5th ASLE-ASEAN Ecocritical Conference

Posthuman Southeast Asia

23-25 November 2023

Plenary - Keynote Presentation 1

Day 1 - 23 November 2023

8:30 - 10:00 @ E4-PD1 (Zoom ID: 91958004384)

Creaturely Texts: Multispecies Encounters in the Posthuman Era

Pramod K. Nayar

This talk will focus on the theme of multispecies existence and encounters in contemporary literary fiction and non-fiction. It will examine themes and texts in which the human-nonhuman boundary is breached in significant and mutually constitutive ways. It assumes that human-nonhuman exchanges are instances where the human self is refused primacy and is characterised by a distributed self and a relationality with other lifeforms. As will be argued, the focus of "creaturely texts" is the mutually constitutive nature of human and nonhuman identity, as well as the openness of human subjectivity, identity, and ontological state to other lifeforms.

The talk will be structured in three main parts. The first part will develop the concept of "landscape of fear" that ecologists like Almo Farina have theorized. This refers to how humans have transformed the landscape and oceanscape for the nonhuman, and how the landscape responds. It will then move on to a different form of the landscape of fear that is visible in contemporary literature, where humans and the nonhuman share vulnerabilities. It will be argued that their embodiment is embedded in a specific context where certain species of humans and nonhumans are both disposable lives. The second part of the talk will focus on texts that highlight acts of xenocommunication, that is, communication that occurs across species. The third and final part will turn to "biomutation narratives" (David Herman's term) of two kinds: texts where the human is "in dialogue with an other" and texts where the human metamorphs into the other. In particular, instances of zoomorphism, cross-species kinship, and species passing will be discussed.

Pramod K. Nayar (PhD, FEA, FRHistS) is a Professor at the Department of English, University of Hyderabad, India, where he also holds the UNESCO Chair in Vulnerability Studies. His newest books include, Nuclear Cultures (Routledge 2023), Life/Writing (Orient BlackSwan 2023), The Raj (Bloomsbury 2023), the edited 6-volume collection, The Imperial Archives (Bloomsbury 2023), Alzheimer's Disease Memoirs (Springer 2021), The Human Rights Graphic Novel (Routledge 2021), Ecoprecarity (Routledge 2019), among others. Forthcoming is Vulnerable Earth: The Literature of Climate Crisis (Cambridge).