Call for Papers: Reproduction and Speculative Cultures

Reproduction and Speculative Cultures Conference, Lancaster University

In-Person: Thursday 24th October 2024
Online: Monday 28th October 2024
Keynote: Heather Latimer

This conference, organised by our Visiting Collaborator Dr Anna McFarlane, takes place over two days: one day in-person at Lancaster University, and one day online. This is to maximise accessibility and international engagement.

Frontispiece illustration from Frankenstein. Date: first published 1818Representations of pregnancy and birth in speculative fictions have hardly been commonplace, but thinking about reproduction in these texts quickly produces an alternative canon. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been read as a story of a man taking control of the powers of reproduction traditionally granted only to women, putting reproduction at the heart of the science fiction and gothic traditions with such influence that we still read its echoes in texts like Louisa Hall’s Reproduction. There is a history of imagining ectogenesis (gestation outside of the womb) in speculative fictions from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to Helen Sedgwick’s The Growing Season. And recently, there have been a number of texts that use reproduction as a metaphor for thinking about the climate crisis, and the loss of a future that we all might face (Naomi Booth’s Sealed, Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From, Paul McAuley’s Austral).

Beyond literature, there is regular representation of reproduction in speculative texts onscreen, especially recently in films like Birth/Rebirth, Immaculate and The Pod Generation. Such texts have been accompanied by scholarship on reproduction in speculative cultures and the child as a figure representing the future: most notably in Rebekah Sheldon’s The Child to Come: Life After the Human Catastrophe, Emily Ashton’s Anthropocene Childhoods and in Heather Latimer’s work on reproductive dystopias and queer pregnancy.

This conference challenges us to think through the representations of pregnancy, pregnancy loss, birth and reproduction more generally to explore the representations of pregnancy in speculative cultures and what they might have to offer wider social debates. Some pertinent themes might be:

  • Representations of technologies of reproductive futures (e.g. ectogenesis/ex utero gestation, gametogenesis, womb transplants)
  • Reproduction in the time of the climate crisis
  • Eugenics, and disability studies perspectives on reproduction
  • Representations of queer and trans pregnancy in speculative cultures
    Reproduction as taboo, or the non-representation of reproduction
    Science fiction in theoretical work on pregnancy, e.g. Shulamith Firestone, Sophie Lewis
  • Representations of obstetric violence and inequality
  • Reproductive loss, e.g. miscarriage, abortion, traumatic pregnancy in speculative cultures
  • Reproduction across media (film, graphic novels, video games, etc.)
  • Feminist and reproductive justice perspectives on reproduction in speculative cultures

Presentations will be 15 mins long. Please send 250-word abstracts with short bios (~100 words) to drannamcfarlane@gmail.com by 9th August 2024 stating your preference for in-person or online participation.

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