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Call for Papers: Alien Imaginations

Facing the challenge of first contact
16 January 2022

The conference Alien Imaginations: Facing the Challenge of first contact, for which we shared a CfP on 25 August 2021, is moving online. The submission deadline and contact address have also changed. The amended call for papers is shared below.

A pencil drawing shows a human and four fantastical creatures holding hands and dancing in a circle. They are all tan-colored and outlined in burgundy.
Image reproduced with permission from Melissa de Gier and NRC Handelsblad

Dates: 2022, July 6-8
Venue: Online
Organizers: Dr. Frank Bosman (University of Tilburg) and Dr. Mathilde van Dijk (University of Groningen)
Deadline: Send your abstract to Kjelda Glimmerveen s.k.glimmerveen , before 31 January 2022
Registration: Register through receptie.GGW

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, for instance according to gender, body-shapes, colors? In science fiction, other species may have tentacles or scales, more than our two sexes, be able to change genders according to need, or dispense with gender altogether. 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
  • Prof. dr. Floris van der Tak, astronomy & astrophysics, specialist in astrobiology, University of Groningen
  • Prof.dr. David Wilkinson, theologian, Durham University
Last modified:26 January 2022 1.16 p.m.

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