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Accepted Paper:

Affective dystopias: unsettling futurity through speculative fictions with youth  
Sarah E. Truman (University of Melbourne)

Short abstract:

This paper uses affect theory (Ahmed, 2007) and queer theories of time (Freeman, 2011; Munoz, 2009) to think with a research project focused on speculative fictions about the future, authored by youth (aged 13-15) in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Long abstract:

Background and Method:

Speculative fiction authors (Butler, 1984; Delany, 2009), pedagogues (Truman, 2019), and scholars (Keeling, 2019; Lothian, 2018) argue that the imaginary worlds of speculative fiction offer opportunities to reflect on, critique, and offer solutions to social and technological problems in our present moment, highlighting the potential of fiction as a pedagogical and social tool for predicting and building different futures. Based on this premise, the project Speculative Futures (2023-2024) asked teenagers from three continents to write situated (Haraway, 1991) speculative fictions about the future on the themes of technology, sustainability, or social justice, based in their own geographies as 'research-creation' (Truman, 2022). Un-prompted, most of the students to date have written dystopias about the future of their town, emerging technologies, social (in)justices, and their own lives.


The field of education, and educational research pivots on a rhetoric of utopic futurities: educate for the future, grow better citizens; embrace sciences of learning and technologies of reproduction (of the same). In our current moment of global crises, children are often either not given a voice about their future, or conversely turned into problem solvers and icons who will fix the future they’ve been handed (eg. Thunberg). This paper thinks with the secondary students’ speculative fiction narratives as ‘data,’ in combination with theories of speculative thought, affect (Ahmed, 2007), and queer temporalities (Freeman, 2011; Munoz, 2009), to trouble reproductive narratives of educational futures, and explore the promise of speculative fiction as a method of critique of the future-past (present).

Traditional Open Panel P056
Futures work
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -