Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2020-02-20 22:46Z by Steven

Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel

224 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9781350099838
EPUB eBook ISBN: 9781350099852
PDF eBook ISBN: 9781350099845

Josie Gill, Lecturer in Black British Writing
University of Bristol, United Kingdom

In this important interdisciplinary study, Josie Gill explores how the contemporary novel has drawn upon, and intervened in, debates about race in late 20th and 21st century genetic science. Reading works by leading contemporary writers including Zadie Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro, Octavia Butler and Colson Whitehead, Biofictions demonstrates how ideas of race are produced at the intersection of science and fiction, which together create the stories about identity, racism, ancestry and kinship which characterize our understanding of race today. By highlighting the role of narrative in the formation of racial ideas in science, this book calls into question the apparent anti-racism of contemporary genetics, which functions narratively, rather than factually or objectively, within the racialized contexts in which it is embedded. In so doing, Biofictions compels us to rethink the long-asked question of whether race is a biological fact or a fiction, calling instead for a new understanding of the relationship between race, science and fiction.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. The Roots of African Eve: Science Writing on Human Origins and Alex Haley’s Roots
  • 2. Race, Genetic Ancestry Tracing and Facial Expression: “Focusing on the Faces” in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
  • 3. “One Part Truth and Three Parts Fiction”: Race, Science and Narrative in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth
  • 4. “The Sick Swollen Heart of This Land”: Pharmacogenomics, Racial Medicine and Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt
  • 5. Mutilation and Mutation: Epigenetics and Racist Environments in Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Science Fiction and Multiraciality: From Octavia Butler to Harry Potter

Posted in Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-12-14 13:56Z by Steven

Science Fiction and Multiraciality: From Octavia Butler to Harry Potter

Brooklyn Historical Society
Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations
Saturday, 2013-12-14, 14:00-17:00 EST (Local Time)

How do science fiction narratives investigate questions about identity, racism, and fear?

Join us for a fun, interactive presentation and dialogue about mixed-race identity in the Harry Potter franchise, the legacy of African-American sci-fi author Octavia Butler, and the role of the imaginary in destabilizing oppression and re-envisioning multiracial community.

We will be debunking myths, talking back to popular sci-fi movies and stories, and exploring new possibilities for racial justice through imagination. We will explore racial elements of popular fictional universes, participate in collective storytelling, and we encourage dressing up as your favorite sci-fi character!

Presenters include: Eric Hamako from University of Massachusetts Amherst on Harry Potter and the Mistaken Myth of the Mixed-Race Messiah, and Walidah Imarisha, Co-Editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements.

This event is co-sponsored by the Harry Potter Alliance and

For more information, click here.

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Eating the Black Body: Miscegenation as Sexual Consumption in African American Literature and Culture

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-09-29 02:56Z by Steven

Eating the Black Body: Miscegenation as Sexual Consumption in African American Literature and Culture

Peter Lang
231 pages
0.340 kg, 0.750 lbs
Softcover ISBN: 978-0-8204-7931-6

Carlyle Van Thompson, Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Education
Medgar Evers College, the City University of New York

In this provocative and original exploration of racial subjugation and its aftermath, Carlyle Van Thompson illumines the racialized sexual desire that reduces Black people to commodities for consumption. Eating the Black Body examines the often-sadistic forms of sexual violence during the period of slavery and its aftermath. By looking at one poem and three novels—Richard Wright’s Between the World and Me, John Oliver Killens’ Youngblood, Gayl Jones’ Corregidora, and Octavia Butler’s Kindred—that examine slavery and the Jim Crow period, Thompson investigates a wide variety of Black bodies as sites of miscegenation and sexual desire. Thompson also examines a horrific case of White male police brutality in New York City in which a Black man was sodomized. Bold and persuasively argued, Eating the Black Body will engage readers in a broad range of literary, historical, and cultural studies.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Consuming Hot Black Bodies: Miscegenation as Sexual Violence in African American Literature and Culture
  • Chapter 2: Speaking Desire and Consumption of the Black Body in Richard Wright’s “Between the World and Me”
  • Chapter 3: Miscegenation as Sexual Consumption: The Enduring Legacy of America’s White-Supremacist Culture of Violence in John Oliver Killens’ Youngblood
  • Chapter 4: Miscegenation, Monstrous Memories, and Misogyny as Sexual Consumption in Gayl Jones’ Corregidora
  • Chapter 5: Moving Past the Present: Racialized Sexual Violence and Miscegenous Consumption in Octavia Butler’s Kindred
  • Chapter 6: White Police Penetrating. Probing, and Playing in the Black Man’s Ass: The Sadistic Sodomizing of Abner Louima
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
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“The Girl Isn’t White”: New Racial Dimensions in Octavia Butler’s Survivor

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2012-02-12 03:23Z by Steven

“The Girl Isn’t White”: New Racial Dimensions in Octavia Butler’s Survivor

Volume 47, Number 1 (2006)
pages 35-50
DOI: 10.3828/extr.2006.47.1.6
ISSN: 0014-5483 (Print); 2047-7708 (Online)

Crystal S. Anderson, Associate Professor of English Department
Elon University, Elon, North Carolina

Since the publication of her first novel, Octavia Butler’s popularity has increased, making her now a staple for individuals attracted to the fiction of Afro-futurism. Sandra Govan argues that Butler “forge[s] a black presence in science fiction,” a presence that consistently challenges assumptions regarding inter-group and intra-group relations (87). Butler’s Patternist series of novels focuses on the tensions between groups with psychic abilities and those without, and her Xenogenesis trilogy explores the ramifications of blending humans with an alien race. Much of Butler’s success among African Americans surely rests on the connections readers make between the themes of these novels and their experiences in a race-conscious society. Changes in American society, particularly the dynamic between ethnic groups, prompt a reexamination of Butler’s early fiction. Survivor (1978) anticipates the challenges contemporary blacks face in an increasingly diverse society. Butler uses Alanna, an Afro-Asian protagonist, to illuminate strategies of negotiation for African Americans who engage a variety of ethnic groups.

