Animal-Human Hybrids: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake

  • Justin Omar Johnston
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


This chapter interrogates Margaret Atwood’s double-vision of biotechnology’s future in Oryx and Crake. Atwood’s dystopian vision of corporate biotech stems from a neoliberal ordering of species similar to the organic image of Darwin’s tree of life. Biotech companies employ this arboreal model of upward, outward expansion, and pure individuation to justify patenting new species and to help manage consumers’ bodies. Atwood, however, uses the figure of hybrid-species to radically disrupt the dystopia of what I call “corporate domesticity.” For Atwood, evolution can no longer be read as a process of species divergence, but, instead, must account for prosthetic webs of lateral-gene-transfer and interspecies kinship. Echoing the microbiological work of Lynn Margulis, Atwood posits a symbiogenetic model of evolution that resists the commodification of species. In so doing, however, Atwood posits a post-apocalyptic event that complicates the novel’s genre and uncomfortably blends discourses of evolution, revolution, and genocide.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin Omar Johnston
    • 1
  1. 1.Stony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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