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Cli‐Fi: The Dystopian Impulse of Contemporary Climate Fiction (May 13, 2016)


Bildquelle: licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 by Patrick Emerson https://flic.kr/p/iiVfs8

This workshop on climate fiction is a cooperation between the M.A. seminars “Dystopian Visions of America” (Kathleen Loock) and “American Ecologies” (Alexander Starre) at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam.

Since the new millennium, a growing canon of dystopian literature and film centers around climate change, natural disasters, and environmental catastrophes. These texts have been labeled “climate change fiction,” “climate fiction,” or short “cli-fi.” Notable examples of North American cli-fi are the novels of Barbara Kingsolver, Paolo Bacigalupi, Margaret Atwood, Nathaniel Rich and others, as well as Hollywood films such as The Day after Tomorrow, Interstellar, and Mad Max: Fury Road. The aim of this workshop is to critically engage with the aesthetics and the cultural work of cli-fi.

Invited Guests

Julia Leyda is an American Studies scholar based at the IASS, where she is working on a project on cli-fi following her research on media representations of extreme weather, most recently in her co-edited collection Extreme Weather and Global Media (Routledge, 2015).

Thiago Pinto Barbosa is an anthropologist at the IASS, where he researches environmental awareness and coordinates projects of dialogue between science and arts.


The workshop consists of two parts. In Part I, Julia Leyda will give a keynote lecture and provide impulses to jump-start a lively discussion. Based on selections from recent media coverage, workshop participants will then discuss the genre’s potential for critical intervention in contemporary political debates. Part II of the workshop is dedicated to group presentations on five recent cli-fi films. One group from each M.A. seminar will give a short presentation on one of the five films focusing on ecological and dystopian aspects, respectively. 


10:15-10:30: Workshop Opening

Speakers: Kathleen Loock (JFKI), Alexander Starre (JFKI), Thiago Pinto Barbosa (IASS)

10:30-12:00: Keynote Lecture & Discussion

Julia Leyda (IASS), “The Cultural Affordances of Cli-Fi”

Moderator: Thiago Pinto Barbosa (IASS)

12:00-13:00: Catered Lunch (with generous support from the IASS)



13:00-13:25: Group Presentation 1: The Day after Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich, 2004)

13:25-13:50: Group Presentation 2: Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2012)

13:50-14:15: Group Presentation 3: Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)

14:15-14:40: Group Presentation 4: Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

14:40-15:05: Group Presentation 5: Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

15:05-15:15: Final Discussion & Farewell


Event flyer (incl. schedule)

Event poster

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