Series:

Graham Huggan

Huggan’s essay argues the case for a productive alliance between postcolonialism and ecocriticism and acknowledges that such a case is not immediately persuasive. Deep ecologists might argue that postcolonial criticism has been, and remains, resolutely human-centred (anthropocentric). Committed first and foremost to the struggle for social justice, postcolonial critics have been insufficiently attuned to life-centred (bio-or ecocentric) issues and concerns. A growing body of work exists, however, to suggest a convergence between the interests of postcolonial and ecologically minded critics. Huggan examines debates about the parallels between racism and speciesism before he looks at two recent Canadian novels in which the production of a nonhuman “ecological subject” by no means precludes human social and political concerns. The novels are Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2002) and Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone (1998). In the course of his analysis Huggan gauges the implications of the differences between the presentation of the human and animal worlds respectively, given the novels’ ‘postcolonial’ status. He considers their respective engagement with the racism/speciesism nexus, and their treatment of the discourses of both human and animal liberation, particularly with regard to the captivity of animals and to the alleged violation, through captivity, of their basic moral rights.

Series:

Graham Huggan

Abstract

Playing on different notions of the virtual – the incomplete, the hyperreal, etc. – this essay looks critically at mediated discourses of multiculturalism across a variety of contemporary British texts (literature, film, news media, sociology, political memoir). After examining the historical background to multicultural policies in turn-of-the-century Britain, the essay assesses the ambivalent role multiculturalism plays in supporting social and cultural diversity within an increasingly dispersed political structure. Without dismissing the transformative potential of multiculturalism in Britain and, by extension, the ‘New Europe’, the essay argues that multiculturalism’s communitarian ideals continue to disguise a variety of social tensions: racial discrimination, even racist violence; inbuilt hierarchies of class and gender; the disparity between grandiose political ambitions and relatively modest constitutional reforms. Multiculturalism might be seen, in this last sense, as something of a test-case for a government increasingly accused of privileging style over substance, and of promoting a ‘New Britain’ in which established interests are protected, novelty jostles with nostalgia, and the millennial rhetoric of revolutionary change affords further evidence of the alliance between political opportunism and media spin.