Special Issue of Postmodern Culture: Speculative Fiction and Futurism in the Middle East and North Africa
Guest Editors: Oded Nir and Shareah Taleghani
The last few years have seen a wave of interest in futurism and speculative fiction produced in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Translations of contemporary novels such as Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad (2014), Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue (2013), and Ibtisam Azem’s The Book of Disappearance (2014) have greatly contributed to this notable rise in interest in the Anglophone literary field. Academic readings that frame these works and their Arabic and Islamic literary lineages as speculative fiction are only beginning to emerge (Campbell 2018; Determann 2021), emphasizing the ways in which they stage a critique of their immediate contexts, such the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine, the US occupation of Iraq and its aftermath, and the reentrenchment of authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere.
In this special issue, we seek to deepen these emerging lines of inquiry into MENA speculative culture. We seek to expand these frames of reference by putting works of MENA speculative culture in conversation with recent theorizing of speculative fiction. We are looking to collect essays that explore questions of larger scope, such as:
What can MENA speculative fiction add to recent accounts of how speculative fiction acts to change our understanding of life itself, through and beyond the human, as in Sheryl Vint’s (2021) or Steven Shaviro’s (2021) recent work?
What unique perspectives does MENA speculative fiction, with its wide array of itineraries, bring to Mark Bould’s (2021) reading of speculative fiction and climate catastrophe or “the anthropocene unconscious”?
More generally, how can we understand MENA futurism as articulating universal visions and criticisms while simultaneously intervening in local contexts?
How and why do works of speculative fiction, film, and art of Middle East and North Africa create alternative postcolonial futures? Beyond the utopian notion that such works generate “new maps of hope” (Smith 2012), what forms of mapping do such works produce?
How do works of MENA futurism deploy their critical sensibilities in analyses of social and economic changes and the contradictions of global capitalism?
If Western science fiction is intertwined with colonialism (Rieder 2008), how might MENA futurisms unmap or reconstitute colonial legacies?
What unique perspective does MENA speculative fiction bring to urgent new global problems such as the rise of authoritarianism, climate change, global inequality, and forced migration?
How do particular works evoke elements of Indigenous literary, linguistic, and artistic heritages of the region to construct alternative futures not just for the region but also globally?
How can genre markers like speculative, dystopian, or science fiction produce more nuanced readings of certain works, especially those that have previously been considered works of “magical realism?” On the other hand, to what extent may generic markers or designators
undermine or restrict the ways in which works are read?
What functions can MENA speculative culture perform that distinguishes it from its counterparts in the US and Western Europe?
Postmodern Culture does not have a specific word length requirement and can publish long pieces. Essays appearing in the journal tend to be between 6,000 and 9,000 words. Submission guidelines and more information can be found