Cultural Politics in Speculative Fictions
This course is interested in thinking about “culture” as a site where imaginations of activism and social change are both organized and contested. More specifically, we will explore how social change is theorized in speculative fictions where the persistence of racial, economic, gender, and sexual violence is commonplace though, perhaps, defamiliarized. We will consider how the narratives differently mark the continuation of historically grounded inequalities, exploitations and dispossessions while, at the same time, point us to new spaces and practices for social change within their particular political landscapes. Using the methods, theories and practices championed by Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall and others from the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies, our main focus will be to explore the relationship between cultural production (poetry, music and visual art) and social movement struggles in dystopian narratives. These considerations will be organized to engage a more critical understanding of the many forms of violence that animate the present moment as we work to inspire new imaginations of social change rooted in cultural production.
• What are the contours of the political landscapes imagined in the texts—the social, political, economic and cultural norms?
• What are the possibilities for creating social change in these contexts, or what counts as activism?
• How do our writers imagine the value of cultural texts and creative, magical, or non-realistic forms of knowledge for social movement struggles within these worlds?
• What are the possibilities and limitations of culture as a site for social change for subjects in differing dystopian landscapes?
• What does speculative fiction teach us about systems of domination and social change practices in our present moment?
A reader will be available for purchase at the AVE COPY CENTER
Darko Suvin “Cognition and Estrangement”
Samuel Delaney “About 5,750 Words” and “Empire Star”
China Mieville “Marxism and Fantasy”
Octavia Butler Parable of the Sower and “Amnesty”
Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go
Gloria Naylor Bailey’s Café
Karen Tei Yamashita Tropic of Orange
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland
Ana Castillo So Far from God
Pauline Hopkins Of One Blood