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Becoming-Posthuman: The Sexualized, Racialized and Naturalized Others of Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood

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posted on 2021-11-23, 22:14 authored by Dunkley, Kitty

This thesis explores the extent to which Octavia Butler’s use of the Other, in her trilogy Lilith’s Brood, problematizes the construct of the Human subject as established under Humanism. Adopting the protean field of posthuman theory as a framework, I advocate for a specifically anti-Humanist reading of the series; indeed, I posit that Butler’s re- imagination of the posthuman functions to empower subjectivities marginalized under this ideology — specifically, sexualized, racialized, and naturalized Others. The thesis argues that Butler confronts these forms of oppression as intersecting and overlapping issues that stem from a common location — myopic Humanism — and require similar remediation — destabilizing the monolith of normativity that constitutes ‘humanness’. I promote the reading of Butler alongside posthuman theory, in elucidating her radical rethinking of unitarian subjectivity and her celebration of the more expansive embrace of vital, diverse intersubjectivity. In reimagining who “we” are (or could be), I contend that Butler is not dependent on a binaristic ontology of either/or, but an expansive ellipsis of and... and. I argue that the series, in this way, underlines the unifying potential of a heterogeneous understanding of life’s multiplicities.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


McNeill, Dougal