“Flowing along the wall”: Anarcha-feminist bioethics and resistance in Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn 2019.
Date of Award
Open Access Thesis
Master of Arts (MA)
Science fiction (sf) texts conversant with the temporal play between past, present, and future push readers to imagine the extremes of human and environmental existence, interaction, and potential. Simultaneously, despite the sf genre’s tendency to traffic in extremes, these texts provoke readers to consider the ways in which these imagined worlds are grounded in history as well as in the contemporary social moment. As Donna Haraway has argued, “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion” (306). This illusory boundary must continue to be traversed in order to consider how sf literatures, particularly those which imagine speculative, posthuman social structures, sketch radical methods of social and individual resistance to institutionalized centers of power. Identifying resistance strategies at work in sf texts is particularly important in the context of the relationships between humans and technology. This is a crucial intervention for sf scholars reading in what Sherryl Vint calls “the biocultural age,” which is marked not only by advances in biotech but also by radical climate change and its proposed solutions from bioagricultural and geoengineering industries (161). Power relationships between humans and biotech experiments on the environment, for example, have been observed by scholars such as Selena Middleton. In her reading of The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi, power appears in the symbolism of the seed which, Middleton states, “is a potent symbol that recurs in life and literature and allows for speculation that projects the technologies of the past [...] into the possibilities of the future” (126). Controlling the seed is imperative to the institution of scientific-state empires: control the seed and you control the world. The seed operates at both literal and figurative levels; it is relevant to bioagricultural applications as well as to human reproduction technologies, such as ART’s (assistive reproductive technologies), and advanced methods for birth control and sterilization. In both environmental and human contexts, reproductive power is assumed by Mendez 2 scientists, and environmental and reproductive choice activists alike; where they tend to differ is over who is entitled to its control. Outlining resistance strategies that appear in sf texts is part of a vital response to the increasingly popular calls for population control as a method to combat climate change. Unfortunately, some scientists, humanitarians, and environmental rights advocates rightly and necessarily invested in combating the devastating effects of climate change contribute to the seizure of women’s bodies in the name of environmental sustainability. Women of color are disproportionately represented among those exploited and violated by population control agendas. As Policy Director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Karla Gonzales Garcia argues: We must look at how we can shake up the systems around the use, abuse, and consumption of resources and the impacts of current systems on the environment while also supporting immigrants and refugees and ensuring that reproductive healthcare is advanced through a rights-based lens rather than a pseudo-eugenic population control approach. (4) Advances in biotech which include both environmental and individual applications require a robust bioethical response. As such, this paper seeks to enter the scholarly conversation on the importance of sf texts in the biocultural age with the following questions in mind: How do sf texts ask readers to engage with themes of medical and bodily autonomy? How do sf texts imagine resistance to seemingly all-pervasive, socio-biological systems of control? And, most importantly, how do we resolve images of the (post)human in sf texts with the non-fictional conceptions of human rights? The question over who controls the reproductive body (whether it’s a plant, animal, or human body) is, fundamentally, a question of ethics. As such, this paper Mendez 3 focuses on the representations of biotechnologically controlled human reproduction in sf literature. My purpose is to reconsider representations of biotechnologies through an ethical lens in order to better understand the argument(s) made by sf texts regarding the ethics (or lack thereof) of power groups, and to find methods of resistance to seemingly all-encompassing systems of biopower.
Mendez, Theresa, "“Flowing along the wall”: Anarcha-feminist bioethics and resistance in Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn 2019." (2019). Master's Theses. 61.
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