Call for papers for an international in-person three-day conference on speculative fiction, science fiction and fantasy fiction to be held in Milan, Italy, October 9-10-11, 2024. The conference is organized and hosted by IULM University of Milan, in collaboration with Complutense University of Madrid and the HISTOPIA research group.

Fields of interest: literature, cinema, TV series, comics, games/videogames, new media, performative arts, cultural studies.

     The international conference Electricdreams – Between Fiction and Society III invites a discussion on how speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy fiction focus on the tropes of conflict and marginality across different media. According to von Clausewitz “war is (…) an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” The idea of conflict is not just inherently military, it can also be broadened to personal and societal relations of power, including forms of opposition and domination between different entities and groups. Conflicts lead to marginalization, bias, control, ecocatastrophes, technological imbalance, and systemic injustice. At the same time, conflicts also originate during processes of resistance and transformation: margins can be the liminal space where individuals emerge or distance themselves from the system and regain some degree of freedom and agency.

     “The category of the Other is as primordial as consciousness itself”, de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex because “the self” needs to “categorize and classify” interactions and subjects to build its identity. And, as Bauman affirmed, “to classify means to set apart, to segregate. It means first to postulate that the world consists of discrete and distinctive entities; then to postulate that each entity has a group of similar or adjacent entities with which it belongs, and with which – together – it is opposed to some other entities; and then to make the postulated real by linking differential patterns of action to different classes of entities”. Biopolitical power relations model social and private bodies not only through homologation but also through opposition. According to Foucault, individuals can be considered a “useful force” when they provide a body that is, at the same time, productive and subjugated and that fits homogeneously into the social, economic, ethical, sexual, and political standards of society, despite the persistent presence of internal hierarchies.

     Non-aligned, rebellious, and marginalized bodies become a danger, an element of trauma, a justification for spatial, linguistic, and psychophysical control and repression. Fear, hate, prejudices, and stereotypes fuel a dystopian and debasing treatment of “others”: the monstrous transformation of otherness in the collective imagination leads to unbearable conflicts and to the dehumanization of the subjects that colonial, racial, patriarchal, environmental, and capitalist policies negatively depict as discordant, different, marginalized. Countless and dramatic pages of human history remind us of this tendency: Colonialism and Imperialism, wartime genocides, slavery, Apartheid, systemic racism, anti-immigration policies, women and LGBTQIA+ limitation of civil rights (including reproductive rights), an aggressive use of and a predatory relationship with technologies, ecocatastrophes and apocalyptic conflicts for survival in depleted natural environments. As Magneto says in the recent animated series X-Men ’97: “In history’s sad song, there is a refrain. Believe differently, love differently, be of different sex or skin, and be punished. We sing this song to one another.”

     Utopian promises of peace, justice, and progress have influenced speculative fiction, but the 21st century has continued to witness complex and dramatic series of traumatic events affecting both our collective imagination and the fictionalization of a perpetual-conflict state where the marginalization of the Other is the ground for a clash involving multiple factions and entities. When society is infected, culture often recognizes, exacerbates, and denounces the infection, promoting empathy, knowledge, and consciousness, and helping to shed light on “illnesses”.

     Literature, film, TV series, comics, video games, new narrative media, performative arts, and popular culture have often given voice to the voiceless, the underdogs, minorities. Conflicts and margins stand at the core of literary speculative fiction, i.e. the galactic wars between powerful houses in Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles, with the marginalized people of the planet Arrakis acting as balance. But the link between conflicts and margins is a trope also present in many other media: CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate 3, where the conflict between Mind Flayers and Githyankis across the worlds is at the center of the marginalization of the main characters, with their parasitic tadpole trying to mutate them into their enemies; films like Ex-Machina, where the exploiting relations between human and posthuman, as well as between men and women, are explored; YA speculative fictions like The Hunger Games and Divergent, where the conflict is between districts and factions with their orders and marginalized groups; dystopian novels like Agustina Baxterrica’s Cadáver Exquisito (Tender is the Flesh), where hegemonic capitalism and systemic injustice lead to intensive (poor) human livestock  farming; comics like X-Men, where the violence against otherness and the repercussions of discriminatory actions on society is depicted through the mutant metaphor; films like Gattaca or video-games like Orwell where the conflict is visualized as an elusive technique in which hegemony forces could employ technology to draw a border among the recognised and the excluded.  In choreographies such as The Trilogy (The Millennarium, Aeon, and Sulphur) or in performances such as Una Isla, humans and machines endeavor to establish a dialogue and a point of convergence on stage, which transforms into a dystopian landscape. Avatars, robots, and humans challenge each other, vying to assert their supremacy in a dynamic display of capabilities and values. This interplay often causes a glitch, disrupting the seamless integration of their interactions and highlighting the underlying tensions between technology and humanity. The 4.0 human experiences a profound conflict with the biological limits of their body, striving to overcome these organic restrictions through technological and scientific advancements, as argued by Donna Haraway and Rosi Braidotti. This clash reflects the tension between the physical reality of the human body and the aspirations towards a post-human condition, as described by N. Katherine Hayles, which is also mirrored in contemporary performing arts.

