A Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference on Doctor Who and all its Spin-offs

WHONIVERSAL APPEAL: A Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference on Doctor Who and all its Spin-offs, Cardiff University, 14-16 November 2008

Over the fold for further details and the provisional programme…
***Provisional Programme***

Note that individual days are currently open to rearrangement, and the discussion panels will not be confirmed until closer to the conference itself.

FRIDAY 14th November: Subversion/Fan Studies:

* Ross Garner:  Revisiting the Depths: Special Effects, ‘Mass Camp’ Nostalgia and Fan Readings of ‘Underworld’
* K. Faith Lawrence: Torchwood – Subverting Fandom
* Erica Moore: Constructing a Space for the Subversive: Critical Cultural Commentary in Doctor Who

Classics/History:

* Amanda Potter: Beware of Geeks (Mis)quoting Greeks
* Tony Keen: Caecilus est pater, Medicus est Dominus Tempi: Doctor Who, Romans, and the Cambridge Latin Course
* Matthew Kilburn: Who’s history? Doctor Who fan critics, historicals and pseudo-historicals.

Discussion Panel 1

SATURDAY 15th November: Masculinity/Sexual Identity:

* Sarah  Gilligan:  Fashioning Masculinity and Desire in Torchwood
* John Paul Green: The Regeneration Game: The Changing Faces of the Heroism In Doctor Who
* Blake Wilder: Captain Jack Harkness, “An Impossible Thing”: Bisexuality, Difference, and Identity

Sociology/Social Sciences:

* C. Gilroy: Lumic’s Cyber Revolution: An Allegory of Empire
* Lisa Kerrigan: “I don’t know if it’s Marxism in action or a West-End musical”. Class, Citizenship & Culture in ‘New’ Doctor Who
* Matthew Jones: Army of Ghosts: Sight, Knowledge and the Invisible Terrorist in Doctor Who
* Jessica Frey: “Whose Doctor?”

Philosophy:

* Melissa Beattie: A Kiss is Just a Kiss (Except When It’s Not): Life and Breath in the Whoniverse
* Allyson Shaffer: The Ontological Trouble of the Blinovitch Limitation Effect: Time Travel and the Self and the Self
* Katie Reing: Who’s Real: The Doctor’s Lacanian Struggle
* Anindya Raychaudhuri: “I name thee”: Political Implications of Names and Naming in Doctor Who.

Discussion Panel 2

SUNDAY 16th November (half day): Technology:

* Neil Perryman: Doctor Who and the Convergence of Media
* Peter Talbot-Jones: Dr Who and the Innovation Generation: A One-off Episode
* Charlotte Stevens: The Commercial Electronic: Doctor Who and the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop

Discussion Panel 3

***Registration is now open!***

25 thoughts on “A Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference on Doctor Who and all its Spin-offs”

  1. As someone who fell in love with the Dr.Who series(the Tom Baker incarnaiton) when it was re-run on a local channel in Detroit in the early eighties,and who has long wanted to see Wales, I icertainly wish I taught at a school that would support a trip to such a conference.Sadly, iam an adjunct at acommunity college which pays me about nine thousand dollars a year, so my projected paper on “Natural Right, Gnosticism,and The Daleks”, will have to await publication in some other forum.

  2. I would be only too happy to publish “Natural Right, Gnosticism and the Daleks”, or, indeed, any other Dalek-themed scholarship at the Virtual Stoa. It is not, of course, a refereed publication, but I doubt that is a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

  3. if anyone fancies doing the work on the following topic, I’ll happily accept second co-author credit – the Dalek is clearly a kind of wheelchair, and thus the strange design features of the Dalek can be used to explore some interesting topics in medical meta-ethics on the general subject of “what constitutes a disability?”. For a human being on Earth, if you only had one eye (which stuck 2ft out in front of your head and therefore kept bumping into things), only one arm with no fingers (and therefore couldn’t pick up two things at once or manipulate small objects) and were unable to climb a flight of stairs, then we would quite obviously consider that you were really quite seriously disabled. However, in the Dalek-designed environment of Skaro (or on Dalek spaceships), the Dalek is perfectly adapted to its environment and is actually a master-race. Therefore it can clearly be seen that disability is a socially constructed concept.

  4. However, in the Dalek-designed environment of Skaro (or on Dalek spaceships), the Dalek is perfectly adapted to its environment and is actually a master-race. Therefore it can clearly be seen that disability is a socially constructed concept.

    No it doesn’t. It shows that ability or disability is always assessed relative to the environment in which the organism lives.

    Even the most hardline objectivist about disease and disability — which I am not — takes it that disability is always environmentally relative. Some objectivists do tend to tack on some stuff about normal or natural environments in which case the Dalek example just shows that Skaro is the natural/normal environment for Daleks.

