How it all ends? Apocalypse narratives and the lack of civic futures

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 1:30am to 4:00pm

This is a past event.

Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism (ASC), 207
3502 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089

The late great folklorist Alan Dundes once described the U.S. as a “future-oriented society.” The future can often be a motivation for trying to make things better, to improve the lives of our descendants, and to bring increased happiness and prosperity. The future is, for many people, a shared civic touchstone, allowing diverse voices to join in a common discourse implying responsibility, ethics and hope.

Yet what of those narratives that propose an absence of a civic future?  Stories of the end of the world are important parts of many peoples’ worldviews and can imply very different ways of engaging with our present condition. The apocalypse is not only religious, but also appears in many Hollywood films, futuristic novels, survivalist manifestos, worst-case environmental scenarios, and more. Whether stemming from a deity, environmental collapse, extra-terrestrials, zombies or nuclear war (or some combination thereof), narratives of the “End of the World” continue to play strong roles in our contemporary culture.

How, then, to better understand these radically different conceptions of the future?

The Civics and Social Media group (CASM), with support from the Office of the Provost Collaboration Fund, is sponsoring a symposium to bring together a diverse group of scholars throughout the U.S. who are working on the “End of the World” narratives in order to help explore and better understand the roles these outlooks play in our past, present, and future worlds.

We invite members of the community (including students, faculty and the general public) to join our discussion.


  • Diane Winston, Chair in Media & Religion, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California
  • Tok Thompson, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Communications, University of Southern California


  • Michael du Plessis, Associate Professor in Comparative Literature, University of Southern California
  • Daniel Wojcik, Professor, English and Folklore Studies, University of Oregon
  • Emma Bloomfield, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Kevin Whitesides, ABD, Religious Studies, UC Santa Barbara
  • Sarah McFarland Taylor, Associate Professor of Religion, Northwestern University
  • Matthew A. Sutton, Professor of History, Washington State University

This event is organized by Civic Paths and the CASM Group with support from the Office of the Provost Collaboration Fund.

Refreshments will be served on a first come/first served basis. RSVP requested. 

RSVP here.


“Apocalypse.” Photo by: John Wells, used under creative commons license

Event Type

Lecture / Talk / Workshop, Conference/Symposia, Free Food


Students, Alumni, Faculty/Staff


University Park Campus



RSVP requested.

Office of Research, Dornsife Office of Communication, Annenberg Special Events
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