    How have we imagined the reasons and the agents behind conflicts, what is the role of the margins and marginalized categories in the conflicts, what are the scenarios for a possible resolution of conflicts? We hope that the analysis of speculative fiction could help us promote peace, inclusion, redistribution of power, intersectional empowerment, empathy, and hope, helping in visualizing a different society and an empowered mode of interaction with the Otherness.

     Proposals may cover the following themes, although they are not limited to them:

  • The conflicts between socio-political and technological entities and/or individual bodies;
  • The traumatic embodiments of otherness (gender, LGBTQIA+, queerness, ethnicity, disability, nationality, religion, ideology);
  • The postcolonial and neocolonial critiques of dominant/Western canons;
  • The climate in/justice and climate change;
  • The conflict between human and post-human agents;
  • The encounter with non-human entities and the issue involving communication and miscommunication;
  • The opposition between anthropic and other species or the natural environment for the survival;
  • The utopian/dystopian possibilities of margins, spaces, and geographies;
  • The idea of borders as spaces of conflict and the opposition between clear divisions and the possibility to engage with the Other;
  • Imagining worlds, societies, and the life of living beings after the conflict;
  • Possible ways of being at the margins – i.e. the choice of opposing society, the determination of living outside society, …;

     The conference will be held in English and in-person. We will be happy to consider proposals from researchers and scholars at any level of career advancement. You may send proposals containing an abstract (maximum 300 words) for a 20-minute presentation, a brief biographical note (maximum 100 words), and affiliation and contact information to electricdreams.conference@gmail.com by July 30, 2024. Whole panel proposals consisting of three/four talks are also welcome: please include a brief introduction about the theme of the proposed panel, along with an abstract and a brief biography of each participant.

Important dates:

  • Abstract submission deadline: July 30, 2024
  • Notification of acceptance: August 23, 2024
  • Confirmation of participation: by September 3, 2024

The international conference will be held in-person on October 9-10-11, 2024 at IULM University in Milan (Italy), as part of the “Sognielettrici”/Electricdreams International Film Festival (October 7-12, 2024).

Conference registration: 40 €

Social dinner (optional): 20 €

(Payments will not be refundable)

Scientific committee:

  • Gianni Canova (IULM University)
  • Manuela Ceretta (University of Turin)
  • Elisabetta Di Minico (Complutense University of Madrid, UNA4CAREER)
  • Ester Fuoco (IULM University)
  • Stefano Locati (IULM University)
  • Francisco José Martínez Mesa (Complutense University of Madrid, HISTOPIA)
  • Anna Pasolini (University of Milan)
  • Juan Pro Ruiz (CSIC – Spanish National Research Council, HISTOPIA)
  • Federico Selvini (IULM University)
  • Nicoletta Vallorani (University of Milan)

Contact information: Stefano Locati (stefano.locati@iulm.it), Elisabetta Di Minico (elidimin@ucm.es), and Federico Selvini (federico.selvini@iulm.it).

OpenEdition le sugiere que cite este post de la siguiente manera:
elisabettadiminico (17 de junio de 2024). Electricdreams – Between fiction and society III / CONFLICTS AND MARGINS: IMAGINING OTHERNESS, ECOCATASTROPHES, PERPETUAL WAR, TECHNOLOGICAL IMBALANCE, AND SYSTEMIC INJUSTICE THROUGH SPECULATIVE FICTION. UTOPIA: Red trasatlántica de estudio de las utopías. Recuperado 21 de julio de 2024 de https://doi.org/10.58079/11u2g

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