UBC Theses and Dissertations
Alien others : speculative hybrids in imaginary worlds Martini, Chandra
Hybridity plays a principal role in both J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, crystallizing in the treatment of the origin of species. Through these texts I investigate how the generic condition of speculative fiction (SF), in its claims to unreality, opens up an imaginative space in which to excavate hybridity as a site of tension between the concepts of race and species. I draw on the theoretical constructs of hybridity and posthumanism, particularly as formulated by Robert Young in the first case and Cary Wolfe in the second, to argue that these concepts are fundamentally interdependent in post-Enlightenment Western humanism. Both Young and Wolfe show how a tradition of Western humanism has enabled, justified and managed the oppression of both animal and racial Others by casting them as subhuman. Tolkien’s and Butler’s representations of hybridity are haunted by historical manifestations of this logic; Tolkien’s Half Elves are informed by the threat of the Nazi programme of racial purification, and Butler’s human-alien hybrids recall a legacy of slavery and a contemporary discourse of genetics. By blurring the boundary between race and species, they expose the fact that race and species are always already mutually constituting. Drawing on Butler’s and Tolkien’s texts, I argue the importance of integrating an analysis of race into the efforts begun in posthumanist animal studies to build a more honest and ethical way of thinking through the relationship between our species and others.
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