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Call for Papers: Alien Imaginations

Facing the challenge of first contact
25 August 2021

Dates: 2022, July 6-8
Venue: Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen, Oude Boteringestraat 38, 9712 TW Groningen
Organizers: Dr. Frank Bosman and Dr. Mathilde van Dijk
Deadline: Sent your abstract to s.k.glimmerveen student.rug.nl , November 30th 2021 at the latest.
Conference fee: 135 euros, including the conference dinner; 100 euros without it.

Are we alone in the universe? Or are there more planets like ours, which support life, including intelligent life? What will be the impact of the encounter with extraterrestrial life on us and vice versa? What does it do to narratives and doctrines on Creation such as in the bible to become aware that we are not as unique as we thought? How do we deal with creatures different from ourselves? Will we accept and welcome them or colonize and enslave them? Will they enrich or exploit us?

From the sixteenth century, scientists and authors like Giordano Bruno(1548-1600) and Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) imagined extraterrestrial life and our encounters with it. In science fiction, a genre which became increasingly popular from the nineteenth century, ‘first contact’ is a recurrent theme. It went hand in hand with scientific research; in 1984, the SETI institute was created, which is dedicated to the search for it. Recently, more and more planets have been discovered outside our solar system, some of which might support life. ‘First contact’ as the phrase ‘alien’ has a long history as both were also used in other contexts: for the first meeting of Europeans with indigenous people in the Americas and Asia as well as an expression for unwanted immigrants.

This conference explores what the contact with extra-terrestrial life-forms means for humankind. It specifically focuses on what the humanities have to offer for this debate, especially on the notion of first contact, and focuses on matters such as:

  • Literary and cinematic imaginations of alien species and planets as well as about the encounter with these
  • Theological, philosophical and ethical implications of encountering extra-terrestrial life
  • Intelligent vs. non-intelligent life-forms and what this means for our own self-perception
  • Dealing with differences between ‘species’, formerly known as ‘races’
  • The boundaries of being human

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Dr. F.G. Bosman, theologian, University of Tilburg
  • Prof. dr. Henriette Gunkel, specialist in gender and popular culture, Ruhr University, Bochum
  • Dr. Rinke van Hell, theologian, Evangelical Theological Faculty, Louvain
  • Dr. Inge Loes ten Kate, astrobiologist, University of Utrecht
  • Prof.dr. David Wilkinson, theologian, Durham University
Last modified:05 October 2021 09.21 a.m.

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