Power imbalance. Prisons. Police. Pollution. Public service that ignores ‘public’ and ‘servitude’. Policies that Punish the Poor, Peculiar or not-Pale. Persecution of Palestinians. Pre-occupation with autistic tech-bro cartoon-tycoons. Pipe-line Problems for oil – thanks Putin – and fresh Prototypes of Power. Plot twists and turns Pervade — neuro, spatial, (new) mobilities, creative — but theories turn out to be Pontifications un-fit for Purpose. Poverty – of imagination. Have harmful forms of ‘leadership’ Perpetuated our Problems with a capital P? How can Perspectives by the a-typical and disenfranchised animate new Path-ways beyond the Poly- and Perma- crises, including in how we understand and do leadership?
Re-Imagining Leadership with Neuro-Futurism: An A-Z Towards Collective Liberation (Kai Syng Tan, Palgrave Macmillan 2024) is a rip-roaring manifesto that introduces ‘neuro-futurism’ as a multi-faceted toolkit, and re-claims ways to think about and do ‘leadership’ as a diversified, beyond-colonial, neuro-queered and (co-)creative change- and future-making practice. Colliding mobilities, neuro-queering, the arts and culture, critical leadership studies, social justice, creative pedagogy, futurity and Daoist cosmology for the first time, the short, sweet and spicy hand-book celebrates the Dangerous, Demeaning and Dirty labour of Deviant/Defiant culture-workers often side-lined in (leadership) scholarship across 26 break-neck, fist-stomping chapters and 40 original images and maps. Instead of a trait or talent centred around individuals, hierarchy, organisations, positions, genes or luck, this book admonishes white-supremacist-cis-het-neuro-normative-capitalist-patriarchal forms of power and knowledge. Punchy, punching up and pulling no punches, and riffing on how ‘leadership’ originally refers to travelling, endurance and guidance, Re-Imagining Leadership with Neurop-Futurism is a call to arms, feet, sole-soul, to co-create tables/houses/worlds that profit (neuro-)divergent People, Planet, Poetry and Play. The deadline is 2050, so we’re running out of time. Are you ready for an extra-ordinary adventure?
Tan artfully brings together seemingly disparate phenomena in a clever and compelling maneuver, urging the reader to consider their own assumptions and prejudices, while encouraging a re-learning and call-to-action for creative, innovative, and (neuro)divergent practices for change. The book is meant to disrupt and energize – asking for change and urging us to question assumptions and poor habits we find ourselves easily dismissing under excuses of institutional frameworks. It questions academic agency and integrity, urging to confront difference and diversity, and using the artistic and creative as one mechanism to push for better leadership in this space. This is bold and inspiring – and I cannot wait to use this as an exemplar in my own methods and teaching.Artist-Geographer Dr Kaya Barry
Astonishing, daring, pioneering, and much, much needed. At once inspirational, creative, subversive, and at times hilarious, Tan provides multiple strategies to disrupt and reclaim ideas and spaces about leadership.Philosopher-Psychiatrist Dr Mohammed Abouelleil Rashed
I am seeking to publish this book as an open access publication. This will widen and deepen the book’s reach, and is in line with the mobilities justice and Neuro-Futurism. The online version can embed hyperlinks. Readers can thus undertake yet other non-linear paths of travelling to further re- and dis-order the book. If you are keen to support please get in touch.
My first monograph, Re-Imagining Leadership with Neuro-Futurism: An A-Z Towards Collective Liberation (hereafter Re-Imagining Leadership) will be published by Springer Nature/Palgrave Macmillan circa Spring 2024. This book introduces ‘Neuro-futurising Leadership’ as a heuristic praxis for individuals, collectives and institutions to re-imagine a better future, by re-configuring arts and cultural interventions, as well as aspects of neurodivergence (referring to ‘atypical’ cognitive and communicative processes like dyslexia, which 15% of humans embody) as a mobile, creative leadership strategy.
My book will be part of the Studies in Mobilities, Literature, and Culture series (editors: Aguiar Marian, Mathieson Charlotte, Pearce Lynne), the inaugural publication for which I wrote a chapter Running (in) Your City, which has been praised as ‘exciting’). Building on efforts within mobilities research to leverage ‘utopia’ as a critical, creative tool (Büscher, Southern, and O Keefe 2017)
despite due to how ‘murky’ the future seems (Urry 2016), and drawing on my research and practice including a film that proposed a ‘neurofuturistic 2050‘, the book seeks to catalyse further acts of ‘courage and creativity’ (Büscher 2020). Being dyslexic, books have not been a good fit for my expressions. The book will be my first — but not last — monograph. Colliding scholarship, practice and lived experience in mobilities, leadership, neurodiversity and the arts and culture through an anti-colonialist and anti-racist framework for the first time, Re-Imagining Leadership is a strong response to UNESCO’s call in Pathways to 2050 and Beyond to ‘repair injustices’ by prioritising ‘respect for life, human dignity and cultural diversity’ through ‘care, reciprocity, and solidarity’ (2021). This book is distinct from, but in (hyper)active conversation with two other books I am working on (Routledge circa 2025; World Scientific circa 2027).
