Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Social Text - Special Issue on Speculation

Some interesting articles in this new issue of Social Text - all of the articles focused in some way on speculation. Here are links and abstracts for the articles.

Speculative Life: An Introduction

In our dystopian present, the term speculation is associated with an epistemology of greed, a sanctioned terrorism, and a new dimension of imperialism no longer based in production but in abstract futures. But speculation means something else for those who refuse to give its logic over to power and profit. >>
"What will you do when the apocalypse comes??" he asked me urgently. My first reaction was to laugh derisively. But a friend made me think twice. "Who knows, maybe he's right," she said. Then came the Tsunami that devastated South Asia in 2004. And the levees that breached during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Who's to say what's real?>>
Science fictions never present the future, only "a significant distortion of the present," as Delany wrote in 1984. But they also distort the present of anyone reading at any time, even the text's own future. The contours of Dhalgren's disintegrating city belong to the wake of 1960s countercultures and social movements, to a sexual and racial moment whose history uninformed new generations of readers will learn as they read, even if they fail to recognize it. Sexual pleasure in Delany's work links the past and present and lets a different future feel possible, even when it takes place within structuring limitations. >>
Chinese-Canadian author Larissa Lai imaginatively interrogates the boundaries of the human, alchemizes myths of origin, and embraces the impurity of the cyborg while foregrounding the politics of racialization, animality, and sexuality. Lai builds on the rich tradition of women of color writing in sf/speculative fiction by splicing together cultural theory and current events with a panoply of intertexts. Traversing past, present, and future, Lai maps the permeability of the human through the vectors of animal, creator-goddess, cyborg, and transgenic procreation. Her distinctive métissage of Chinese legend, EuroAmerican culture, Orientalist archetypes, Western popular music, and science fiction disrupts cycles of institutionalized exploitation, corporatized amnesia, and multicultural assimilation.[1] Akin to the work of Octavia Butler, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Nalo Hopkinson, Lai's...>>
China Miéville is the recipient of multiple awards for his speculative/science/weird fiction novels, and the only author ever to win three Arthur C. Clarke Awards.  His most recent novel, Embassytown, came out in May 2011 and has received enthusiastic reviews. As well as writing fiction, Miéville earned his Ph.D. at London School of Economics in International Law and is the author of Between Equal Rights, A Marxist Theory of International Law (2006).      Known for his radical fictive speculation, China Miéville is also fiercely engaged with radical politics--he stood for the House of Commons as candidate for the Socialist Alliance in the 2001 UK general election--and so is often asked about the relationship between his politics and his writing. He...>>

Race for Life

The short film accompanying musician and designer M.I.A.'s (Maya Arulpragasam, who is British of Sri Lankan Tamil descent) song "Born Free" was released in April of 2010 and immediately banned from YouTube. Arulpragasam is no stranger to controversy, since she has drawn attention to the violence perpetrated against the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, while her music and accompanying visual work is replete with references to different forms of political violence and identification with non-western persecuted populations.One of the few female artists in contemporary popular music that fuse explicit political content with cutting edge sounds, Arulpragasam has often been accused of toying with radical chic and being politically naïve, rather than associated with a long tradition of women of color...>>

So Say We All

Race is an illusion. So say we all! But what do we intend by this saying, this performative? Denise Ferreira da Silva is but the most recent of scholars to note that, in dispelling race from its improper place in the order of the human sciences, casting it into disrespectability along with sorcery, alchemy, and other bait for the credulous, we consolidate that much more firmly the protocols of scientific rationality. But the protocols of science gave us race as an invidious distinction in the first place. Reason giveth, and reason taketh away, seems to be the faith animating the claim "Race is an illusion." But what if were to suspend such faith in the subject of Enlightenment rationality? What...>>
When it comes to dealing with misfortune and injustice, the most effective tool to use if we want to make sure that troubles will persist without relief is a simple sentence: That's water under the bridge. No use crying over spilled milk. The past is over and done with. The goose is cooked. What's done is done.Whenever people have their attention called to injuries that occurred in the past, it is almost certain that someone will pipe up with a demand that everyone cut short the desire to improve the world and, instead, to defer to the water-under-the-bridge school of history.[1]There are is perhaps no better example of the water-under-the-bridge school of thought in the settler-colonial imagination, than Orson Scott...>>
The Natives should have died off by now. To still be alive is a miracle. Can you taste two billion year old air on your breath or the remnants of primordial seas in your sweat? Do you feel e-coli breaking bread in your bowels? Does your heart synch up with these words, these poetic echoes of ancient ancestors? Self and other, simultaneously...>>

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