Apocalypse: Imagining the End

Toxic. A Man in a Gas Mask in the Smoke
Fernando Cortés (Meco,Spain).

The Apocalypse Project
Surviving the Destruction of Humanity

The Project
The Apocalypse Project was conceived in the run up to 2012 and the attendant speculation generated by those promoting the end of the world. Starting out with the Christian concept of the ‘Apocalypse’ and including the Hindu notions of the Kali Yuga, visions of destruction and fantasies of the ‘end times’ have a long history. Delegates attending the Apocalypse conferences have discussed these and traced the development of this subject matter from its religious and theoretical roots through to the present day with the 21st century concept of Millenarianism and all that this implies. It has been particularly noted that many aspects of public media, especially in the West, have been suffused with images of the end times, or even the end of humanity and afterward, from the zombie apocalypse (the AMC series The Walking Dead) to life after the collapse of civilization (the NBC series Revolution). Several popular television series and video games (Deep Earth Bunker) are now based on preparing for and surviving the end of the world. Once a fringe activity, ‘survivalism’ has gone mainstream, and a growing industry supplies ‘doomsday preppers’ with all they need to survive the post-apocalyptic chaos. In similar fashion there have been many literary offerings, some very realistic, others verging on the surreal, but all putting forward apocalyptic scenarios for discussion.

With the uneventful passing of 2012 together with the predictions of Nostradamus and the Mayans, the project has now entered a new phase. There is still the fascination with zombies and end times situations but now we are also able to recognize apocalyptic situations in the world around us, whether disease, famine or war, and whether natural or man-made. Additionally, we start to recognize other situations such as climate change, migration, pollution, which have the potential to bring an Apocalypse upon mankind and threaten the survival of humanity. The Apocalypse then is more than a catastrophic end, more than a revelation and a possible new beginning. It is dynamic and evolving and as this happens it crosses and embraces disciplines, continents, cultures and languages.

One purpose of this project is to explore these examples and ideas by situating them in context — for example, psychological, historical, literary, cultural, political, and economic. The second aim of the project is to examine today’s widespread fascination with apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic thought, and to understand its rising appeal across broad sections of contemporary society around the world, and with this to determine the practical implications of an apocalypse, together with ideas on how to disseminate and use the information gained. To this end, the focus has shifted more to the practical rather than theoretical aspects of apocalypse. In so doing it is hoped that we can find answers to questions such as: Why do the apocalypse and other aspects of millenarianism matter? What is at stake if apocalyptic/millenarian visions are embraced, or discredited? What strategies can avoid the destruction of humanity envisaged in apocalyptic visions? What are the consequences of ignoring them? Is the end of the world really as ‘final’ as it sounds?

The Issues
With this in mind the project leaders are seeking expressions of interest for presentations, papers, performances, reports, work-in-progress, workshops, seminars, speakers and pre-formed panels on issues related to (but not limited to) the following themes:

  • Decline, Collapse, Decay,
  • Survivalism and Doomsday Preppers
  • Crisis management
  • Theorising the end of history and human destiny
  • Revolution
  • Theories of Social Change
  • Peak Oil, Resource Depletion, Global Warming, Economic Collapse
  • Environmental Destruction: climate change, resource depletion,
    drought, deforestation, air and water pollution, etc.
  • Disease – Ebola, SARS etc., Mass Death
  • Sex and Gender at the End of Time
  • Ironic and/or Anti-Apocalyptic Thinking
  • Utopia and Dystopia
  • Intentional Communities as Communities of the End Times
  • Selling the Apocalypse, Commodifying Disaster, and Marketing the End Times
  • Death Tourism and Disaster Capitalism
  • The Age of Terror
  • Post- Apocalyptic conditions
  • Positive aspects of an Apocalypse, including change and transformation.
  • Visions of a world without/beyond humanity
  • (Re)considering the finality of ‘the end of the world’