Detailed Table of Contents
As the new general co-editor of gender forum, it is my greatest pleasure to be writing the editorial for the second special issue on “Gender, Violence, and the State in Contemporary Speculative Fiction,” guest-edited by Judith Rauscher and Marta Usiekniewicz. It is truly an honor to be stepping and growing into the shoes of one of gender forum’s general editors, and I am looking forward to continuing the legacy of founding editor Beate Neumeier, whose visionary work created Germany’s first English-language open-access journal for gender studies with a particular focus on literary and cultural studies. Resounding Judith Rauscher’s words from her editorial for issue 80 (2021), I want to express my awe and gratitude for the relentless commitment that Beate Neumeier and her team have poured into gender forum, which has grown into a living archive of feminist scholarship and research in gender studies and queer studies.
Abstract: When we wrote the introduction to the first part of our double issue on “Gender, Violence, and the State in Contemporary Speculative Fiction,” published as issue 80 (2021), there were signs everywhere of political and social developments that were putting increasing pressure on women, gender-non-conforming folks, and queer people. Scholarly discourses in Europe and the United States, that is those discourses we are most familiar with, registered these developments and scholars alongside activists on both sides of the Atlantic began their efforts to historicize, contextualize, and explain them. At the same time, many researchers gradually had to come to terms with the fact that cultural critique and theory do not necessarily impact the world outside the academy. Despite having seen the warning signs of strengthening anti- feminist, anti-queer, anti-gender, and anti-trans agitations for many years and being intellectually aware of the need to critique Western narratives of progress, many of “us”—if we may evoke such a tenuous collectivity for a moment—had been too naive in our stubborn hope for a future marked by less violence and discrimination (whether institutionalized or not), more equality before the law, and more opportunities for marginalized individuals and groups to see their concerns represented and have their grievances heard and addressed. These hopes have not been confirmed, or at least, they have not been confirmed evenly.
Michaela Keck: Women's Complicity, Resistance, and Moral Agency: Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments
Abstract: This article explores women’s complicity in and resistance against Gilead’s totalitarian patriarchy in The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and The Testaments (2019). It approaches complicity from a broader theoretical perspective, according to which individuals cannot escape being complicit with the political system in which they live since they are inextricably implicated in a web of social interactions and structural relations. Furthermore, it understands complicity as also always shaped by an individual’s active role in upholding the given socio- political structures, a form of complicity that is not only tied to one’s self- understanding but also to the social roles and scripts available in society. Specifically, the article parses the variegated positions of power and/or powerlessness that grant and/or deny Atwood’s female protagonists different privileges and powers, which make possible varying degrees and kinds of complicity in and resistance against patriarchal oppression. Rather than evaluating the female characters’ guilt in normative, i.e. legal and moral terms, the focus lies on the women’s entanglements in Gilead’s dehumanization of and violence against women. I argue that the acts of complicity and resistance of Atwood’s protagonists are not only contingent on their specific situatedness but also ambiguous, contradictory, and, at times, strategic. Because Atwood’s women characters repeatedly raise the question of moral responsibility, in the end, I also attend to the question of whether the novels provide us with a viable direction regarding questions of moral agency in the context of women’s violation and subjugation by the state of Gilead.
Author’s Bio: Michaela Keck is a lecturer at the Department of English and American Studies at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies at Goethe University in Frankfurt. Her research foci include nineteenth-century women’s literature, transcendentalism and the American Renaissance, ecocritical studies and the environmental humanities, visual culture and art history, myth and its reception, as well as captivity narratives. She is the author of Deliberately Out of Bounds: Women’s Work Classical on Myth in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction (2017) and Walking in the Wilderness: The Peripatetic Tradition in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Painting (2006). Her articles have been published in various peer-reviewed scholarly journals and include contributions about North American women writers ranging from Louisa May Alcott to Margaret Atwood (see https://uol.de/en/michaela-keck?type=0).
Sladja Blazan: “Something Beyond Pain”: Race, Gender, and Hyperempathy in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
Abstract: In Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler describes a heightened form of empathy—a hyperempathy—an involuntary, inescapable, and overwhelming wave of empathy amplified to the level of physical experience. The narrative follows Lauren Oya Olamina as her hyperempathy develops from a shameful impairment to an asset that engenders a new and growing community. As an interactional and intra-actional identification, hyperempathy is grounded in a radically relational understanding of subjectivity. As such it initiates a slow and careful dismantling of the humanist subject that is based on the imperative of individualism. This article traces the steps involved in reconceptualizing subjectivity under the auspices of relationality and argues that Butler’s text proposes a distinctive ethics, offering not only a fictional form of relating to the Other but revising the concept of empathy altogether. Distinctly incorporating an emplacement of race and gender, Butler’s text can inform more recent feministreconsiderations of empathy in relational-cultural theory. Finally, the article argues that Butler’s revision of empathy raises questions regarding deficits and failures in the shared or collective consciousness and demonstrates how speculative fiction can address the violence of liberal conceptions of the human under racial capitalism.