The proposal and final draft was praised by the reviewers:
The book tackles the myriad of concerns around injustices, mobility, creativity, and community, with a spotlight on what neurodiversity brings to the table. The book takes the reader on a whirlwind tour around these issues, through an alphabetically-structured series of chapters that lead readers through the relations across seemingly disparate phenomena. This is carefully and thoughtfully done – the execution of what might first appear disorganized purposefully forces the reader to upend their assumptions about academic structure, and allows for Kai Syng Tan to build momentum and unravel this self-described ‘manifesto’ for the reader. This ‘unconventional’ structure is part of the book’s clever maneuver – it urges the (academic) reader to consider their own assumptions and prejudices about what a book-length project should look like and do, and carefully encourages a re-learning and call-to-action for creative, innovative, and diverse practices to have space to breathe in the academy (and beyond). It will ruffle feathers of (perhaps mostly neurotypical) scholars due to its structure and tone of writing, but that is, I think, part of the point. It is meant to disrupt and energize – asking for change […] Engagement with literature across disciplines and topics is ambitious and impressive, and there are plenty of avenues for further readings in the footnote-commentary too. […] By mid-way through the book, the reflection and examples drawn from her own work really start to shine through as illustrative of some of the concepts and resistances that are set up earlier in the book. I believe the book will appeal to a broad audience, and Kai Syng Tan is well connected and respected scholar across mobilities, creative arts, social sciences, and more – with an international network of colleagues who I know will engage with the book in their research and teaching. It will also feed out into other disciplines that are engaged with disability studies, neurodiversity, postcolonial/decolonial scholarship, and more, so I do imagine the initial readership and engagement with the text will be quite significant.FINAL REVIEWER
It has a bold and innovative approach to the entanglements and intersections of mobilities, creative practice, and neurodiversity to tackle and provoke global challenges ahead. The book is a ‘creative intervention’ but also to be used as a ‘handbook’ or ‘guidebook’ for those working at the intersection of mobilities and creative arts, as well as many adjacent and overlapping fields of social sciences and humanities. With playful yet direct language and provocations, this book will have a great impact and contribution on existing mobilities and creative arts scholarship will be welcomed by many readers.REVIEWER OF PROPOSAL
FULL FEEDBACK BY FINAL REVIEWER
‘Neuro-futurising Leadership’ tackles the myriad of concerns around injustices, mobility, creativity, and community, with a spotlight on what neurodiversity brings to the table. The book’s commentary on neurodiversity and ability / disability, the foregrounding of the neglect of scholarship that takes neurodiversity seriously as a mode of interacting with the world, and the potential for neurodiverse creatives, scholars, activists – and their communities – to contribute to the growth of research on artistic methods, community engagement, resistance, and mobility justice projects.
The book takes the reader on a whirlwind tour around these issues, through an alphabetically-structured series of chapters that lead readers through the relations across seemingly disparate phenomena. This is carefully and thoughtfully done – the execution of what might first appear disorganized purposefully forces the reader to upend their assumptions about academic structure, and allows for Kai Syng Tan to build momentum and unravel this self-described ‘manifesto’ for the reader. This ‘unconventional’ structure is part of the book’s clever maneuver – it urges the (academic) reader to consider their own assumptions and prejudices about what a book-length project should look like and do, and carefully encourages a re-learning and call-to-action for creative, innovative, and diverse practices to have space to breathe in the academy (and beyond). It will ruffle feathers of (perhaps mostly neurotypical) scholars due to its structure and tone of writing, but that is, I think, part of the point. It is meant to disrupt and energize – asking for change and urging us to question scholarly assumptions and poor habits we find ourselves easily dismissing under excuses of institutional frameworks. It questions academic agency and integrity, urging to confront difference and diversity, and using the artistic and creative as one mechanism to push for better leadership in this space. As an artist and a geographer reading this, who has always struggled with meeting academic standards of structure and clarity in my own writing, this is bold and inspiring – and I cannot wait to use this as an exemplar in my own methods and teaching – which, I hope, is exactly the kind of inspiration and action that the author has strived for.
