CFP for ASA 2013: Destroyed Worlds, Unpayable Debts: Uses of Children and Childhood in Environmentalism

“Your only responsibility as an SF author now is to scry out and bring back what you can of the white-hot rage the future has for us.” –Kip Manley

“Dear Future Generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.” –Kurt Vonnegut

In keeping with the 2013 theme for the American Studies Association’s Annual Meeting, “Beyond the Logic of Debt: Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent” (conference to be held Nov 21-24, 2013), I seek abstracts exploring the history and limits of claims of intergenerational debt in environmental activism.

From the infamous LBJ “Daisy” television commercial (1964) to the recent proposed anti-Exxon ad campaign “Exxon Hates Your Children,” threatened childhood has served as the public face of an environment endangered by pollution, nuclear war, and climate change. Yet these appeals to futurity, despite accessing what common wisdom would hold is a deep well of feeling, have largely failed—as our current government’s inability to make a long-term plan to mitigate the effects of climate change must prove.

What can we make of this failure? What possibilities or limits are inherent in the use of “innocent” childhood as a political motivator? How has the concept of intergenerational environmental debt been explored in popular culture or public discourse?

Papers might approach these questions from the perspectives of environmental justice, environmental ethics, childhood studies, affect theory, science fiction studies, communications and media, or the history of social movements; any number of alternative approaches to the topic are also welcome.

Please send 250-word abstracts by January 5, 2012; email to Rebecca Onion at rebeccaonion at gmail dot com.