Speculative acts : the cultural labors of science, fiction, and empire

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      eScholarship, University of California, 2009.
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    • Abstract:
      "Speculative Acts" examines an emergent set of late twentieth- and early twenty-first century science fictions that engage a politics of critical speculation. I position postcolonial speculative fictions--drawn from lived experiences of alienation, abduction, and displacement--as revisionist counter-narratives to imperialist science fictions of progress, technological advancement, and development. I focus on narratives emerging from regions in the Americas where imbricated labor histories and overlapping diasporic movements complicate strictly North- South or East-West frameworks. Each chapter of the dissertation pairs a reading of speculative fiction with a cultural analysis of scientific narratives. Chapter One, "Imperial Rubber, Illegal Oranges," contrasts Karen Tei Yamashita's Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990) and Tropic of Orange (1997) with scientific writings produced by geologists and tech companies hired to speculate on land and sustain cheap labor supplies on behalf of U.S. investments south of the border. My second chapter interrogates the technoracialization of futurist discourses by focusing on reproductive imperatives placed on the bodies of women of color in the apocalyptic film Children of Men. On the other hand, I understand Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber--a speculative novel haunted by the biopolitical history of African slavery and Asian indenture in the Caribbean--as a revisionist narrative that queers reproductive bodies and allocates technological power to marginalized subjects. My final chapter focuses on new media speculations on race, gender, and technology in the form of online fan fiction written primarily by women who queer popular fantastical narratives such as The Matrix. I investigate how these everyday, renegade writers seize upon unsanctioned and unofficial channels to challenge the film's techno- utopianism and globalizing aspirations. Taken together, these chapters complicate science fictions of technological progress and borderless futures. At the same time, my project emphasizes the revisionist work of writers invested in narratives that use science to imagine transnational models of resistance
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