Ujjwal Khobra is pursuing a PhD in Posthuman Studies and the Anthropocene at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India. She completed a BA in English Literature from Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi, and an MA in English Literature from the Department of English, University of Delhi. Her areas of interest include posthuman studies and the Anthropocene, speculative fiction, and science and technology studies. Her ongoing doctoral research work focuses on “Posthuman Entanglements, Posthuman Bodies and the Anthropocene in Select Contemporary Indian Speculative Fiction in English.” E-mail: email@example.com
The Portable Portrait of the Human and the Nonhuman Tree in Sumana Roy’s How I Became a Tree: Creating Bio(Art) through Urban Home Gardens during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Abstract: As a personalized, meticulously curated, living example of bio-art, a modicum of creative becoming and becoming-with, a utopian ideal of posthuman sentience, our home gardens represent “us,” a conflictual entanglement of the human and nonhuman other(s) that foregrounds multitudinous possibilities of becoming more than just our species. This paper endeavors to extend a posthuman reading to the act of creating home gardens and becoming-trees while confronting our anthropocentric anxieties and the burdens of becoming redundant during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, the paper depicts the tree/garden as a biological system of organic matter and storytelling amidst crises, while foregrounding a more–than–human contact zone where nonhuman agents perform and articulate vitality. The paper draws on Sumana Roy’s theoretical imbrications between “becoming-a-tree/garden” and “becoming-with or more than a tree/garden” in her work How I Became a Tree (2017). The aim is to situate a de-colonial animistic relationality while highlighting generative and affirmative ethics of trans-species embrace, to encounter our collective planetary realities of death, decay, and growth. In so doing, the paper offers a fantastical yet ecosophical approach to bridging the ontological gap between the human and the tree/garden, a nonhuman organic entity presented here as a storied apparatus.
Keywords: posthuman, COVID-19 pandemic, nonhuman, tree/plant/garden, gardening