NeMLA 2024 Panel: Gated Communities of the Post-Apocalypse:Theorizing the Relegation of Surplus Populations to the Periphery

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA (Northeast Modern Language Association)
contact email: 

Speculative Fiction (SF) creators regularly imagine worlds in precipitous decline where the privileged few live in a safe, prosperous, hazard-free enclave from which surplus subaltern populations are excluded. What do these stories of safety for the few while the “surplus” rot outside or join a captive servant class status tell us about our own concepts of borders, citizenship, and expendability? Presenters are invited to engage with one or more texts using cultural studies, postcolonial theory, or other relevant analytic tool to analyze how gated communities function in the SF canon or the real world.

Papers may choose to explore imagined oases in prose, film/tv, and/or graphic novels. Possible texts and earthbound closed communities for focus include Octavia Butler’s Olivar in Parable of the Sower,  Margaret Atwood’s Compounds and surrounding pleeblands in Oryx & Crake. the lush island of  Prospera in Justin Cronin’s The Ferryman, the “safe place” in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s YA novel The Dead and the Gone, the rumored refuges for elephants in Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone. Chang Rae Lee’s elite Charter villages in On Such a Full Sea. Some creators see the protected refuges as moving to other planets as Earth becomes uninhabitable; examples include Michel Faber’s planet Oasis in The Book of Strange New Things or the destination planet in the Adam McKay’s film Don’t Look Up.

These refuges all promise safety and, more importantly, separation from the  very “hoi polloi’ the privileged residents see as undesirable and surplus. Similar boundary marking exists in real-life gated communities such as Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic—“a favorite luxury setting for discerning travelers and celebrities who relish the private, gated community for its safe and exclusive setting”—or Fishers Island off Miami, accessible only by private ferry to guarded gates and boasting of the highest per capita income of any place in the US.

All abstracts must be submitted through the official NeMLA portal via: