Call for Papers: Theology and Dystopia

Call for Abstracts: Theology and Dystopia 

Edited by Scott Donahue-Martens and Brandon Simonson

From the Greek dus- (“bad”) and topos (“place”), dystopia as a genre is often characterized by its use of post-apocalyptic and totalitarian imagery. Dystopia stands in contrast with its counterpart utopia, an equally far-off yet disparately ideal world. Both dystopian and utopian worlds abound with theological meaning, especially where they can offer insight into real-world human experience, belief, practice, and society.

The editors invite abstracts for chapters on topics at the intersection of theology and dystopia in what will be the first edited volume dedicated to the assay of these topics, analyzing the dystopia genre and dystopian works using established methods and theory from the academic disciplines of Religious Studies and Theology. While intersections might include dystopian works that correlate with current or past events, proposals need not be limited to any particular form of dystopia or a single timeframe. Proposals might consider individual works, authors, or the dystopia genre itself. As they engage with diverse mediums featuring dystopia—such as, for example, books, television shows, films, and video games—chapters in this edited volume will also engage the genre from various established theological positions and methods—such as, for example, David Tracy’s critical correlation, liberation theology, or process theology.

While dystopia provides a concrete category for investigation, its use across various forms of fiction allows for multiple avenues of analysis and interaction with theology. We might ask, for example, do dystopian works follow the essentialist trope where good and evil in fantasy works are largely interpreted in binary terms? Further, how do ideologies like racism, sexism, colonialism, and nativism relate to theology in the dystopia genre? While possible topics for chapters are wide-ranging in scope, general categories and sample topics appear below, though these examples are generative and not restrictive. 

Methodologies and Approaches: larger-scale engagements with the concepts of theology and dystopia. Topics might include:

  • Dystopia as a generic category that transverses genres
  • The relationship between apocalyptic religious literature and the dystopia genre
  • Religious and dystopian identity formation and de-formation
  • Pushing back against uniformity, non-Christian approaches to theology and dystopia
  • The roles of the reader, viewer, and gamer: how modes of dystopia impact reception
  • Worldview formation, relationships between dystopia, society, and theology
  • Catharsis or change, the impact of dystopia on life and society
  • The roles of faith, religion, and/or belief in dystopian or post-apocalyptic worlds
  • Human or divine, dystopian and Deus ex Machina

Themes: theological explorations of major themes in dystopia such as survival, control, destruction, liberation, justice, salvation, etc. Topics might include:

  • Liberation theology and the oppressive societies of dystopia 
  • Escape or embrace, soteriology, and dystopia 
  • Whiteness of dystopia
  • Ecological and Nuclear disaster
  • Ethics, morality, and justice 
  • Individualism and communalism 
  • What does it mean to be human in the age of technology
  • Class, race, gender, or colonial status in conversation with survival, control, or liberation
  • Power and authority 

Works: focused theological and religious analyses of specific works. Topics might include:

  • Womanism in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale 
  • The Hunger Games and revolution 
  • Essentialism in Divergent
  • Healthcare and Elysium (movie) 
  • The loss of innocence in The Village (movie)
  • AI and the Matrix (movie)
  • Violence and Fallout (video game)
  • Bioshock (video game) and the relationship between Utopia and Dystopia 
  • Actual or real in virtual reality (Ready Player One)

The call for chapters ends February 1st, 2021. Authors will be notified of accepted proposals on March 1st, 2021. Authors will submit of accepted chapters by July 15th, 2021. Final chapters with revisions will be due October 15th, 2021.

The editors gladly invite submissions on, but not limited to, these topics for a volume on theology and dystopia, to be published in the Theology and Popular Culture book series. Interested authors should send chapter abstracts of 300-700 words, along with a CV or resume, to

Scott Donahue-Martens is a Ph.D. student at Boston University School of Theology. He studies the narrative phenomenology of Paul Ricoeur, especially as it relates to homiletics and hermeneutics. He holds a Master of Sacred Theology from Boston University School of Theology and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Brandon Simonson holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Boston University. Dr. Simonson is currently an Instructor of Biblical Studies at Boston University School of Theology. He frequently employs popular culture, music, and literature in his undergraduate Religious Studies pedagogy.


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