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Jessica Dickson

African Studies with a primary field in Anthropology

Jessica Dickson is a doctoral student in African and African American Studies with a primary field in sociocultural anthropology. Her research focuses on the South African film industry, particularly on the growing number of science fiction projects filmed in southern Africa that promote a postcolonial narrative.

 By examining both international ‘big-budget’ projects that opt to film in South Africa as well as local movie and TV productions, she hopes to comment on the transnational flows of popular culture, the production and appropriation of global imagery, and the role of art and narrative in social processes of collective imagining. Her focus on science fiction (SF), a genre principally concerned with what it means to be human, revolves around its use as a method of anthropological imagination. While classical SF has been critiqued as a genre that showcases technological advancement associated with the West and that reinforces a humanism coded as white and male, ‘postcolonial SF’ assumes the perspective of the marginalized, colonized, and alien-ated protagonist. Jessica’s attention to postcolonial SF in South Africa therefore offers a productive angle from which to explore the critical perspectives taking shape in the global south—in ‘conversation’ and ‘co-production’ with the global north—that comment on postcolonial subjectivity. Moreover, the South African film site may also provide a stage for imagining and ‘imaging’ a post-transition South Africa; a futurism that is both African and global, often dystopic, but simultaneously optimistic.

 These interests emerged while conducting fieldwork on ‘township tourism’ in 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa, where Jessica received a master’s of social science with distinction from the University of Cape Town. She completed her BA in anthropology in her hometown at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008 with minors of study in sociology and African studies.