Decolonizing Knowledge in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti Trilogy
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How do indigenous and other forms of marginalized knowledges transform not only Eurocentric assumptions about the subject of human rights but also the role of the university, which has traditionally functioned to legitimize certain forms of knowledge and modes of knowledge production while erasing others? How does a decolonial approach to knowledge work force us to consider not just what we know but how and where we know, what methods and epistemologies we employ to produce knowledge and within and through what institutions beyond the state? Naijamerican science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy (2015–2018) presents an especially generative set of texts through which to think through these questions. Its multi-text narrative centers around the university as a crucial institution for producing and legitimizing (or failing to legitimize) decolonial knowledge. Moreover, it frames knowledge production as a process that emerges through the interdependent, collaborative, and at times fractious interactions of multiple, diverse agents. Finally, Okorafor grounds her work within a deeply Afrocentric vision of science fiction.
My deep thanks to Samantha Pinto and Alexandra Moore for organizing this collection, as well as to Samantha Pinto, Eve Dunbar, and Anne Gulick for the incredibly generative ACLA seminar in which I began to develop this essay. It was Anne who really got me thinking about the potential of the university in Binti. I also owe profound debts of gratitude to Andrea Fontenot for talking me through the joyous and intellectually perilous process of transforming a jumble of related thoughts into a coherent essay, and to Nadine at Easton’s Nook retreat for nourishment of many kinds. This is feminist community at its best.
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