Abstract

Abstract:

This article illustrates the relevance of postanthropocentric theory (e.g., new materialism, object-oriented ontology and actor-network theory) to postcolonial studies of literature and addresses the task, suggested by Dipesh Chakrabarty, of stretching postcolonial ideas of subjectivity to include the human-nonhuman entwinements made visible by the reality of the Anthropocene. By outlining postcolonial criticisms of postanthropocentric theory, the article highlights common ground between the two theories and argues for new perspectives that postcolonial studies may take from that common ground. It illustrates these new perspectives in a combined postcolonial and postanthropocentric reading of Robinson Crusoe (1719)—an iconic imperalist novel that signals the dawn of a highly anthropocentric imaginary in Western culture. In this respect, the article's reading of Robinson Crusoe does three things: 1) Uncovers the conjunction in the novel of an anthropocentric and imperial imaginary and illustrates how (imperial) literature contributes to the cultural suppression of human-nonhuman entwinements; 2) draws on postanthropocentric theory to show how human-nonhuman divisions cannot be sustained even in literature that triumphantly celebrates human exceptionality; and 3) suggests how a postanthropocentric reading may combine with a de-ontologization of race. The article argues that something always escapes anthropocentric representation, and alterity is inevitably let into any narrative through the connotative and aesthetic work of any referent to reality.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1920-1222
Print ISSN
0004-1327
Pages
pp. 1-38
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-21
Open Access
No
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