Author’s Bio: Sladja Blazan is a writer and lecturer at Bard College Berlin. She received her Ph.D. in North American Literature and Culture from Humboldt University Berlin in 2005. Recently she completed her second manuscript that explores the intersection of spectrality and morality under the title Ghosts and Their Hosts: Spectrality in Early U.S. American Literature and Culture (manuscript is currently under review). Previous publications include an edited collection with the title Haunted Nature: Entanglements of the Human and the Nonhuman (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), an edited collection with Nigel Hatton, Literature and Refugees (Königshausen & Neumann, 2018); the monograph American Fictionary: Postsozialistische Migration in der nordamerikanischen Literatur [American Fictionary: Postsocialist Migration in North American Literature] (Winter, 2006); the edited collection Ghost Stories and Alternative Histories (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007); as well as a lecture performance with the title What Was I Thinking: A Critical Autobiography & Spectral Colloquy (2010). Her areas of research include speculative fiction, critical posthumanism, critical refugee studies, and migration.
Abstract: Marge Piercy’s He, She and It and Rafael Carter’s The Fortunate Fall render the future of the Global North as dominated by corporatism, patriarchal militarism, and technological stratification. Piercy and Carter investigate the problematics of memory and memorialization to imagine possibilities for ethical subjectivities for worlds transformed by advanced technology and AI. These novels accuse their fictional states of mobilizing advanced technologies to seize power over their citizens. Emphasizing the pernicious consequences of gendered violence committed by state institutions, Piercy and Carter show in their novels that while state memory practices and memorializations are brutally authoritarian, social and personal memory practices generate a means of recuperating feminist resistance against state violence.
Author’s Bio: Tram Nguyen is an Associate Professor at CUNY Hostos, USA. Her research brokers connections between modernism, feminism, and philosophies of ethics and subjectivity. Her articles have been published in The Comparatist, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui, and other scholarly journals. Most recently her article “From SlutWalks to SuicideGirls: Feminist Resistance in the Third Wave and Postfeminist Eras” (Women’s Studies Quarterly) was reprinted in Readings in Ethics: Moral Wisdom Past and Present (Broadview Press, 2021). She is currently producing a monograph on historical and aesthetic confluences between Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett.
Stina Novak and Corina Wieser-Cox: “This is the World We Made”: Queer Allegory, Neo-Colonial Militarization and Scientific Ethics in The Old Guard (2020)
Abstract: The Old Guard, an action and speculative film released by Netflix in 2020, is based on a comic book written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez and was adapted to film by director Gina Prince Bythewood. Her adaptation of the violent and bloody graphic novel centers around a group of immortals—of whom half are canonically LGBTQ+ and of color—and their mission to save the world. The film directly questions the representation of queer characters who must die as a way to center the heterosexual hero—also known as the “bury-your-gays” trope. By not only focusing on the subversivity of queer love and the violence that is often predominant in action cinema, but also in subverting queer history by making it unable to die, unable to be killed, The Old Guard destabilizes how one might view speculative action cinema. Furthermore, this paper addresses questions of unethical scientific experimentation, as well as the representations and subversions of globalization and neo-colonialism in the ways of militarization, queer metaphor, and the rewriting of history. By investigating these representations, this paper argues that The Old Guard imagines a future without queer death, but it also simultaneously interrogates the ethics of neocolonial militarization and western sciences within action cinema through a BIPOC, female, and queer gaze.
Author’s Bio: Stina Novak (she/her) holds a B.A. degree in English-Speaking Cultures and German Studies from the University of Bremen, Germany and is a M.A. student at the University of Bremen, currently writing her Master thesis on the representation of female artificial intelligence in contemporary science fiction films under Professor Dr. Norbert Schaffeld. She currently works as a tutor for the foundation module Introductions to English Literatures and worked as an academic writing coach for students of the Master program English-Speaking cultures at the University of Bremen. She regularly participates in the Fiction Meets Science research colloquium organized by Professor Dr. Norbert Schaffeld. Her research interests include science and literature, posthumanism and speculative fiction, medical and illness narratives, and gender and queer studies.
Corina Wieser-Cox (they/them) was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, and is both Xicanx and a scholar of Xicanx and Borderland theory. Their M.A. thesis titled “Brujeria in the Borderlands: Portrayals of Mexican American Witchcraft in Hollywood Horror films” won the GAPS Graduate Award in May 2021 and the Bremen Studienpreis in March 2022. Corina is currently a Ph.D. student working with Prof. Dr. Kerstin Knopf at the University of Bremen, Germany. Their doctoral dissertation, titled “We’re Trans, We’re Queer and We’re Here,” is funded by the Evangelisches Studienwerk and focuses primarily on the representations of transgender and queer Mexicans and Chicanx people within cinema from the past decade.