This Unit connects the study of religion to the limitless possibilities for world-making, soul-saving, god-imagining, community-forming, and human-being posed by science fiction (and broadly, “speculative” fictions). Science Fiction (SF) is a literary and visual medium addressing the most basic existential and teleological questions human beings can pose. As the genre of infinite possible worlds and human and superhuman becoming, SF has a unique ability to ask, examine, and suggest answers to the most profound questions and to envision transcendence beyond traditional realist literature or religious interpretations of the world.
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Religion and Science Fiction Unit
Call for Proposals
Religion and Science Fiction invites proposals exploring the intersections of religion and speculative fictions in ways that illuminate theoretical, methodological, and substantive issues in the study of religion. We are especially interested in proposals that invite audience conversation, make use of new media, and consider alternative "sciences" and worlds. We seek proposals on the following topics and invite proposals from a commensurate range of disciplinary and methodological approaches.
Of particular interest will be papers that sit at the intersection between science fiction, religion-and-science, technology, and public policy. Possibilities include superheroes, socially participatory AIs, technological interventions to end scarcity, intergalactic travel, human enhancement, and bioengineering. Other possible topics or panel proposals would be considered addressing issues such as: Religion and A.I. & Monsters; The work of NK Jemisin; Boston/New England in SF: HP Lovecraft’s Mythos to Stephen King's Cell and beyond.
Cognitively Estranged Texts and Cognitive Science -- The findings of cognitive science have been productively applied to the study of religion in a variety of ways. How might cognitive science generally and more specifically cognitive narratology be applied to the study of religion and science fiction? Are there certain distinctive cognitive qualities that science fiction texts embody and induce, and how might the findings of cognitive science help one analyze sf? For example, how authors construct sf narratives, what effects such narratives have on individuals and groups, what cognitive constraints shape the making of sf storyworlds, whether sf enables or encourages certain cognitive states, habits, etc., how some sf narratives make use cognitive science research, what all this might contribute more broadly to sf theory and to religious studies?
Proposals for a possible co-sponsored session with New Religious Movements: NRM and Religion and Science fiction seek papers that consider new religious movements in tandem with the theories or tropes of science fiction, and are receptive to a wide range of critical approaches.
Proposals for a co-sponsored session with Secularism and Secularity: Science Fiction and Secular Apocalypses: We invite papers for a potential co-sponsored panel with the Religion and Science Fiction program unit: We are interested in work that that addresses any aspect of the dystopic that may overlap with the secular imaginary regarding phenomena such as climate change, authoritarianisms, genocide, etc.
Globalizing Science Fiction: Textual and Cultural Translations. The range of sci-fi storytelling has broadened considerably in the new millennium with an explosion of science fiction and speculative fiction grounded in different narrative structures and cultural imaginaries, dissolving the US’s hold on the field and, in many cases, transforming it through the production of anglophone texts. We seek papers that engage with text(s) in this vein: anglophone sf texts by non-US or European-based creators, English translations of science fiction works originally produced in other languages, and anglophone works imaginatively grounded in non-European cultures.
First contact and revolution/resistance: Much of speculative fiction is concerned with issues of contact and reworking the colonial past, revolutions and/or first contact. We seek papers that engage both alternative histories and futures, including both theories of science fiction and the science fictionalization of history, colonialism and/or revolutions. Other possible connected topics include aborginal, native american traditions; relatedly, decolonizing narratives and theories present in Science fiction.