“…the symbiont children developed a complex subjectivity composed of loneliness, intense sociality, intimacy with nonhuman others, specialness, lack of choice, fullness of meaning, and sureness of future purpose.”
(Haraway, 2016, Staying With The Trouble, p.149)
After living through a once-in-a-generation pandemic, whilst in the midst of a slowly-evolving climate crisis, our expectations about what the future of humanity will look like have been called into serious question. These disruptions have impacted the world of children perhaps more than that of adults. In the wake of lockdowns and school closures, children’s development, interpersonal connections, and engagement with media, learning and play have become increasingly unstable and unpredictable. More concretely, populations are declining around the world, calling into question how many children of the future there will be and where we might find them.
Correspondingly, the ways in which we conceptualise the child are shifting. In parallel to world events, theoretical discourse in the fields of childhood studies have experimented with viewing children as ontologically fluid. Scholars are increasingly thinking outside of the temporal binary implied by the words “adult” and “child”, instead refiguring childhood and the wider spectrum of age as complex assemblages and entanglements; the child with greater time left (Beauvais, 2018 p.77), the child enfolded in matter and meaning across time (Barad, 2007), the human and the nonhuman inextricably linked (Haraway, 2016).
This shift can be seen in children’s literature and media studies’ more recent interest in posthumanism, new materialism, spectrality and other adjacent theories which read childhood through the more abstract complication of animals, plants, objects, texts and technologies.
This conference aims to bring together these burgeoning conversations that are increasingly evident across disciplines at a time where these connections are more relevant than ever before. We are looking to explore the many and varied ways that scholars may conceptualise the idea of ‘the child of the future’. We hope to hear papers that interpret the topic in many different ways, those that consider the ‘child of the future’ as both real and imagined, actual and fictional.
In addition to a focus on the child of the future, proposal topics may include (but are in no means limited to):
- The Anthropocene and/or Chthulucene and/or Capitalocene
- New Materialism
- Nonhuman modes of being (animal, plant, microorganism, robot, etc.)
- Spectrality and hauntology
- Environments, bodies and spatiality
- Engaging with the past/ theorising the future
- Adaptation and transformation
- Sci-fi, fantasy and non-mimetic media
- Technology and materiality
We welcome papers of a duration of 20 minutes that will be arranged into thematic panels. Papers that blend the creative and the critical will be considered, and interdisciplinary papers and panel proposals are also encouraged. We particularly wish to offer opportunities for graduate students and other early-career scholars. If you fall into this category, please indicate in your application if you wish to be considered for one of our funded conference bursaries.
Please send an abstract of 300 words, a short biography (100 words) and 5-8 keywords in a Word document to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following subject line: ‘The Child of the Future abstract’.
Submissions must be received by 5th January 2022. Notification of acceptance will be sent out at the start of February 2022.
University of Cambridge, St John’s College | Thursday June 30th – Friday July 1st, 2022
In line with COVID-19 guidance and regulations, we anticipate that this conference will go ahead as planned in person at St John’s College, University of Cambridge. However, we are conscious of the safety of all speakers and attendees and as such will update you of any changes should they arise.
Thank you for considering this CFP, and we look forward to hearing from you!