The End Times: Approaches to the Apocalypse ESA Conference 2021 CFP
What: English Student Association Conference
Where: Online, hosted through The Graduate Center, CUNY
When: 12 March 2021
The apocalypse is, and has been, a concept invested with immense emotional, social, and historical significance. It appears everywhere from medieval theological texts to twenty-first century hip hop albums. For some, the apocalypse is a liberatory event: a forcible removal from current political systems that have become unsustainable and unacceptable. For others, however, the apocalypse is a disastrous analogy for current anxieties: as scholars have noted, American popular images of the end of the world both erase social and political disenfranchisement and project disaster into an unspecified future, where it can be blamed on racialized others and used to signal anxiety over the perceived end of “white civilization” (Gergan, Vasudevan, and Smith). The apocalypse becomes an “end time,” a potential (sometimes iminent) future that simultaneously empties and reintegrates the present into a teleological narrative with an inevitable and violent “end” that removes hope for different futures and justifies the entrenching of present inequalities.
In the past few months, COVID-19 and mass civil unrest in the face of police brutality have made the “end of the world” narrative ubiquitous. In popular language, it is a “great equalizer” that affects everyone at the same time, creating a new kind of time in which work is deferred or impossible, regular tasks expand to fill the whole day, and, in theory, everyone’s life is impacted at once. In reality, marginalized people are still affected much more widely by crisis, further cementing the reality that apocalypses of any kind will always be theoretical for some, while remaining consistently concrete for others.
As is apparent, we are not interested in uncritically looking at recent events as apocalypse. Rather, we want to invite conversation around what the concept of the apocalypse means, what it does, and what it can do. “Apocalypsis” in Latin literally translates as “revelation” - in this sense, we are interested in examining the ways that the apocalypse always “reveals.” What disparities, precarities, privileges, and power structures does an “apocalyptic” event make visible? And who are the witnesses to this revelation?
More questions we are interested in: is it even possible, or responsible, to call life-altering events like the one we are living through “apocalypses”? What does a theory of apocalypse look like for communities who are made to experience the end of various kinds of worlds constantly, or for extended periods of time? How long does an apocalypse last, and who gets to define it? How might responses to crises through art, popular culture, or the internet redefine or reclaim the “apocalypse” from a disembodied, continually deferred future?
Gergan, Mabel, Smith, Sara, Vasudevan, Pavithra. “Earth beyond repair: Race and apocalypse in collective imagination.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 2018.
Abstract deadline: December 1st
Registration deadline: February 12th (*registration will be free)
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