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After the Apocalypse : Race, Gender and Sexuality in Popular Film and Television

Avant le 20 septembre

Date de mise en ligne : [03-09-2013]

Mots-clés : médias

"The post-apocalypse is an enduring science fiction concept that
continues to fascinate film and television audiences in the twenty-first
century, often combining our deepest existential fears with our wildest
escapist fantasies. As speculative fiction (we hope !), post-apocalyptic
narratives ask questions about what it means to be truly human, particularly
in the context of survival horror and genocide. Interestingly, these
speculative narratives, limited only by the bounds of human imagination (and
media technology), frequently reproduce conservative ideologies of
nationalism which shape how the viewer "reads" race, gender, and sexuality
in the world after the world ends. There are, however, moments of
resistance, subversion, and reinvention to be found, even in the most
conservative of these texts. What do these moments, and their all-too
frequent absence, reveal about our own contemporary anxieties and desires ?
"After the Apocalypse" will offer critical analyses of the roles of
race, gender, and sexuality in the post-apocalyptic visions offered by early
twenty-first century (post 9/11) films and television shows. Chapters will
examine the production, reproduction, and re-imagination of some of our most
deeply held human ideals through multiple disciplinary feminist approaches.
For example, what new or renewed significance do we give human reproduction
(and thus perhaps human sexuality) in the tense matrix of daily survival and
the potential annihilation of the human race ? For that matter, how can we
understand "race" within the context of alien invasion ? How do we understand
"reproduction" ? Is genocide ever justified ? What do these stories tell us
about kinship and gender roles ? Films and television shows as seemingly
diverse as The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, Battlestar Galactica, After
Earth and World War Z share both narrative and thematic concerns about the
future (and perhaps past) of humanity, how we know who we are, and what we
truly value most."
The intended audience is primarily undergraduate readers, but chapters
should also be accessible for non-academic fans of science fiction. All
disciplinary perspectives (historical, political, cultural studies, queer,
etc.) are welcome, but race/gender/sexuality (in combination or singly) must
be the central component of analysis, and the central narrative under
consideration must be a U.S.-produced post-apocalyptic story from the early
twentieth century. Topics might include :
How gender is reproduced or re-imagined : for example, through military
actions (including the idea of the "wounded veteran", often struggling with
guilt and/or anger and/or other forms of PTSD) ; nuclear family roles and the
imagination of kinship in the post-apocalyptic world ; women as
warriors/women as housewives ; how leadership becomes gendered ; the
reproduction of patriarchy and the possibility of differently gendered
social structures...

The influence of contemporary world politics on the plots of particular
shows or episodes.
Many of the apocalypses depicted in contemporary film and television are
environmental and ultimately caused by human hubris and neglect. What is
the role of "Earth" as a character, and how is "Earth" gendered and/or raced
and/or sexed, particularly in light of Earth being understood as "home", as
destroyed, as resource, as malleable (or terra-formed) ? What is the human
relationship with Earth, and how is this gendered and/or raced and/or sexed ?
How we imagine the "savior", a common trope in both religious apocalyptic
visions and in film and television post-apocalyptic narratives : for example,
the TV show Defiance features a young alien female who, as the first season
ends, is poised to either save or destroy the world (she is actually
revealed as "the Mother of Destruction", a fascinating religious and
archetypal model for an "alien") ; on the other hand, the clear and reluctant
hero in Falling Skies is a man forced by circumstance into leadership and
warfare. Relatedly, how do we configure Eden/Paradise and the apocalypse,
and how is this raced, gendered, sexed, etc ? What do these configurations
tell us about questions of borders and boundaries, who invades them, who is
safe within them, and who is kept outside ?

Questions of Empire and how imperialism is raced, sexed, and gendered ;
further, how nationalism relies on institutionalized heteronormativity and
potentially precludes non-heteronormative expressions of sexuality and the
body. Alternatively, how the apocalypse produces a potential space for
non-heteronormative expressions.

Hybridity and the body : How/does the body change, and do our expectations of
it change ? What is the form and function of "the body" — the personal body,
the political body, the social body — in the new world after the world
ends ? Are new strengths or weaknesses revealed ? Many of the apocalypses in
contemporary narratives are the result of rampant disease or produce
contagion ; how do we deal with "illness" (ie, radiation poisoning,
starvation, zombies, alien invasion of the body) and new biological
"evolutions" in raced, gendered and sexed ways ? What is an "acceptable"
body, and what are the markers of stigma ?

Reproduction/procreation : its dangers, how it becomes queered, how it
becomes institutionalized, eugenics, dysgenics, and pronatalism ;
miscegenation, queer families, kinship...how do these shape our
understanding of race, gender and sexuality after the world ends ? How does
the apocalypse potentially change previously held ideals about these
concepts ?

Violence, both physical and structural : how violence creates and destroys,
how violence is gendered, sexed, and raced ; the real and/or perceived
necessity of violence and who perpetrates it and what viewers are led to
think of both the violence and the perpetrator ; the role of the State in
violence ; etc...

"Post-apocalypse" may be a somewhat slippery category, but for the purposes
of this book we understand it as the world (or substantial portion thereof)
following a devastating destruction which has severely depleted resources
for survival, including human resources. Chapters must focus on a TV show or
popular film produced in the twenty-first century. You could certainly bring
in post-apocalyptic narratives from earlier decades, but stay focused on the
film/tv show you choose (for example, you might write about the TV show
"Jericho" and bring in other nuclear narratives, or write about the film
"After Earth" and discuss earlier films that also rely on ecological
destruction as their starting premise, etc). Alternatively, you could write
about one general theme across several twenty-first century films/shows (for
example, you might discuss nationalism in the film "Battleship" and the TV
shows "Battlestar Galactica" and "Revolution"). It is also acceptable to
consider a film or television adaptation of literature (for example,
McCarthy’s "The Road" or Mitchell’s "Cloud Atlas" ; the TV show "Jeremiah" is
also an adaptation of a graphic novel from Belgium), but please both note
that it is an adaptation and keep your analysis to the film or show.

Interested contributors should send me a brief abstract (200-250 words) and
working title as well as a brief biography (app. 100 words) by September 20.
Final chapters of 7000-7500 words will be due December 15, 2013.

Please don’t hesitate to email me at

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