This panel invites papers looking at the impacts of plastics in Asia. Topics may, for instance, include the toxicity of plastic during its production, consumption, and disposal; the effects of unequal trade relationships on who shoulders the burden of plastic toxicity; capitalism and the distribution of waste networks; and the meaning of the incorporation of plastics in cultural practices.

We are interested in both the imagined and material qualities of plastics – both negative and practical – as it is malleable and able to imitate other materials, as it hardens into entities that resist disintegration, and as it leaks into ecological systems and bodies. We take plastics to be a broad category including petroleum-based and alternative sources, anything that is malleable and can be molded; from food packaging, disposable diapers and contact lenses, over plastic model kits, mimetic copies of living beings, to fibers/textiles and implants for the human body.

We welcome papers that explore plastics, not only as a material used for a variety of different purposes in Asia, but also as it is incorporated into cultural imaginaries, including issues of consumption, social relations, and religion.

If you are interested in contributing to this panel, please send your abstract (max. 250 words) and author details to Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko ( & Trine Brox ( by 25th September 2020.