Fantastic Transparencies: the Politics of Corruption in Contemporary Speculative Texts

Project Details


I am applying for a two-year book project to complete my manuscript on the cultural politics of transparency and corruption. In my study, corruption and transparency do not only refer to the taken for granted, narrow definitions that immediately come to mind; on the contrary, they refer to and confer value on modes of knowledge, interpersonal relations, and governance. In recent years, discourses of transparency and corruption have circulated with increasing influence in the domestic and international political spheres. Often arising out of movements that rightfully demand accountability from government and sometimes corporate powers, increasingly the various agents of neoliberal governance appropriate and reshape these discourses to their own interests. For example, in the name of national security and the protection of citizens’ individual freedoms and property ownership, state powers mobilize transparency toward increased surveillance and discipline of the general population, with intensified forms of policing aimed at migrants, the undocumented, the poor, racialized and sexual minorities, and other vulnerable groups. This book argues that speculative cultures are important for how they represent and explore the complexities of the corruption versus transparency problematic. Speculative texts are defined as using “cognitive estrangement” and other aesthetic elements to question economic realities assumed to be inevitable and social values assumed to be universal. The speculative texts I analyze in this study critically engage specific, historical conundrums of liberalism that are at the root of the present ways in which transparency and corruption discourses are deployed. Methodologically, I make this argument by putting speculative fiction in dialogue with recent cultural and political theory on liberalism and neoliberalism, transparency and anti-corruption. This theory includes work on neoliberalism and anti-corruption from South Asia, and an Anglo-American body of work referred to as “critical transparency studies.”The book’s present outline is comprised of an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion. The introduction will first lay out some of the basic premises of the theoretical work on corruption and transparency in relation to the colonial history of liberalism. The second part of the introduction will compile a brief genealogy of the literary and cultural criticism on speculative fiction, outlining how the epistemological and political questions asked by this criticism overlap with those raised by recent theories of corruption and transparency. The chapters will each explore in depth how selected speculative fiction texts address and raise specific sets of questions on the following issues: the concept of corruption in liberalism from the end of British colonialism to the Cold War period and US militarism in Asia; the problematic of transparency in the processes of liberalization in Asia; post-Cold War and neoliberal narratives of female empowerment as a modernizing force of anti-corruption; and limits and possibilities for imagining and enacting new forms of knowledge and community.
Effective start/end date1/08/1831/01/20

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • Transparency
  • corruption
  • speculative fiction
  • liberalism and liberalization


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.