Content-wise, the book draws on contemporary issues and recent worldly events, but also is attentive to foundational texts and theories too. Engagement with literature across disciplines and topics is ambitious and impressive, and there are plenty of avenues for further readings in the footnote-commentary too. There is a lot of self-referencing (but done via footnotes, which I appreciate), however it does anchor the book amongst other critical scholars in mobilities, creative research, and more. By mid-way through the book, the reflection and examples drawn from her own work really start to shine through as illustrative of some of the concepts and resistances that are set up earlier in the book. There’s also a lot to be said in here about practices of running and leisure (and research methods that are ‘mobile’) and I felt this could have been expanded a little further, but as it is, I can see that’s not the focus of the book. In this same way though, the ‘leadership’ aspects I was less sure of (but to be clear, that is not my area of expertise), but that was the only content area which perhaps needed some clarity in how the book is trying to position itself as contributing to leadership studies.
I believe the book will appeal to a broad audience, and Kai Syng Tan is well connected and respected scholar across mobilities, creative arts, social sciences, and more – with an international network of colleagues who I know will engage with the book in their research and teaching. It will also feed out into other disciplines that are engaged with disability studies, neurodiversity, postcolonial/decolonial scholarship, and more, so I do imagine the initial readership and engagement with the text will be quite significant.
MORE FEEDBACK BY ANONYMOUS PEER REVIEWERS
- The bold, clear statements about what is missing from these areas – most importantly – neurodivergent, anti-ableist approaches to research – and the entanglement with the arts, is welcome, refreshing, and (sadly not surprisingly) still very under promoted in our research and adjacent fields.
- I think this will be a strong, important book in the series and in mobilities scholarship more broadly, and will have a longstanding impact and influence for many scholars.
- This will be an important book. It tackles many overlooked and underexplored areas in mobilities research – but importantly – brings together perspectives and practices from the creative arts and humanities to do so. I cannot see any further room for suggestions or inclusions to the proposed book, it is weighty and will carry itself well in the field of mobilities and beyond!
- A key strength (and novelty) of the book is the structure – the proposal of a mimicking ‘handbook’ or ‘London A-Z directory’ in the structure of 18 chapters that link and cross over between the content and the author’s creative practice methodology is welcomed and refreshing to see in an academic book proposal. This is precisely what the short, punchy length of a Palgrave Pivot allows. The experimentation with the book format, and the value of coming from the creative arts as praxis and method, is a big strength in my opinion.
- The writing of the proposal, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is direct, bold, and clear. The organisation of the proposed book will be innovative and welcomed, and embody the creative and neurodivergency that the project sets out to explore and interrogate, and in doing so – will offer an immense contribution to scholarship.
- The timeliness of this book – alas, I cannot convey enough – is so overdue and welcomed! Also, the author’s choice to frame this as a rational and call for action in academic and creative endeavours with the ‘2050’ framing will ensure this book has a long duration of timely readers and use.
- The author is a well-regarded creative researcher, and has an outstanding track record of high-impact publications and projects. A short monograph will be a welcome addition to their portfolio of work and academic publications!
- I can see this will have an international appeal (as all of the author’s existing publications and projects have had) and through established networks and engagements that the author has with scholars and practitioners on an international level – will ensure this book is well received on an international level.
- Overall, I do think this is a stand-alone and unique book, which will be of great interest to readers in mobilities studies and beyond.
- I recommend that this proposal is accepted. I cannot wait to see the full book and will be eager to read the full form!
- Format: Neurofuturism 2050 will be a swift 25,000 words. Petite yet packing a pungent punch, the book evokes the art manifesto and political pamphlet. As indicated in the title, its format evokes the iconic London A-Z directory. There will be an entry for each the 26 English alphabet, although a few entries are conjoined, and the word length and style vary. The book will also arrange entries in a dys(lexic)-order that disrupts the linearity of A to Z. Wordplay and the activation of mobilities idioms will further signify Neurofuturism 2050’s aim to counter habits confined to the armchair and ivory tower.
- Images: The book will use examples from literature, visual art, film and more, including my own multi-disciplinary artistic and curatorial research, as ‘text-as-means’ to explore socio-cultural phenomena (Pearce 2020). From my work, I envisage including around 20 original drawings, mappings, photographic documentation and so on, broadly one under each entry or cluster. See examples in my PhD thesis (downloaded 4136 times) which references Chinese medical maps (Tan 2014), and the Appendix of this proposal. Rather than illustrations, the images will engage with text as ‘productive antagonisms’ (Latham and Tan 2017). The foregrounding of the visual highlights how dyslexia is word-blindness and visual-spatial thinking (Morgan 1896). This also critiques logo-centrism (Tan 2020b) and the ‘neurotypicality of knowledge production’ (Manning 2018).
