Extended - Call for Papers - Speculative Worldings of Children, Childhoods, and Pedagogies



Guest Editor: Dr. Emily Ashton (University of Regina)

Amidst the turmoil of these times, speculative fiction apportions “windows into alternative realities, even if it is just a glimpse, to challenge ever-present narratives of inevitability” (Benjamin, 2016, p. 19). Speculative stories offer “necessary experiments” in developing “a decolonizing, anti-racist, and situated ethics in environmental and place-attuned early childhood studies” (Nxumalo & Cedillo, 2019, p. 108). The speculative thus engenders imaginaries of not this, as in refusal of present systems and subjectivities; not yet, as in what might be to come; and what if, as in generative, situated pedagogical possibilities. On the other hand, much speculative fiction uncritically celebrates techno-fixes and solitary feats of heroism. This special issue is interested in thinking with the speculative in ways that interrupt tropes of human exceptionalism and instead re-position the child as inextricably entangled with a host of human and more-than-human existents.[i] We want to see what emerges when the speculative is engaged “as a mode of inquiry” to think-with challenges of contemporary childhoods (Kupferman & Gibbons, 2019).

Contributors are encouraged to theorize alongside child-figures in speculative texts, and to speculate in/with empirical scholarship Oftentimes, speculative child-figures challenge dominant conceptions of normative embodiment that are taken-for-granted in developmental discourses. For example, the child-orogenes in N. K. Jemisin’s (2015-2017) extraordinary Broken Earth trilogy are born with abilities to sense, shape, and transform kinetic, thermal, and other earthly energies.[ii] The child-orogenes very being requires them to “learn how to become with the world” (Common Worlds, 2020). They embody “otherwise forms of existence that do not rely on the reproduction of bio/geo binaries” (Nxumalo, 2017, p. 564), which has much translative potential for reconstructing contemporary imaginaries of children in childhood studies. Connections to the Anthropocene are also prevalent in speculative stories of child-climate relations. If the Anthropocene is to be a “provocation to begin to understand ourselves…as beings who have something in common with geologic forces” (Yusoff, 2013, p. 781), then speculative child-figures offer an invitation to think with them so we can better live with the more-than-human existents of this world. They urge us to imagine what might be otherwise on this broken earth.

In the conceptualization forwarded in this special issue, the speculative extends from the realm of fiction to contemporary scholarship familiar to many in childhood studies. María Puig de la Bellacasa (2017) proposes an ethics of “speculative care” to mark out a “commitment to seek what other worlds could be in the making through caring while staying with the trouble of our own complicities and implications” (p. 204). Recent work by the Common Worlds Research Collective (2020) demonstrates how the speculative can be used to fashion visionary declarations of a pluriversal, multispecies education for ecological justice in the year 2050. Fikile Nxumalo and kihana miraya ross (2019) highlight important work by Black feminist writers, challenge the white supremacy of mainstream environmental education, and offer their own speculative story of what “fugitive educational spaces for young Black children” might look and feel like (p. 502). Brought together, these scholars enact what Ruha Benjamin (2018) finds most generative about speculative fiction: a capacity to “experiment with different scenarios, trajectories, and reversals, elaborating new values and testing different possibilities for creating more just and equitable societies” (para. 31).

In this spirit, I propose some provocations for contributors to consider:

  • What possibilities emerge from speculative fabulations wherein child-figures are “human—but not only” (de la Cadena, 2014, p. 256). How do child-figures of non-normative embodiment challenge early childhood discourses of developmentalism?
  • How do speculative child-figures variously sustain, call into question, and subvert arrangements of life and nonlife—particularly in the ways that child-figures become-with earth others like the cyborg, virus, toxins, and geologic matter? How do child-figures engage in “geontological world-making” (Nxumalo, 2017, p. 563; see also Povinelli, 2016)?
  • How can we embolden speculative imaginaries of child-climate futurities that respond to urgent problems of the present without being beholden to a “settler futurity” (Tuck & Yang, 2012, p. 35)?
  • In confronting systemic erasure and environmental destruction, how does Indigenous speculative fiction trouble conceptualizations of the imminent end of the world while also attending to what Anishinaabe writer Waubgeshig Rice describes as “a life beyond the despair of the now….Imagine otherwise” (in Theriault, 2020, para.10; see also Whyte, 2018)? How is the idea of survival as an individualistic human endeavor troubled in texts that imagine Indigenous futurities, for example the novels of Cherie Dimaline (Métis) and short films of Danis Goulet (Métis)?
  • Rebekah Sheldon (2016) notes a major shift in the image of the child from “the child in need of saving to the child who saves” (p. 2). How might we think with speculative child-figures in ways that do not reproduce imaginaries of childhood innocence or heroic narratives of redemption? What possibilities emerge when “refusal and resistance” are the child-figure’s response to saving a white-supremist world (Hartman, 2016, p. 166)?
  • How might we grapple with the speculative in ways that keep in view the kinds of conditions and resources required to capacitate lives actually capable of flourishing? How does this awareness translate into recuperative pedagogies for living “well together in the more-than-human common worlds that we inherit?” (Common Worlds, 2020).
  • When it comes to work with children, how might the speculative inform our pedagogical imaginaries? What sort of experimentation might the speculative provoke? What pedagogical provocations are generated in texts of speculative fiction that story the interdependence and interconnectedness of the world?

