Nedine Moonsamy

Senior lecturer, English department, University of Pretoria

Nedine Moonsamy has a very distinct childhood memory of falling in love with the sensation of delving into books. She took pleasure in the “texture of the grainy, yellowing pages of public library books and “grasping at words that were never spoken” in her environment. “All of these things brought about the loveliest sense of dissonance where worlds were set in motion that helped me to know and to see and to sense my world with increasing depth and clarity,” she recalls.

But Moonsamy’s romance with reading didn’t end there. As an adult she successfully pursued two master’s degrees in English literature — one at the University of Pune in India, and the other at the University of the Witwatersrand — as well as a PhD in English literature, also at Wits. Moonsamy (32) also held an AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the English department at Rhodes University last year.

Driven by what she describes as “pressing need” to make a culture of critical thought a commonplace one, Moonsamy regularly writes poetry and pieces on arts and culture in South Africa. She has contributed two chapters on South African literature to books edited by international scholars and has published articles in various journals, the most recent of which is a piece on African science fiction which will soon be published in the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry. She is also currently co-editing a special issue of English in Africa, a journal that will be published later this year.

There is very little critical scholarship around science fiction in Africa, and with her latest project, Moonsamy hopes to change this: “This project will critique science fiction in the African context by engaging the particularities that emerge as a result of African uses of science fiction. I will examine how authors navigate the tenuous politics of power, technology and representation when operating within this genre,” she says.

“Of interest is how African writers have adapted the genre to suit the continent, its socio-political complexities and the nuances of its varying cultural milieus. Through a thorough examination of texts from all across the continent, I seek to analyse the differences and similarities that emerge during the engagement with themes like postcolonialism, African utopias (or dystopias), race, gender and class — otherwise central to much African literature — that have found innovative entry points into the imaginative consideration of African futures.” — Fatima Asmal