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Science fiction(ing): The imagination, crisis, and hope

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Webb, Graeme
A multitude of problems beset the world—fascism, racism, poverty, and climate change, to name just a few. As such, there is a need for new ways to see and act. However, society is faced with a crisis of the imagination (Haiven 2014). Social imaginaries are ideologically rooted in the very structures from which these problems emerge. Furthermore, contemporary politics have become polarized. While affect is mobilized by fascists and populists, a politics of reason has devolved to a stultifying politics of pragmatism. Drawing on the work of Ernst Bloch (1996) I argue that there is a need for an “educated hope,” a dialectic of reason and the imagination (e.g. Nussbaum 1995 & 2001). In particular, a radical imagination (Castoriadis 1994 & 1998; Ricoeur 1994) informed by material and historical forces is needed to overcome the problems faced by the world. Building on O’Sullivan’s (2014) notion of fictioning, I develop a praxis of the imagination. Through a study of discourses of technology and the impacts of the various ‘mythologies of the future’ (e.g. Bell 1973; Galbraith 1978; Kumar 1978) in science fiction I suggest the genre offers an opportunity to put this radical imagination to work (e.g. Jameson 2007; Moylan 1986 & 2018; Suvin 1972 & 1979). More specifically, I study the works of Samuel R. Delany and Ursula K. Le Guin and demonstrate how these popular culture texts discursively challenge the status quo and enable the discovery of new radical social imaginaries (Bakhtin 1981; Hall 1998; hooks 1995 & 2002; Williams 1977). While utopia may seem unimaginable, science fiction and fictioning help constitute a society that searches beyond its existing cognitive horizons.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Gruneau, Richard
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