I threw this proposal together in response to a CFP for an MLA panel. It’s for a paper I haven’t yet written, but have been looking for an excuse to write. Feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Dangerous Visions: Science Fiction’s Countercultures
Papers explore Rob Latham’s assertion that “Science fiction has always had a close relationship with countercultural movements,” emphasis on New Wave (1960s/1970s). 300-word abstracts and brief bios. by 10 March 2016; Sean A. Guynes (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This paper situates Octavia Butler’s 1987 novel Dawn, the first in her Xenogenesis trilogy, within a genealogy of countercultural pedagogy, alongside figures like Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, and June Jordan. During the late 1960s and throughout the remainder of the twentieth century, these radical artists, authors, and educators sought to address conditions of economic, social, and political inequality. In particular, they imagined pedagogical relationships as ways of threatening the status quo by challenging its differential power relations and neo/liberal politics of endangerment.
Like the works of these thinkers, Butler’s novel is preoccupied with the question of how education can materialize social justice, and catalyze social interruption, rather than reproduction. While the novel takes place miles away from an Earth that has nearly been destroyed, on a spacecraft reminiscent of Atlantic slave ships, it is intimately engaged with political questions of how resources get distributed along racial and gendered axes, and how we might rethink the question of the political through embodied frameworks of pleasure, precarity, and violence. In particular, I focus on the pedagogical relationship between the protagonist, Lilith Iyapo, and the Oankali creature assigned to train her as a new mother of the human race. By analyzing how the novel stages political questions of “being with,” I argue that it can be read as an allegory of queer pedagogy: of learning, in José Muñoz’s words, “to desire differently, to desire more, to desire better.” At a moment in which it seems ever less possible to imagine beyond the confines of neo/liberal racial capitalism, I illustrate how Dawn might help us think about the project of building more just and pleasurable worlds in liminal spaces.