Exploring ethical futures through the dark lens of dystopia

“Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly- they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.

More than simply a thought-provoking genre of literature, the dark creations of writers of dystopian fiction give us the opportunity to reflect on the present and the future. PhD candidates Zachary Kendal of Monash University and Jung Ju Shin of the University of Warwick are leading teams of Monash and Warwick postgraduate students to explore ethics, utopia, dystopia and science fiction.

The ‘(Un)Ethical Futures: Utopia, Dystopia and Science Fiction’ project comprises a multi-disciplinary conference in mid-December and a special issue of peer-reviewed journal Colloquy: Text, Theory, Critique. With the support of seed funding from the Monash Warwick Alliance, participants will explore the ways we imagine, or attempt to realise, better futures, and interrogate the ethical dimensions of utopia, dystopia and science fiction.

Professor Emeritus Andrew Milner (Monash University and University of Warwick) and Associate Professor Jacqueline Dutton (University of Melbourne), well-established experts in utopian studies, are keynote speakers at the conference.

Zac believes a great deal can be learnt from considering the lessons of fictional dystopian and utopian societies.

“With global uncertainty about the directions our societies are headed, asking these ethical questions of our utopian impulses would seem more relevant than ever,” Zac said.

“And as classic dystopian novels like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale hit best-seller lists once more, now is an ideal time to interrogate those dark imaginings and how to steer society away from the oppressive futures they envisage.”

Ju is hopeful the event will mark the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between the Monash and Warwick researcher and student communities.

“We are very grateful to the Alliance for the generous support that has allowed us to work together as a team to make this event possible,” Ju commented.

“We are happy to be a part of a network that values the importance of global collaboration in research and education. Programs such as Monash Warwick Alliance facilitate cross-institutional, interdisciplinary collaboration and offer an opportunity for developing researchers to reach and engage with a larger communities of researchers.”

Submissions to present at the December conference are now open, with workshops and networking events to be held prior to the main event. Applications will close on 13 August 2017.

The Monash Warwick Alliance is an award-winning partnership between Monash University and the University of Warwick. Recognised as a leader in global education, the Alliance combines the exceptional teaching and research capabilities of two world-class universities to meet the challenges of the 21st century.