[GeoHumanities SIG] CFP AAG 2015: The Politics of Utopia and Dystopia

Jared Patrick Van Ramshorst jpvanram at syr.edu
Thu Oct 16 17:10:52 CEST 2014

Apologies for cross posting

Call for papers
Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
Chicago, IL – April 21-25, 2015

The Politics of Utopia and Dystopia: Exploring Geographies of Speculative Fiction

Madeleine Hamlin, Syracuse University (mrhamlin at syr.edu<mailto:mrhamlin at syr.edu>)
Jared P. Van Ramshorst, Syracuse University (jpvanram at syr.edu<mailto:jpvanram at syr.edu>)

For some time, geographers have engaged with Utopia and Dystopia in film and literature to inform our understandings of ‘reality’.  From exploring the connections between J. G. Ballard’s apocalyptic novel The Drowned World and Hurricane Katrina (Gandy, 2006), to uncovering cultural relations of gendered violence in the dystopic film Dark City (Aitken, 2002), representations of space in speculative fiction can provide valuable insights into how we conceive of the present and future.  In this paper session, we are interested in examining how speculative fictions and representations of space in media can help us grapple with the theoretical concepts of Utopia and Dystopia.

In particular, by bringing together diverse scholarship, we hope to interrogate the politics of variously imagined Utopias and Dystopias, in an effort to discover what these renderings reveal about contemporary hopes, desires, and possibilities.  As Andrew Sayer (2000) notes, Utopia, and arguably Dystopia, should not be seen as authoritarian prescription or the impossible but rather as an experiment of thought in ‘living otherwise’.  In this session, we invite papers that engage with this possibility of ‘living otherwise’: What can speculative fiction reveal about the dialectics between Utopia and Dystopia? In what ways do speculative geographies reflect contemporary politics or anxieties of the present and how do they complicate the boundaries between the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’?

Key themes include, but are not limited to:

• Geographies of science fiction and fantasy
• Urban imaginings, futuristic visions, and/or alternative worlds
• Historical spaces of Utopia and Dystopia
• The politics of representation, hope and possibility
• Heterotopias and other spaces of imagining
• Utopia and identity/the body
• Post-apocalyptic geographies
• The dangers of Utopia and Dystopia

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Madeleine Hamlin (mrhamlin at syr.edu<mailto:mrhamlin at syr.edu>) or Jared Van Ramshorst (jpvanram at syr.edu<mailto:jpvanram at syr.edu>) no later than Wednesday, October 22, 2014.  Participation in the session will be confirmed shortly thereafter.


Aitken, Stuart (2002). Tuning the Self: City space and SF horror movies. In R. Kitchin and J. Kneale (Eds.), Lost in Space: Geographies of science fiction. London and New York: Continuum.

Gandy, Matthew (2006). The Drowned World: J. G. Ballard and the Politics of Catastrophe. Space and Culture, 9(1), 86–88.

Sayer, Andrew (2000). Realism and Social Science. London: Sage.

Jared P. Van Ramshorst

Doctoral Student
Department of Geography
Syracuse University

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