Rethinking redundancy: necessity, excess and uncertain futures

Call for Papers, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, 21-25 April 2015


Chantel Carr (University of Wollongong)

Chris Gibson (University of Wollongong)

Redundancy is often expressed as a singular event that speaks to our deepest fears and emotions about our own necessity. It conjures the anxieties we carry through our working and social lives, of becoming surplus or unnecessary to future plans. Experiences of workplace redundancy and accompanying precariousness have multiplied in recent years, across an increasingly diverse set of workplaces affected by deregulation and shifts in labor process. Yet redundancy increasingly encircles us in other, more silent ways. For an increasingly diverse set of commodities, from smartphones to washing machines, future redundancy is assumed, and obsolescence a key principle of product design that enrols consumers materially within high throughput systems of provision. In aerospace engineering, systems are often designed in duplicate or even triplicate, in case crucial components fail. In programming, redundant code lies dormant, either never executed or having no external effect until failure occurs. These examples point to different ways in which excess or surplus might be planned, to be invoked when something goes wrong – when crisis is encountered. At this point, such “redundant” systems, processes or devices are deployed to ensure that insufficiencies are addressed and interruption is minimised  Such alternative framings extend and amplify notions of redundancy. They complicate our conceptions of necessity, surplus and value, and require that we pay attention to redundancy as calculative rather than happenstance, and as a process that occurs over time, rather than a singular event.

Amidst growing environmental, political and economic uncertainty lies an opportunity to re-consider the many things, practices or modes of thinking that come to be considered redundant. What might be prematurely de-valued – either actively or by neglect – through processes of redundancy? In a world where excess is increasingly problematic, what opportunities exist to recover and revalue purportedly surplus or outmoded practices, materials, environments, politics or skills that will be useful or even necessary in the face of uncertain futures? In particular, we are interested in drawing attention to the ordinary, vernacular, mundane or everyday ways whereby materials, skills or dispositions that already exist in abundance or are under threat of being rendered redundant by market forces might be reclaimed, cultivated and put to new use. We welcome papers that approach these themes from a broad range of geographical, disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological positions. Questions that might arise include:

– how is redundancy and the associated themes of need, necessity, surplus, excess, abundance being framed in the context of economic or ecological crisis?

– what practices and skills are encountering and negotiating issues of redundancy?

– what “old” ways of being and doing things (repair, mending, growing, crafting) are being retrieved and reinvigorated – and to what ends?

– what is the impact of new technologies or material advances on particular commodities, practices or ways of living and working? What kinds of “analog” reactions arise in response to the digital, or to the dematerialization of everyday life?

– how are particular sites and spaces being transformed through processes of redundancy?

– how is redundancy being ‘in-built’ within systems of commodity provision, within new labor processes, or within ways of governing growing risk and uncertainty?

– what formal, informal or subversive tactics exist to expose discourses of redundancy as calculative, and to reframe excess, surplus or continuity?

– what opportunities exist to unmake or unperform processes of redundancy?

Please email your abstract (~ 250 words) and contact details/affiliation to both session convenors prior to Friday 24th October 2014 ( and Notification of acceptance in the session will be advised by 30th October. Abstracts should be uploaded into the AAG system and AAG PIN forwarded to us by 3rd November. For further information on AAG submissions see:

Best wishes
Chantel and Chris

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