by | 8 Jul 2019

11-12 OCTOBER 2019

Call for Contributions

Looming ecological disaster; the rise of nationalist authoritarianism; the stubborn persistence of systematic oppression based on race, gender, sexuality and other axes of social difference, the dismantling of any semblance of social security and solidarity: as we prepare ourselves to enter the third decade of the 21st century, there is certainly no shortage of reasons for claiming that we may already be immersed in dystopian times. It may now be time to enlarge the scope of the phrase attributed to Slavoj Žižek and Fredric Jameson from “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” to “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the possibility of a better world”!

From this vantage point, it is no wonder that the dystopian imagination has been so active in speculative fiction over the past two to three decades. From Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (and forthcoming sequel The Testaments) to the many “weird” ecologies of China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, Kraken) and Jeff Vandermeer (Annihilation), not to mention the immense overgrowth sub-genres such as the zombie-apocalyptic (The Walking Dead) and the technological (Black Mirror), there is now, arguably more than ever, a continuously growing archive of experimentation within what may be classified as the dystopian genre.

This growing archive provides the inspiration to this year’s conference, ‘Dystopias here and now’, in which we explore the question: are we already living in dystopian times? How are we, as theorists and practitioners in law, politics or the humanities – but, first and foremost, as critical thinkers – to make sense of, and thus navigate, the ends of time? Finally, if we are indeed children of the dystopia, what are we to do?

With such imminent changes, challenges and disasters, we invite submissions on dystopian themes, as they relate to critical studies in law, politics, and humanities. While all original submissions are welcome, authors are encouraged to consider a perspective shift from “the end of times” to “the ends of time” against Francis Fukuyama’s tacitly accepted proclamation of the end of History – and in recognition of History’s inevitable return. Questions to consider may include: what might be the function of Law in and against dystopian times? Is there a connection between dehumanisation (as Othering, alienation) and dystopia? What do climate change, mass extinction and ecological dysfunction signify for Western modernity? Is dystopia the end or the beginning (temporally, teleologically) of politics?

We welcome submissions in any topic related to critical perspectives on law, politics, the humanities and the dystopian imagination. Submissions may be in the form of an abstract, to be presented at the conference and or a completed paper to be considered for publication in a forthcoming special edition on the conference topic. Authors should note if they wish for their submission to be considered for a panel discussion, for publication or for both.  We are particularly interested in submissions along the thematic axes of:

Law, politics and cultural production

  • The dystopian as a political and legal literary genre;
  • The poverty (or not) of political and cultural imagination in the 21st century;
  • The relation (difference, sameness, tension) between utopia and dystopia;
  • Queer and feminist interventions; and/or
  • Anti-racist, post-colonial and de-colonial perspectives on emancipation and dystopia.

The state, the Law and the social

  • Hospitality, hostility and belonging;
  • The erosion of representative democracy (populism, authoritarianism);
  • Human rights, humanism and contested universalisms;
  • Europe, Brexit and the legacy of the Enlightenment; and/or
  • Secularism and its contradictions in Law and politics.

Technology, ecological catastrophe and the subject of (legal/political/scientific) modernity

  • Who is the subject of the anthropocene? Is it the subject of modernity? The subject of science?;
  • What new “humanity” is required for averting or dealing with looming ecological catastrophe? Is this subject still human, and in what sense?;
  • Science fiction, ecological horror, “the new weird” and their insights towards a present and future of planetary dysfunction;
  • Science, the Law and politics; and/or
  • New materialisms, post-humanism and the death of the subject.

Perspectives from legal, political and artistic practice 

  • Surveillance, privacy and algorithmic decision-making;
  • Homelessness, the housing crisis and the financialisation of urban space;
  • Human rights, especially social, economic and cultural;
  • The impact and cost of the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ policy; and/or
  • Climate change, mass extinction and environmental protection and restoration.


Submission Guidelines

Abstracts should be no longer than one page and should highlight the topic and theme of the submission, the general argument and a summary of how the theme and argument contribute to contemporary discussions.

Paper submissions should be in the form of a full article of approximately 8,000 to 10,000 words. Please ensure papers conform to the Birkbeck Law Review’s submission guidelines. Papers will be reviewed by the editorial team and authors will be notified whether their paper has been selected for inclusion in the conference special edition.

Please submit your paper using the online submissions system here.

The deadline to submit an abstract has been extended!

NEW Deadline for Abstracts: 11 August 2019

NEW Deadline for Paper submissions: 31 August 2019

Notification of acceptance of abstract: 19 August 2019

Notification of acceptance of paper for publication: 14 September 2019.


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