Ahmed, Ẑiẑek and the Willful Subjectivities of Octavia Butler's Fledgling

Kolson Schlosser, Sarah Stinard-Kiel


This paper provides a critical reading of the willful and speculative subjectivities of Octavia Butler’s final novel, Fledgling (2005). It does so by reading the story in the space between Sara Ahmed’s theory of affective economies and Slavoj Ẑiẑek’s Lacanian psychoanalysis. Thinking through the experiences of the novel’s protagonist (Shori), both in terms of her symbiotic relationship with humans and how her willfulness is resisted by other vampires, helps clarify the normative implications of Ahmed’s and Ẑiẑek’s disagreements about multiculturalism. Broadly speaking, the development of Shori’s subjectivity in the face of overt racism can be read as the non-performativity of multiculturalism, as Ahmed puts it, rather than its hegemonic status, as Ẑiẑek would have it. This observation is reinforced in view of the novel’s reproductive Afrofuturism, which is characteristic of much of Butler’s work, in the sense that futurity is both a point of tension and a symbolic ideal to which our desires are oriented. This paper thus uses the novel to spatialize an important theoretical debate about liberal politics, and uses that debate to analyze the social context that renders the novel intelligible.


speculative fiction; Slavoj Ẑiẑek; Sara Ahmed; Octavia Butler; multiculturalism; reproductive futurity

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Copyright (c) 2016 Kolson Schlosser, Sarah Stinard-Kiel