CFP – Beyond Borders: Empires, Bodies, Science Fictions

‘Beyond Borders conference art’ – Sinjin Li (2020)

11th-12th September 2020

Keynote Speakers: Dr Nadine El-Enany and Florence Okoye

A border, like race, is a cruel fiction
Maintained by constant policing, violence
Always threatening a new map.

from Wendy Trevino, 'Brazilian is Not a Race'
The arm twisted and turned with lightning
Imperativeness as if to reach the point
Of the borders of the day that touch
Each other on the rim of the precision-discipline.
Where is the place of the circles of
the eternities?

from Sun Ra, ‘The Arm’

As a result of the ongoing crisis this conference will have to take place online, with the possibility of some optional in-person elements. We think now more than ever is a time to question the role of borders in our lives and so we want to proceed with this conversation. If you have any questions or concerns about this please feel free to get in touch. 

Borders are one of SF’s most consistent preoccupations, from alien encounters, to narratives of outer space colonisation and on to the construction of walls between worlds. Moreover, the many barriers to entry in the publishing industry mean that borders also shape the conditions under which we read SF and determine whose SF we read. Borders are not always codified or officially policed. Too often, they are invisible, insidious and supported by supposedly benign institutions. However, while SF has perpetuated the violence of borders, it has also revelled in their transgression. Queer creators, disabled creators and creators of colour have shown us the decolonial and non-binary possibilities opened up by the genre. SF is filled with cyborgs, hybrids and monsters who challenge binary divisions of self/other, animal/human, technological/organic and material/immaterial. The body in SF is frequently broken down, expanded or pushed to its limits, as authors imagine new ways of being and strange erotic couplings. At this conference we will explore not only the ways in which SF makes visible the violence of borders, but also SF which imagines their permeability and deconstruction, SF which goes beyond. As Homi Bhabha has argued, ‘to dwell ‘in a beyond’ is […] to be part of a revisionary time, a return to the present to describe our cultural contemporaneity; to reinscribe our human, historic commonality; to touch the future on its hither side.’ We move beyond in order to touch and change what is happening now – we envision borderless futures in order to transform the borders which so cruelly police our present. 

For our 2020 conference, the LSFRC invites papers exploring borders in SF. We understand this theme broadly but are particularly interested in papers which address borders as politicised tools used to uphold empires, divide communities and police the bodies of those most marginalised. Our understanding of SF is likewise broad, and we in no way intend to use the traditionally acknowledged borders to the genre to exclude those whose work cannot be neatly defined by the term ‘science fiction.’ We welcome proposals considering SF across all media, as well as papers which frame the efforts of those working to dismantle borders – whether as activists, community organisers or migrants themselves – in terms of their relationship to science fiction. 

Please send abstracts of 300 words + 50 word bios, or any general enquiries to lsfrcmail@gmail.com by 15th June 2020.

We are delighted to partner with the London Chinese Science Fiction Group and Science Fiction Beyond the West for this event. If you want your paper to be considered for one of their streams please indicate this in your submission. 

From the London Chinese Science Fiction Group: 

Writing Chinese science fiction in itself is an attempt to cross the ‘invisible’ boundary by which China is always considered ‘the Other’ to the production of English-language SF stories. Following Liu Cixin’s Hugo winning in 2015, Chinese SF writers have been endeavouring to reposition Chinese identity and ‘Chinese-ness’ in the now globalised world characterised by the ‘unevenness’ and ‘commercialism’ of the cultural logic of late-capitalism and post-socialism. Therefore, the stream on Chinese SF for this conference focuses on how Chinese-related SF works, either in literature or other forms, respond to those ‘boundaries’ in their broadest definition.

From SF Beyond the West:

In her introduction to Palestine +100: stories from a century after the Nakba, Basma Ghalayini describes science fiction as a luxury. Imagining oneself into the future is a privilege, one which is distributed unevenly across borders of geography, language, and culture. Despite its boundless capacity for world-building and imagining alternative realities, the field of science fiction studies has only recently begun to interrogate how the uneven distribution of futurity is reflected in material histories of the science fiction genre broadly. For this stream, we welcome papers which explore forms of speculation and futurity beyond the West, seeking pathways through which to reconceptualise the borders of the field rather than to qualify them. We welcome submissions which focus on how questions of borders – in any form – are animated by science fiction and speculative fiction from the Global South. Papers may focus on literature, film, art, or any other media through which we may ‘go beyond’.

Possible Topics:

  • Science fiction’s colonial legacies
  • Postcolonial science fiction
  • Militarism and empire in SF
  • Travel and the myth of the adventuring hero
  • Indigenous futurisms
  • Afrofuturism, Africanfuturism, Black futurism
  • Arab Science Fiction, Arabfuturism, Gulf Futurism
  • Decolonial science fiction
  • The global history of science fiction – beyond national borders
  • Borrowings, appropriations, translations, and transcultural conversations
  • Historical and spatial borders
  • Colonialism and utopia
  • Border and prison abolition
  • Migrant rights
  • Waste and its uneven distribution across the planet
  • Science fiction and/as activism
  • The borders of bodies
  • Reproductive justice, gestation and surrogacy
  • Gender, sexuality and erotics in science-fiction
  • SF and border transgression: hybrids, monsters and cyborgs 

Suggested Critical Sources:

Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)

Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (1994)

adrienne maree brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good (2019)

Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003) 

Grace Dillon, Walking the Clouds (2012)

Nadine El-Enany, (B)ordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire (2020)

Kodwo Eshun, ‘Further Considerations on Afrofuturism’ (2003)

Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952) & The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

Donna Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ (1984)

bell hooks, Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics (1990) & Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984)

Neil Lazarus, The Postcolonial Unconscious (2011)

Sophie Lewis, Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against the Family (2019)

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984)

Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992)

Gail Ching-Liang Low, White skins/black masks: representation and colonialism (1995)

Ann McClintock, Imperial Leather. Race, Gender and Sexuality in the colonial context (1995)

Patricia Melzer, Alien Constructions: Science-Fiction and Feminist Thought (2006)

Jennifer Nash, Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality (2019)

Jasbir Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (2007)

Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972)

Edward Said, Orientalism (1978) and Culture and Imperialism (1993)

Susan Stryker, ‘My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage’ (1994)

Takayuki Tatsumi, Full Metal Apache: Transactions Between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America (2006)

Wendy Trevino, Cruel Fiction (2018)

Eve Tuck & K. Wayne Yang, ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’ in Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society (2012)

Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument”

Kathryn Yussof, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (2019)

“‘Beyond’ signifies spatial distance, marks progress, promises the future; but our intimations of exceeding the barrier or boundary— the very act of going beyond— are unknowable, unrepresentable, without a return to the ‘present’ which, in the process of repetition, becomes disjunct and displaced.’” 

from Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture

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