CFP: Fictions of Reproduction

An Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference at the University of California, Berkeley
February 24-25, 2023
Stichtag: 31.12.2022

In a 1926 article for the Berliner Tageblatt, the journalist Gabriele Tergit wrote of a court case in which four people were charged with violating the Weimar Republic’s laws prohibiting abortion. She called her story “A Modern Gretchen Tragedy”—an invocation of Goethe’s heroine Margarete, incarcerated for infanticide following an unwanted pregnancy. Tergit’s piece, of chilling relevance in our current moment, is a reminder that cultural discourse on controlling reproduction is inextricable from fictional traditions.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, and the crop of authoritarian fictions it has generated on the nature of personhood and reproduction, we thus find ourselves drawn to asking questions about reproduction—human and not—in works of print and audiovisual fiction produced, set in, or somehow involving the German-speaking world. Reproduction, and the control thereof, are particularly salient given Germany’s past as a fascist and colonial power, its (contested) present as a nation of migrants, and its status as a site of vehement opposition to nuclear energy. The anxieties that surround reproduction—about race, national identity, citizenship, fertility, and health—are relevant to all these discourses.

In addition, we are interested in narratives of non-biological reproduction in the relationship of artwork to automation. As the creator-effacing power of artificial intelligence upholds and shatters existing categories of genesis, we invite submissions that negotiate the nature of artistic (re)production, and help to continue a conversation as old as any medium itself.

We welcome submissions from a variety of fields, not limited to, but including, literary studies, modern languages, history, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, film & media studies, gender studies, science and technology studies, and all area studies. We will accept abstracts in English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese; conference papers should be in English or German. Submissions should be sent by DECEMBER 31, 2022 to Ambika Athreya (, Verena Wolf ( or Elise Volkmann (

Possible suggestions for inquiry include, but certainly can (and are encouraged to!) deviate from:

  • How do narrative techniques control the agency of protagonists involved in a birth?
  • How were reproductive technologies/interventions portrayed in literature, cinema and other media?
  • In what ways does reproduction feature in utopian/dystopian fictions, especially ones addressing climate and environmental change?
  • What are literary negotiations regarding the ambit of the state in private life, particularly reproductive decisions?
  • How do stories of climate change relate to ideas of aberration and deformity in reproduction?
  • How was Chernobyl reflected in German narratives of the human body? More generally, how have links between radioactivity and reproductive health been reflected in narratives of energy?
  • How are metaphors of reproduction and fertility used in the poetics of nation-building?
  • How did language from early exploratory/natural scientific writing migrate into literary depictions of reproductive capacities?
  • How did reproduction feature in German (and other) „colonial fantasies“?
  • How does the language of technical or artistic reproduction align (or not) with that of biological reproduction?
  • How do new technologies challenge notions of artistic creativity and “offspring”?