Review: “Utopian Science: Contemporary Feminist Science Theory and Science Fiction by Women” by Jane Donawerth

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Donawerth, J. (1990) Utopian science: Contemporary feminist science theory and science fiction by women. NWSA Journal, 2-4, 535-557.

This week I sought out an article about women and science and SF, which I thought to be relative both to the topics of this week’s readings, and some of my classmates’ interests. In “Utopian science: Contemporary feminist science theory and science fiction by women” Donawerth aims to make a connection between varying feminist utopias in feminist SF literature, and the utopian ideals expressed by feminist science theorists. These parallels range from material goals of feminist scientists, such as equal participation in many scientific fields, to more theoretical dreams of a radical epistemological revolution in the very approach to Science with an S. Donawerth effectively draws these lines by elucidating the work of feminist science theorists and then finds examples of these ideals in feminist SF literature.

This article provided me with a new insight into feminist science theory — a field I find fascinating — which tackles the patriarchal positivism of modern science by insisting on a perceptive, context-driven approach to scientific work. Alongside feminist SF literature (and some theory), feminist science theorists address the “repressive economics of current reproduction” (543), the ecological imperative, the problematic nature of gender and genetic determinism, and the notion of alternative origin stories by imagining a post-Kuhnian move in scientific evolution, to name a few.

The best part about this article, however, is Donawerth’s consistent (both in the intro and the entire conclusion) reminder that these tropes reflect a very specific racial and class group, and that they are not universal narratives in science theory nor science fiction. She parses this argument out by citing SF stories by women of color, and makes note of the differing narratives prevalent therein. I think this article is a great example of a smart exercise in literary analysis, while maintaining a productive political reflexivity throughout.

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