English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-2-2016


My project assesses how science fiction by writers of color challenges the scientific racism embedded in genetics, nuclear development, digital technology, and molecular biology, demonstrating how these fields are deployed disproportionately against people of color. By contextualizing current scientific development with its often overlooked history and exposing the full life cycle of scientific practices and technological changes, ethnic science fiction authors challenge science’s purported objectivity and make room for alternative scientific methods steeped in Indigenous epistemologies. The first chapter argues that genetics is deployed disproportionally against black Americans, from the pseudo-scientific racial classifications of the nineteenth century and earlier through the current obsession with racially tailored medicine and the human genome. I argue that the fiction of Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, and Andrea Hairston reveals the continuing scientific racialization of black Americans and complicates questions of humanity that still rise from genetic typing and medical testing. Chapter 2 interrogates the nuclear cycle, revealing what has been erased—the mining of uranium on the Navajo Nation, nuclear testing on Paiute and Shoshone land in the United States, similar tests on Indigenous soil in Kazakhstan, and nuclear waste buried in the New Mexico and Texas deserts. I contend Leslie Marmon Silko, William Saunders, and Stephen Graham Jones reveal the destructive influence of the buried nuclear cycle on Indigenous people globally, as they posit an Indigenous scientific method with which to fight through their novels. The third chapter exposes how the Latina/o digital divide in the United States elides a more disturbing multinational divide between those who mine for, assemble, and recycle the products that create the digital era and those with access to those products. From mining for rare earth elements in the Congo to assembling electronics in Mexico’s maquiladoras and “recycling” used electronics across the developing world, the novels of Alejandro Morales, Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita, and Ernest Hogan reveal the hidden price of the digital world and demand representation—digital, scientific, and historical. Chapter 4 builds on current discussions of Alex Rivera’s film Sleep Dealer to argue that Chicana/o and Indigenous authored science fiction films reveal how the global harvesting of natural resources has expanded to include life itself and organisms’ interiors. Films and other visual productions by Robert Rodriguez, Reagan Gomez, Federico Heller, Jose Nestor Marquez, Rodrigo Hernández Cruz, and Nanobah Becker predict biocolonialism’s expansion as they create worlds reflecting current practices where life forms become no more than patented, mechanized resources for neocolonial capitalist production and consumption.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Jesse Alemán

Second Committee Member

Dr. Catherine Ramírez

Third Committee Member

Dr. Kadeshia Matthews

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Bernadine Hernández

Project Sponsors

UNM Mellon Foundation




science fiction, science studies, comparative ethnic studies, African American literature, Native American literature, Chicana/o literature

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