1st Edition

Contemporary Pakistani Speculative Fiction and the Global Imaginary Democratizing Human Futures

By Shazia Sadaf, Aroosa Kanwal Copyright 2023

    As the first book-length study of emergent Pakistani speculative fiction written in English, this critical work explores the ways in which contemporary Pakistani authors extend the genre in new directions by challenging the cognitive majoritarianism (usually Western) in this field. Responding to the recent Afro science fiction movement that has spurred non-Western writers to seek a democratization of the broader genre of speculative fiction, Pakistani writers have incorporated elements from djinn mythology, Qur'anic eschatology, "Desi" (South Asian) traditions, local folklore, and Islamic feminisms in their narratives to encourage familiarity with alternative world views. In five chapters, this book analyzes fiction by several established Pakistani authors as well as emerging writers to highlight the literary value of these contemporary works in reconciling competing cognitive approaches, blurring the dividing line between "possibilities" and "impossibilities" in envisioning humanity’s collective future, and anticipating the future of human rights in these envisioned worlds.


    Shazia Sadaf and Aroosa Kanwal

    1. Islam in Pakistani Fantasy Fiction

    Shazia Sadaf

    2. Technology, Superheroes, and the Muslim Youth

    Aroosa Kanwal

    3. Speculative Human Rights

    Shazia Sadaf

    4. Unreading Patriarchy through Pakistani Fantastika

    Aroosa Kanwal

    5. Speculations in Space and Subjectivity

    Shazia Sadaf



    Shazia Sadaf teaches Human Rights and Social Justice in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. She holds a PhD in English Language and Literature from the University of London, UK, and a second doctoral degree in Postcolonial Studies from Western University, Canada, with a primary interest in the field of human rights literature. Her research focus lies in the intersectional areas of War on Terror Studies, human rights discourse, and post-9/11 anglophone literature. She has authored chapters in Narratives of the War on Terror: Global Perspectives (2020), Violence in South Asia: Contemporary Perspectives (2019), The Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Writing (2018), and Mapping South Asian Masculinities: Men and Political Crises (2015). She has had several articles published in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, South Asian History and Culture, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, and the European Journal of English Studies.

    Aroosa Kanwal is Assistant Professor in English Literature and Chairperson, Department of English at the International Islamic University, Pakistan. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at Lancaster University, UK (2018–2020). She is the author of The Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Writing (2019) and Rethinking Identities in Contemporary Pakistani Fiction: Beyond 9/11 (2015). Her monograph Rethinking Identities received the KLF-Coca-Cola award for the best non-fiction book of the year 2015. She is the editor of the Journal of Contemporary Poetics, housed in the Department of English, International Islamic University (IIUI). She has published chapters and articles in Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora (2014), edited by Claire Chambers and Caroline Herbert; Consciousness, Theatre, Literature and the Arts (2012), edited by Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe; Journal of Gender Studies, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, and Journal of International Women’s Studies.

    "Shazia Sadaf and Aroosa Kanwal’s exciting new book highlights the ways in which writers of Pakistani heritage engage with ‘desi’ (South Asian) tropes and metaphors to reimagine nonwhite Muslim futures. This volume foregrounds ways in which selected literary work set in Pakistani Muslim world contexts reflects imaginative modes that exemplify the fantastika. Sadaf and Kanwal put a desi approach into conversation with Western-centric worldviews of the future, drawing upon religious mythology, Qur’anic eschatology, South Asian traditions, and Islamic feminism while engaging with Pakistani creative voices. This book breaks new ground in its attention to very recent speculative and science fiction texts, many of which have not been discussed in detail elsewhere."

    Claire Chambers, Professor of Global Literature, University of York

    "In this important study, Sadaf and Kanwal situate Pakistani speculative fiction within djinn mythology, Islamic feminisms, and local folklore alike. Their riveting analyses will be crucial as we all imagine and speculate about our collective future together."

    Shazia Rahman, author of  Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism: Pakistani Women’s Literary and Cinematic Fictions (University of Nebraska Press, 2019)