Julien Wacquez: Research & CV

The Horizon of Planetary Possibilities. Dynamics and Shifting Boundaries between Science and Science Fiction.

Research Area 1 – Displacements, “Dépaysements” and Discrepancies: People, Knowledge and Practices

Contact: julien.wacquez@cefres.cz

My PhD deals with our ways of understanding the affinities between science-fiction narratives and scientific activity. Some of such narratives tend to pose problems that need to be solved by scientific activity and that researchers, in some disciplinary fields, actually recourse to sci-fi to produce knowledge or to elaborate new working hypothesis. I am therefore interested in the way sci-fi narratives fill in scientists.

My PhD relies on various field works I have conducted among both scientists and sci-fi professionals (writers, publishers, critics) to understand what writing techniques and assessment criteria are deemed to be relevant, as well as the ways to translate scientific concepts into fiction ideas and fiction ideas into research hypothesis.

In this work, the notion of likelihood turns out to be a major differenciating operator. Even though sci-fi narratives mention a priori impossible phenomena, the pleasure of reading arises when such phenomena seem likely (“it may be”, “what if”). Only when passing the test of likelihood can a sci-fi narrative convince researchers of the relevance of its usability in a scientific investigation. Such test also enables—at least in part—to categorize narratives according to various sci-fi subgenres (such as hard science, cyberpunk, space opera, social science fiction, or slipstream and so forth).

In Prague I will deal with the way the various subgenres of Czech sci-fi have managed to cross US and French borders. It seems that the various conceptions of likelihood which can be identified in such subgenres do not meet with the same success from one country to the other. My aim is to lead a comparative study of three national contexts and of the ways these various forms of likelihood are expressed, assessed and exchanged. What are the strategies, methods, translation networks linking these three countries? Why do sci-fi actors from these three countries succeed in or fail to translate or have translated their texts? Why do some subgenres prevail here rather than there? What conception of likelihood is required from a sci-fi narrative to be able to cross such or such border?



2018-19: Visiting Fellow, CEFRES, French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic

2017-18: Visiting Fellow, CEFRES, French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic

2015-16: Visiting Scholar, Harvard University, Department of Sociology, Massachusetts, United States

2014-15: Bourse d’Immersion, Musée du quai Branly, Département de Recherche et d’Enseignement & Labex Créations, Arts et Patrimoine, Paris, France. Intitulé du rapport : Faire dire aux objets. Images de l’activité connaissante et mise en scène dialogique du savoir par le service de médiation du musée du quai Branly.

2012-19: PhD studies in Sociology at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris) under the supervision of Jean-Louis Fabiani. Thesis title: La Grammaire de la Vraisemblance : l’attachement à la réalité des praticiens de la science-fiction. Disciplines: Sociology of knowledge, sociology of sciences, sociology of writing, sociology of literature, ethnomethodology

2011 : Master Research in Sociology at EHESS under the supervision of Sylvie Tissot. Thesis title: Faire la mixité sociale dans le grand ensemble de Meaux : la constitution d’un problème public

Coordination of Research

2018 (May): Organization of a workshop:
TopicDebating the Norms of Scientific Writing
Partner institutions: CEFRES (Prague, Czech Republic), EHESS (Paris, France) and Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague, Czech Republic)
Keynote speakersJan Balon (Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences); Jean-Louis Fabiani (EHESS, CEU); John Holmwood (University of Nottingham)
Publications: Special edition of the Theory of Science

