Teaching and Living Science Fiction:
Lessons from the Middle East
In this talk, historian Nadya Sbaiti explores the pedagogical possibilities of science fiction in the Middle East and the imaginative possibilities it offers in terms of devising tools for recognising the complexities of colonialism, imperialism, social justice, and climate change. Sbaiti’s graduate seminar “Science Fiction in/and the Middle East” was first taught in Spring 2020 at the American University of Beirut and designed at the height of the pandemic and Lebanon's economic and political breakdown, in part by delving into the deep historical roots that science fiction and the fantastical have in the region. The 12-week long engagement with science fiction's emancipatory aspects provided pockets of relief amidst real-life tumult and allowed for the harnessing of more unfamiliar, otherworldly elements for the construction of possible strategies for decoding the visual and affective. Join Nadya as she reflects on teaching – and living – science fiction in the Middle East, and the methodological tools that the literary genre, in its simultaneous utopian and dystopian refractions, may offer for re-imagining the past and reframing the present.
The session will be followed by Q&A. It is held in conjunction with the talk series Village of Rafts.
Please note that this programme will be conducted online on Zoom.
Image credit: Graffiti art in downtown Beirut (2022). Image courtesy of Nadya Sbaiti.
Dr. Nadya Sbaiti is a historian of the modern Middle East, whose research and teaching foci include gender, colonialism, education, science fiction, and tourism. In the wake of pandemic and economic collapse in Lebanon, she is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Georgetown University – Qatar. She is the author of a number of journal articles, book chapters, and research guides, and is a co-founder and a co-editor of the e-zine www.Jadaliyya.com
Since the 19th century, the Indian Ocean littoral has come to be submerged under larger global flows of colonialism and nationhood. However, in the last two decades, with the initiation of major infrastructure projects, it has resurfaced as a site for open contestation. Neoliberal expansionism, resource use and geopolitics have dominated recent mappings of the littoral. Today, highly specialised capital, infrastructural, ecological, and migratory flows occupy the sea lanes from Canton to Zanzibar. Despite these ‘newer’ neoliberal algorithms, its peoples have continued to chart their own cultural and aesthetic visions, highlighting a need to discuss how the human agency evolves across this terraqueous terrain. In a series of conversations grounded in contemporary practice, Village of Rafts lays the groundwork for an aspirational network across the Indian Ocean littoral.