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Message posted on 21/10/2020

CFP for Special Issue on Speculative Futures and the Biopolitics of Populations

                Please consider submitting a short abstract for the following proposed Special
Issue (details of submission at the end):
Speculative Futures and the Biopolitics of Populations
Mianna Meskus (Tampere University), Jade Sasser (University of California
Riverside) & Ayo Wahlberg (University of Copenhagen)
Falling fertility rates, ageing populations, rising 'disease burdens' and the
resulting strains on national economies and welfare systems engender headlines
of national and international crises on a daily basis across the world. At the
same time, the size and disproportionately distributed 'carbon footprints' of
the global human population have been problematized in terms of the ongoing
climate crisis. Taking stock of these complex material legacies of modernity,
this special issue brings together scholars working on and through a science
and technology studies (STS) lens to address social studies of reproduction,
ageing, pan-/epidemics (both communicable and noncommunicable) and climate
change to explore how these broad yet intertwined aggregate-phenomena figure
as challenges for current forms of governance in multiple ways. We are
interested in how practices of science, technology and policy become enrolled
in our demographically, epidemiologically, socio-economically and ecologically
uncertain futures.
Imagining the future has of course always been speculative. As Jens Beckert
pointed out in his recent book Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and
Capitalist Dynamics, Euro-American economists and social theorists placed the
temporal orientations of the economic, cultural, social and political systems
they studied at the very core of their theories of scientific progress,
civilization, technological advance and socio-political development, thereby
inaugurating a modern telos from the Enlightenment onwards. "Imaginaries of
the future are a crucial element of capitalist development, and that
capitalist dynamics are vitally propelled by the shaping of expectations"
(Beckert 2016: 6). Likewise, in her analysis of how a Canadian gold
prospecting company managed to generate an "investment frenzy" when they
announced a major find on the island of Borneo, Anna Tsing has argued that "in
speculative enterprises, profit must be imagined before it can be extracted;
the possibility of economic performance must be conjured like a spirit to draw
an audience of potential investors. The more spectacular the conjuring, the
more possible an investment frenzy" (Tsing 2000: 118).
These speculative underpinnings of (the theorizing of) global capitalism
notwithstanding, in recent years we have seen an uptick in the circulation and
deployment of uncertainty, risk, and crisis-based calculative models in
attempts to make sense of where the world is heading. Notions of 'ecological
overshoot', 'tipping points', 'below replacement-level fertility',
'demographic time bombs' and 'growing disease burdens', have emerged out of
forms of economic, demographic, environmental and epidemiological theories and
models. In contrast to the growing literature within sociology, anthropology
and science and technology studies on the 'promissory organizations',
'political economies of hope' and indeed 'hype' that shape technological
innovation, we will in this special issue show how crisis-oriented speculative
futures are directly tied to a biopolitics of populations, whether nationally
or globally.
As posited biopolitical crises come to circulate in policy arenas, popular
imaginations and financial systems, visions of reproductive justice,
successful ageing, care for the chronically and acutely ill, and ecological
sustainability are in a state of flux. Still, historical continuities are
apparent as well. Biopolitical discussions revolve around questions such as,
how should the vitality of populations be governed? Who should be allowed to
reproduce? Is ageing an opportunity or a loss? What role does 'nature' play in
furthering human wellbeing and how can humans stop damaging the very 'nature'
that allows for their vitality? We invite papers that examine how knowledge
about demographic, epidemiological, ecological and economic futures are shaped
by and/or escape notions of crisis. We also invite papers that investigate how
people experience, take a stance to, and live with uncertain ecological and
biopolitical futures. We especially welcome contributions from different parts
of the world that examine concerns around falling fertility rates, ageing
populations and the earth's declining biocapacity.
Keywords: reproduction; ageing; disease burden; ecology; population; futures
Timeframe

*       Short abstracts (200 words) and author bios in Word-documents by 13
November 2020

*       Submit to: mianna.meskus@tuni.fi;
jades@ucr.edu; and
ayo.wahlberg@anthro.ku.dk
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