Note — Mar 24, 2019

Natural’s Not in It

Danya Glabau (who’s an anthropologist of Medicine & Technology) with a pretty fascinating piece I will need to circle back to at some point. Going from the usefulness of scifi as “a frame for decoupling nature from culture,” then to the repercussions of Emile Durkheim’ concept of social facts, to the use of nature as determinant by the likes of Damore and Peterson, to sex and gender, circling back to scifi and using the work of Ursula K. Le Guin “as a tool to challenge the ‘facts’ we take for granted about contemporary social life.”

While science fiction has provided the scripts that many technologists have used to create our disappointing future, it also plays an important epistemological role in the struggle against racism, sexism, ableism, classism, xenophobia, and capitalism. […]

In fact, these visions of future technology are deeply conservative: They portray today’s social problems as built into human “nature,” inescapable and unalterable with or without new technology. […]

[S]cience fiction is increasingly a resource for imagining futures in which biology is no longer destiny. […]

And if sex is not the same as gender and neither is destiny by way of nature, then other categories that have operated historically as axes of oppression need not determine one’s place in society either. Disrupting such naturalized, apparently biological facts ramifies outward to other social facts like race, class, occupation, educational attainment, nationality, disability, and more. […]

While social facts are often imposed, deadly, and oppressive, recognizing these facts as themselves fictional opens up new ways to be flexible, playful, and experimental with how we imagine future societies. Rewriting these facts as social fictions doesn’t divorce them from history, place, and context. But recognizing the constraints on our lives as social fictions, rather than natural facts, offers the utopian promise that we can be in control of our own stories again. […]

Science fiction socializes technology, creating a sandbox in which its role in mediating biology and society can be reimagined as well. In the process the genre creates space to propose alternative social fictions that take the place of the social arrangements that act as social facts in the “real” world.