Charles Center Research #2: Identity and Depiction

Identity Centralization

As was briefly alluded to in my discussion of Dune and its nigh-unavoidable presence it has within the Muslim Futurist mentality and perceptual zeitgeist, I have in my studies found the issue of “identity centralization” to be a recurring cause of debate within the community, though often the issue remains nameless and its repeated appearnaces unlinked. To put it simply, the issue can best be pithily described through the oft-repeated phrase “why must (x) be put in our face?” Here, I aim to contend that this grievance is far more than a knee-jerk conservative response, and demonstrate how its presence in popular discourse over identity-drive aesthetics and modes of expression poses a very real threat as to the viability of a movement. 

First, it is important to separate the different modes of identity centralization, beginning with that ever-quoted first mode. While the grievance unto itself may not be genuinely valuable, in that there is nothing wrong with an expression focusing upon a specific identity, especially that of a marginalized one, its omnipresence is concerning in regards to the possibility of growth for a genre so specifically geared towards discussion if identity as Muslim Futurism. Some might say, in this case, “so what? People will complain, but such complaints are almost always going to be drawn from those external to the movement.” The issue then becomes a matter of tension from my early proclamations of what I believe movements like Muslim Futurism are capable of. They are what is left in saving us from the endless cycle of late-capitalist Western Futurism that Mark Fisher predicted, they are the way forward, into new envisionments of where we can go, and what we can do. To enter into such a role, it is necessary to address the grievances made by the many, so that the ideas within Muslim Futurism can be accessed by the many as well. The means by which this could be accomplished is core to the latter part of my paper.

The second issue with identity centralization is that of definition and cohesion. To what extent must a Muslim Futurist work be about the Muslim identity in a Futurist framework, as opposed to simply having Muslim themes or an aesthetic? As has been stated in previous posts, Dune is inspired in part by Islam and the Middle East, but a work of Muslim Futurism it is not. A work can feature a Muslim protagonist, but a simple mentioning of this fact likewise seems outside the lower limit of what would make a work one of Muslim Futurism. While this all acts as splitting hairs in the abstract, it becomes noticeably important as a movement involves, similarly due to outside perceptions. An incredibly engaging and influential work within modern Afrofuturism has been the Mundane Afrofuturists’ Manifesto by Martine Syms, and due to its wide reach and directives for works defined as Afrofuturist, it has become necessary to more clearly delineate Afrofuturist works. To allow for Muslim Futurism to be similarly evolutionary, it may be necessary to work out similar kinks in categorization regardin engagement with the Muslim identity.