Margaret Atwood’s Crakers and the Posthuman Future of Humanity

in Bodies in Flux
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In Margaret Atwood’s latest trilogy, MaddAddam, she builds a world where a mad scientist genetically creates cyborg-like creatures with clear guidelines that prescribe their actions according to their physical bodies. Donna Haraway’s exploration of the cyborg’s ability to break free from the limitations of a gendered body becomes very pertinent here. By presenting cyborgs, called Crakers, as two sexes who perform their roles under strict guidelines, Atwood’s text appears to investigate the possibilities of drag, as per Judith Butler, in exaggerating the performance of femininity and masculinity, and by that, dismantling these structures. Crakers perform acts of femininity and masculinity that most of us regard as normal, but in a manner that renders them almost grotesque. The world that Atwood creates is close to extinction, and this poses many questions with regard to the playfulness of gender performance that Haraway and Butler touch upon. The trilogy explores the creation of sexed cyborgs as a possible protection against a world falling apart. Through this creation, Crake, the mad scientist, seems to attempt an escape from versions of fixed femininity and masculinity that threaten his world, and that of the main protagonist Snowman. The readers of the trilogy are left to wonder at the significance of this blurring of distinctions between male and female, and between human, animal, and machine.

This paper attempts to investigate identity and its performative nature within characters we would struggle to call human yet hesitate to think of as anything else. By opening up the space of gender performance to encompass the non-human, Atwood adds perspective to Haraway and Butler, while creating a link between their ways of theorizing identity. Alongside the masculine and the feminine, the posthuman becomes a new site of investigation.