Stephen “Kip” Tobin received his doctorate in Latin American Literatures and Cultures from The Ohio State University in 2015. His research interests and scholarship focus on science fiction, posthumanism, and speculative ecocriticism in Mexico and Latin America. His written work and scholarship has been published in Latin American Literature Today, the Bulletin of Spanish Studies, Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology, and Society, Alambique, the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, alter/nativas. Palgrave Macmillan will publish his first monograph in 2023, Vision, Technology, and Subjectivity from Mexican Cyberpunk Literature.
He teaches various courses on his research and scholarly interests: Latin American Climate Change Fiction; Visual Dystopias from Latin America: From the Camera to the Smartphone; Posthumanism from the Periphery: Robots, Cyborgs, and Clones in Latin American Culture; Latin American Science Fiction, and Latin American Science Fiction Film. He organized the symposium Surviving the Anthropocene: Speculative Pasts, Presents, and Futures, held at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA on October 14-15, 2022. Session videos can be found at the Spanish and Portuguese youtube page.
His other teaching interests include heritage language pedagogy and fostering an inclusive and equitable classroom. He co-led EPIC’s Inclusive Gatherings, whose mission it is to provide an open space for educators at UCLA and other local colleges to learn about issues of inclusivity and their related best pedagogical practices.
He was co-Director of the Language Program in the Spanish and Portuguese Department for the 2019-2020 academic year.
- 2015: Ph.D., The Ohio State University, OH
- 2009: M.A., Middlebury College, VT
- 1995: B.A., Otterbein University, OH
- Latin American Science Fiction
- Late Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Mexican Narrative
- Visual Culture Studies and Media Studies
- Technoculture and Posthumanism/Cyborg Theory
- Critical and Cultural Theory
- Gender Studies
Monograph: Vision, Technology, and Subjectivity in Mexican Cyberpunk Literature. Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming in 2023.
“El derecho a mirar, la mirada masculina y la remediación en film post-cyberpunk Nía (2006) de Francisco Rivera” in dossier dedicated to Latin American science fiction in Revista de Estudios de Género y Sexualidades. Forthcoming in 2023.
“’Necesitamos agua’: Reading Sleep Dealer as Climate Fiction” in anthology dedicated to climate change and Latin American Science Fiction, eds. Elizabeth Ginway and Terry Harpool. Forthcoming in 2023.
Book Review of El tercer mundo después del sol: Antología de ciencia ficción latinoamericana, to be published in Latin American Literature Today, issue #23, Nov. 2022.
“Does the posthuman actually exist in Mexico? A critique of the essayistic production on posthumanist discourse Written by Mexican (2001-2007)” in Posthumanism and Latin(x) American Science Fiction, Palgrave Macmillan; October 2022. 14 pages.
Book review of Cyborgs, Sexuality, and the Undead: The Body in Mexican and Brazilian Speculative Fiction by Elizabeth Ginway. Bulletin of Spanish Studies; vol 98 (2021), 15-17.
Book review of Mestizo Modernity: Race, Technology, and the Body in Postrevolutionary Mexico by David Dalton,” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts; vol 30, 2 (2019), pp. 293-296.
Book review of Joanna Page’s Science Fiction in Argentina: Technologies of the Text in a Material Multiverse (2016),” alter/nativas: Latin American Cultural Studies Journal, Ohio State University; Spring 2019, pp. 1-3.
“Latin American Science Fiction Studies: A New Era” (book review of Cuando la ciencia despertaba fantasias: Prensa, literatura y ocultismo en La Argentina de entresiglos, by Soledad Quereilhac, Science Fiction in Argentina: Technologies of the Text in the Material Multiverse by Joanna Page, and Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America by Edward King and Joanna Page), Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society; vol. 1, 1 (2018), pp. 65-69.
“The Long-Overdue Recognition of Mexicanx Science Fiction at This Year’s WorldCon76” in Latin American Literature Today, Vol. 1, 8 (2018), with translation into Spanish “El reconocimiento tan esperado de la ciencia ficción mexicanx en el WorldCon76 de este año”
“Televisual Subjectivities in Pepe Rojo’s Speculative Fiction: 1996-2003,” Alambique: Revista Académica de Ciencia Ficción y Fantasía vol. 4, 1 (2016), pp. 1-18.
“Afro-Colombia’s Hip-Hop Performs Intricate Global, Regional, National, and Local Identities” in alter/nativas: Latin American Cultural Studies Journal, Ohio State University; vol. 1, 2 (2014), pp. 1-3.
Visual Dystopias from Mexico’s Speculative Fiction: 1993-2008
- Latin American Climate Change Fiction
This course is designed to introduce undergraduate students to “climate fiction,” or cli-fi, from Latin America. This cli-fi designation often refers to ecocritical literature that is speculative in nature, most often science fiction set in a proximate future. Much of this literary production has appeared in the 21st century, with some precursors occurring in the 20th century. We will read texts composed of short stories, novels, poetry, essays, from a wide variety of countries and authors, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. The course will also include other media to analyze, such as several short films, a podcast, and some visual art and photographs to complement the literary narratives discussed.
