The Mattering of Black Lives: Octavia Butler’s Hyperempathy and the Promise of the New Materialisms

Diana Leong


This article argues that the ethical potential of “the nonhuman turn” advanced by the new materialisms is structured by disavowed social fantasies about black female flesh. The most recent new materialist publications draw upon the techno-scientific developments of the Anthropocene, a geological epoch defined by the cumulative effects of species-level human activity, to demonstrate the supposed inadequacy of poststructuralist “identity politics” for meeting the intellectual challenges of our time. But as a close reading of Octavia Butler’s Parable duology reveals, any model of ethics that dismisses considerations of race as such, and attention to the history of racial slavery in particular, will fail to address the most fundamental questions, ethical and otherwise, of the modern world. 


Octavia Butler, New Materialisms, Matter, Slavery

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Copyright (c) 2018 Diana Leong


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