English 9194A

Beyond Apocalypse: Indigenous Specuative Storytelling

Instructor: Professor P. Wakeham.
Fall Half Course.

Global citizens are currently living in the midst of what, a few short months ago, might have seemed to many like a dystopian future. And, yet, while this crisis is felt by all, the severity of struggle is not experienced evenly across the world or even within the same nation: geopolitics, economics, class, ability, and "race" shape who is rendered particularly vulnerable and exposed to harm.

What might reading and thinking about dystopias, apocalypse, and survival offer at such a turbulent time? How might such critical engagements elucidate asymmetries of privilege and precarity while also inspiring hope for solidarity and for social and political change? This seminar will take up such questions by engaging specifically with contemporary Indigenous speculative storytelling across a range of genres from literature and drama to film. While this work has at times been received by non-Indigenous audiences as a new innovation, many Indigenous artists have long asserted that some of the key tropes of speculative fiction such as alien invasion and post-apocalyptic struggles are familiar terrain for Indigenous peoples. As Wirlomin-Noongar-Australian author Claire G. Coleman asserts, Indigenous people "don't have to imagine an apocalypse, we survived one. We don't have to imagine a dystopia, we live in one — day after day after day." With this vital recognition at the forefront, our course will grapple with the historical, social, and political contexts of settler colonialism that have created radically uneven worlds that are experienced as apocalyptic for some while generating privilege and prosperity for others.

While Indigenous speculative storytelling is often used as an imaginative response to colonization, such stories are also rich with Indigenous knowledges and practices that exceed colonialism’s reach. Indigenous stories are thus key to imagining alternative worlds beyond apocalypse, worlds of Indigenous resurgence and regeneration. Attending carefully to the articulation of these worlds and the knowledges they are built upon, our course will engage with the culturally-specific epistemologies and storytelling traditions represented in each work. At the same time, we will also consider points of connection amongst Indigenous artists who are drawing upon their nations’ philosophies to envision decolonial futures.