9:00 Registration, Tea & Coffee

9:30 Welcome 

9:45 Keynote: ‘Piercing Geometries’: Horizontal and Vertical Axes in Contemporary Arab Dystopia, Dr Lindsey Moore (University of Lancaster)

10:45 Tea & Coffee Break (15 mins)

11:00 Panel 1: The Body Politic, the Alien, the Posthuman, the Other

Chaired by July Blalack

  • Liam Wilby (University of Leeds):  Anthony Joseph’s Autopoietic Fiction: Addressing the Territory and not the Map in The African Origins of UFOs
  • Lyu Guangzhao (UCL): Dark Forest or Grand Central: The Self-Other Polarity in Liu Cixin and Arthur C. Clarke’s Science Fiction
  • Kerry Mackereth (University of Cambridge): Dis/Assembled: Racialising Technologies and Posthuman East Asian Subjects in Western Science Fiction Film. 

12:00 Lunch (45 mins)

12:45 Panel 2: Decolonial Histories and the Future

Chaired by Dr Tasnim Qutait 

  • Annie Webster (SOAS): Ruins of the Future: On The Possibility of Life Amidst the Atlal
  • Ella Elbaz (Stanford): Can the Future Speak? The Rise of the Palestinian Futurist Novel and its Folklorist Roots 
  • Dr Edna Bonhomme (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science): Defying Colonialism: Speculative (and Liberated) Fiction in Early Twentieth Century Africa
  • Pius Vögele (University of Basel): Stargates to Parallel Universes: Yugen Blakrok’s Afrofuturistic Sonic Fictions

14:00 Tea & Coffee Break (15 mins)

14:15 Panel 3: A Wilting Planet, Ecology and Dystopia 

Chaired by Dr Nora Parr

  • Chen Ma (SOAS): Waste Tide: Ecoambiguity, Failure, and Emotional Propaganda Effect
  • Ouissal Harize (Durham University): The Promised Land in the Imaginary of the Anthropocene: Palestine in The Second War of the Dog and Larissa Sansour’s Trilogy of Science Fiction
  • Tabea Wilkes (SOAS): Ecocriticism in Okorafor’s Lagoon; Using Afrofuturism to inform the speculative fiction of environmental policy
  • Dr. Emilia Terracciano: (University of Oxford):  Maiz Granada: Weaponising the Future Vegetal World

15:30 Tea & Coffee Break (15 mins) 

15:45 Panel 4: Beyond Earth, Liberated Space or the Final Colonial Frontier?

Chaired by Dr Sinead Murphy

  • Dr Jörg Matthias Determann (Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar): Envisioning Extraterrestrial Life in Muslim Science Fiction
  • Nat Muller (Birmingham City University): Fly me to the Moon? Retrofuturism and the Ruins of Modernity in Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s A Space Museum
  • Rachel Hill (Goldsmiths): “Bind the stars with the drums. There would be dancing”: Decolonial Imaginaries of Space Exploration

17:00 Author Readings

  • Hamja Ahsan, reading from Shy Radicals: The Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert (2017)
  • Vanessa Scully, showing and discussing her speculative artist film The Mail Order Bride 4.0 (2018)

17:45 Concluding Remarks  

Call for Papers

The contested space of the future, how it is envisioned and theorized, and what this reveals about our present moment is an area of increased academic inquiry in the humanities and social sciences.  The urgency of paying attention to what is to come becomes ever clearer, with the proliferation of discourses about looming threats and the “cancellation” of the future (Berardi), as well as what Kodwo Eshun has described as “digitopian futures […] routinely invoked to hide the present in all its unhappiness”.  

This symposium extends the critical and theoretical discussion about futurity in the early 21st century to regions which have tended to fall under a framework of exceptionalism and developmental rhetoric. We are interested in exploring how the futures imagined in African and Asian contexts key into social issues, explore cultural anxieties and experiment with alternative realities and possibilities.

How have speculative genres evolved in different cultures and communities outside the West? What does it mean for artists, activists and writers in these regions to imagine and anticipate the future, and how do their visions of tomorrow speak to and illuminate the present moment? Do we take prevalent dystopian visions as a critique of pacifying promises about futures always still to come, or do such grim visions cripple political imagination and action and the ability to envision better tomorrows? How do we address the invocation of threatening futures while also being aware of how current discourses relegate some threats, including gendered violence, economic precarity, and environmental crises, to the margins of the conversation?

This one day symposium is interested in examining how writers, artists and activists question, construct and reflect on the future.

Our aim is tohave a conversational gathering, establishing a network of researchers for future collaborations. Students and early career researchers encouraged to apply. 

Please send an abstract (250-300 words) and short bio to

The deadline for submitting abstracts is 31 May. 

Notification of acceptance will be sent out by June 12. 

Possible topics include but are not limited to: 

Theorising decoloniality and the future
Dystopia/utopia, postcolonial science fiction 
Futurity and new media/genres
Alternative/ avant-garde imaginaries of futurity
Imagined futures and revolutions
Feminism/gender studies and futurity
Environmental studies and post-extractive futures

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