Author Meets Critics: Rebekah Sheldon on The Child to Come

May 12, 2017Events, News

I’m excited to be organizing and hosting this Author Meets Critics event at the 2017 Cultural Studies Association conference!

Rebekah Sheldon

in conversation with Caroline Alphin

an Author Meets Critics session

When: May 26, 2017. 2:45–4:15 pm

Where: Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Participants: Rebekah Sheldon (featured author), Caroline Alphin (discussant), and Cathy Hannabach (session chair)

About The Child to Come: Life After the Human Catastrophe

Generation Anthropocene. Storms of My Grandchildren. Our Children’s Trust. Why do these and other attempts to imagine the planet’s uncertain future return us—again and again—to the image of the child? In The Child to Come (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2016), Rebekah Sheldon demonstrates the pervasive conjunction of the imperiled child and the threatened Earth and blisteringly critiques the logic of catastrophe that serves as its motive and its method.

Sheldon explores representations of this perilous future and the new figurations of the child that have arisen in response to it. Analyzing catastrophe discourse from the 1960s to the present—books by Joanna Russ, Margaret Atwood, and Cormac McCarthy; films and television series including Southland TalesBattlestar Galactica, and Children of Men; and popular environmentalism—Sheldon finds the child standing in the place of the human species, coordinating its safe passage into the future through the promise of one more generation.

Yet, she contends, the child figure emerges bound to the very forces of nonhuman vitality he was forged to contain. Bringing together queer theory, ecocriticism, and science studies, The Child to Come draws on and extends arguments in childhood studies about the interweaving of the child with the life sciences.

Sheldon reveals that neither life nor the child are what they used to be. Under pressure from ecological change, artificial reproductive technology, genetic engineering, and the neoliberalization of the economy, the queerly human child signals something new: the biopolitics of reproduction.

By promising the pliability of the body’s vitality, the pregnant woman and the sacred child have become the paradigmatic figures for twenty-first century biopolitics.

About Rebekah Sheldon

Rebekah Sheldon is an Assistant Professor of English at Indiana University Bloomington, where she teaches classes in feminist and queer theory, speculative fiction and philosophy, and young adult literature and childhood studies.

She is the author of The Child to Come: Life After the Human Catastrophe as well as of essays in symplokeScience Fiction Studies, Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge and several edited collections and digital publications.

With Julian Gill-Peterson and Kathryn Bond Stockton, she co-edited a special issue of GLQ on The Child Now.

Her next project concerns the uses of hermeticism by 20th-century Anglo-American queer artists and writers.

She tweets as @alyxpryn.

About Caroline Alphin

Caroline Alphin is a PhD candidate at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in ASPECT-Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought. She is an instructor in the Political Science Department at Virginia Tech and an instructor in the English Department at Radford University.

Caroline’s research interests include biopolitics and necropolitics, science fiction, genre studies, feminist theory, and critical urban geography. Her dissertation defamiliarizes neoliberal truths by juxtaposing them against cyberpunk science fiction, and points to the taken for granted and historically contingent nature of the responsibilized-self and the naturalized free-market. Through this process of defamiliarization, she also theorizes neoliberal temporality as necro-temporality.

She is also an editor-elect of SPECTRA (the Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Theory Archives), a peer-reviewed and open-access journal.

About Cathy Hannabach

Cathy Hannabach is the president of Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome books, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

Cathy is also the founder and director of the Grad School Rockstars community, which help smart, progressive, interdisciplinary scholars who struggle with the nuts and bolts of how to turn that intelligence and inspiration into tangible, effective, and repeated work.

She hosts the Imagine Otherwise podcast, which highlights the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds.

Cathy is the author of Blood Cultures: Medicine, Media, and Militarisms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), which traces the cultural history of blood as it both enabled twentieth-century US imperialism and was creatively transformed by feminist, anticolonial, anticapitalist, and queer artists and activists, and Book Marketing for Academics (Ideas on Fire, 2016), which teaches you how to harness your resources, skills, and time to build your author platform and get the word out about your new book. She currently serves on the Cultural Studies Association Executive Board and Governing Board.

Check out Ideas on Fire’s other events at CSA this year

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