Literary and Aesthetic Posthumanism

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Grace Dillon, an Anishinaabe scholar of science fiction, writes that “Native slipstream,” a subgenre of speculative fiction, “views time as pasts, presents, and futures that flow together like a navigable stream.” The immense possibilities inherent to this genre, she continues, allow “authors to recover the Native space of the past, to bring it to the attention of contemporary readers, and to build better futures.” 

Biidaaban (Dawn Comes) (2018), a short stop-motion film by Vancouver-based Michif filmmaker Amanda Strong, illustrates the political possibilities of Indigenous slipstream, and Indigenous science fiction more broadly, to envision liberatory futures in the face of forces that naturalize the current destructive, capitalist, and colonial order.

This paper takes as its starting point a problem posed by cultural theorist Mark Fisher, who suggested that capitalism has become so naturalized that it is nearly impossible to imagine an alternative future. Concurrently, I consider the arguments made by Dené political theorist Glen Sean Coulthard that dispossession of land is the foundation of capitalism and colonialism and that the politics of recognition reinforce settler colonial structures of domination.

With these premises, I read a number of writers on Indigenous science fiction and Indigenous political resistance alongside Biidaaban in order to demonstrate how the film’s marriage of anti-colonialism and refusal of settler recognition provide an answer to Fisher’s dilemma. The concepts of biskaabiiyang (Anishinaabemowin, “returning to ourselves”), intergenerational time, grounded normativity, and resurgence are all antidotes to capitalist realism. 

These related terms refer to political strategies that counter colonial power through land-based practices, experiential knowledge, and a rejection of the politics of recognition. Biidaaban and Indigenous slipstream denaturalize capitalism by placing equal emphasis on the past and the future as on the present, the primary domain of capitalism. Similarly, since the control of land, human bodies, and non-human animals are paramount for colonialism and capitalism, this form and representation of resistance counters the very foundation of domination.

This paper serves as the foundation of a larger research project that investigates how the spatial and temporal practices in Strong’s film represent the aforementioned concepts of Indigenous resistance towards colonialism and Enlightenment epistemologies. Strong’s hybrid documentary/fiction films blend traditional stories, time travel, oral history, and contemporary life, drawing on both fine art and film practices.

For this reasons, this research draws on the history of art (particularly contemporary Indigenous art, performance art, feminist art, and ecological practices) and film studies (emphasizing Canadian animation) to offer a nuanced reading of Strong’s work. Methodologically, this project is guided by Indigenous feminist thought, posthumanist theory, and ecocriticism to understand the complex web of relationships between the human and non-human worlds that are integral to Biidaaban and Strong’s other work.

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Record posted by: 
Cecilie Klingenberg