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Visionary medicine: speculative fiction, racial justice and Octavia Butler's ‘Bloodchild’

Abstract

Medical students across the USA have increasingly made the medical institution a place for speculating racially just futures. From die-ins in Fall 2014 to silent protests in response to racially motivated police brutality, medical schools have responded to the public health crisis that is racial injustice in the USA. Reading science fiction may benefit healthcare practitioners who are already invested in imagining a more just, healthier futurity. Fiction that rewrites the future in ways that undermine contemporary power regimes has been termed ‘visionary fiction’. In this paper, the authors introduce ‘visionary medicine’ as a tool for teaching medical students to imagine and produce futures that preserve health and racial justice for all. This essay establishes the connections between racial justice, medicine and speculative fiction by examining medicine's racially unjust past practices, and the intersections of racial justice and traditional science and speculative fiction. It then examines speculative fiction author Octavia Butler's short story ‘Bloodchild’ as a text that can introduce students of the medical humanities to a liberatory imagining of health and embodiment, one that does not reify and reinscribe boundaries of difference, but reimagines the nature of Self and Other, power and collaboration, agency and justice.

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