Call for Participation online workshop Interrogating Speculative Futures – Leiden University

Call for Participation for the online workshop Interrogating Speculative Futures: A workshop on the politics of imagining a future with(out) chronic illness on 19 and 20 July 2021.

Keynote speakers

Professor Ayo Wahlberg (University of Copenhagen- Department of Anthropology) 

Dr Rebecca Coleman (Goldsmiths, University of London – Department of Sociology Methods Lab) 

A workshop on the politics of imagining a future with(out) chronic illness

In this workshop, we invite participants to think with the politics of speculation and imagination when it comes to futures of living with, at risk of, or in treatment for chronic illness. What does it mean to speculate in the face of biomedical trajectories and policy developments that promise inevitable intervention, with an often slim or uncertain chance of ‘cure’? What alternative future orientations can emerge as a result? 

Following a productive surge of engagements with the speculative across the social sciences, we seek to interrogate the limitsand possibilities of imagining and opening up futures, from diverse subject positions and at different scales. Drawing on insights from across sociology, anthropology, STS and disability studies, this workshop seeks to move away from assumptions about the limits of a life with chronic illness. Instead, we are interested in the limits of technoscientific promise – the “curative imaginary” (Kafer 2013) and hype of “anticipatory technologies” (Erikson 2018) – while, at the same time, exploring the potentialities that emerge from diagnoses, prognoses, illness experiences, and care at the end of life. We are interested in how people with chronic illness anticipate the future, and how hopes and fears impact life in the present. How do medical programs, state policies, and systems of knowledge production foreclose and/or open up futures of “chronic living” (Wahlberg et al 2021)? And how then, can we understand the futurity of and in chronicity itself? What regimes of anticipation and speculation does chronicity produce? 

We are seeking out empirically grounded accounts of the multiple ways people navigate and assemble possible futures, particularly when the boundaries of speculation and imagination loom: from creative improvisations for living well in the near-future with chronic illness, to the pragmatism or ‘magical thinking’ of biomedical experts in the face of failures to find curative solutions. Crucially, we want to interrogate the politics of these future imaginaries: how vulnerabilities and inequalities associated with chronic illness play into questions of who gets to speculate, where, and when.

Contributions may focus on, but are not limited to: 

  • Potentialities and limits of the imagination in chronic illness
  • Futures of care and cure (interrogating the high and the low tech)
  • Affective and embodied experiences that move subjects towards or away from certain futures. 
  • Understandings of speculation across scales; as embedded in biomedicine, policy making, and personal decision-making.
  • The ethics of opening and/or foreclosing futures with and without chronic illness. 
  • Methodological approaches to grasping uncertain futures.

Call for Participation

Please send an abstract of max 200 words to Natassia Brenman ( and Natashe Lemos Dekker ( by 21st June 2021 and add at least 1 image.

Date & More information

Dates: Monday 19 July & Tuesday 20 July 2021

More information can be found on the Interrogating Speculative Futures website

Workshop format

This small-scale, online workshop aims to open up a highly engaged, critical, and creative discussion about speculative futures in relation to chronic illness. We invite participants to bring questions, challenges, dilemmas, and experimental modes of thinking/working with these themes – with an aim to produce new insights and possible avenues for research. 

Participants will give a 15-minute presentation and each presentation will be assigned a discussant. All participants will thus also be asked to be a discussant for one of the other papers.