This essay situates Nalo Hopkinson’s science fiction novel Midnight Robber within an understudied tradition of critical and creative thought that theorizes technological futurity in distinctly Caribbean terms. Although not typically read as “science fiction,” Édouard Glissant’s discussion of (ethno)technology and futurology as well as work by Aimé Césaire and Antonio Benítez-Rojo all address the dually oppressive and liberatory roles that emergent technologies—from the sugar mill to the World Wide Web—have played and might continue to play in past, present, and future Caribbean societies. Hopkinson utilizes more explicitly sciencefictional tropes of extraplanetary colonization and cybernetics to explore how technologies carry the potential to serve both (neo) colonial and anticolonial ends. Midnight Robber demonstrates how colonial and anticolonial notions of “progress” similarly rely on a future orientation, and the slippage between these two agendas unsettles reductive binaries between utopian and dystopian futures in the postcolonial Caribbean as well as between totalizing views that characterize digital technology either as beneficent and democratizing or as part and parcel of Euro-American neoimperialism.
The Science-Fictional Caribbean: Technological Futurity in Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber and Beyond
Kate Perillo is an doctoral candidate in English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her work spans many fields, including British and global anglophone modernisms, urban studies, Caribbean studies, and speculative fiction. Her dissertation project, “The Speculative City,” explores spatiotemporalities of twentieth-century urban fiction, paying particular attention to how writers interrogate future-oriented processes of empire and global capital in urban contexts.
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Kate Perillo; The Science-Fictional Caribbean: Technological Futurity in Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber and Beyond. Small Axe 1 July 2018; 22 (2 (56)): 1–17. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-6985642
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