    FWIW, I have actually done work on this topic.

  5. Just to clarify:

    People who take a naturalist/objectivist line about disability take it that there is a species design that humans conform to. This is usually cashed out in terms of our evolutionary past or in terms of a statistical norm constructed out of populations.

    Disabled people on this account fail to conform to the species design.

    However, they’d all accept that it’s perfectly possible that our environment might change such that the natural species design was disadvantaged relative to some disability or other. Some would probably argue that given enough time in this changed environment the disabled state would be the normal state.

    That view is nothing like the social constructivist view.

  6. Hmm…I must confess my idea for a paper on “Natural Right, Gnoticism ,and the Daleks” was originally conceived as a spoof, in some ways gentle,and in other ways, more acerbic, of some of the stuff I have heared presented before the Politics,Literature and Film section of the APSA. In short,I had no real intention of writing it,unllike my SERIOUS ideas aboout papers on John Ford, FlanneryO’Connor,etc.
    However, on reflection, it might be a tenable enterprise. I have read a pretty amusing-INTENTIONALLY amusing-book along similar lines, by a Neo-conservative(and Straussian) Professor of Literature at Virginia, the Shakespeare scholar, Paul Cantor. The book is Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in an Age of Globalization,which deploys the methods and insights of The Master to decode Gilligans Island, Star Trek( the original sixties version, of course)The X-Files, and The Simpsons. Among other things, Cantor presses the point that the first two texts reflected the “New Frontier ” optimsm of the early sixties, while the last two are closer in spirit to the post-modern, globalist nineties.
    I have also read, and own,an even better book by, you guessed it, another Straussian, Professor Professor Eduardo Velasquez of Washington and Lee ,with the remarkable title,A Consumers Guide to the Apocalypse: Why There is no Cultural War in America and Why We Will Perish Nonetheless( Cheerful thought, that.). It is divided into two sections The first, on “Science” offers reflections-to tell the truth(and I am no Straussian) extremely penetrating reflections- on Tom Wolfes I Am Charlotte Simmons,
    Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and the music and Ideas of Coldplay. The second part ,on “Theology”(which could better have been entiitled “On Blakean Gnosticism”),provides equally cogent thoughts on Dave Matthews, Chuck Paluhniak’s Fight Club (and on Finchers film version as well),and, finally, everyones favorite Luciferian Goddess worshiper,Tori Amos.
    I fully realize that most of the people fond of this this blog-and perhaps especially its guiding spirit, may find Straussian analysis of popular culture alittle too exotic for their palates. However, I unreservedly reccomend both these books,and especially that by Eduardo Velasquez.
    In fact, Iam now feeling inspired. My next project after completing my revison of my doctoral dissertation on Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass will be entitled Twin Peaks: David Lynch, Dolly Parton,and the Outcome of Western Metaphysics( a Theological-Political Treatise)

  7. may find Straussian analysis of popular culture alittle too exotic for their palates

    Not at all – I hugely enjoyed Steve Lenzner’s Straussian reading of Miller’s Crossing. I never quite worked out what it was satirising, since the most obvious candidate was “Straussianism”, and I don’t tend to think of Straussians as a self-satirising bunch, at least not in public. But it was great fun.

  8. Among other things, Cantor presses the point that the first two texts reflected the “New Frontier” optimsm of the early sixties, while the last two are closer in spirit to the post-modern, globalist nineties.

    As the first two were made in the Sixties and the other two closer to the Nineties, is this really a startling observation?

  9. Matt, does the answer change if we recall that a) the living entity is a Kedal, which is an atrophied greenish hairy blob, more or less completely helpless when removed from its dustbin-shaped prosthesis and b) the original physical plan of the Kedal was a humanoid shape not unlike what Davros would look like if he had functioning legs? In fact, would you say that Davros was disabled?

  10. in fact, thinking about it, there’s another paper to be written about the ambiguity of the word “Dalek”. Does “Dalek” refer to:

    a) the robotic military wheelchair piloted by a Kedal
    b) a Kedal-plus-wheelchair system

    (the distinction here matters sometimes; when the Doctor pries off the lid of a Dalek, chucks out the Kedal and hides in it to join a patrol, do we say “there’s six Daleks, one of them with the doctor inside it” or “there’s five Daleks, followed by the Doctor in a Dalek costume”)

    or c) a distinct race of half-organic, half-robotic beings?

    I contend that ordinary usage by the majority of people would overwhelmingly support c), ordinary usage by Dr Who nerds perhaps less so.

  11. really? so if you went to an auction of Doctor Who stuff at Elstree Studios, you wouldn’t come away saying “I bought a Dalek” unless you’d also bought the prop they used for the green hairy thing?

