Skip to main content

Of Cyborgs, Aliens, and Tricksters: Posthumanist Perspectives on the Male Body in Caribbean Speculative Literature

  • 104 Accesses

Part of the Palgrave Studies in (Re)Presenting Gender book series (PSRG)

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   19.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-88604-2
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book
USD   29.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)


  1. 1.

    The skepticism towards humanist ideas that transpires in the work of Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, or Michel Foucault in the mid-twentieth century and is inherent to posthuman critique here stands in contrast to the emergence of posthuman bodies in popular culture at the same time. The latter were “committed to a defence of humanism” (Badmington 2000, 7) and spoke to a profound anxiety that “[man’s] position at the centre of things was at risk” (8).

  2. 2.

    Significant anthologies that have collected and furthered CSF include, for instance, the Dark Matter collections by Sheree R. Thomas (2000 and 2004), the short story collection New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean (2016) edited by Karen Lord, as well as three volumes of short stories, (co-)collected and (co-)edited by Nalo Hopkinson: Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root (2000), Mojo: Conjure Stories (2003), and So Long Been Dreaming (2004). This proliferation of fictional texts was met with an increase in scholarship since the 2010s: Noteworthy studies that focus on CSF include, for instance, Ingrid Thaler’s Black Atlantic Speculative Fiction (2010), Jessica Langer’s Postcolonialism and Science Fiction (2011), or Andrea Shaw Nevins’s Working Juju: Representations of the Caribbean Fantastic (2019). In 2019, the Journal for West Indian Literature has also dedicated a special issue to ‘Caribbean Science/Speculative Fiction’.

  3. 3.

    We embrace Rieder’s position, which warns against focusing on genre too narrowly and urges to acknowledge science fiction’s inherent diversity (2010, 192–193). In this vein, we are aware that our decision to label and read the selected representations as examples of speculative fiction decisively shapes our interpretive approach towards them.

  4. 4.

    While postcolonial is notoriously difficult to define and cannot be discussed in its entirety in this article, we consider it—similar to our understanding of speculative fiction and the posthuman—as a mode of thinking and approaching texts. This lines up with Bart Moore-Gilbert’s well-known definition of postcolonial criticism as a reading practice that is “preoccupied principally with [the] analysis of cultural forms which mediate, challenge or reflect upon the relations of domination and subordination—economic, cultural and political—between (and often within) nations, races or cultures, which characteristically have their roots in the history of modern European colonialism and imperialism and which, equally characteristically, continue to be apparent in the present era of neo-colonialism” (1997, 12). In this respect, the term itself attests to a “widespread, epochal crisis in the idea of linear, historical ‘progress’” (McClintock 1992, 85) that occupies Western thinking—and the genre of science fiction.

  5. 5.

    The books’ simultaneous inquiry into the potentials of technoscience to transcend limiting embodiments as well as their skepticism towards humanist values resonates with what in academic discussions has surfaced as opposing notions of trans- vs. posthumanism.

  6. 6.

    Francesca Ferrando, for instance, wonders whether “the posthuman body [will] still be shaped in terms of gender, race, age, class, (dis)ability and sexuality among others” (2015, 219).

  7. 7.

    Confer here, for instance, Erin M. Fehskens’s analysis of Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber (2010) or Jarrel De Matas’s analysis of Karen Lord’s edited collection New Worlds, Old Ways (2019).

  8. 8.

    Biopower, as a method of biopolitics, is, with Foucault, “a power bent on generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them” (1990, 136) and exercised via the body and its “controlled insertion […] into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of population to economic processes” (141).

  9. 9.

    This includes historical references to the Black Atlantic and the Middle Passage or the Great Migration, which are revisited within an outer space setting, as well as negotiations of racial capitalism, imperialism, and new forms of slavery.

  10. 10.

    As Shaw Nevins observes, the generic description of science fiction as depicting an encounter with the ‘strange’ evokes the experiences of Africans in the transatlantic slave trade, to whom European colonizers must have resembled ‘aliens’ (2019, 102).

  11. 11.

    The (sparse) scholarship on Buckell reads his works predominantly as imagining alternative histories in line with Afrofuturism (Howard 2019) and as putting forward an “alternate, positive model of race consciousness” (DeGraw 2015, 41). Shifting the focus to the text’s category purism, particularly pertaining to notions of ‘the human’ and gender, our analysis complicates such readings.

  12. 12.

    Curiously, Pepper is categorized and identifies himself as “[h]uman” (38) vis-à-vis other species, who are then framed as ‘alien its’ (37–38, 150).

  13. 13.

    By contrast, the more conventionally feminine character of Mei is faced with murder in this masculinist universe.

  14. 14.

    This is amplified with the character of Nashara: While only identified as Pepper’s granddaughter in the Xenowealth short story “Placa del Fuego”, Ragamuffin explains that she is in fact Pepper’s clone and thus a ‘man’ in a ‘female’ body. Further, Nashara had to give up her womb to be “fitted with quantum computers running intrusion devices that can overpower lamina and make it extensions of our minds” (Buckell 2007, 105).

  15. 15.

    In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon famously recounts how, being subjected to the white gaze, “the corporeal schema crumbled, its place taken by a racial epidermal schema” (1986, 112).

  16. 16.

    In the scene where the couple changes suits to experience the other gender’s bodily sensations, Issy enjoys the new-found power the suit gives her: “God, it’s good. […] Like being fucked, only she had an organ to push back with” (176). Cleve, on the other hand, is initially unable to stand the penetration of the male body by the female: “[I]t started to feel like, I dunno, like my dick had been peeled and it was inside out, and you, Jesus, you were fucking my inside-out dick” (177; emphasis in original). His fear of losing sexual prowess correlates with male anxieties of being reduced to an object in the face of female sexual emancipation, and his subscribing to disciplinary body regimes: “If I’m not there, there’s always sugar, or food, or booze. I’m just one of her chosen stimulants” (189).

