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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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