  12. Yes, I’d say that I’d bought a dalek, and if I bought the TARDIS at the same auction, I wouldn’t say that I hadn’t bought the TARDIS just because I couldn’t walk into it and find something bigger on the inside with the wacky thing in the middle that goes up and down making a whooshing noise when it travels through space and time.

  13. Matt, does the answer change if we recall that a) the living entity is a Kedal, which is an atrophied greenish hairy blob, more or less completely helpless when removed from its dustbin-shaped prosthesis and b) the original physical plan of the Kedal was a humanoid shape not unlike what Davros would look like if he had functioning legs? In fact, would you say that Davros was disabled?

    Interestingly, modern humans can’t survive in most of the environments in which we humans now live without clothing. So, in some respects, the actual situation humans shares some similarities with the Kedal. Straw-dawkins might say that the Dalek is part of the extended phenotype of the Kaled.

    Depending on which objectivist/naturalist line you take Dalek/Kedal could be disabled or not disabled.

    If you take the statistical line, individual Kedal are not disabled [assuming they are statistically typical of the Kedal type]. However, if one Kaled was statistically atypical in ways that meant he couldn’t drive his Dalek then he’d be a disabled Kaled.

    If you take the evolutionary history line, there are several options:

    i) you could say that the question about whether a Dalek (Kedal) is disabled or not is a non-question. Kedal don’t have the sort of aetiology that lets you make attributions of biological functional norms in the usual way.

    or

    ii) Kaled are disabled. Kaled don’t function in the ways that their evolutionary history selected for.

    or

    iii) Kaled aren’t disabled. They function in the ways their evolutionary history selected for [and that evolutionary history included interventions by Davros].

    Depends on how you view artificial selection. I’m not sure if artificial selection is discussed much in the literature on biological functions/malfunctions. It might be and I’m just ignorant of it.

    There’s is a whole literature on the relationship between theories of artefactual functioning and theories of biological functioning. Some people arguing that the two can be subsumed under the same analysis and some arguing they cannot.

    The Dalek/Kaled case is difficult because they look like a hybrid biological/artefactual case.

    [

    None of this is my view, btw. I take a (sort of) welfarist approach to disease and disability. I’m not 100% sure how I’d handle the Kaled case on my model. I’m pretty sure I’d say they weren’t disabled but there are bits of the case that trouble me.

    ]

  14. I have been told that J.F.C Copleston,S.J, the eminent historian of philoosphy and sometime debate partner of Bertrand Russell and A.J.Ayer , liked to refer to Lady Thatcher as “the Empress Dalek”.Anyone who can cobnfirm or deny this?

  15. I think if you go back to the original story (in 1963) where the Daleks live in a city in the middle of a petrified forest which is populated by humanoids, the Kaleds certainly are disabled; they’re the way they are physically because of a nuclear war which itself was the result of the Kaleds’ militarism.

    Otherwise, Matt is of course right. There’s a site which purports to explain 2001: http://www.kubrick2001.com/ which comes to similar ideas about humans being unfitted for space. In a vacuum, a Kaled-Dalek is a lot less disabled than a human or non-mutated Kaled would be.

    Online registration for the conference seems to be discriminatory toward Daleks: I don’t see how they can type with a ray gun and a sink plunger.

    Chris is right about what constitutes a ‘Dalek’ or a ‘Tardis’ one can buy. Borders here in Cardiff (possibly like Borders elsewhere, but I can’t be certain about that) sells a lot of Dr Who related tat, and it’s all only the outside stuff. So, the Trades Descriptions Act seems to with Chris and against D2.

  16. Online registration for the conference seems to be discriminatory toward Daleks: I don’t see how they can type with a ray gun and a sink plunger.

    The recent dalek episodes demonstrated that they have no problem communicating with South Wales.

  17. Anyone who can cobnfirm or deny this?

    I haven’t heard this before. But people called Thatcher lots of things… She Who Must Be Obeyed. The Great She-Elephant. The Iron Lady. Daggers. “The eyes of Caligula, the lips of Marilyn Monroe” said François Mitterrand, to which someone on the Guardian Diary ungallantly added “the gait of an anglepoise lamp”.

  18. Dsquared, these guys might actually publish that article: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/09687599.asp

    Matt – I think dsquared is referencing (consciously or not) the social model of disability, a sociological model created by disability activists.

    “in fact, thinking about it, there’s another paper to be written about the ambiguity of the word “Dalek”. ”

    Dalek as dualist creature, or unified embodied cognition. Discuss. I really should go and work…

  19. Cian,

    Yeah, I get that.

    I’m just saying that the environmental relativity of functional fit qua Dalek doesn’t provide any evidence for that model. Although I suppose you can then tack on some stuff about the human environment being largely a social construction … etc etc

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