Subversion and the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in Contemporary Science Fiction

Subversion and the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in Contemporary Science Fiction

Can Koparan


This article points out the ways in which the relationship between language and political resistance are problematized in “meta-linguistic” science fiction novels after the 1980s. Although the 20th century anti-utopias tend to view language as a prison house for thought and self-determination under oppressive regimes, Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue (1984), Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992) and China Miéville’s Embassytown (2011) are distinct novels in the tradition of language-related science fiction, in the sense that these texts imagine possibilities of resisting oppressive power structures by exploring similar conceptions of language as a way of transforming cultural, perceptual and political realities. The article analyzes these novels where resistance is enacted in the forms of language construction, digital world-making and metaphorical language, in order to question their political and fictional potentials for formulizing subversion in our imagined futures.

About the Author

After majoring in social anthropology and English, Can Koparan began his career in the private sector as a fieldworker and analyst on ethnographical research projects about consumer behavior. He later returned to academia to pursue his master’s and doctoral degrees in English Language and Literature. In the spring of 2017, he was a guest researcher at The University of Oslo, The Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages. In 2019, he earned a Ph.D. degree at Bogazici University, Istanbul, with his dissertation titled, “Future Conceptions of Language in the Contemporary Science Fiction Novel.” He also taught an introductory course on literary studies and worked as a research assistant at the same institution. His main academic interests include the intersections of political philosophy, resistance movements, identity and language within contemporary speculative fiction. An independent researcher, Koparan lives in Norway, where he is currently writing his own fiction and preparing an article on the representations of Occidentalism in the novels of Orhan Pamuk and Salman Rushdie.

Published: 2020 – 12 – 30

Issue: Vol 3 (2020): The Blue Pill Dilemma: Is Knowledge a Blessing or a Curse?

Section: Yearly Theme

Copyright (c) 2020 Can Koparan

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