Jonathan Crary’s 24/7 Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (2013) has brought to the attention of many the vital question of the purposes of sleep – a universal experience! Yet, while Crary defends the inviolable nature of sleep, a province that he says capitalism cannot as such exploit, the experience of injured sleep seems to be as universal as sleep itself. Scientific and clinical questioning of injured sleep ranges from the study of sleep’s physiology to the identification of physical environments or habits that prepare or disrupt somnolence. Injured sleep could be seen as a deprivation or an impaired form of wakefulness, a root cause of physical and mental illness, stress, cognitive difficulties with memory, concentration and problem solving, and, in the wider world, as a key factor in decreased productivity and personal or work-related accidents. All these debates are of on-going interest to a wide variety of bio-medical disciplines.
Understanding injured sleep, however, cannot be the work of medical and biological discourses alone. As Marcel Mauss argued in 1934, while sleep is normally seen as a purely biological habit, our sleep unfolds in political, economic, psychological, social and cultural contexts too. Crary has problematized some of the economic questions that sleep evokes but the relationship of these to political, psychological, social and cultural agendas remains to be explored. Since sleep is what Neil Postman has called an invisible technology, ubiquitous and yet elusive, an interdisciplinary approach to its study is all the more urgent.
To what extent, therefore, is injured sleep a political issue in the age of 24/7 global affairs not only for politicians but for citizens? Does sleep need defending in some programmatic way or would that require a political and economic investment that late capitalism is not ready to make? What role does injured sleep play sociologically in the myriad relations – professional, familial, gendered, etc. – that define the individual? What from a psychological view drives sleepers to injure their own sleep? How and why has sleep been injured throughout history and across cultures? Why does the representation of sleep and injured sleep – from the spoken and written word to the fine arts – matter for wider debates about politics, culture and society? What impact do material cultures and technologies have on sleep, and how is sleep injured by them?
The aim of this colloquium will be to consider the reciprocal relations between these many contexts and the biological and clinical study of injured sleep. The conveners invite paper proposals of 250-300 words length along the lines suggested above (or any other related issue) for a one-day colloquium to be held at Aston University on Friday 8TH APRIL 2016.
Please send proposals to one of the following by 31st October:
Sarah Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Sims: email@example.com
Brian Sudlow: firstname.lastname@example.org