deadline for submissions: 
October 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Society for the Study of Southern Literature 2020
contact email: 



This panel seeks to explore the relationships between race, science, and fiction. Recent historical scholarship has traced many innovations in modern medicine to roots in unethical human experiments on plantation and in post-plantation South and urban black spaces. In Superior: The Return of Race Science (2019), Angela Saini illuminates the persistence of long-disavowed racist ideas about biological racial difference and hierarchy across scientific discourses. If unconscious assumptions about racial difference endure within and as scientific knowledge production despite decades of critical conceptualizations of race as socially produced and maintained, how can literature and literary studies re-evaluate the way it produces and circulates anti-racist knowledge? What conceptual problems (and possibilities) has race science posed literary writers in the past? How have writers attempted to frame race and experimentation? Participants can take these provocation in multiple directions.

Papers might consider include representation of race and science in novels and short stories. They might also explore the roles of literature in shaping scientific discourses about hierarchies of racial achievement and potential or the inverse role that race science has played in shaping the field of literature. Alternatively, they might consider how race science has shaped literary and critical discourses. Or, they might address the use of science fiction to critique, subvert or otherwise engage critically with racial scientific ideas and reflect on the successes and failures thereof.  Regardless of approach, presentations should seek to clarify some aspect of the way that racial ideas are produced and circulated through both literary and scientific discourses.


Topics might include:

  • Anthropology/sociology/psychology and literature
  • The South/the plantation as a site of racial/scientific knowledge production and observation
  • Racism and early science-fiction/speculative fiction
  • Afro- and African-futurism from all historical periods
  • The literature of explicit racism
  • Eugenics
  • Anglo-Saxonism in Southern literature and culture
  • Aliens/animal/non-human bodies and racial allegory
  • The experiment as a racialized form
  • Representations of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
  • Nazi scientists after World War II, especially in the US and Global South
  • Narrative/literary allusions within scientific discourses


Please submit a 250-word abstract and brief bio by Oct 1st, 2019 to
Garrett Bridger Gilmore (jgbridgergilmore@ua.edu).