Department of English

Crisis and Beyond: Imaginaries, Narratives, Anticipations

A Symposium hosted by the Department of English, Uppsala University

28 June until 1 July 2017

SH 7-0043, Engelska Parken, Uppsala University


Crises and threats appear to be ever present. Whether caused by climate change, civil wars, financial instability, political disorder, the movements of people or other factors, a crisis appears to be developing somewhere all of the time. Consequently, narratives of threat and crisis proliferation, of risk and security, catastrophe and resilience, have become key to making sense of the contemporary period. This symposium takes the production of narratives of crisis and threat, whether real or virtual, as its central object of inquiry. It explores the production of such narratives, and the frequently state-endorsed activities authorized by accounts of danger. In interrogating crisis narratives, it asks what forms of violence and precarious modes of life are occluded and produced by crisis imaginaries. Moreover, this symposium seeks to explore the imaginative, theoretical, historical, and political resources whereby we can move beyond the language of crisis and endangerment, and its biopolitical configurations. How, for instance, can we imagine possibilities of care and sustainability, survival and endurance? What would accounts of the present that are not crisis-laden or even projections of survivable futures look like? What are the fictions of life, rather than threat? One key question raised by this symposium is what role fiction, or fictionality, may play in making sense of crisis imaginaries and the projection of alternative possibilities.

The event provides an opportunity to explore narratives of crisis and threat in different periods and across a range of locations, and to probe the ways in which we may move beyond them. Confirmed speakers currently include: Francisco-J. Hernández Adrián (Durham University), Sofia Ahlberg (Uppsala University), Paul Armstrong (Brown University), Marc Botha (Durham University), Michael Boyden (Uppsala University), Mark Byron (University of Sydney), Lara Buxbaum (Wits University), Russ Castronovo (University of Wisconsin Madison), Rita Charon (Columbia University), Eva Cherniavsky (University of Washington), Sharae Deckard (University College Dublin), Jane Elliott (King’s College London), Elizabeth Goldberg (Babson College), Doug Haynes (Sussex University), Marie Kruger (University of Iowa), Maria Lauret (Sussex University), Robert Marzec (Purdue University), John Masterson (Sussex University), Leerom Medovoi  (University of Arizona), Wendy McMahon (UEA), Timothy Melley (Miami University), Angela Naimou (Clemson University), Manosa Nthunya. (Wits University), Robyn Pierce (Wits University), Rebekah Sheldon (Indiana University, Bloomington), Michael Titlestad (Wits University), Simon van Schalkwyk (Wits University), Arthur Rose (Durham University), Jennifer Wenzel (Columbia University), and Merle Williams (Wits University). This list is subject to change.  

This symposium marks the culmination of a four-year research collaboration on “Fictions of Threat.” The organizers wish to thank STINT (the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education) for its committed financial support of this project. Please contact David Watson ( for further information. The conference program is forthcoming.