The Imagination of Disaster

full name / name of organization: 
Association for Studies of Cultural Representations
contact email: 

The Program Committee of the Association for Studies of Cultural Representations invites proposal submissions for an interdisciplinary panel titled "The Imagination of Disaster" at the 7th Annual Meeting held on July 7–8, 2012 at the Komaba campus of the University of Tokyo, Japan. We call for 20-min presentations that cover the theoretical and historical issues of the epistemology, aesthetics, and politics of disasters.

In 1965, Susan Sontag's "The Imagination of Disaster" analyzed science-fiction films as allegories of the profound anxieties created by the possibility of nuclear war and depersonalizing effects of modern life. Even though her essay focused on films as popular culture embedded in a historically specific context of the Cold War, her idea that "one can participate in the fantasy of living through one's own death and more, the death of cities, the destruction of humanity itself" by watching movies resonates with us today as we reflect on the contested relationship between representation and disaster. In particular, in post-3/11 Japan, questions arise as to whether, when, and how the "imagination of disaster" is possible. After the devastating earthquake and tsunamis, Warner Brothers Japan pulled Hereafter (2010) from the theaters, deeming the film's opening tsunami scene as "inappropriate." If the Godzilla series allegorized a collective nightmare, that nightmare has more or less come true as the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Will another Godzilla movie be made perhaps in a manner similar to post-9/11 disaster films in Hollywood?

While our interest in the contemporary situation and media discourse in Japan motivates this CFP, we welcome a wide range of topics on disaster and representation across geographical locations, historical periods, genres, and media in order to produce a locus for critical dialogue. Possible topics include, but are not limited to

The limits of representation and disaster

The temporalities of disaster: past, present, and future

Utopia, dystopia, and disaster

Representation of a natural or manmade disaster and its historical context (e.g., the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, the Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, 9/11, the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, and more)

Disaster and enlightenment: nature, technology, and civilization

Mourning, trauma, and memory

Disaster and archive

Disaster, accidents, and death in everyday life

Empathy, affects, and media in disaster

Sovereignty, disaster, and the state of exception

The role of disaster in the media discourse of conspiracy theory

Race, class, gender, and sexuality in representations of disaster

The aesthetics and politics of ruins

Apocalypse narratives in literature, visual arts, performing arts, and moving images

Please submit your proposal by email to and

Your submission email should include

1) Your name
2) The title of your paper
3) A 200–250 word abstract
4) Your institutional affiliation and position
5) A brief Bio (limited to 50 words)
6) Your contact information (email address, phone number, and physical address)

The deadline for proposal submissions is May 7, 2012.

About the Conference:

As part of the 7th Annual Meeting, we will hold a symposium on Japanese animation. The symposium includes Ishioka Yoshiharu, Thomas Lamarre, and Tsugata Nobuyuki as featured speakers. For more details, please check our website:

About the Association:

Founded in 2006, the Association for Studies of Cultural Representations is an organization dedicated to interdisciplinary research and teaching of humanities. Our main interest lies in the critical analysis of culture through the multi-faceted concept of "representation." Through the mechanism of "representation," ideas and objects are produced, circulated, and received in society. We examine various modalities of cultural production and their functions in social, political, and economic contexts, while going beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries and exploring areas that connect diverse fields of research and practice.
For further information on the Association, please visit the below site:
For information on past symposiums, events, and panels, please see

The presenter must be a member of the Association for Studies of Cultural Representations. There is no conference registration fee for Association members. For more information about the general membership procedure for those based in Japan, please see

On-site Membership Application:
If you do not have a Japanese bank account, you may become a member by filling out a form* and paying the admission and membership fees (in Japanese yen, cash only) at the conference itself.
*The "Referee" section in the form asks you to provide an Association member's name and signature. If you do not have a referee or have difficulty in finding one, you may leave it blank.

Access to the University of Tokyo's Komaba campus:

If you have any further questions, please email Chika Kinoshita at