Of Imagined and Potential Futures : Speculative Fiction in Southern Africa, 2008-2018

Abstract: This research project explores the rhetorical function of contemporary Anglophone speculative fiction (sf) in southern Africa. Focusing on short fiction produced between 2008 and 2018, the project delineates this literary production both theoretically and historically. It is the “difference” of contemporary African sf that needs attention, the thesis argues, and through such difference we might evaluate how this literature manifests as a prominent, collective call to de-colonise dominant ways of seeing.Moreover, the contemporary sf scene in the southern region of the continent is not well represented in scholarship. To date, much more work has been done on, for example, sf in Nigeria, or indeed in South Africa. Similarly, far more studies exist on the novel form. And yet, it is a contention of this project that short sf is far more abundant in Africa today. The project therefore addresses important gaps by providing perspective on short sf in Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. It also draws attention to various questions that will need further study in the field of Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism.The methodological choice to view this literature within a rhetorical framework complicates the duality of culture and text characteristic of cultural studies and focuses instead on how relationships among texts, writers, publishing agents and readers function. This is especially relevant in an African literary studies context because such approach works to bypass practices of silencing and the appropriation of certain perspectives, reorients agency, and redirects the conversation to focus on interactions between literary actors more closely. Since little attention has been paid to African literary narratives from a rhetorical angle, even less to African speculative texts, an effort is made to create a new lens using pragmatic frames (Bitzer 1968), rhetorical narrative studies (Phelan 2007), and the “literary field” (Bourdieu 1993). In addition, the project draws insights from the social sciences to combine quantitative and qualitative methods of investigation.The thesis consists of an introduction and three main chapters: “Mapping the Field”, “Ways of Seeing – Temporalities”, and “Ways of Seeing – Spatialities”. It also includes an Excel spreadsheet, in which much mapping of the scene occurs. Along with notes on authorship and production, the spreadsheet contains documentation of keywords noted while reading the stories. Three keywords made themselves most manifest: time, space, and ways of seeing, and thereafter helped to structure the project’s chapters. The findings in the spreadsheet and interview material particularly inform Chapter One, which illuminates the emerging field of sf in the southern region of Africa by mapping the scene of production (2008-2018). Chapter Two investigates the rhetorical function of time and temporalities as nodes of interest in five sf texts. It investigates how time is deployed as rhetorical “resource” (Phelan 2007) in stories by Ivor Hartmann, Stacy Hardy, Tendai Huchu, Wesley Macheso, and Mohale Mashigo. The third chapter, finally, explores to what effect space and spatialities are employed by sf writers in another five short stories. It argues that interest in space, as conceived as “heterotopia” (Foucault 1967), in stories by Cristy Zinn, Tendai Huchu, Andrew Dakalira, Stephen Embleton, and Shadreck Chikoti provoke specific “structures of feeling” in the sf scene today.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.