- References: Neurofuturism 2050 comprises new primary research. The book will extend findings from my arguments in Handbook on Methods and Applications for Mobilities Research and Encyclopaedia of Mobilities (2020 and circa 2023 respectively, both Edward Elgar). It will also develop materials and feedback received around the trope of ‘2050’ that I have been investigating since the pandemic, including through 12 keynote lectures (e.g. European League of Institutes of the Arts Teachers Academy, which has >300,000 HE stakeholders from 282 institutions in 48 countries), 10 masterclasses (e.g. for 870 health specialists, 14th International ADHD Conference in Berlin), 5 op-eds (e.g. Manila Times), 5 articles (including on an anti-racist toolkit in the Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education journal) and exhibitions (including at Attenborough Arts Centre, alongside artist-activist Bob and Roberta Smith).
GAPS & OPPORTUNITIES
- Mobilities platforms are increasingly spotlighting creative, cultural, anti-colonial, anti-ableist future-facing perspectives and methods. However, despite its tentacular nature spanning a wide range of topics, ‘leadership’ is not discussed. Instead, similar to how future studies was ‘rejected’ in the social sciences (Urry 2016), leadership is often derided as a neo-liberalist construct in the arts (e.g. Hoyle 2018), and in many ways mirrors the resistance (and insecurity) by literary scholars to mobilities (Pearce 2020). This is despite how, from the copious sketches and notes that spurred human’s dream of flying by Leonardo da Vinci, to game-changing movements like the global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter by artist Perry Chen, evidence abounds on how art and artful approaches have played a profound role to transform how we see, feel, think, organise, work and play (Tan 2020a). Within mobilities studies, neurodiversity as creative and cultural phenomena and process(es) also remain ‘invisible’ – much like the disability itself (Tan 2018). This is at odds with how neuro-minorities are over-represented in the arts (Bacon and Bennett 2013; RCA 2016), including da Vinci whose mirror-writing and intellectual promiscuity were due to his dyslexia and ADHD (Røsstad 2002; Mangione and Maestro 2019; Catani and Mazzarello 2019), and how, by 2050, no fewer than 1.4 billion of us will be neurodivergent.
- Artful, agile and atypical, Neurofuturism 2050 is a creative intervention that scholars and practitioners at the intersection of mobilities, creative research, disability, literary and cultural studies will value. It will also attract new readers to the series, by embedding discourse from leadership and management studies, and social and medical framings of neuro-differences. This is timely, since ‘neurodiversity’ was conceived by sociologist Judy Singer as a subset of biodiversity (2016). Emerging research is also revealing the creative value of autism, ADHD and more, including divergent thinking and risk-taking (NCCPE 2018; Baron-Cohen 2017) – which are traits now understood as essential for effective leadership (e.g. Frost, Fiedler, and Anderson 2016). This coincides with calls by global bodies to value creativity and neurodiversity in tackling wicked challenges for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which intensified during the pandemic (e.g. World Economic Forum 2016; AHRC 2019; Royal Society of Arts 2020) – although perversely, native creative, neurodivergent perspectives are absent from these elite circles.
- Neurofuturism 2050 will fill these lacunae. Flipping narratives that have hitherto fetishised/ neglected/pathologised/ criminalised neuro-non-conformity, the book scopes, maps, and enacts the possibilities of a more equitable creative mobilities leadership praxis. While I did not invent the term, my book will be the first to formally define ‘neurofuturism’, and to do so within a mobilities framework. Neurofuturism 2050 will counter the danger of a ‘single story’ (Adichie 2009) and re-imagine ‘leadership’ by starting from the drawing board, to draw on examples from the arts and culture. Crucially, following the ground-clearing labour and rigour of black feminist approaches which interrogate not just the what, but how and why of knowledge production (Collins 2000), including white supremacy embedded within positivist critiques of patriarchal systems (Obasi 2022), my book will highlight – and seeks to dismantle – colonialist monuments, models and mechanisms within discourses and practices of neurodiversity and the arts. Neurofuturism 2050 will thus equip and empower readers to take a step back to review the forces that have given rise to toxic templates of governance and power, and step up, to curate bold visions and tactics that celebrate new models, role models and ecosystems.
Top: Cover. Below: New drawing from one of the chapters (2023) and The Running Messenger (Tan 2019)