During the late 1970s, African Americans became increasingly aware of other ethnic groups, particularly Asians. This time period witnesses a mode of civil rights that acknowledges the parallel struggle of American blacks and Asian groups, especially in radical political circles. Bill Mullen reminds us that “beginning with the 1955 meeting of decolonizing African and Asian nations in Bandung, Indonesia, until at least the early 1970s, African American and Asian radicals imagined themselves as antipodal partners in cultural revolution, pen pals for world liberation” (76) Asian cultures so interpenetrated African American cultural movements in the 1970s, Robin Kelley declares, “although the Black Arts Movement was the primary vehicle for black cultural revolution in the United States United States,  it is hard to imagine what that revolution would have looked like without China” (107). Butler’s early foray  into fiction demonstrates its awareness of similar Afro-Asian dynamics by meditating on racial dynamics contrary to the traditional black-white racial paradigm.

…Butler’s use of an Afro-Asian protagonist disrupts conventional tendencies that read all biracial identities according to a black-white paradigm. The reader learns of Alanna’s heritage during a flashback: “There was a man, as lean and tall as Alanna was now. His coloring was dark brown, almost black, contrasting strangely with the very fair skin of the woman. Alanna stood between them, her eyes only slightly narrowed, her skin a smooth medium brown” (27). Initially, Butler does not identify the race of each parent, but uses phrases such as “dark brown” and “fair skin” to imply they are both non-white. As Alanna stands between them, her appearance operates as a visual median, taking the “medium brown” coloring from her father and her narrow eyes possibly from her mother. Butler intentionally delays racial identification, explaining, “if I had given the characters’ race away earlier … possibly the reader wouldn’t react, but, instead, maybe discard that information” (Butler, “Radio,” 52). Such a strategy suggests that Alanna’s background is not an insignificant detail. Butler’s narrative soon confirms Alanna’s unique mixed-race identity when Neila reveals that Alanna’s “Afro-Asian from what she says of her parents. Black father, Asian mother” (31).

As the product of two minority groups, Alanna’s racial identity produces a different set of issues than the traditional black-white racial identity. Butler is aware of such differences, for when she was a child, she discovered that a neighbor had a black father and a Japanese mother. That discovery informs her adult thoughts on minority mixed-race identity: “It didn’t change anything about the way I thought about her except that I was intensely curious about her life. How is her life different because she’s from this unusual situation?” (Butler, “Radio,” 52). Butler recognizes that minority mixed-race individuals may have a different perspective because they culturally partake from two similarly marginalized groups within society. Christine C. Iijima Hall and Trude I. Cooke Turner assert, “the minority-minority individual does not have to choose between being a member of a minority or a majority group. Because these individuals already belong to two minority groups, their social standing in American culture is usually minority” (82). Alanna’s bifurcated identity signals to the reader that she is uniquely suited to see situations from a point of view not associated with the dominant group. She has a perspective attuned to difference. According to Lucille Fultz, diverging from traditional characterizations of the racial backgrounds of characters encourages readers to “rethink received notions of difference based on race and class and question their own investment in the cultural constructions of such categories” (26). Alanna’s mixed-race identity will underscore her engagement with multiple groups…

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‘Horror and beauty in rare combination’: The miscegenate fictions of Octavia butler

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2011-06-27 02:35Z by Steven

‘Horror and beauty in rare combination’: The miscegenate fictions of Octavia butler

Women: A Cultural Review
Volume 7, Issue 1 (1996)
pages 28-38
DOI: 10.1080/09574049608578256

Roger Luckhurst, Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature
Birkbeck, University of London

Octavia Butler’s work is virtually unknown, and yet her ten novels and one short story collection constitute an astonishingly intricate and sustained meditation on the imbrication of race and gender across cultural and scientific discourses. By her own reckoning the only black woman science-fiction writer currently working, she has, since 1976, investigated the ambivalent legacies of slavery by sending a twentieth-century woman back in time to a Maryland plantation in 1815 (Kindred), envisioned a classically ‘sci-fi’ future (Patternmaster) only to explode its conventionality by tracing this future’s racial genealogy back first to contemporary Los Angeles (Mind of My Mind and Clay’s Ark) and then to seventeenth-century Africa (Wild Seed), and has also produced a stunning trilogy about inter-species hybridization which is at once rigorously within the bounds of revisionist evolutionary theory and yet also allegorizes a passage from the horror of miscegenation to the emergence of a literally catastrophic difference (Xenogenesis: Dawn Adulthood Riles, Imago).

Butler’s chance for recognition might have arrived in 1984 when her short story, ‘Bloodchild’ won both the Hugo and Nebula prizes, the science-fiction community’s major internal awards. A subtle and disconcerting story, ‘Bloodchild’ slyly rewrites the gendered anxieties of the ‘body horror’ genre by…

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