Fear: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
On a daily basis, alarmist news headlines trumpet details of impending doom and unfolding disasters. There are near-constant warnings about high-profile threats such as climate change, international terrorism, the rise of the far right, weapons of mass destruction, financial crisis, pandemics, hospital acquired infections, human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. The more banal aspects of existence also appear fraught with danger: sun exposure, breastfeeding, fitness, screen time… the list goes on. Everything from the air we breathe (diesel particulates) to the foods we eat (carcinogenic, genetically modified) may be viewed with suspicion. But what purpose does this culture of fear actually serve?
As we venture further into the 21st Century, a sense of fear and feelings of anxiousness seem to betray a widespread public sense of moral uncertainty, powerlessness, helplessness, hopelessness and resignation. In particularly challenging times, a well-rehearsed, quickly recognisable and loudly proclaimed ‘narrative of fear’ can offer a paradoxically reassuring means of understanding and responding to threat, whether real or imagined. The culture of fear does not arise independently; it is born of multiple social, cultural, religious and historical influences and those same influences determine how individuals respond to fear and anxiety.
This inclusive interdisciplinary conference aims to interrogate those influences and responses, and consider the agendas which may be driving a culture of fear. Are we living in end times? Are we right to be concerned? Or does fear have a strategic purpose? Are the biological advantages of fear (fight or flight) being undermined by cynical marketing ploys (buy rape alarms, padlocks, guns), political imperatives (leave the EU, build a wall, send them home) or ideological stances (misogyny, racism, religious hatred)? Does living in a perpetually heightened state of fear make action impossible? Where will it all end?
Against this backdrop, we will seek to explore the subject of fear from the full range of disciplinary, professional, vocational, practitioner and social perspectives with a view to forming a publication to engender further collaboration and discussion. The aim is to generate an inclusive dialogue involving researchers, practitioners, artists, activists, legal professionals, marketers, clinicians, social workers, volunteers, journalists, performers, policy makers and others with an interest in the field. Topics for discussion include, but are not restricted to:
- The politics and economics of fear: the far right/loony left; neoliberalism; corruption; espionage; Brexit; financial crisis; austerity
- Fear and violence: terrorism; serial killers; murder; assault; GBH; war; civil war, social unrest; protest; WMD; nuclear proliferation; assault; dirty bombs; biological weapons; school shooters; gun control
- Fear, society and culture: chavs/hillbillies/hoodies/punks/goths; immigrants/asylum seekers; cults; satanic ritual; permissive vs. authoritarian society; institutional racism/sexism/ableism/religious hatred; power; religion; history
- Fear, commerce and control: big business; fat cats; teflon banks and banking systems; Anonymous; marketing; cartels; monopolies; the Illuminati
- Fear and the body: contagion; vaccines; sexuality; mental illness; trauma; body modifications
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