About

Futures in Question explores how, why, and for whom we anticipate the future. The network offers a forum in which people with diverse disciplinary and professional backgrounds can come together to interrogate different modes of anticipation and ways of thinking about the future in the world today. Sessions will feature panels of critics, applied scholars, and practitioners who engage—albeit from different perspectives—with anticipatory practices across a range of fields. These fields include public health, artificial intelligence (AI), Afrofuturism and astrology among others.

In particular, ‘Futures in Question’ seeks to bridge the divide that all too often separates critics and theorists from applied scholars and practitioners. Since the 1980s, scholars have been calling attention to how risk-oriented thinking reconfigures politics, science, social relations, and ideas about the future. Others have interrogated how practices of prediction, preparation or prevention, have become entwined with practices of surveillance, categorisation, and boundary-making in policing, medicine, warfare, education, among numerous other fields. Others yet are exploring how anticipatory practices function in non-technical arenas to invoke and (perhaps) bring about alternative futures through utopianism, science fiction, and fortune-telling. But how often do these analyses and critiques actually connect with current practices and practitioners? To what extent do theorists and critics understand the lived realities and nuances of those who are making and using anticipatory knowledge on the ground? And, conversely, how often practitioners adapt their interventions based on academic critiques?

Futures in Question creates a space of encounter, dissent, and discovery for anyone who wants to question the ways we think about and act upon the future. We intend this network to create a space: for theory to act upon practice and for practice to act upon theory; for identifying common concerns and tensions in futures-thinking across a variety of disciplines and professions; and for honing the art of translation that interdisciplinary exchange inevitably requires.

Stay tuned for our Lent and Easter term cards for sessions on Afrofutures, Queer Futures, Climate Futures, AI Futures and more!

For enquiries contact the Networks programme manager.

Convenors

Convenors

  • Alexis Bedolla (Postdoctoral Fellow, Sociology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Erinn Campbell (PhD candidate, HPS, University of Cambridge)
  • Elspeth Davies (PhD candidate, Social Anthropology /funded by Cancer Research UK, University of Cambridge)
  • Theo Di Castri (PhD candidate, HPS, University of Cambridge)
  • Kerry Mackereth (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Centre for Gender Studies and Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge; Visiting Fellow at Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation, UCL from 2023 onwards)

Alexis Bedolla is a postdoctoral researcher at UNAM’s North America Research Center (CISAN) in Mexico City. He completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of Bristol in 2021 on the securitization process of emerging infectious diseases during the second half of the twentieth century. His work examines the politics of global health and biosecurity, the development of global disease surveillance technologies, and the history of epidemiology in the United States during the 20th century. Alexis’s current project is a book on the surge of “global epidemiology” as a distinctive field of knowledge and expertise.

Erinn Campbell is a PhD candidate in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Her research on the history of international cooperation in pest forecasting is supported by the Wellcome Trust.

Elspeth Davies is a social anthropologist with an interest in issues surrounding health and disease. Before starting her PhD, Elspeth studied Human, Social, and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Her current doctoral fieldwork follows cancer researchers in the UK seeking to implement a new form of cancer screening. She considers what it means to diagnose and be diagnosed as ‘at risk’ of cancer, especially in the context of resource shortages in the NHS and issues surrounding ‘inequalities’.

Theo di Castri is a PhD candidate at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. His doctoral research traces the history of research on prevention in the fields of mental health, substance abuse and delinquency in the US since the 1970s. Broadly, he is interested in understanding how logics of neoliberalism, settler colonialism, prohibitionism and technocracy have shaped–and continue to shape–the production of scientific knowledge about youth, risk and the future. Theo is a co-founder and member of Catalyst, a transnational educational collective dedicated to curricular justice in the Americas.

Kerry Mackereth is a Christina Gaw postdoctoral researcher in Gender and Technology at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, an associate at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, and an associate at Cambridge Digital Humanities. Her work uses feminist and critical race theory to examine how histories of race and gender shape contemporary technologies, with a specific focus on artificial intelligence (AI). She is the co-editor of the upcoming collection Feminist AI with Oxford University Press, the co-host of The Good Robot podcast on feminism and technology, and the co-founder of the Race Talks seminar series. She has appeared on popular shows such as The Guilty Feminist and has been recognised as one of the 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics 2022. Find out more on Kerry Mackereth’s website.

Faculty advisors

  • Joe Ellis (Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology and the Sigrid Rausing Postdoctoral Fellow in the Mongolian and Inner Asian Studies Unit, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
  • Rebecca Fitzgerald (Professor of Cancer Prevention at the University of Cambridge and Director of the CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Institute)
  • Monica Moreno Figueroa (Associate Professor in Sociology, University of Cambridge)

Programme 2022 - 2023

Michaelmas term 2022

Download the term poster

Futures in Question
Introductions and Aarathi Krishnan on uncertain futures
11 Oct 2022 17:00 - 19:00, HPS Boardroom and Babbage Lecture Theatre
Calamitous futures
25 Oct 2022 17:00 - 19:00, Online

Joshua Schuster (Western University), Derek Woods (University of British Columbia), S J Beard (Cambridge)

Cancerous futures
8 Nov 2022 17:00 - 19:00, Room S1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge

Rebecca Fitzgerald (Cambridge), Ayo Wahlberg (Copenhagen), Robert Aronowitz (Pennsylvania)

Contagious futures
22 Nov 2022 17:00 - 19:00, Online

Andrew Lakoff (University of Southern California), Mauricio Santillana  (Harvard University), Dennis Carroll (Global Virome Project)

Stay tuned for our Lent and Easter term cards for sessions on Afrofutures, Queer Futures, Climate Futures, AI Futures and more!

Lent term 2023

Futures in Question
Biodiverse futures
24 Jan 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Online

Cheryl McEwan (Durham), Suvi Alt (Groningen), Chris Sandbrook (Cambridge)

Climate futures
7 Feb 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Room S1, 1st floor, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Rd

Sigourney Luz (London), Lisa Garforth (Newcastle), Jakub Kowalewski (Birkbeck, London / St Mary’s)

AI futures
21 Feb 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Online

David Adelani (UCL, Masakhane), Emily Jin (Yale), Eleanor Drage (Leverhulme CFI)

Queer futures
7 Mar 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Room S1, 1st floor, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Rd

Pip Gardner (The Kite Trust), Hakan Sandal-Wilson (Cambridge), Susie Bower-Brown (UCL)

CENTRE FOR RESEARCH IN THE ARTS, SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES

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