Future Now: Reproductive Politics and the Dystopic Imaginary
My current project, funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2019-2022), examines the central role played by reproductive politics in contemporary dystopian fiction.
In the last few years a number of fictional texts have been published (primarily in North America and the UK) that portray a future, dystopic society fixated on reproductive control. Through a study of fourteen core texts, I am researching why this genre has become prominent now, hypothesizing that it identifies the political unconscious, to use Fredric Jameson’s term, of public and private discourses, and reveals how and why reproduction has become a cultural and political obsession.
While reproductive politics serve as the organizing principle for my textual analysis, the study also establishes that reproductive politics are interconnected with a broad spectrum of issues, including migration and environmental crisis, and are therefore part of larger attempts to control identities, nations, and ecosystems. For instance, many of the selected texts use conventions of the dystopian genre, such as speculative settings and themes of social control, to link reproduction to issues such as climate change or xenophobia, issues that are often understood as distinct from reproductive politics, but which I will argue are intimately related. My objective, therefore, is to read the genre as a way to understand reproduction’s role in contemporary crises of migration, environment, and the nation state, and to consequently analyze the genre’s political value in imagining alternative futures by making these ideological connections.