Speculative Anthropologies

Photo by David Revoy/Blender Foundation, licensed under CC BY.

At the intersection of speculative fiction and anthropology, we find a sense of epistemological humility about the kind of worlds we could or should inhabit. Yet epistemological humility should not be confused with futility: possibilities and potentialities still matter. We do not know what we are capable of, and yet that need not keep us from the pursuit of what ifs. Through the imaginative interpellations of speculative fiction (SF), the contributors to this Theorizing the Contemporary series gravitate toward new localities and means of presence: ecological, technological, Afro-futuristic. Facing the imminent prospect of both disaster and discovery, they call us to resist despair and to craft tangible ways of shaping and repairing the worlds we still hope for.

Posts in This Series

Introduction: Speculative Anthropologies

Introduction: Speculative Anthropologies

Anthropology is suspended in teleologies we ourselves have spun. Our versions of life now are inescapably inflected by how we think life is going to be. —Sam... More

The Unstable Edge: Anthropology, Speculative Fiction, and the Incremental Threat of Sea Level Rise

The Unstable Edge: Anthropology, Speculative Fiction, and the Incremental Threat of Sea Level Rise

This past summer, I was leaning on a metal railing on the walkway near the famous surf spot known as Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California. From the cliffs, ... More

Our Present as the Past’s Fictitious Future

Our Present as the Past’s Fictitious Future

It is as if there is a collective naive assumption that the original science fiction work whether it be book, film or television, has had a positive outcome ... More

Solarpunking Speculative Futures

Solarpunking Speculative Futures

Here is a map of Eneropa, a vision of the continent of Europe in 2050. Reorganized by renewable energy production, the new states—Hydropia, Solaria, Biomassburg... More

Thinking Parabolically: Time Matters in Octavia Butler’s Parables

Thinking Parabolically: Time Matters in Octavia Butler’s Parables

Set in the 2020s, the novel Parable of the Sower and its sequel Parable of the Talents prophesize neoliberal and religious apocalypse. Yet by envisioning thes... More

Looking for Humanity in Science Fiction through Afrofuturism

Looking for Humanity in Science Fiction through Afrofuturism

As a queer man of color, I am recently finding it hard to side with humans in the science fiction I read. As in real life, human characters in science fiction... More

Planeterra Nullius: Science Fiction Writing and the Ethnographic Imagination

Planeterra Nullius: Science Fiction Writing and the Ethnographic Imagination

January 18, 2388 They are back, and this time they are here to stay. It’s Tuesday and I am running predictably behind. I click accept, paying three thousand cr... More

Fieldnotes from the Twilight Zone

Fieldnotes from the Twilight Zone

It is 1959. A city man, suit-clad and impatient, returns to his hometown after a twenty-five-year absence. He arrives to find his eleven-year-old self carving... More

Invisible City: A Speculative Guide

Invisible City: A Speculative Guide

Deep inside the town there open up, so to speak, double streets, doppelgänger streets, mendacious and delusive streets. —Bruno Schulz In Italo Calvino’s Invis... More

First Contact with Possible Futures

First Contact with Possible Futures

Speculation about the future has often been colonized by militarists, nationalists, capitalists, xenophobes, and other elitists and bigots. But there have als... More

Speculative Fiction and Speculating about the Social

Speculative Fiction and Speculating about the Social

In the opening pages of Arthur C. Clarke and Mike McQuay’s book Richter 10, the world is amazed by an accurate prediction made with a method called earthquake... More

Evidently SF

Evidently SF

Here’s an evidently SF—science fiction/spookily familiar/strangely or strongly factual/so far—story: tired of a space agency’s bureaucratic inefficiency, an e... More

Anthropology’s Latent Futures

Anthropology’s Latent Futures

The information visualization below, created in late July, shows 3,300 Twitter users whose tweets contained the word anthropology. Each line (or edge) shows a r... More

Unbounding the Field/Note

Unbounding the Field/Note

One zone that SF and anthropology share is that of the field: an assemblage of spaces and experiences that exceed the writer’s final product. The field is an ... More

The Necessary Tension between Science Fiction and Anthropology

The Necessary Tension between Science Fiction and Anthropology

I started my academic career in literature, specifically post–World War II American science fiction. In the literature departments I traveled through, SF was ... More