Thematic Option

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Meaning of the Millennium: April 9-10, 1999


How do we survive the brutalities, the inanities, the freedom of our own time? What makes the question of the meaning of the millennium so important?

The myth of the millennium is as strong as its "reality." With world-wide media attention focused on this moment-from the metropolitan centers advertising the grandest New Year's Eve Party to South Sea islands providing prime spots to watch the sunrise on the dawning of a new age-millennial fever has taken hold. Does this anxiety suggest a cultural need to define our position in an ever-changing world: a world whose rate of change appears to be quickening? What does this moment and its mythic constitution mean? Does it express a fin-de-siècle desire for a better future, a reminder that every end carries with it the possibility of new beginnings? Through conjectures and prophecies, millennial visions of promise and foreboding frequently draw on the traditions from a past that has experienced the anxieties of the waning of the old and the waxing of the new. Millennial myths help us deal with the unknown, whether the unknown is represented as a recovered, Edenic paradise or an apocalyptic, technological nightmare.

Discussions of the millennium often focus on questions about technology, boundaries and the self. Your proposal should generally fall under one of these categories. Because these categories often overlap, we encourage the transgression of their borders.

TECHNOLOGY-topics might include the promise and/or the threat of technology, Y2K, ATMs and virtual capital, television, HAL (as in 2001), computers, cyberpunk, telecommuting, the internet, multimedia, cyborgs, prosthesis, hypertext, e-mail, video, cyberspace, genetic mapping, netizens, Blade Runner, computer viruses, drug-resistant viruses, videoconferencing, cloning, germ-warfare, surveillance, Mars exploration, X-Files ...

BOUNDARIES-topics might include the boundaries (and the blurring of them) between the real and the virtual, self and other, justice and injustice, fact and fiction, nations and states, nature and culture, male and female, straight and gay, legal and illegal, black and white, licit and illicit, individual and community, public and private, fantasy and reality, sane and mad, past, present and future, clean and dirty, subject and object, pain and pleasure, home and frontier, East and West, normal and perverse, us and them...

SELF-topics might include definitions of the self and the human, the relationship between body and mind, the role of the media in self-definition, consumerism, the family, the cultural need for narrative, stories, myths, spirituality, the supernatural, history, cults, skepticism, religion, cynicism, celebrity...

Abstracts

available here