Call for Papers 2016

Call For Papers

8th Annual McGill Anthropology Graduate Student Conference

Fantasy / Fear

McGill University

Friday, April 8, 2016

“The horror, no less than the charm of real life, consists precisely in the recurrent actualization of the inconceivable”

—Aldous Huxley

This year, the McGill Anthropology Graduate Student Conference challenges its participants to confront their deepest held fantasies and fears—and to probe the uncomfortable, tantalizing, or productive tensions and entanglements between them. What fantasies drive us forward? What monsters haunt our dreams? What realms—probable and improbable—do they inhabit? This year’s conference takes up such imaginative projections as a fantastical entry into the questions and projects of contemporary anthropology.

Today, our discipline does not need to look far in order to find figures of horror or fear—as the proliferation of scholarship on crisis and emergency, risk and security, anthropogenic climate change and growing inequality clearly attests. For this year’s conference, we encourage participants to look further still, and toward the creative and imaginative tensions that bind fear and fantasy. How might the interplay of fantasy/fear bring our attention to the interplay between the existent and the imaginary; the already-here, the not-yet, and the never-to-be? How does fear come to condition hope, just as dreams come to condition reality?

Reflecting on Enlightenment traditions of art and science, Lorraine Daston (1998) writes of imagination as a force of creativity, essential to both fields; and yet, simultaneously, it is violent: it obliterates, bordering madness and breeds monsters. Participants are encouraged to reflect on the ways in which we are besieged today by a similar flickering between the ostensibly ‘rational’ and the extraordinary. Further, in what settings, under what constraints, might contemporary projects, techniques, or expertise give way to flights of fancy or the production of the monstrous; to ecstatic madness, experiences of the sublime, the working of miracles, or destruction of biblical proportions? How might hopes and fears organize a variety of projects and forms of living, making certain projects—creative, intellectual—(im)possible?

This year’s conference aims to provide a space to collectively think about and reflect upon such questions—of desire, dread, and the creative/destructive potential of the imagination. While submitted papers are welcome to expand upon these themes in creative and unanticipated ways, in the spirit of promoting a generative and lively conversation, we pose a series of questions to begin a productive conversation:

  1. How do our fears and fantasies co-constitute each other, such that our fears of destruction may be simultaneously an ambivalent, if deeply felt, desire? What are the practical and imaginative limits to fantasies or fears?
  2. Anthropologists frequently find themselves faced with chimeric projections and descriptions of non-existent entities, or at least entities that do not exist yet. Despite their phantasmic constitutions, these images nonetheless have a particular hold on the present. How do fantasies and fears produce hopes or projections of the future, how do they frame and re-frame pasts, and confuse our sense of the temporal ‘place’ in the present?
  3. In what ways do fantastical and fearful overlays—of futures and pasts, destruction and creative possibility, growth and death—resonate in the curiosities, priorities, and methodologies of anthropology? Has the figure of the anthropologist qua fantast shaped the practice of anthropology in the field and on the page? What can anthropology hope for? What should it fear? Participants are encouraged to investigate what a discussion of fantasy/fear might reveal of anthropology and its related disciplines.
  4. We likewise invite participants to consider how anthropology is implicated in giving shape to the fantastical or horrific elements of the contemporary: how do we give shape in our scholarship to chimeric monsters or disciplinary demons, complex imaginaries or troubling realities?

Submit your short abstracts (250 words) to by February 20th, 2016. Please include your name, university affiliation, and contact information. You will be notified of the reception of your abstract, and invitations will be distributed by the end of February.

Invited participants should prepare 15 minute papers for presentation.

Options will be available for students to be hosted by the organizing committee during their stay in Montreal. However, we are unable to provide travel funding at this time.

Attendees are additionally invited to join us for a welcome reception the evening of Thursday, April 9th, and a participatory workshop the morning of Saturday, April 11th.


Feel free to use the provided email to contact us with any questions.