Microplastics Event: Invisible Invaders, 14 June

Thursday 14 June 2018
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Room 15A-33
Drinks after (please register below)

invisible invaders poster
Image: collage based on Beny Wagner’s “Outside”

Microplastics are everywhere. Particles of plastic less than five millimeters in length (about the size of a sesame seed) find their way into the environment from many sources: synthetic clothing fibers, dust from tires, beauty products, and the breakdown of larger plastic consumer goods. These plastics are essentially indestructible; they do not biodegrade but break down into ever smaller pieces.

Microplastics enter the human body through the inhalation of fine particulates, the application of beauty products on the skin, or the eating of animals who ingested microplastics. Last year, the medical journal The Lancet called microplastics an urgent problem, while stressing that there have been no studies of the effects of microplastic consumption on human health.

At this interdisciplinary event, we will examine the issue of ‘invisible invaders’ from multiple perspectives. Heather Leslie of the Department of Environment and Health at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam will introduce us to the environmental and health problems posed by microplastics, and the possible roles she envisages for the Humanities in tackling the problem of these invisible invaders.

Berlin-based writer and artist Beny Wagner will screen his short film Outside, which travels a metabolic path from the human digestive apparatus to waste infrastructures. Wagner will propose a consideration of waste and pollution through a semantic lens, questioning whether applying a greater specificity to language describing waste might lead to better waste management. He will also consider the implications of the term invisible invaders within the greater problems of pollution in the Anthropocene.

Finally, Marida Jacobs of Opgemärkt will invite us join a plastic diet in “Join the challenge: reduce the plastic soup with our Plasticdiet!”

Katja Kwastek and Kristine Steenbergh will provide moderate the event and will also provide a brief introduction on Environmental Humanities approaches to microplastics.


Please register for the event:

You will not receive a confirmation email, but we will use your contact details to get in touch in case of a room change.



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