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Ursula Le Guin’s Speculative Anthropology: Thick Description, Historicity and Science Fiction

Seeger, SA and Davison-Vecchione, Daniel (2021) 'Ursula Le Guin’s Speculative Anthropology: Thick Description, Historicity and Science Fiction.' Theory, Culture, and Society, 39 (1). 026327642110517-026327642110517. ISSN 0263-2764

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This article argues that Ursula Le Guin’s science fiction is a form of ‘speculative anthropology’ that reconciles thick description and historicity. Like Clifford Geertz’s ethnographic writings, Le Guin’s science fiction utilises thick description to place the reader within unfamiliar social worlds rendered with extraordinary phenomenological fluency. At the same time, by incorporating social antagonisms, cultural contestation, and historical contingency, Le Guin never allows thick description to neutralise historicity. Rather, by combining the two and exploring their interplay, Le Guin establishes a critical relation between her imagined worlds and the reader’s own historical moment. This enables her to both counter Fredric Jameson’s influential criticism of her work – the charge of ‘world reduction’ – and point to ungrasped utopian possibilities within the present. Le Guin’s speculative anthropology thus combines the strengths while overcoming some of the limitations of both Geertz’s thick-descriptive method and Jameson’s theory of the science fiction genre.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: anthropology; Clifford Geertz; Fredric Jameson; Ursula Le Guin; science fiction; thick description; utopia
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2021 16:19
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2022 07:45

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