If something isn’t real, or true – if it’s (whisper it) fake – then, other than to debunk it, it can sometimes be hard to see why you should study it. By focusing on the histories of the future, this paper will show how the humanities, and in particular the history of science, can engage with the unreal, the fictional and the imaginary. By doing this, we will show how the idea of ‘expertise’ and the figure of the ‘expert’ can be interpreted more broadly, and indicate ways in which non-historians can influence the structure and shape of academic histories. We will begin by exploring these ideas in relation to science fiction, the nature of fictional realities and the impact of the imaginary on academic disciplines, and we will end (we hope) with a game in which players can reconstruct – and sometimes redirect – the history of the 20th century.
About the speaker
Amanda Rees is based at the Sociology Dept, University of York, where she currently leads the AHRC funded project ‘Unsettling Scientific Stories: Expertise, Narrative and Future Histories - http://unsettlingscientificstories.co.uk/ - which is charting the ways in which the sciences were used to anticipate the future during the course of the 20th century, and how those futures changed over time.