ICFA 2009, Final Session–East Meets West: Colonialisms, Cultures, and Identities

During the Saturday, 4:00pm-5:30pm session, the last presentations of the conference, I went to hear Janice M. Bogstad’s paper on Jules Verne and China, and introduce myself and The Postnational Fantasy:  Nationalism, Cosmopolitics, and Science Fiction project to the other two presenters:  Mayurika Chakravorty and Suparno Banerjee.  The attendence was light, but pretty good for the last session on the last day.  And, I can say that I’m glad that I made it to the panel to hear all the presenters’ interesting ideas.

Mayurika Chakravorty from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London read her essay, “The ‘Other’ Science:  A Study of Amitav Ghosh’s Calcutta Chromosome.”  In her paper, she talked about the theme of estrangement from others by technology, the subversion of colonial science, and the way in which the novel challenges the genre definition of SF. 

Janice M. Bogstad from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire presented her paper, “Colonialist/Postcolonial Perspectives in Jules Verne’s Tribulations D’un Chinois en Chine (and other works).”  This is her sixth paper in a series on the writing of China by SF authors.  She thinks of Verne’s work as “humanist vision in a racist and sexist time,” and a case of “colonialist and postcolonialist double vision.”  However, she admits that there is still much work and re-reading of Verne’s work to what extent and magnitude Verne apparently supports colonized peoples. 

Suparno Banerjee from Louisiana State University closed out the session with his reading of “Alternative Dystopias:  Science, Power, and Fundamentalism in Rimi Chatterjee’s Signal Red.”  Banerjee’s dissertation is on Indian Science Fiction (which I suspect will be something very publishable when he’s completed it), and his work on Chatterjee’s novel is very interesting in the ways SF is employed to critique the extrapolative growth of religious fundamentalism in India’s future.  Instead of oppression coming from without, oppression arrives from within by Hindu fundamentalists appropriating colonial/Western sciences for their own scientific narratives.