Special Issue: Racecraft and Speculative Culture

In Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life, Karen and Barbara Fields argue that “race” is a pseudo-scientific system for explaining invisible forces. For the Fieldses, “race” is inexorably speculative; it is a way of using imaginary science to construct or “craft” the extra-empirical reality of “racial” difference. This special issue of Humanities (https://www.mdpi.com/journal/humanities) seeks to explore the intersections between the Fieldses’ concept of racecraft—the ensemble of beliefs and practices that make and remake the social reality of “race”—and the various forms of crafting, pretending, playing, fabulating, extrapolating, cognitively estranging, and world-building in speculative culture. As a super-genre or trans-generic category, the speculative stretches across science fiction, fantasy, and horror while also including practices such as role playing and fan cultures. If “race” is always already speculatively crafted, what happens when racecraft meets the implausible, magical, fantastic, or weird in speculative culture?

One important limitation of Racecraft is its neglect of the intersections among “race” and other forms of difference. Thus, “Racecraft and Speculative Culture” also seeks to go beyond the Fieldses’ work and explore how gender, sexuality, class, religion, coloniality, and dis/ability are crafted with (and against) “race.”

This call invites contributions that map the portals between “race” in the realm we call the “real world” and the fantasies of “race” we encounter in the kingdoms of speculation. Possible thematic clusters include, but are not limited to:

• Reading Racecraft with/against aesthetic and cultural theories of speculation, science fiction studies, horror studies, the Gothic, etc.
• Biology, genetics, skin color, “blood,” descent, mixture, etc., in the crafting of speculative peoples, bodies, and places  
• Racecraft and monstrosity, bestiaries, dragons, orcs, aliens, zombies, etc.  
• “Race before race” in medieval studies and the medieval impulse in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, etc.  
• Colonial and post-colonial racecraft, imperialism, “racial” capitalism
• “Racial” technologies, “race” and/as technology
• The dystopian, utopian, and apocalyptic dimensions of racecraft and speculative culture; “racial” speculation as inspiration for projecting and reimagining future societies
• Racecraft and sexual reproduction, queer/trans/xenofeminist futurisms  
• Alternative and counter-racecrafts, Afrofuturism, Black utopias and dystopias, Chicanafuturism, indigenous and non-European speculative writers and traditions
• Young Adult fiction, superhero comics, board games, videogames, other historically low-prestige cultural forms  
• Cosplay, comic conventions, fan communities, Black nerd cultures, live action role playing, other non-textual speculative practices.

Send article proposals of 300-500 words to jesse.ramirez@unisg.ch and bryan.banker@gmail.com by 9 March 2020. Full-length articles will be due 31 August 2020. For more details, see https://www.mdpi.com/journal/humanities/special_issues. 

Are Orcs Racist?

Bright (2017), the most expensive film produced to date by the American streaming media company Netflix, exemplifies the micro-genrefication of American film within the emerging digital ecosystem of platform cinema. This essay uses a symptomatic concept of genre to triangulate a close reading of the film with analyses of generic forms and “racecraft,” a social epistemology that transforms or “crafts” social relations so that they appear to be biological relations among discrete “races.” Combining elements of science fiction, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythology, and the interracial buddy cop movie, Bright is an allegory of contemporary struggles between oppressed “races” and the Los Angeles Police Department. The film is symptomatic of a post-Black Lives Matter moment in US political and cultural history in which narratives of “racial” diversification can no longer redeem the police as an institution. Bright suggests that a new fictional collectivity must be racecrafted in order make cops great again. I conclude the essay by explaining the significance of Bright’s racecraft in relation to the contemporary resurgence of “race” in genetics.

“Are Orcs Racist? Genre, Racecraft, and Bright,The Genres of Genre (SPELL: Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature 38), eds. Cécile Heim, Benjamin Pickford, and Boris Vejdovsky. Tübingen: Narr, 2019.