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Words as cultural territories?

In the short video, Speculative Fabulation Donna Haraway explains her choice of using “fable” rather than “narration” in English. Here “fiction” is used in the sense of a tale, including magical creatures and anthropomorphic animals.

  • She doesn’t point at if it’s meant, as in fables to have a moral conclusion.

Instead, she focuses on the fact that even Science Fiction can be used as a material, whilst acknowledging how peculiar it might sound for a scholar to be doing so.

In this video she doesn’t develop much on her method nor on what she is stating by doing so, what steps out instead is the importance of choosing the correct word to define a concept/a practice and above all, to place those words in their cultural context.

When choosing a word to define a concept one should be aware of what it holds, be able to defend it, and justify these choices.

This might be why language appears of strong importance, as it frames where you are talking from, your context, how you situate your speech, and maybe more importantly the context of the people who will receive it.


She stresses the difference between French and English when using the word “narration” and why she chose not to use it in English, even though they might sound homonymous. To translate Narrative Speculation in French, and convey her interpretation of it, she would use Speculative Fabulation instead of Speculative Narration.

The main reason for that is that Narration in English is not as open as it is in French.

In English, according to her, the word is occupied by a branch of literary critical theory that she doesn’t relate to.


It was very striking to see how in her analysis words are presented as territories, ones you could fight for. It also shows how definitions are not objective nor rigid, they evolve and embody different connotations and associations.


She understands narration speculative (in French) as covering an area that relates to an oral tradition of communication:

“Everyday storytelling practices of storytellers, not all professionals nor writers. It could be parents telling their children stories, stories of life…”


Fabulation is the making of wild facts, ones that won’t hold still when Narrative has been domesticated.


This came as very interesting for the research and practice that I am trying to build. Firstly because of the right choice of words when it comes to fiction and narration which are a central points in my work. But also when it comes to what is considered as scientific, objective confronted to what is difficult to grasp and collect because as she says it is part of everyday life.



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