As “climate change” is the unifying thread of the course, students can expect every text read and discussed to take some element of nature as a primary narrative force or preoccupation. The narrative of this class will be largely thematic (rather than chronological), with three main areas covered: stories that take anthropogenic global warming as their starting point for speculation and offer either dystopian and utopian forms, followed by narratives that offer a broader criticism of the larger epoch of the “Anthropocene” in which we live. The critical themes that appear across this course’s corpus include questions regarding gender/sexual orientation, race, religious belief, neo-colonization (extractivism), species extinction, posthumanism, and the deterioration of the social and political order.
- Visual Dystopias from Latin America: From the Photographic Camera to the Smartphone
Authors and cultural producers throughout Latin America (and indeed much of the world) have taken visual technologies and their associated media as their imagined objects that have a central place in their narratives. This course offers a panoramic view of four optical technologies—photographic and cinematic cameras, television, and computers/cybernetics/digitalia—in order to show how these devices have impacted Latin American cultural producers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Beyond the visual nature of these texts, another unifying thread resides in the fact that virtually all the works under discussion pertain to non-realist modes of narration, i.e. science fiction and the fantastic, a tendency which helps articulate the question of why do fantastic narratives lend themselves to reflecting upon matters of the visual?
The course matter focuses primarily on literature, with 15 short stories and 4 novels (short novels or fragments of novels), although we will watch 4 films (2 short and 2 long) in order to see how a primarily visual medium of film reflects upon visual technologies, events, and spectators. The following themes, among others, will arise throughout the course photographs as memories, evidence, documentation, “memento mori,” registering scientific truth, revealers of hidden truth; cinema as a phantasmagoric specter of the modern world that creates a visual doubling of the world; television as active agent in augmenting urban violence and creating social and political reality; digital visualities as postmodern surveillance, pornography, the male gaze, the society of the spectacle, simulacra and simulations, and enabling the breakdown in a shared consensus of truth and reality.
- Posthumanism from the Periphery: Robots, Cyborgs, and Clones from Latin American Science Fiction
This undergraduate course taught in Spanish explores Latin America’s cultural production that articulates these enduring technological tropes—robots/androids, cyborgs, clones—through the lens of speculative fiction and film created in the region within the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st. The countries whose texts we will focus on will be Mexico, Argentina, Chile, as well as one text each coming from Colombia and Venezuela. Although these lasting SF icons were born in the global industrial centers where modernity’s machines and postmodernity’s computers quickly pervaded much of society, this was not the case of the periphery where post/modernization has been partial, stalled or incomplete. Still, these doubles consistently appeared and continue to appear not merely as copies but rather as potent symbols that express cultural preoccupations pertinent to their local, national and regional environments. The result is a complex matrix of literary and cinematic images that consistently skew, challenge and extend conceptualizations of what robots/androids, cyborgs and clones have come to signify in their origins, defying global definitions with local sensibilities. These figures also help to gauge each culture’s reaction to the technologies of the era by implicitly answering question “What does it mean to be human?” in a multitude of ways.
- Spanish American Science Fiction
This undergraduate course taught in Spanish explores science fiction cultural production in Spanish-speaking Latin America from the 19th century to the present. As an exploratory course for the uninitiated, it will engage in defining what is science fiction, how it evolved within the context of the fantastic as a reaction to Enlightenment rationality, and why it employs a language of rational speculation that invariably comments upon the present in which it is written. Students will be encouraged to think critically about the region’s relationship with technology, science, and the intertextual relationships that exist with sci-fi from the North (US and Western Europe). We will concentrate on literary and cinematic works from 20th century Mexico and Argentina—the two largest producers of science fiction in the region—but also will include texts from Uruguay, Bolivia, Cuba, Peru, Ecuador and Guatemala. Additionally, we will engage with critical debates that have flourished within and around science fiction texts, approaching these through the lenses of Marxism, gender studies, posthumanism/cyborg theory and postmodern criticism. The objectives of the course is that the student will understand how to read and critically interpret the relationship between Spanish America’s historical reality and its production of science fiction.
- Science Fiction Film from Latin America
This course is intended to introduce students to an often-overlooked genre of films from Latin America: science fiction. Contrary to what might be expected, there is a plethora of these works from the region, which began appearing as early as the 1930s, the bulk of these hailing from Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, with countries like Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Perú all contributing one or more films in the 21st century. Given the longevity of its production, as well as the breadth of styles and approaches in the films, this course will not focus on any one particular approach, theme, or theory; it has been designed to be panoramic in nature, offering an overview of what the region has created in the past 80 years.
The primary unifying thread of the course lies in what constitutes the genre of science fiction film in the region, especially as it relates to definitions of the genre and the immense influence of filmic production in the Global North (mostly from the US). Another equally important emphasis will be placed on what these films signify and ideologically critique, i.e. what are the films’ themes and how to they articulate their critique. A significant amount of time will be spent in showing how cinematographic aspects help convey components of the story, i.e., narrative, story/plot, characters/dialogue, point of view, mise-en-scene, shot composition, camera angles, sound, etc. In this way, each class discussion will center upon how these themes relate to the local/regional concerns of the times and places from where they emerge, as well as some of the salient technical aspects that help convey these messages.