Jagadish Chandra Bose and the anticolonial politics of science fiction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In postcolonial studies there are two main strands of argument concerning the legacies and effects of cultural imperialism on science fiction as a literary genre. The first strand presents a critical reading of Western science fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth century as a genre that is deeply embedded in the discourses and ideologies of colonialism and imperialism (Rieder, 2008; Kerslake, 2007). The second strand presents a critical reading of the writing back of postcolonial authors, stressing the subversive elements of both science and fiction and their power to undermine dominant narratives of cultural imperialism and (neo)colonialism (Chambers, 2003; Hoagland and Sarwal, 2010; Langer, 2011; Smith, 2012; Varughese, 2013 and 2017). In this article I focus on a piece of colonial-era science fiction from a non-Western writer: Jagadish Chandra Bose's short story "Runaway Cyclone". First published in 1896 and republished in an extended version by the author in 1921, I analyse how Bose's story combines elements of science fiction and magical realism. I then argue that Bose turns the narrative tropes of Western science fiction on their head and thus undermines Western science as an epistemological tool of imperial control. Reading "Runaway Cyclone" alongside Bose's non-fictional accounts on science in colonised India will then reveal a philosophy of science that embraces Western science and Indian philosophy, which in turn can be read as a politics of science that is in effect anticolonial.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0021989420966772
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Commonwealth Literature
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Jagadish Chandra Bose
  • colonial literature
  • magical realism
  • postcolonial theory
  • science fiction

Cite this