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

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Notes

  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.

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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. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-88604-2_11

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