Asian Futures Conference
Over the last decade new futurisms have sprung up in a number of guises. Almost all of these go back to Marinetti's Futurism as a foil, the belief that a better future is possible through (digital) machines. However, this is also where the relationship to Marinetti's ends. If he and many in his group worshipped the power of (war) machineries, the new futurisms take social and cultural change through digital means as their focus.
Most prominent among these new futurisms is Afrofuturism, but Sinofuturism (or Red Futurism) is quickly catching up; other Futurisms include Latinx futurism, Nipponfuturism and Gulf Futurism (Frangos, 2017). All these have at least three important common goals. First, there is the attempt of decentering of European/Western attempts of defining reality for all individuals and nations. “In the West and elsewhere, the European, in the midst of other peoples, has often propounded an exclusive view of reality; the exclusivity of this view cretes a fundamental human crisis.” In some cases, it has created cultures arrayed against each other or even against themselves. Afrocentricity’s response certainly is not to impose its own paarticularity as a universal, as Eurocentricity has often done. Already in 1998, Asante rightfully claimed that listening to the voice of the subaltern “is one way of creating a saner society and one model for a more humane world.” Secondly, there is the attempt to "distort and undermine modernity’s signature narrative of development and progress, holding up a mirror to its history of broken promises and thereby challenging its imagined foreclosure of possible futures, […] the project of interrogating the failure of the utopian promises of modernity on both personal and collective registers." (Frangos, 2017). This would also include the challenging of urban centres via rural futurisms (Culp, 2018). Lastly, there are the attempts of presenting concurring models for the future, including AI and post-human projects, as viewed through the lens of divergent and cultural media.
Techno-orientalism appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990, spurred on by the success Japanese technology began to have in the west, indicating a shift in the geopolitical realities. Films, Manga and books such as Akira, Ghost in the Shell, The Three Body Problem, Battle Angel Alita, and many others ushered in a new apparently superior oriental understanding and application of technology. If before, the future had been made in the USA or Europe, its production had now shifted eastward. As Zhang (2017) relates, "the exterior scenes in Spike Jonze’s 2013 sci-fi rom-com, Her, were filmed in Shanghai’s Pudong district, setting Joaquin Phoenix’s high-waisted trousers against the archetypal Chinese metropolis cast as a future Los Angeles. More pithily, a character in Rian Johnson’s thriller Looper (2012) advises: ‘I’m from the future: go to China.’” This point is made even more succinctly by Lawrence Lek in his 2016 film Sinofuturism: "Sinofuturism is an invisible movement. A spectre already embedded into a trillion industrial products, a billion individuals, and a million veiled narratives. It is a movement, not based on individuals, but on multiple overlapping flows. Flows of populations, of products, and of processes. Because Sinofuturism has arisen without conscious intention or authorship, it is often mistaken for contemporary China. But it is not. It is a science fiction that already exists.” And when it comes to issues of gender, Lu Yang’s Delusional Mandala, reintroduces art moving image creation as the catalyst for futurist’s aesthetic and imagination.
Last but not least, the philosopher Yuk Hui has recently been propounding his world view as “Chinese cosmotechnics”, thereby decentering western attempts of claiming sovereignty of technology and proposing a technodiversity to re-think modern technology by inventing new directions and new frameworks.
It is the aim of this conference to investigate these science-fictional techno-oriental tropes and broadly focus on the following questions:
- How to assess the fall-out of a hyper-globalised world, including epidemics?
- How to explore race as a technology?
- How to think through future bodies and embodiment in a post-human environment?
- How to reclaim the pride of one’s heritage?
- How to investigate how utopic and dystopic futurisms can engage and deliver diversity?
- How to decentre Western discourses of the future?
- How to view the present from the future?
- How to explore the sharing of a common future (imagination)?
- How to help create alternate spaces beyond national borders and urban spaces?
- How to imagine future genders along decolonial lines (e.g. Zairong Xiang and Lu Yang?)
- How to think technodiversity through art as a form of knowledge production?
- How to re- think futurisms in the context of climate change?
- How to re- think science fiction as a form of knowledge production?
- How to re- think futurisms in the context of Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum computing or blockchain technology?
Time line, submission procedures and publication:
Conference presentations will be collected in the conference proceedings. The best contributions will be considered for the indexed IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies and a book publication.
Submission of Abstracts
15 August 2021
Notification of Abstract Acceptance
1 September 2021
About the Venue
Beijing Normal University-Hong-Kong Baptist University-United International College, Zhuhai, Guangdong, PRC.
UIC’s is located in the warm winter holiday region of southern Guangdong’s Great Bay Area, one of the most dynamic regions in the world and a stone’s throw away from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, the futuristic Shenzhen and Macau!
Zhuhai is a coastal city in Guangdong Province, China. Its name means Pearl Sea stemming from Zhuhai's location where the Pearl River flows into the South Sea. It is a very popular tourist and nicknamed The Hundred Island City, was voted “The Happiest City in China” and is an ecotourism destination with clean air. It is unique in mainland China as an at times pulsating, at times very serene holiday destination.
See you in beautiful Zhuhai!