The Humanities Division at Essex County College will host its 2015 Conference – Speculative Humanities: Steampunk to Afrofuturism – March 11-12. The conference will feature a special emphasis on the life, legacy, and influence of the late science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler. The conference, featuring panelists from Essex will be held in Smith Hall on the Newark campus from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 11 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 12.
“Our conference events have a wide appeal for students and faculty,” said Assistant Professor English Rebecca Williams, co-chair of the program. Open to all humanities disciplines, the conference will feature papers, panel presentations, screenings and performances of works that can be included in the broad category of speculative humanities, she added.
Papers encompassing all facets of the speculative humanities topics have been submitted from all over the country as well as two from Italian educators.
The entire College community and the public are invited to attend any and all events. The panel discussions will feature Essex faculty covering a wide spectrum of science fiction and social topics aligning with the overall theme of the conference.
Professor Williams said that next February marks the 10th anniversary of the untimely death of Ms. Butler, the author of such classics as Fledgling, Lilith’s Brood and Kindred and the winner of a Hugo Award for her science fiction writing. Members of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network and the Butler Archives will participate in the conference via Skype. “We’re dedicating this program to her memory.”
Another highlight of the conference will be a special production of Joslyn Housley-McLaughlin’s “The Silver Thread,” performed by the New York City-based Liberation Theatre Company on Thursday, March 12, at 7 p.m. in the Mary Burch Theater. Associate Professor and pianist Richard Alston will also perform Franz Liszt’s “The Mephisto Waltz.” This production, which is being co-sponsored by the Student Life and Activities Office, is free and open to the public, and will feature a “talk-back” session with the actors after the show.
During the week of March 9, the College Gallery will feature the works of students in Professor Anna Muniz’s Drawing I class. The project is entitled “The Exquisite Corpse.” Professor Muniz will discuss the project at 1 p.m. March 12.
The Micheaux/Washington Black Film Series will kick off the conference with a special screening of the 1973 classic black horror film, Ganja and Hess, on Tuesday evening, March 10, at 6:45 pm in Siegler Hall.
“In this age of devastating economic austerity, the Humanities give us the inspiration and tools to imagine a better world,” said Professor Jennifer Wager, conference co-chair. She noted the conference will bring together leading scholars and artists from all over the country and even internationally to examine how the Humanities has created space for speculation, creativity and positive social change.
“As a Predominantly Black Institution, Essex leads the way nationally and internationally as a two-year college dedicated to the creation and dissemination of historically accurate knowledge of communities of African descent locally and globally. The Humanities Division annual conference once again highlights the foundational contributions of Black history and culture to the Humanities with this year’s theme,”, added Professor Wager.”
Other conference committee members are faculty members Viral Bhatt, Eileen DeFreece, Jina Lee, Sean O’Connell and William Tooma.