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Between Resistance and Heritage: Science Fiction in the Arab World

February 12, 2023
A Space Exodus (2009) dir. Larissa Sansour

The Arab world is rarely thought of as a hotspot for science fiction. The kinds of Arab stories that rise to international acclaim are usually social issue dramas, documentaries, or tales of refugee struggles. Nonetheless, in recent years, the tides of genre in the region have changed. From Ahmed Saadawi’s 2013 novel Frankenstein in Baghdad and Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s 2012 Utopia, to Meshal AlJaser’s 2020 film Arabian Alien and the animated sci-fi series Ajwan, in the past decade, Arab science fiction (ASF) has increasingly caught the attention of audiences and critics worldwide. Contrary to popular belief, however, ASF is not a new genre. Arab countries have long been home to a rich and vibrant science fiction tradition — one which is closely intertwined with colonialism and political resistance. Some evidence even points to the possibility that the genre was invented in the Arab world. Why, then, has sci-fi historically been associated with the West? Science Fiction and Colonialism While the genre’s origins have been the subject of debate, modern science fiction is largely believed to have originated in 19th century Europe, during the continent’s transition into the industrial age. These…

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