Call for Abstracts: Feminist Techno-imaginaries, Feminist Encounters special issue

Feminism has a long history of wrestling with technologies: not only with the inequalities and blind spots inherent in research, production, and marketing, but also with the effects of different technological forms and arrangements on social relationships, ways of life, and on the body. Technologically permeated societies are a global reality, and feminist, queer, critical race, decolonial, and crip theories are pivotal in offering critical analyses and ways of imagining, producing, and using technologies differently. This issue of Feminist Encounters sets out to re-inspect the entanglements between technology and imagination from a range of feminist perspectives in disciplines like STS, philosophy and critical theory, media history and media archaeology, cultural history, and cultural and comparative literature studies.

Greek-French philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis’ theorisation of the radical individual imagination and the socially instituting imaginary (1975) foregrounds the creative, world-building function that shared forms of meaning play in our social worlds. The history of Western philosophy tends to regard imagination as mere reproduction/representation, i.e. a mental copy of the real; in contrast, Castoriadis’ work offers a conceptualisation of the imagination and the imaginary as inherently creative and productive of the social. Accordingly, this special issue asks how diverse feminist techno-imaginaries can help us rethink, envision, but also transform historically stabilised forms of meaning, especially shared understandings of what technology can do and how it can transform our social worlds. Inviting contributions from diverse local and regional contexts, this issue sets out to investigate the implications of socially and culturally situated feminist techno-imaginaries, i.e., beliefs, accounts, and visions of possible, desirable, alternative, and radically different futures from diverse feminist perspectives. The issue will interrogate how these future visions relate to extant shared understandings of “forms of social life and social order attainable through, and supportive of, advances in science and technology” (Jasannoff, 2015, 13).

In the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Sheila Jasannoff conjoins the “normativity of the imagination with the materiality of networks” in her understanding of “sociotechnical imaginaries” “as collectively held, institutionally stabilized, and publicly performed visions of desirable futures” (Jasannoff, 2015, 13). Taking her definition as one possible point of departure, this issue of Feminist Encounters seeks to survey the ways in which feminist techno-imaginaries relate to current and mainstream technological developments, but also to peripheral technological pasts and possible futures. For this purpose, we take the term techno-imaginaries broadly, as referring also to those visions that are not necessarily institutionally stabilized and are collectively held only in specific milieus.

Feminist accounts (both future- and past-oriented) tend to remain on the margins of academic discussions about socio-technological entanglements, their histories, prognoses, and poetics. Dominant societal understandings of technological transformations and their impact on thought, imagination, and society therefore tend to omit numerous paths not taken; inventions that turned out to be, or are presented as being, a cul-de-sac; developmental failures with unfulfilled potentials for furthering social justice; and an account of geopolitical inequalities in global technological competition, labour exploitation, and ecological impact.

Hegemonic techno-imaginaries also lack proposals for technologically-entangled radically different futures that would depart from present forms of labour exploitation and commodity consumption, from currently normative gender- and sexuality-scripts, from structural racism, the exploitation of natural resources with concomitant climate impact, and ways of restricting access. Reflecting upon diverse and intersecting feminist techno-imaginaries, we believe, can help us address and redress some of these shortcomings.

Feminist theory itself offers a rich archive of utopian, dystopian, and ambivalent technological imaginaries, such as Donna Haraway’s powerful figure of the cyborg, Shulamith Firestone’s proposal for externalising reproductive processes, echoed by xenofeminists today, Rosi Braidotti’s writings on the posthuman, to name just a few. These proliferate also in feminist fiction, from Octavia Butler’s complex interrogation of techno-scientific alienness in her xenogenesis trilogy, to Marge Percey’s vision of a technologically enhanced utopian post-gender society Mattapoisett.