  17. 17.

    The tense relation between orality and writing is also emphasized in stories that draw on European fairytales.


  • Ahmed, Sara, and Jackie Stacey. “Introduction: Dermographies.” In Thinking Through the Skin, edited by Sarah Ahmed and Jackie Stacey, 1–18. London: Routledge, 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bacchilega, Cristina. “Extrapolating from Nalo Hopkinson’s Skin Folk: Reflections on Transformation and Recent English-Language Fairy-Tale Fiction by Women.” In Contemporary Fiction and the Fairy Tale, edited by Stephen Benson, 178–203. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  • Badmington, Neil. “Introduction: Approaching Posthumanism.” In Posthumanism, edited by Neil Badmington, 1–10. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984 [1965].

    Google Scholar 

  • Bessette, Lee Skallerup. “‘They Can Fly’: The Postcolonial Black Body in Nalo Hopkinson’s Speculative Short Fiction.” In The Postcolonial Short Story: Contemporary Essays, edited by Maggie Awadalla and Paul March-Russell, 167–181. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    Google Scholar 

  • Booker, M. Keith. Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction in Literature. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014.

    Google Scholar 

  • Braidotti, Rosi. “Posthuman, All Too Human: Towards a New Process Ontology.” Theory, Culture & Society 23, no. 7–8 (2006): 197–208.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Buckell, Tobias S. Crystal Rain. New York: Tor Books, 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. Ragamuffin. New York: Tor Books, 2007.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. Xenowealth: A Collection. Self-published, 2015.

    Google Scholar 

  • DeGraw, Sharon. “Tobias S. Buckell’s Galactic Caribbean Future.” Extrapolation 56, no. 1 (2015): 41–61.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • De Matas, Jarrel. “Of Cyborgs and Immortal Women: Speculative Fictions of Caribbean Posthumanity in Selected Stories of New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean.” Journal of West Indian Literature 27, no. 2 (2019): 39–51.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto P, 1986 [1952].

    Google Scholar 

  • Fehskens, Erin M. “The Matter of Bodies: Materiality on Nalo Hopkinson’s Cybernetic Planet.” The Global South 4, no. 2 (2010): 136–156.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ferrando, Francesca. “The Body.” In Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction, edited by Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and Robert Ranisch, 213–226. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2015.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: Volume 1: An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1990 [1976].

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Random House, 2012 [1975].

    Google Scholar 

  • Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, 1989.

    Google Scholar 

  • Georgi, Sonja. Bodies and/as Technology: Counter-Discourses on Ethnicity and Globalization in the Works of Alexandro Morales, Larissa Lai and Nalo Hopkinson. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2011.

    Google Scholar 

  • Graham, Elaine L. Representations of the Post/human: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture. Manchester, UK: Manchester UP, 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncomouseTM. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. Manifestly Haraway. Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesota P, 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hayles, Nancy Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hopkinson, Nalo. Skin Folk. New York, NY: Warner Books, 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. “Introduction.” In So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Visions of the Future, edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan, 7–9. Vancouver, BC and London: Arsenal Pulp; Turnaround, 2004.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard, Jacinth. “Black Technologies: Caribbean Visions and Versions in the Speculative Narratives of Tobias Buckell and Karen Lord.” Journal of West Indian Literature 27, no. 2 (2019): 1–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins, Destin, and Justin Leroy. “Introduction: The Old History of Capitalism.” In Histories of Racial Capitalism, edited by Destin Jenkins and Justin Leroy, 1–26. New York: Columbia UP, 2021.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lacan, Jacques. On Feminine Sexuality, the Limits of Love and KnowledgeEncore: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX. Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, translated by Bruce Fink. New York: Norton, 1999 [1972–1973].

    Google Scholar 

  • Langer, Jessica. Postcolonialism and Science Fiction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lord, Karen. “Foreword.” In New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, edited by Karen Lord, 7–9. Brooklyn, NY: Peekash P, 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  • McClintock, Anne. “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Post-Colonialism’.” Social Text, no. 31/32 (1992), 84–98.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Colin Smith. London and New York: Routledge, 2010 [1945].

    Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. The Biopolitics of Disability: Neoliberalism, Ablenationalism, and Peripheral Embodiment. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2015.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics. London: Verso, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rehling, Nicola. “Fleshing Out Virtual Bodies: White Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Cyberfantasy Cinema.” In The Future of Flesh: A Cultural Survey of the Body, edited by Zoe Detsi-Diamanti, Katerina Kitsi-Mitakou, and Effie Yiannopoulou, 181–198. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Rieder, John. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. “On Defining SF, or Not: Genre Theory, SF, and History.” Science Fiction Studies 37, no. 2 (2010): 191–209.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading; or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Introduction is About You.” In Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction, edited by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 1–38. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shaw Nevins, Andrea. Working Juju: Representations of the Caribbean Fantastic. Athens, GA: The U of Georgia P, 2019.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. Edited by Gerry Canavan. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2016 [1979].

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolfe, Cary. What Is Posthumanism? Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2009.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Silvia Gerlsbeck .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Dexl, C., Gerlsbeck, S. (2022). Of Cyborgs, Aliens, and Tricksters: Posthumanist Perspectives on the Male Body in Caribbean Speculative Literature. In: Dexl, C., Gerlsbeck, S. (eds) The Male Body in Representation. Palgrave Studies in (Re)Presenting Gender. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Download citation