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Queer Futures for an Aging Planet

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jacob Jewusiak



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Duke University Press, 2023.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Associated with disaster metaphors such as floods, avalanches, tsunamis, and icebergs, older people have come to take the symbolic form of the environmental impacts they are imagined causing. Yet even as older people are posited as the cause and imaginatively take the shape of the disaster, they are also registered as especially vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures and extreme weather. While the tendency toward blame and care are not logically incompatible, this tension has resulted in a cultural narrative that fuels a deep sense of unfairness across generations. This article reads the sterility dystopia—a subgenre of science fiction where a global inability to have children results in aging populations and societal collapse—as registering the anxiety that arises at the intersection of age and the environment. Taking The Children of Men as a case study, I suggest that P. D. James’s novel expresses the demographic dread arising from the relative shift in younger and older populations—not of a world lacking children, as we might expect, but of one catastrophized by the overabundance of the old and aging. Pushing against the link between climate activism and generational futurity, I draw on queer theory to argue that intergenerational kinship in the present privileges the values of affiliation, contingency, and immediacy that can inspire a more sustainable future.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jewusiak J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Poetics Today

Year: 2023

Volume: 44

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 157–179

Print publication date: 01/06/2023

Online publication date: 01/06/2023

Acceptance date: 01/04/2022

Date deposited: 14/07/2023

ISSN (print): 0333-5372

ISSN (electronic): 1527-5507

Publisher: Duke University Press


DOI: 10.1215/03335372-10342141

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/jq22-f658


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