From Annihilation to High Life:
Feminist Posthumanism and Postfeminist Humanism in
Contemporary Science Fiction Film
Joint panel of the Posthumanism Research Network and FSAC
Annual Meeting of the Film Studies Association of Canada(FSAC), June 02-04, 2020, University of Western Ontario, London (ON)
Organizers: Julia Empey (WLU) and Russell Kilbourn (WLU)
Deadline for submission of abstracts: January 06, 2020
In 2018 two films were released—Claire Denis’ High Life and Alex Garland’s Annihilation—representing two different poles of contemporary SF film narrative, and two different explorations of specific posthumanist (as well as transhumanist) themes. The two films are similar to the extent that they challenge the Enlightenment Humanist narrative that has dominated Western thought for the last four centuries. Annihilation and High Life can be conceived as two ends of a spectrum of contemporary SF cinema intimately invested in the debates around the posthuman and the critical posthumanities within a feminist critical-theoretical context. The decentring of the human at the core of posthumanist thought has its corollary—indeed, its typological anticipation—in feminism’s de-centring of ‘man.’ That neither of these transformations has entirely succeeded is a problem that informs the story in each of these films, albeit from entirely different perspectives, with a radically different audiovisual language in each case.
In Rosi Braidotti’s (2019) terms, we are now living “the posthuman predicament” resulting from the convergence of the ongoing critique of a Eurocentric Humanist philosophical legacy and the anthropocentric habits of representation it supports. According to Cecilia Åsberg (2018), critical posthumanism is in an important sense exemplified in feminist theory, “long critiquing the centrality of the figure of Man for its gender chauvinism.” Arguably, the (dis-)embodied female could be the ultimate posthuman subject. This panel seeks to place posthumanism and feminism in direct conversation as mediated through contemporary science fiction films. Both posthumanism and feminism aim to counter or dismantle a masculinist, patriarchist Enlightenment Humanism, and SF cinema has been putting these seemingly disparate schools of thought into dialogue for some time now. Where typically the mention of SF in the posthumanist context brings a whole set of (often clichéd) transhumanist tropes to mind—the cyborg, technologically augmented bodies, AI subjectivities, etc.—we encourage instead the submission of papers that either: (a) prioritize analyses of specific examples of contemporary SF cinema that engage in meaningful ways with the burgeoning field of critical posthumanism; or (b) utilize such films as case studies in the interrogation of posthumanist and feminist as well as humanistic ideas. In either case, papers grounded in formal film analysis are strongly encouraged.
Possible topics and films include, but are not limited to:
- Feminist alterities
- Posthuman ecologies
- Posthuman subjectivities
- Gender before and behind the camera in SF film
- Futurism (both Italian and its newer incarnations)
- New materialism
- Gendered cyborgs
- Posthuman femininity/masculinity
- Scarlett Johansson
- Natalie Portman
- Arrival (2016, Denis Villeneuve)
- Blade Runner(1982, Ridley Scott)
- Blade Runner 2049(2017, Denis Villeneuve)
- Ex Machina(2014, Alex Garland)
- Her(2013, Spike Jonze)
- Lucy(2014, Luc Besson)
- Metropolis(1928, Fritz Lang)
- Under the Skin(2013, Jonathan Glazer)
Authors are invited to submit a 500-word abstract for a paper of max. 20 minutes reading time as well as a 250-word biographical note. The deadline for submitting an abstract is Monday January 06, 2020.
Notification of acceptance will be sent by early February.
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