Dirt, pollution, miasma, crime, perversion…

The theme of this 41st colloquium in Nineteenth-Century French Studies is contamination. How did fears of contamination and fantasies of purity mark the cultural productions and social practices of the long nineteenth century? If “dirt is matter out of place,” as Mary Douglas has remarked, then what were the symbolic orders that governed the proper location and distribution of bodies, goods, values, and wastes in this period? In what way did such modern developments as the industrial revolution, nationalism, medical science, public health, and urbanization inflect older, more religious conceptions of pollution and purity? How did this new secular understanding in turn anticipate and shape our current thinking about ecological crisis, globalization, and social justice?

We look forward to hosting this colloquium at Princeton University in the fall of 2015.

Support for this conference has been provided by Princeton University’s Department of French and Italian, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the Council of the Humanities.