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Becoming Other: Animals, Kinship, and Butler's "Clay's Ark"

Sherryl Vint
Science Fiction Studies
Vol. 32, No. 2 (Jul., 2005), pp. 281-300
Published by: SF-TH Inc
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4241348
Page Count: 20
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Becoming Other: Animals, Kinship, and Butler's "Clay's Ark"
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Abstract

This paper explores Octavia Butler's "Clay's Ark" as it articulates a parallel between the category of animality and a failure to recognize other humans as kin. Butler's work interrogates the idea of categorical exclusion implied by the human/animal boundary in order to challenge the very logic of discrimination rather than merely to challenge particular examples of discrimination as sexist, racist, etc. Using Deleuze and Guattari's model of subjectivity as becoming rather than being, I examine how Butler literalizes their example of becoming animal by imagining a virus that transforms humans into seeming human/animal hybrids. In the novel, humans who resist the change cannot survive, while those who embrace their new subjectivity represent a more humane future. The paper concludes with a discussion of the new kind of subject described in Butler's novel, one that recognizes boundaries of kinship usually disavowed by human culture, transforming not only what it means to be a subject but also our conception of ethics.

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