Featuring Dr Debolina Dutta, Jindal Global Law School; Christopher Gevers, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Dr Luis Gómez Romero, University of Wollongong; and Dr Honni van Rijswijk, University of Technology Sydney.
Literary imaginaries have been deeply implicated in European colonialism since Thomas More first conceived that ‘prototype of the settler colony’, Utopia (1516). Yet speculative fiction, centred on the rendering of an ‘unknown world’ or terra nullius, has a far longer history than that. Think of Pythagoras’ theory of geographical balance (BC 500), or Ptolemy’s idea of a ‘terra incognita’ (AD 2). Or Macrobius’ commentaries on the existence of an ‘antipodes’ (AD 400), which by the time of the Liber Floridus (AD 1100) had become the home of literally backward people (‘anti-podeans’).
The long tradition in the North of imagining the South cannot be disentangled from the imperial projects that continue to colonise Southern lives. But there is also a vibrant critical tradition of writing back, from Black Utopianisms to Indigenous Futurisms. For authors such as Ambelin Kwaymullina, speculative fictions, written from the standpoints of Indigenous peoples, have the potential to ‘open the way to futures free of the colonial project; a world that can only be imagined because it does not (yet) exist’. The same has been true for Pan-Africanist writers and for writers across the Americas and Asia. The utopic act of negating a given place and projecting onto it a ‘better’, future-perfect one, is the colonial move; but it can also be anti-colonial, and in a very real sense, post-colonial.
This event is part of Futurity Now? – an international seminar series taking place in the first week of September 2022. The series is curated by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Legal Studies at University of Lucerne and the Centre for Law, Arts and Humanities, Australian National University; in collaboration with a global partnership network including the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures (University of Virginia), Wits Institute for Social & Economic Research (University of Witwatersrand), and the universities of Adelaide, Helsinki and Roma Tre.