Translation, Migration, & Gender in the Americas, the Transatlantic, & the Transpacific
5-8 Jul 2017 Bordeaux (France)

Participants > Panelists > Lillvis Kristen

Middle Passage Migrations and Posthuman Multiple Consciousness in Octavia Butler's Science Fiction
Kristen Lillvis  1  
1 : Marshall University

Theorizing the Middle Passage extends the transatlantic slave trade beyond the four centuries of trauma that triangulated Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Toni Morrison finds that Middle Passage dislocations foreshadow modernist alienations (Gilroy 178). Greg Tate extends Middle Passage dislocations to the field of semiotics, arguing that the Middle Passage operates as the bar between signifier and signified (Eshun 297-98). Calvin L. Warren furthers Tate's semiotic approach, asserting that the meaninglessness of signification following the Middle Passage institutes a black nihilism. And Kodwo Eshun “reroutes” the alien abductions of the Middle Passage through contemporary science fictions in order to offer alternative histories and futures (300). Each of these theorists marks the Middle Passage as both a defining, centuries-long moment in history as well as an experience that exceeds the specific time period during which it occurs. Moreover, each theorist recognizes that during and following the Middle Passage, constructions of blackness develop in opposition to yet support of whiteness. This paper examines Middle Passage experiences in Octavia Butler's science fiction in order to argue that the temporal and subjective liminality associated with the Middle Passage produces understandings of blackness both associated with and distinct from of the ontology and cosmology of white power. In Butler's science fiction, considering; identity within the temporal liminality of posthumanism allows the black subject to conceive of a future in which blackness destroys rather than facilitates black objectification. This paper argues that instances of posthuman multiple consciousness in Butler's texts project non-apocalyptic possibilities for the future as well as the past and present.

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