Friday, May 17, 2024

Workshops of Horrible Creation: 200 Years of Imagined Humans

Organized by the Centre of Advanced Study, Department of English, Jadavpur University, and Kalpabishwa Webzine on 22-24 November 2018.

This year marks the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. To mark this occasion, the Department of English, Jadavpur University and the Kalpabishwa Webzine collective are co-hosting an international conference and workshop on SF.

The conference will feature:

  1. academic papers
  2. workshops on SF writing
  3. panel discussions by contemporary SF writers
  4. special focus on SF writing in Bengali, Marathi and other Indian
  5. languages
  6. felicitation of SF editors and writers
  7. special issue of the Kalpabishwa webzine
  8. open house and road shows on kalpabigyan
  9. pop-up SF book stall
  10. Call for Papers

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) opened the floodgates for speculation as to the limits and possibilities of the human, as imagined through the unimaginably powerful new tools of modern science. After Shelley, the artificial or non-natural human steps out of the realm of horror and enters a new realm: the future. From H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau to Villiers del’Isle Adams’s The Eve of the Future, the nineteenth century threw itself into this new theme with gusto. In the twentieth century, as biotech grew more sophisticated and powerful, so did our imaginings of the people who might result from these moral and material experiments, and what the ethical fallout of these actions might be. Twentieth century imaginings of artificial humans are too numerous to count, but certain themes appear to recur. In both Rossum’s Universal Robots by Karel Capek and in Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, the moral perils of creating a sentient race and then enslaving it are explored. Other questions also arise: what would a completely rational being see as morality? How much of our humanity is an accident of nature, and how much of it is a factor of our self-fashioning? The idea of the artificial human is like an empty space in which we can inscribe many of our speculations about these problems, and by so doing they become real to us, or at least as real as stories.

We propose the following broad themes for the conference:

  1. Robots: artificial beings and slavery
  2. Planned Parenthood in the laboratory: relations with the creator
  3. The Galatea effect: love and romance with artificial humans
  4. We are one: mind-melding and hive minds
  5. Terminator salvation: fears and dreams of machine imperialism
  6. Cyborg /goddess: machines and the divine
  7. Ghost in the shell: the hard problem of consciousness
  8. The Bokanovsky process: ownership, cloning, hacking human
  9. reproduction Golem of mine: artificial humans through history Will
  10. you be assimilated? the alien as provisional human

Abstracts and a short bio may be sent by 31 August 2018 to

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