Science Fiction and Imperial History – Call for Blog Posts

Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself …. Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done.

– Ray Bradbury

I don’t think humanity just replays history, but we are the same people our ancestors were, and our descendants are going to face a lot of the same situations we do. It’s instructive to imagine how they would react, with different technologies on different worlds.

– Kage Baker

This is the call for blog post submissions for an Imperial & Global Forum roundtable on science fiction and imperial history. We are looking for submissions exploring the ways in which the imperial and anti-colonial past manifests itself in, and intersects with, the classics (and the obscurities) of science fiction. After all, as Patricia Kerslake has recently argued, much can be gleaned by examining “one of the most important and revealing foundations of SF, that of the function and manipulation of political power, of empire and its abuses within the genre, and to explore the great houses of fiction built upon such an informative substructure.”[1]

  • Have some thoughts about sovereignty and cylons?
  • Slavery and colonialism among Octavia Butler’s Oankali?
  • Interested in the relationship between Belter patois and the formation of the Outer Planets Alliance?
  • The “civilizing mission” of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End?
  • British imperialism and H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds?
  • Is time travel into Britain’s colonial past getting you feeling a bit wibbly wobbly, timey wimey?
  • What about the application of Marxist theories of imperialism to the interstellar world of The Expanse? Or perhaps anti-colonial theories and Avatar?
  • How does thinking about space—an often land- and water-less expanse—help us refine our definitions of formal and informal imperialism? Borderlands? Frontiers? Globalization?
  • What does a trade deal look like when it moves beyond the geographical boundaries of a single planet or even a single solar system?
  • Does the idea of a place with “final” frontiers push back against evolving notions of borders, and the people who crossed them?
  • In what ways does Star Wars’s Trade Federation or the Galactic Empire’s imperialism reflect that of modern empires?
  • How does possessing advanced technologies—sonic screwdrivers, Death Stars, protomolecules—change the state of power relations among colonized planets and rogue states?
  • Do universal human rights take on new meanings and implications when they are defended by Star Trek‘s Federation across a universe divvied up by rival empires?

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Roundtable – The Roman World and the Future of Globalisation Studies

pitts book

Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History is delighted to host an interdisciplinary roundtable on Martin Pitts (University of Exeter) and Miguel John Versluys’s (Leiden University) recent edited volume, Globalisation and the Roman World (Cambridge University Press). The book makes the provocative case for understanding the ancient Roman world as one of the earliest examples of globalisation. Their study challenges that of many Roman historians and archaeologists who feel that the word globalisation is inappropriate to use when discussing the ancient world. With Pitts and Versluys’s book as a starting point, the roundtable participants – ancient historians, archaeologists, sociologists, and modern historians – will discuss how the controversial study of globalisation’s ancient origins might reshape and redirect the interdisciplinary field of globalisation studies. Chaired by Centre Director Andrew Thompson, the roundtable participants are:
  • Martin Pitts (Exeter, Classics and Ancient History)
  • Professor Elena Isayev (Exeter, Classics and Ancient History)
  • Professor David Inglis (Exeter, Sociology)
  • Robert Fletcher (Exeter, History)
  • Marc-William Palen (Exeter, History)

When: Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Time: 3-4.30pm

Where: Amory 128 (University of Exeter, Streatham Campus)