Editors: Anders Hultqvist, Dave Beech, Valérie Pihet

Call for contributions

This issue of PARSE addresses arts practice as a mode of critical action in probing alternative futures and possible worlds. The term ”speculation” is connected to “specular” (look out), “specula” (watchtower) and ”specio” (look at). In French the term can also suggest the act of looking for signs of presence not already there. The usefulness of the term speculation is contested. Speculation can be understood as merely spectating, reduced to an act of ”seeing,” which has in many quarters been dismissed as it tends to de-emphasize practice. Could ”speculation” in artistic practices on the contrary be regarded as resuscitating, revitalising, and redefining what observation / seeing can mean, what seeing’s agency can be? Could the future-oriented projections of speculation also serve as modes of criticality, as a testing of ways to resist the probable, and to reveal, re-think, re-create and re-compose all the possibilities contained within each situation?

The term ”speculation” has also been suspect for its strong correlation with the logic of financial markets, the valorisation of unbridled risk, and the dynamics of capital within which arts and design practices are deeply embedded. The future-oriented projections of speculation may be exercises in profit-seeking; they may be idealistically alluring escapisms or refusals of limitation.

Speculation and speculative reasoning have been largely disqualified in the history of philosophy. They have been understood as modes of pure theory and abstraction disconnected from any kind of relation to the real. However, Isabelle Stengers, Didier Debaise, Elisabeth Grosz, and Donna Haraway, drawing upon the work of amongst others William James and Alfred North Whitehead, have re-activated the word “speculative” and notions such as “speculative gesture,” “speculative narration,” and ”speculative fabulation”.

Speculation to them is related to the creation of possibilities, rather than to the abstract logic of probabilities. Speculation, they argue, can transform the comprehension of the present and simultaneously open up pathways to otherwise unthinkable futures. For example, Harraway engages us in thinking the power of narrations or ”speculative fabulation” as acts of fabrication, which are able to have productive effects on the real. Speculative narration makes the bet that the real can be transformed depending on how we tell it, taking into account the situation of its own production and diffusion, resisting dualisms of true/false, real/fiction or subjectivity/objectivity.

For this issue of PARSE Journal, we welcome contributions from all disciplines on the theme of speculation. This issue also invites us to think around the notion of distributed cognition, through which we can see, among other things, that the arts, sciences and diverse other disciplines complement each other in more profound ways than we generally acknowledge. The speculative issue proposes that all the physical and conceptual tools, and artefacts that we have access to, can be seen as parts of the same consciousness, of our shared cognitive toolbox, by which we need to be able to navigate the futures. Among the questions that contributors may wish to consider are:

  • How can the objects of art unfold and generate their own experimental ontologies when speculating about and probing emerging futures?
  • What is the performative relationship between concepts and objects /materiality?
  • What is the democratic potential or danger of speculative aesthetic objects in the forming of publics?
  • How does speculative experimentation engage with time, with the relationship between the now and the future, between real politics and utopianism?
  • How is the speculative experiment situated and how is it blind to its own position and narrative tropes, metaphors, metonyms, and diegesis?
  • How is speculation entangled in emancipation as well as subjugation?
  • How are conceptual pairs like emergence/linearity, immanence/transcendence, reflexivity/objectivism and distributed cognition/autonomous will, enacted in speculative narrations?


Submission of abstracts to this issue is closed. The deadline for full articles is March 3, 2016. Proposals should be sent to editor Anders Hultqvist: anders.hultqvist@hsm.gu.se