Science Fiction As a Path to Explore the Future of the Anthropocene and Worlds in Preparation

7 07 2016

Paper (available on request) to be presented at the 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology (“The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World”) in the Panel “Framing Discourses, Action and Collective Imaginaries about Environmental Issues”, University of Vienna (Austria), Sunday, 10 July 2016.


Should humanity prepare for life on a less and less habitable planet? As suggested by the term “anthropocene,” visible traces are no longer mere scratches on the planetary surface. If, given the magnitude of human activities, the challenge is to think about their consequences, it is useful to explore what imaginative foundations can be used as a basis for collective reflections. From this point of view, science fiction may have the advantage of having anticipated the movement. By initiating and accumulating thought experiments, it offers a cognitive reservoir and a reflexive medium. Its representations are also a vehicle for interpreting the world. One of the few places where one can see “future generations” live, act and organize is science fiction and its imaginary constructions.
The method proposed here is to consider these fictional works as a form of problematization (in the sense of Michel Foucault). Starting from these bases, the proposed contribution will be organized in three sections. The first will show how science fiction, when it deals with ecological dimensions, can be in its way a problematization of planetary habitability and of issues that underpin the notion of anthropocene. The second will show the limits of the classical divide between utopia and dystopia and propose a reopening of the possible modes of apprehension of imaginable futures, precisely by considering the science fiction narrative as a vector of projective exploration of the future. While defending the idea that it is better to take science fiction productions as lines of flight (in the sense of Gilles Deleuze), the third section will aim at identifying and classifying science fiction that, in environmental matters, searches for new or different directions (particularly compared to the currently dominant model). The contribution will thus seek out adaptation pathways that appear closer to the register of hope.


Science-fiction and social theory

31 07 2009

I don’t have enough time to translate my writings, but fortunately there are friendly comments which can give you a good idea of what I try to theorize. There was a recent post on The Global Sociology Blog which synthesizes a series of arguments I tried to develop about science-fiction and social theory (this summarizing post on this very informative blog is entitled “Social-Scientific Analysis of Science-Fiction”). These arguments were presented on my blog as parts of a paper prepared for a conference in Cerisy-la-Salle (“How to dream science-fiction today?”, July 2009).

My line of reasoning ventures beyond the narrative dimension and is built on three steps. First, I show that science-fiction has a wealth of thought experiments to draw on. Then, I consider the works in this genre as a way of problematizing (in the Foucauldian sense) science and technology and their consequences on social and political systems. Third, I show that, behind the apparent diversity, science-fiction deals with social change as underlying theme. For all these reasons, I conclude by saying that science-fiction should not only be regarded as a thinking tool, but that it could also help to build some sort of collective reflexivity and responsibility towards the future.

The paper can be downloaded in French.