“Imagining it differently, dreaming it passionately”: Examining women-of-colors science fiction as womanist spiritual activism
In this dissertation I explore the ways in which women-of-colors science fiction can be regarded as womanist spiritual activism. Building upon the work of Gloria E. Anzaldúa, AnaLouise Keating, and Layli Maparyan, I define spiritual activism as an engaged spirituality directed towards the ending of all forms of oppression that highlights the transformation possible when self and community collaborate in purposeful and interdependent radical change. Using Anzaldúa’s discussion of the path of conocimiento, a spiritual, psychological, intellectual, and even embodied journey that enhances self-reflexivity and self-awareness, I demonstrate how the act of spiritual activism is enacted in the plots of four women-of-colors science fiction novels: The Moons of Palmares by Zainab Amadahy, Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, and Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias.
In the development of this argument, I rely on textual analysis highlighting the capabilities of fiction in eliciting an empathetic response in the reader and the transformative and visionary capacity of science fiction as a genre. I call for a reading of these women-of-colors novels that is culturally aware and cognizant of both the onto-epistemologies that inform the novel and the way the fantastic, or magical, is a representation of “alternative spiritual technologies” (Lavender III Race 31).
Lastly, I consider how the writing of these four novels is a transformative act in its ability to critique the oppressive realities of current society and imagine new more just worlds. The novels, then, exist as acts of “relanguaging” (Maparyan, Idea 129) which work to rewrite and replace negative thoughtforms which support the status quo. The writing of these artforms, too, is a healing act of spiritual activism. Awakening the imagination and the spiritual, these novels invite readers to consider journeying on their own paths of conocimiento ultimately considering how personal and societal change lead to the healing process of spiritual activism. With this analysis of women-of-colors science fiction novels as spiritual activism, I hope to raise questions about the lack of spirit in our academic conversations about the work of women of colors.