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    The social uses of the alien: an account of a science fiction film project in a UK men’s prison

    Hoult, Elizabeth (2017) The social uses of the alien: an account of a science fiction film project in a UK men’s prison. Foundation: The International Review Of Science Fiction , ISSN 0306-4964. (Submitted)

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    Abstract

    Exploration of the idea of the alien underpinned a science fiction film interpretation project carried out with men in a category D, UK prison in 2015. The aim of the project was to encourage participants to engage with imaginary futures, which all involve aliens of one sort or another, in order to facilitate the consideration of alternative, hopeful personal futures, post-release, on the return to the community. The project was framed by the suggestion that there is a link between the ability to think plurally about texts and to be open to the unknown, and the ability to resist authoritative, single readings of one’s own life. Here I argue that that the study group convened around science fiction films can facilitate plural and open responses to questions about the how the other might be imagined. Specifically, the usefulness of the figure of the alien is discussed as a discursive framing device for conversations about the other. The argument is illustrated with data gathered from the participants’ responses to two of the films discussed as part of the project: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968) and Contact (Zemeckis, 1997). It is concluded that the science fiction facilitates discussions about ontological positioning in relation to the other in ways that are less available to other genres or qualitative research methods. It is argued therefore that science fiction has a particular utility value in social research that accompanies its more obvious intrinsic artistic and intellectual contributions to culture.

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