endosymbiosisHow can the fluid materiality of water inspire a new literary politics of resistance?

Water interconnects material and cultural spaces in ways that are at once ecological and erotic. This paper offers a political perspective on current concepts developed in new materialism. Stacy Alaimo suggests a “marine trans-corporeality” (Exposed, 2016), while Astrida Neimanis (2017) has argued for a posthuman feminism based on watery materialities.  Flux and fluidity here become the shifting new ground for a more resilient imagination of resistance, which is necessary when one acknowledges  the subtle ways in which different forms of natural exploitation and cultural subjugation are interrelated. In popular culture, this has recently been taken up by Guillermo del Toro in The Shape of Water, but the link between political resistance and watery realities is equally present in Amitav Gosh’s The Hungry Tide or Lutz Seiler’s Kruso. The agency of water in each of these texts subverts the alleged power of a dominant nation or narrative, whether this relates to (post)colonial, national, or cultural mastery. It questions notions of authority through its ephemeral and shifting shapes, which communicate its continuous and irrevocable, life-giving energy.  Yet the fluidity of water not only informs the narrative structure of these texts, engendering a textuality of flux; it is also linked to notions of eros when understood in Freya Mathew’s sense, as not a necessarily sexual experience but a sensation of interconnection, of friction and tenderness between human and non-human bodies.  The fierce vulnerability of these desirous and ecological writings shows how a more manifold language can come into being to topple, once and for all, the brutality of the Anthropocene.

I presented this paper on July 6, 2019, at the London Conference in Critical Thought 2019, University of Westminster. 


Picture credits:

Endosymbiosis, tribute to Lynn Margulis», Shoshanah Dubiner, 2012