We are especially interested in affirmative takes on the feminist archive, as articulated by political theorist Kathi Weeks (2015), which can help us retrieve visions of alternative futures that can be productively repurposed today. These visions can also function as critical examinations of our past and present, yet are/were often overlooked in mainstream knowledge production. They comprise sci-fi visions as Afrofuturism Africanfuturism, Arabfuturism, Sinofuturism, Disabled futurism, Indigenous futurism, Queer futurism, Ecotopia etc., as well as theoretical, philosophical, political, or historical interventions. As philosopher Michelle le Doeuff has shown, while often declaratively excising imagery as the other of rational discourse, philosophical theories themselves almost always copiously deploy imagery, often to entrench socially sanctioned forms of exclusion (1980) – something that could most likely be said of theory more broadly. This issue thus also offers an arena for discussing how images of possible futures are deployed, or how they implicitly animate philosophical discussions and theoretical discourse about technological innovation and techno-dispositifs, especially – seen from diverse feminist perspectives – what kinds of exclusions they perpetuate, or alternatively, what arenas for radical social imagination they open up.

This issue takes cue from Afrofuturist articulations of painful pasts to imagine new futures rooted in black culture and innovation, and from queer theory's take on queer utopianism, which includes “a backward glance that enacts a future vision” (Muñoz 2009, 4), which can be understood in terms of Walter Benjamin’s tiger’s leap into the past that retrieves unrealised emancipatory potentials of past events (1940). Apart from offering feminist critiques of hegemonic or mainstream techno-imaginaries, this issue thus also centres peripheral or minoritarian techno-imaginaries of the past and present that enact alternative future vistas. According to Jussi Parikka, these peripheral futurisms or counterfuturisms ask: “What sort of discourses, narratives – including practices of time and futurism – are apt for a consideration of the current political moment and what forms of time can harbour any sort of liberating potential that work against the already existing times?” (2017, 2)

Thinking about future techno-imaginaries from diverse feminist perspectives may involve very specific questions, such as matrices of human : machine interaction, user experience, access to technology, or innovation and maintenance scenarios. It may also involve thinking through techno-imaginaries and how they are activated in the context of different political paradigms of the past and the present, or in the context of utopian and dystopian visions of the future in critical theory and philosophy, literature, visual arts, music, cinema, TV, in the performing arts, on social media, and other cultural artefacts. Finally, it may involve memory work, i.e. unpacking locally or culturally specific past horizons of expectations regarding technological advances and their implications for future scenarios in various contexts, from policy to historiography and art.

This special issue of Feminist Encounters on Feminist Techno-imaginaries offers an opportunity to articulate in novel ways how, through diverse social imaginaries of technological innovation, technology and feminism impact one another in modern societies. Abstracts may be submitted on any topic related to this theme. These topics include (but are not limited to) the following:

Techno-imaginaries in philosophy and ethics of technology, critical theory, STS, from feminist perspectives
  • Historical techno-imaginaries from feminist perspectives
  • Futurisms from different feminist perspectives (Afrofuturism, counterfuturism, Sinofuturism…)
  • Memories of technological change and nostalgia for obsolete technologies, from feminist perspectives
  • Technology, feminism, and decoloniality
  • Gender politics, feminism, and techno-imaginaries in Eastern Europe and the global South
  • Feminist techno-imaginaries of climate change and environmental policies
  • Feminist imaginaries of sexuality and AI
  • Feminist perspectives on imaginations of reproductive technologies
  • Feminist perspectives on techno-imaginaries in mainstream media
  • Techno-imaginaries in feminist media

Feminist Encounters invites submissions of articles of 8000-9,000 words on any aspect of the topic outlined above. We welcome diverse and divergent feminist perspectives on techno-imaginaries and their theoretical, practical, and poetic impact. Contributions may range from highly theoretical to more empirically based.

The special issue will be edited by Guest Editors: Dr Jasmina Šepetavc (Research Associate, Centre for Cultural and Religious Studies, Department of Cultural Studies, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Katja Čičigoj (PhD candidate, Department of Philosophy, Paderborn University, Germany) and Assist Prof Dr Natalija Majsova, (Centre for Cultural and Religious Studies, Department of Cultural Studies, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia).

Chief Editor of Feminist Encounters: Sally R Munt, University of Sussex UK

Submission deadline for abstracts: December 1st 2022

Decisions regarding acceptance: February 1st 2023

Submission deadline for manuscripts September 1st 2023

Decisions following peer review March 1st 2024

Revised manuscript submission September 1st 2024

Publication September 2025