University of Southern Indiana
Images of Filth and Foulness

Interdisciplinary Colloquium

The College of Liberal Arts presents the 13th Interdisciplinary Colloquium

Filth and Foulness • April 5-9, 2021

Our relationship to filth is long, deep, and meandering. Unsanitary environments have contributed to epidemics such as the Bubonic Plague, and have similarly exacerbated misery in the sprawl of urbanization. Filth can function as a metaphorical damnation or critique: as Saint Augustine would suggest, we are baptized in filth from the moment we are born. This sentiment not only taints humans as unclean sinners from infancy, but evokes the long, troubling equation between female sexuality, motherhood, and uncleanliness.

However, our rapport to that which is proclaimed as filthy is not always detrimental to our physical or spiritual wellbeing. Though terms such as "filth" and "foulness" may carry overriding negative connotations, a compelling subset of cases equally suggest that the things which disgust us are not necessarily bad. When one considers the numerous books that have been banned or deemed immoral due to the metaphorical filth they contain, it becomes clear that their dirtiness is frequently symptomatic of innovation and the ability to push boundaries.

Whether symbolic or actualized, filth and foulness evidence complex and often fraught relationships within the world and ourselves. This colloquium aims to examine the myriad positive and negative connotations of filth, and how humanity can both thrive and suffer from these dynamic relationships. Colloquium organizers would especially like to encourage submissions which address the gamut of filth’s symbiotic positive and negative associations.

This virtual colloquium welcomes topics including but not limited to:

  • War and ethnic cleansing
  • Corruption in law, business, and politics
  • Plagues, pests, and epidemics
  • Dirt, grime, bacteria, and mud
  • Beauty and filth in the arts
  • “Dirty” literature and “foul” language
  • Urbanization, pollution, and environmental filth
  • Repurposing and recycling
  • Racism and social justice
  • Perceived atypical or deviant groups
  • Bodily functions and menstruation
  • Animality, food processing, and animal rights
  • Notions of purity and impurity in religion
  • Smut, pornography, and the sexually explicit

Proposal Submission

Presenters represent a variety of USI programs and departments including Art, Biology, Criminal Justice, Economics, English, Gender Studies, German, Health Services, History, Music, Sociology, and Performing Arts.

In addition to inviting paper and panel proposals, the planning committee also wishes to encourage proposals outside the realm of the traditional conference paper format. We welcome proposals for non-paper submissions such as photography and artwork, musical and theatrical performances, etc.

To propose a paper, panel, or creative submission (artwork, musical performance, theater performance, etc.), please send 250-word abstracts with name, contact information, and departmental affiliation to

NOTE: Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes.

Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to submit work to a virtual poster session. Find the student guidelines here.

  • Undergraduate poster and art proposals due: February 15, 2021

Faculty and Staff

Please view the faculty and staff submission guidelines.

  • Faculty and Staff abstracts due: February 5, 2021

More Information

Visit our page on past events or find other Special Programs & the Arts from the College of Liberal Arts.

Support for the Interdisciplinary Colloquium is provided by the University of Southern Indiana and the College of Liberal Arts.

Contact Dr. Melinda Roberts


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