Designs of Tomorrow: Indigenous Futurities in Literature and Culture, May 16-17, 2022

conference room, May 16
Designs of Tomorrow, May 16 & 17, 2022
greeting by Gerald Vizenor, May 16
welcome by vice chancellor Peter Heering, May 16
reading by Stephen Graham Jones, May 16
Kristina Sülter, May 16
meet the speakers boat ride, May 17

An International Conference at Europa-Universität Flensburg

When we are in the throes of major crises, from the global pandemic to a pending climate apocalypse, thinking about a different tomorrow may feel impossible. Designing alternative futures has become one of the central cultural tasks of the twenty-first century, and Indigenous North American writers, visual artists, curators, comedians, film makers, video game designers, and web developers are at the forefront of this movement. From pre-contact stories to contemporary science fiction, Indigenous cultures abound with visions of the future as sites of "survivance" (Gerald Vizenor). While settler colonialist imaginaries of progress have, for the longest time, strategically displaced Native cultures into a fixed, containable past, Indigenous literatures and cultures not only successfully defy these mechanisms of Othering but offer sustainable variants of futurity in powerful networks of transnational exchange.

This conference will bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars from Canada, Europe, and the United States in order to explore representations of a coming world in Indigenous fiction, drama, film, visual arts and digital media, social networks, museums, and performance spaces. We hope to initiate long-standing transnational dialogues on futurity which spite the well-trodden paths of trivializing the coming world through images of hostile machines and alien organisms. Instead, we will explore the subversive potential of ‘other futures,’ alternative versions of tomorrow that may serve as exemplary sites of empowering cultural diversity and non-Western systems of knowledge in the interest of economic, ecological, and social sustainability. We may also engage ‘other futures’ as an ironic intervention in commonplace discourses of exoticizing Indigenous cultures as either bygone or otherworldly.

Rather than suggesting coherent conclusions, we encourage our speakers to raise questions and to disperse, metaphorically speaking, into as many directions as possible, toward envisioning all kinds of different futures—from fact-based to fictional, from catastrophic to reproductive, and from darkly dystopian to vibrant and colorful.

Alleys of inquiry will include, for instance:

  • the semantics of Indigenous futurity as manifested in the representational archives of museums and digital platforms;
  • the roles of ethnicity, race, gender, class, and heritage for future identities;
  • the ways in which futurity and "temporal sovereignty" (Mark Rifkin) resonate with larger North American, European, or global representations of history;
  • the intersections and overlaps between ‘other’ futures and alternative systems of knowledge;
  • engagements of utopia or dystopia, apocalypse, and the speculative, as well as revisions of genre conventions (in poetry, fiction, drama, painting, and film) in light of futurity;
  • the seismographic, diagnostic, and interventional effects of Indigenous futurities on social and political contexts;
  • the strategies by which these modes of knowledge connect transnationally, and by which they can be communicated across cultural and national boundaries.

Confirmed Speakers (in alphabetical order):

  • heather ahtone (First Americans Museum, Oklahoma City)
  • Laura Castor (Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø)
  • Diane Glancy (em., Macalester College)
  • Ellen Marie Jensen (Sámi University of Applied Sciences, Norway)
  • Stephen Graham Jones (University of Colorado)
  • Jason Lewis (Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace & Indigenous Futures Research Center, Concordia University, Montréal)
  • Hartmut Lutz (em., University of Greifswald; Royal Society of Canada)
  • Gesa Mackenthun (University of Rostock)
  • Deborah Madsen (University of Geneva)
  • Ute Marxreiter (Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin / Ethnologisches Museum)
  • Sabine N. Meyer (University of Bonn)
  • Frank E. Newton (Obama-Institute for Transnational American Studies, JGU Mainz)
  • Randy Reinholz (San Diego State University; Native Voices at the Autry)
  • Ryan Singer (Albuquerque)
  • Gerald Vizenor (em., University of California, Berkeley)
  • Jonah Winn-Lenetsky (Institute of American Indian Arts)

Organizers: Birgit Däwes (, Kristina Sülter ( Participation is free; everyone interested is welcome. Please kindly register by May 1 by sending an e-mail including your name and academic affiliation to the organizers.

We gratefully acknowledge the generous support by the German Research Foundation / Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and Europa-Universität Flensburg.