"Do We Have a Future?": Cognition, Speculation, and (Dis)Connection

deadline for submissions: 
February 3, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Carleton University English Graduate Student Society

“Do We Have a Future?”: Cognition, Speculation, and (Dis)Connection

Department of English Graduate Conference

Carleton University

24-25 April 2020


“Since the world is ending [. . .] why not let the children touch the paintings?”

-        Ben Lerner



Carleton University’s English Graduate Student Society invites papers and presentation proposals which evoke, unpack, and challenge the future. This conference will consider how the future has been constructed, reimagined, reclaimed, and conjured in the zeitgeist of the present and past. How has the future been mobilized as a means of organizing cultural thinking and engagement? How is the future molded by history, by the present, and by political and socio-economic forces? What do narratives about the future tell us about our present and what do narratives about our present tell us about our future? What effects do these myriad futures, sometimes lost to time and sometimes reclaimed in the present, have on our sense of self, our sense of time, or our sense of well-being?


This conference aims to facilitate a space in which research from all disciplines engages with the fluctuating, often amorphous concept of the future. Futures often reflect the conditions, fears, hopes, and criticisms of the period in which they are envisioned. This can result in contradictory and polyvalent narratives around the future as some forces seek to distract or deflect while others call for radical change and disruptive action. Some, like political economist David Coates, argue “When the ocean is sending you a tsunami, you don’t survive by jumping in and swimming stronger. You survive by jumping out and building a stronger defense.” But even in condemning one, Coates acknowledges the existence of multiple futures, or at least multiple responses to the present. Within this framework, how can we imagine the future not as a temporal moment to be arrived at in due course but instead as a methodology for making sense of experiences contemporary to that future’s imagining? How has the relationship to imagined futures changed as different time periods (medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment) reckoned with the conditions of their existence? How has the relationship to imagined futures differed across varying geographic and political conditions? Are these imaginings uncontested? How has imagining the future been rationed or restricted or resisted based on race, gender, sexuality identity, or economic status? And how can we seek to reconcile the problem posed by Françoise Meltzer that “the present at this moment in history is so changing the world we thought we knew that the present at present becomes poor grounding for gazing at a hypothetical future”?


Defining “future” as a nebulous term which is deployed and understood differently depending on a plethora of social, historical, cultural, geographic, and political conditions, this conference encourages submissions from graduate students of all disciplines. In the interest of creating a more sustainable and accessible conference, we will gladly accept proposals for virtual presentations consisting of video files (or other materials) that can be posted online to our website. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

➢    Anxiety, apocalypse, or emergent and disruptive changes

➢    Cognition, mental health, and identity

➢    Indigenous, queer, feminist, or racial reclaiming or rewriting of the future

➢    Speculative fiction, modality, and the construction of futures throughout history

➢    Capitalism, Globalization, and their consequences for temporality

➢    Self-reflexivity, accountability, and the age of emergency

➢    Climate change, ecocriticism, and the Anthropocene

➢    Politics, culture, and the disparity of futures


Please submit proposals of 250-350 words along with a brief (~150 words) bio to cuEGSSconference@gmail.com by February 3rd, 2020. We will notify applicants by February 28th, 2020.