We welcome submissions in multiple formats. These may include: Articles from Research (6000-8000 words); Arts-informed pieces, for example creative and poetic writings; Ideas from Practice that connect the speculative and the pedagogical (1500-3500 words); Book reviews of speculative novels that connect to contemporary discussions in childhood studies (1500-3500 words). Complete manuscripts are due January 31, 2021. Please see the author guidelines for submission preparation instructions, including requirements for APA format. Questions about the CFP can be directed to Emily Ashton (emily.ashton@uregina.ca). For technical questions please contact journalofchildhoodstudies@gmail.com.


Works Cited

Benjamin, R. (2016). Racial fictions, Biological facts: Expanding the sociological imagination through speculative methods. Catalyst, 2(2), 1-28.

Benjamin, R. (2018, July 16). Black afterlives matter: Cultivating kinfulness as reproductive justice. Boston Review. http://bostonreview.net/race/ruha–benjamin–black–afterlives–matter

de la Cadena, M. (2014). Runa: Human but not only. Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 4(2), 253–259.

Common Worlds Research Collective. (2020). Learning to become with the world:Education for future survival. Paper commissioned for the UNESCO Futures of Education report.

Hartman, S. (2016). The belly of the world: A note on Black women’s labors. Souls, 18(1), 166-173.

Imarisha, W. (2015). Introduction. In W. Imarisha & B. A. Maree (Eds.), Octavia’s brood: Science fiction stories from social justice movements (pp. 3-7). AK Press.

Jemisin, N. K. (2015). The fifth season. Orbit.

Jemisin, N. K. (2016). The obelisk gate. Orbit.

Jemisin, N. K. (2017). The stone sky. Orbit.

Kupferman D., & Gibbons, A. (Eds.). (2019). Childhood, science fiction, and pedagogy: Children ex machina. Springer.

Nxumalo, F. (2017). Geotheorizing mountain–child relations within anthropogenic inheritances. Children’s Geographies, 15(5), 558-569. DOI: 10.1080/14733285.2017.1291909

Nxumalo, F., & Cedillo, S. (2017). Decolonizing place in early childhood studies: Thinking with Indigenous onto-epistemologies and Black feminist geographies. Global Studies of Childhood, 7(2), 99–112. https://doi.org/10.1177/2043610617703831

Nxumalo, F., & ross, k. m. (2019) Envisioning Black space in environmental education for young children. Race, Ethnicity & Education, 22(4), 502-524. DOI:10.1080/13613324.2019.1592837

Povinelli, E. (2016). Geontologies: A requiem to late liberalism. Duke.

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2017). Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds. University of Minnesota Press.

Sheldon, R. (2016). The child to come: Life after the human catastrophe. University of Minnesota.

 Theriault, Y. (2020, March 19). Margaret Atwood, Waubgeshig Rice and Daniel Kalla share their pandemic reading lists. As It Happens. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-thursday-edition-1.5502954/margaret-atwood-waubgeshig-rice-and-daniel-kalla-share-their-pandemic-reading-lists-1.5502962

Tuck, E, & Yang, W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1-40.

Whyte, K. P. (2018). Indigenous science (fiction) for the Anthropocene: Ancestral dystopias and fantasies of climate change crises. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 1, 224–242.

Yusoff, K. (2013). Geologic life: Prehistory, climate, futures in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31, 779–795.


[i] I use “speculative” as an umbrella term that draws together speculative fiction with apocalypse, post-apocalypse, disaster, catastrophe, cli-fi, sci-fi, and Anthropocene fictions. While some may distinguish between terms, I think they come together in that “whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction” (Imarisha, 2015, p. 10). Fiction is also intended to include novels, television, film, picture books, graphic novels, poetry, and more. Donna Haraway’s (2011, 2016) acronym SF also provides inspiration: string figures, speculative fabulation, science fact, situated feminisms, so far...

[ii] Orogeny is geologic term that refers to the upward folding of the earth’s crust in the making of mountains. In the apocalypse-ridden world of Broken Earth, orogenes are a geologic force: they can cause quakes and raise sea floors, but mostly they prevent cataclysmic disasters from happening. Nevertheless, their capacity to become-with the earth has made them a feared, hated, and oppressed minority for millennia.