Conference Seminars

  • 2019 (June) “The Scientific Existence of the Dyson Sphere,” International Conference Paradise on Fire, organized by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), University of California, Davis.
  • 2019 (June) “How Does Science Fiction Literature Shape Scientific Imagination?” International Conference Anthropology Off Earth, organized by Périg Pitrou (CNRS – LAS), Régis Ferrière (ENS – University of Arizona), Istvan Praet (University of Roehampton, London), Joffrey Becker (PSL) & Elsa De Smet (PSL), Collège de France & Observatoire de Paris, Paris, France.
  • 2019 (April) “Is ‘Hard Science Fiction’ a Limit to the Concept of Literary Field?” Epistemological Seminar, CEFRES, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • 2018 (Aug.) “The Use of Fiction Within Science: The Case Study of the Dyson Sphere”, Conclusive Seminar, CEFRES, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • 2018 (May) “The Ways of Science Fiction in the Study of the Anthropocene,” Workshop Debating the Norms of Scientific Writing, FLU, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • 2018 : “The Implementation of Fiction Within Science: The Case Study of the Dyson Sphere”, Conclusive Seminar, CEFRES (Prague, Czech Republic)
  • 2017: “A New Approach to the Concept of ‘Translation’ and the Notion of ‘Literary Inscription.’ From Linguistics to the Actor-Network Theory” Epistemological Seminar, CEFRES (Prague, Czech Republic)
  • 2016: “Comment la science-fiction affecte-t-elle l’activité scientifique ? L’intervention de la sphère de Dyson dans une controverse en astrophysique autour de l’étoile KIC 8462852” – International conference Stella Incognita, Bordeaux University
  • 2016: “Elements for a Sociology of Credibility: How to Use Knowledge in Science Fiction Stories?” – Culture and Social Analysis Workshop, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
  • 2015: “Faire dire aux objets. Images de l’activité connaissante et mise en scène dialogique du savoir par le service de la médiation culturelle du musée du quai Branly” – Workshop Art et performance – Musée du quai Branly (Paris, France)
  • 2014: “‘C’est pas ça le futur’ : œuvre de science-fiction vécue par un comité éditorial” – Workshop Comment augmenter nos réalités ? – Musée du quai Branly (Paris, France)

Teaching Experience

  • ‘The Fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality:’ Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Science Fiction Literature, Charles University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • Digital Sociology. In collaboration with Dino Numerato. Charles University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • 2017-18: Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, course: Knowledge Trouble. Introduction to the sociology of science and the sociology of intellectuals, in cooperation with  Dan Cirjan (PhD at CEU) (24 hours)
  • 2014-2017: Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle University, course:  The Sociology of Writing (40 hours)
  • 2013-2014: Paris 12 University, course: Introduction to Sociology (54 hours)
  • 2012-2013: Paris 13 University & Institut Régional du Travail Social, course: Introduction to Sociology (45 hours)

Prizes & Awards

  • 2018: Recipient of the Fellowship of 8/9 of the EHESS Endowment Fund (topic: writing)
  • 2014: Recipient of the PhD Fellowship (Région Île-de-France Mobi’Doc)


Coordination of the Scientific Review 
  • In prep, 2019  Review Socio, number 13, topic: “Science et Science-Fiction”, in cooperation with Stéphane Dufoix (SciencePo, Paris)
Scientific Articles
  • [upcoming 2020] « La Défamiliarisation du monde : trois exemples de ‘fiction climatique’ française », Modern Language Notes, Johns Hopkins University Press (with Chiara Mengozzi, Charles University).
  • 2019 (November), « ‘Welcome to the real world:’ Champ libre à la science-fiction », Socio, issue 13.
  • 2019 (November), « Les Réalismes de L’Anneau-Monde », Socio, issue 13.
  • 2019 (May), « La ‘Faillite de l’imagination’. De l’existence scientifique de la sphère de Dyson », Gradhiva, issue 29.
  • 2019 (March), « La Sphère de Dyson : objet de fiction et de science », Revue de la BNF, issue 58.
  •  09/18:  Revue de la BNF, “L’Opérationnalisation de la fiction dans la science : une approche par cas”, special edition “Les Styles de la Science”, number 58, led by Marie Boissière, Joëlle Le Marec & Alain Carou
  • 05/18:  Revue Gradhiva, “La ‘Faillite de l’imagination’. De l’existence scientifique de la sphère de Dyson”, edition “Un Monde peut en cacher un autre”, led by Emmanuel Grimaud (CNRS) & Pierre Déléage (CNRS)

Other Activities

  • 2016: Founder and editor-in-chief of the bilingual magazine Blind SpotAngle Mort. The magazine aims at publishing unpublished sci-fi texts from writers and researchers on transversal topics so to better understand the ways sci-fi narratives make us reappraise knowledge production through fiction. The magazine is supervised by a scientific committee and a reading committee comprised with experts on sci-fi, bibliographers, writers, publishers and translators
    Scientific Committee: Peter Galison (Harvard University), Stefan Helmreich (MIT), José Halloy (Paris Diderot), Pierre Lagrange (EHESS), Cyprien Tasset (EHESS), Marika Moïsseeff (Collège de France), Joffrey Becker (LAS)
    Funding from the French Embassy in the United States (1000 USD)
Non-scientific Publication 
  • 2016: “La Commune Humanité”, science fiction story published in the French Magazine Bazaar Maniac #7