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Living in the End Times: Utopian and Dystopian Representations of Pandemics in Fiction, Film and Culture
“The abandoned towers in the distance are like the coral of an ancient reef- bleached and colourless, devoid of life. There still is life, however. Birds chirp; sparrows,
“The abandoned towers in the distance are like the coral of an ancient reef- bleached and colourless, devoid of life. There still is life, however. Birds chirp; sparrows, they must be…Do they notice that quietness, the absence of motors? If so, are they happier?” (Atwood, 2009, pg. 3).
The outbreak of COVID-19 has wrought spatial, socioeconomic and political upheavals of a severity and scale often only imagined in eco-dystopian fiction works such as Margaret Atwood’s increasingly prescient MaddAddam trilogy (2003-2013). The pandemic has laid bare existing structural inequalities within global capitalist systems. While multitudes face the economic hardships of a looming global recession, the planet’s wealthy elite have found refuge in their exclusive ‘utopias’ of private medical and security staff, escape mansions and luxury doomsday bunkers. Moreover, the pandemic serves as an augur of further socio-ecological perturbations to come should global capitalism’s relentless exploitation of species and ecosystems continue unabated. Perhaps most importantly, pandemics bring to light the intricate and inextricable entanglements between humans and myriad Earth others, and the realization that we are far from the only actors with the agency to engender world-shattering transformations.
Such times of widespread upheaval render the perennial utopian (and dystopian) imaginary especially valuable. While utopias offer imaginative projections of better worlds and ways of being, dystopias extrapolate from the deficient ‘present’ and offer projections of potentially nightmarish futures. Yet the critique, imagination and desire for the ‘better’ inherent within both are essential for building beyond the current ‘eco-dystopian’ era of pandemics, extinctions and ecological collapse. Pandemics and the spectre of eco-apocalypse don’t signal the end of all worlds or times but merely of the world as presently constituted; there is always the vital question of what comes after. Thus, we are thrilled to present this interdisciplinary conference for exploring literary, film, cultural and ethico-political representations of ‘living in the end times’. For instance, how do pandemics impact upon hope and utopian imaginaries? How do we co-construct more ethical and liveable worlds after ‘the end’, and what might these worlds look like?
Virtual Event Details
13 (Wednesday) 4:00 pm - 15 (Friday) 7:30 pm GMT