Gender, Violence, and the State in Contemporary Speculative Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Special issue of gender forum (winter 2021), edited by Judith Rauscher (U of Cologne)

From its beginnings, speculative fiction across different media and genres has combined imaginaries of social and political organization with issues of gender and violence. Thomas More’s Utopia (1551), for example, imagined an egalitarian society that remained strictly patriarchal and a perfect government that ensured prosperity and peace by fighting preventive wars, administering capital punishment to adulterers, endorsing corporal punishment for unruly women and children, and encouraging (assisted) suicide. Whether we consider literary texts, film, TV series, comics, or other forms of cultural expression, contemporary speculative fiction continues to discuss (state-)violence and the gendered nature of socio-political relations. It shows how certain gender roles, certain kinds of gender expressions, and certain kinds of desires are normalized by the state and its institutions, while others are punished and obscured, whether through direct, structural, or cultural violence. Speculative fiction evokes the successes and failures of familiar as well as unfamiliar political systems together with the various communities and interpersonal relationships that these systems produce. In doing so, it allows us to reflect on the limitations and potentialities of the modern nation-state in the early twenty-first century as well as on the various threats to democracy that characterize our current moment. It also allows us to think critically about how gendered violence is intertwined with different political systems, about the kinds of violence that these systems legitimize and delegitimize, and about the ways in which issues of gender inform these processes of de-/legitimization.

This special issue of Gender Forum seeks contributions that draw from gender studies, queer studies, cultural violence studies, SF studies, and other pertinent fields to analyze representations of gender, violence, and the state in contemporary speculative fiction, which is to say in science fiction, fantasy, utopian and dystopian fiction, weird fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, near-future climate fiction, etc. Possible topics for contributions include, but are not limited to:

  • Representations of (organized) social and political communities within and beyond the nation-state and violence in speculative fiction
  • Representations of non-violent communities/ non-violent forms of governance in SF media
  • Representations of war, terror, genocide, displacement, colonization, and slavery in SF media
  • Representations of marginalization, repression, desocialization, and dehumanization in speculative fiction as well as representations of resistance against such kinds of violence
  • Intersections between gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, and dis/ability in speculative fiction concerned with (state-)violence
  • Representations of violent women* and LGBTQI* individuals in speculative fiction
  • The aesthetics and the aesthetization of (gendered) violence in speculative fiction
  • Analyses of the affective, cognitive, intimate, physical, psychological, and epistemological dimensions of (state-)violence in speculative fiction
  • Discussions of cultural narratives used to legitimize (gendered) violence in speculative fiction and critical revisions of such narratives
  • Representations of alternative familial, communal, societal, and political structures and questions of (non-)violence in speculative fiction
  • Posthumanist, feminist, queer, anti-racist, postcolonial, de-colonial, and ecocritical perspectives on representations of (state-)violence in speculative fiction
  • Interrogations of technocratic and ecological violence in speculative fiction across the media

Please note that all submissions must have a strong emphasis on issues of gender. Abstracts of no more than 300 words and a brief biography should be submitted by March 31, 2021 to The deadline for the completed papers of 5000-8000 words (MLA style, numbered paragraphs) is September 15, 2021.