Call for Papers: Future (Im)perfect

Future (Im)perfect

University of California, Berkeley | Dept. of Comparative Literature | Oct. 19–20, 2018

Keynote Speaker: Professor Tavia Nyong’o

Speaking to the imagined child of her poem, author Brigit Pegeen Kelly portends, “We are done for in the most remarkable ways.” The poet locates the promise of the remarkable where she divines the certainty of our being-doomed: in a future both foreseeable and flighty—so, necessarily at odds with itself. The UC Berkeley 2018 Comparative Literature graduate conference seeks to gather a wide range of interdisciplinary interests around the shared theme of “future/futurity.”

Broadly put, our contemporary moment of warring tyrants, nuclear proliferation and technological utopianism offers fertile grounds for critically engaging “future/futurity” as theoretical imperative, political urgency, and aesthetic question. How is it that the future has been thought or imagined across historically-contingent experience? How does the centuries-long and ongoing catastrophe of colonialism, slavery and global capitalism conscript the future as spatial and temporal possibility? Do literature, film and media offer competing registers for thinking the trinary regime of “past-present-future” and its sister binaries in “primitive/progressive” and “obsolete/new”? What is the fate of living together—of the “we”—in grammars of poetic elaboration and political speech both?

We welcome abstracts between 250 and 300 words that engage these questions from different disciplinary backgrounds and theoretical trajectories, including but not limited to literary analysis, critical theory and rhetoric, film studies, theatre and performance studies, anthropology, geography, political theory, and area studies. Creative* submissions are also invited; papers and performances may address the following topics, among others:

  • colonization, imperialism: Manifest Destiny, frontier myths, and the geographic imaginary
  • critical race studies; Afro-pessimism; Afro-futurism; the police state; surveillance theories
  • cyborg theory and the fate of the human; proto-humanism and pre-humanism; Enlightenment liberalism and its others; heretical ontologies
  • ecocriticism: ecological forecasts, climate change, land preservation, Marxist ecology, (after) the anthropocene
  • finance: speculation futures, the temporal ontology of debt/austerity, gold-backed or fiat currencies
  • fulfillment and redemption narratives; Messianic time; religious studies; faith, good and bad
  • futures of the UC and public university at-large: the arts and humanities in crisis, sexual politics and survival, student indebtedness, epistemologies of the undercommons, black study and the American university
  • heterodox temporalities: queer time and queering time, anticolonial & decolonial time
  • imaginings of the afterlife: spiritualism, decay, hauntings, séances, possession & exorcism
  • medieval and modern archaeologies of futures and pasts
  • nostalgia for lost futures; nostalgic and retrospective utopias; historical counterfactuals
  • oracularity, prophecy, faith in prediction; modes of divination (haruspicy, augury, soothsaying, etc.)
  • philological and grammatical tenses/conditions (e.g., the future less/more/most vivid)
  • the end of ‘the end of history’; funeral and retirement planning
  • uprisings, revolution, revolutionary time; political manifestos; insurrection
  • utopian and dystopian thinking; speculative and science fictional narratives; virtual realities

*Guidelines for creative work: in lieu of an abstract, please send a sample (≤2 pages) or a brief audio or video file (≤5 minutes). Prose, poetry, creative nonfiction, music, video and graphic art pieces are all welcome.

Please send abstracts alongside a short bio, as well as any inquiries, to by July 15, 2018.