From the Dust of This World: The Dystopian Imaginary and the Anthropocene

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 13:15
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Kristin MILLER, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
In keeping with the Third ISA Forum’s theme of the “Futures We Want,” I would like to submit an abstract for an interdisciplinary and multimedia project on speculative realism and catastrophism read within the logic of the Anthropocene.  

In the past two decades, there has been an ever-rising tide of scholarship on the climate crisis, as well as consideration of humanity’s role in shifting terrestrial ecosystems., and possibly our own apocalyptic end. Simultaneously, there has been a dramatic increase in the production and consumption of speculative and dystopic science fiction film and literature. For this presentation, I intend to interrogate both the logic of the Anthropocene and a human-driven “sixth extinction,” as well as the visual tropes of catastrophe and social disorder that serve as the pop-cultural framework through which these theoretical and scientific concepts are increasingly filtered.

In order to attempt to sustain any aspect of the current environment, or warn about its destruction, one must also be envisioning a particular sort of future. I argue the prevalence of dystopian and nihilistic filmic visions has a significant role to play in imagining, as some recent titles would have it, living In the Dust of This Planet or Racing Extinction. Fictional accounts of dystopia and catastrophe are not merely reflections of ecological worry, but may have material impacts on how communities conceive of themselves, and shape their social and physical environments towards an uncertain future. Because of this, it is vital that they be critiqued more thoroughly, to gain an understanding of why so much time is being spent on envisioning the futures that we don’t want, rather than the ones we do.