Monsters, Catastrophes and the Anthropocene: A Postcolonial Critique explores European and Western imaginaries of natural disaster, mass migration and terrorism through a postcolonial inquiry into modern conceptions of monstrosity and catastrophe.
This book uses established icons of popular visual culture in sci-fi, doomsday and horror films and TV series, as well as in images reproduced by the news media to help trace the genealogy of modern fears to ontologies and logics of the Anthropocene. By logics of the Anthropocene, the book refers to a set of principles based on ontologies of exploitation, extermination and natural resource exhaustion processes determining who is worthy of benefiting from value extraction and being saved from the catastrophe and who is expendable. Fears for the loss of isolation from the unworthy and the expendable are investigated here as originating anxieties against migrants’ invasions, terrorist attacks and planetary catastrophes, in a thread that weaves together re-emerging ‘past nightmares’ and future visions.
This book will be of great interest to students and academics of the Environmental Humanities, Human and Cultural Geography, Political Philosophy, Psychosocial Studies, Postcolonial Studies and Critical Race and Whiteness Studies, Gender Studies and Postcolonial Feminist Studies, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Cultural Anthropology, Cinema Studies and Visual Studies.
Table of Contents
Introduction Section 1: The past devours the present: Fears of invasion and the repressed memory of colonial violence Section 2: Alien-ing the migrant. On Anthropocenic geographies of monstrosity Section 3: Lifting the veil on the monstrous Anthropocene: a postcolonial analysis Conclusions
Dr. Gaia Giuliani is Researcher at Centro de Estudos Sociais, University of Coimbra, Portugal.
"A sense of catastrophe shapes the present. Terrorism and ‘war on terror’, environmental collapse, pandemic and "migrant crisis" build the background of the analysis pursued in this timely and original book. Investigating Western visual culture and imaginaries, Gaia Giuliani gives us a breathtaking tour across landscapes populated by monstrous creatures that, far from simply being the ‘West’s’ Other, continue to haunt it and in a way foreshadow the possibility of its vanishing. In the time of the catastrophe racialised bodies continue to be targeted by violent measures of control to allow the reproduction of the European and Western ‘we’, as Giuliani effectively shows. But with a classical postcolonial move she is also able to grasp and expose the cracks and fissures that destabilize that ‘we’ and open up the space for a postcolonial and feminist political project built upon such notions as ‘trans-corporeality’, ‘interactivity’ and ‘interdependency of Life and Nonlife’. Working the boundary between postcolonial, visual, and film studies, and at the same time drawing upon a number of other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and political theory, Monsters, Catastrophes, and the Anthropocene is a masterful academic work and a powerful contribution to a critical theory of our present predicament." – Sandro Mezzadra, Professor of Political Theory, University of Bologna, Italy, Co-author (with Brett Neilson) of Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor (Duke, 2013)
"In geological time scale, Anthropocene is a period from WWII to current time. In Gaia Giuliani’s extraordinarily erudite book, it is a time defined by ‘ontologies and logics’ of Othering, where the Western/European ‘we’ produces fears through mediatized narratives of monstrosity and catastrophe as its existential threats. Those fears are supposed to keep at bay resistance to extractivism of Earth’s resources and neoliberal exploitation and exclusion of people deemed expendable. Racialized, gendered, sexualized and classed constructions of monsters serve to preserve and continue colonial-cum-capitalist technologies of power and their political, social, economic and cultural outcomes that privilege white bodies while simultaneously inflicts cultural, material and mortal violence on all others. Giuliani’s critical feminist, postcolonial and ecological perspective offers an exceptional intersectional and genealogical analysis of plentiful examples from political theory and cultural production that links representations of contemporary migration, terrorism and natural disasters to the old colonial tales and images of slavery, apocalypse and endless forms of de-humanizing violence. Importantly, Giuliani also offers a glimpse of political practice that would link human and non-human life with non-living environment in different, non-exploitative modes of production (de-growth, non-exploitative) as well as social reproduction marked by interdependency of self-care and earth-care." – Dubravka Zarkov, Retired, Associate Professor of Gender, Conflict, Development, ISS/Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Nederlands, Research Associate, Radboud University Nijmegen, Co-Editor, European Journal of Women’s Studies, https://journals.sagepub.com/home/ejw
"Monsters, Catastrophes and the Anthropocene A Postcolonial Critique is an urgent and rigorous theorization of global regimes of extractive capitalism, environmental devastation, pandemics, and ongoing war and state violence. Giuliani offers fresh and insightful ways of approaching crises and reimagining what belonging could be like if we abandon a notion of "we" that has promulgated exclusion, suffering, and the deaths of many millions." – Nicole R. Fleetwood, Professor of American Studies and Art History, Rutgers University, USA, Author of Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (Harvard UP, Spring 2020)
"Gaia Giuliani's work has been consistently marked by an ambitious level of engagement and impressive scope. Monsters, Catastrophes and the Anthropocene: A Postcolonial Critique is no exception. It takes a long, hard view of cultural history with particular reference to Europe/the West/Global North relations with its others. Giuliani places monsters as the prism through which these engagements unfold across time. But also how monsters inhabit our own ghostly crises times, culminating in the book’s conclusion on COVID-19. The result is a broad-scoped analysis of "cultural texts" with particular attention to popular culture." – Lars Jensen, Associate Professor of Intercultural studies, Department of Communication and Arts, Roskilde University, Denmark, Author of Postcolonial Europe (Routledge, 2020)
"Giuliani’s extremely rich volume offers precious keys to decipher salient features of the current ‘end times’, murky and agitated by the spectre of planetary crises and permanent catastrophe. Leading the reader through an intense and exciting voyage in recent works of fiction, Giuliani skilfully traces the mutations of classic tropes of environmental discourse (contagion, crises, catastrophe and collapse), and their proliferation in contemporary political debates. Giuliani casts a spotlight on liminal figures such as the alien, the mutant, the monster, all situated in the in-betweens dead/undead, human/non-human. Embodied in widespread representations of the migrant, the terrorist, the victim of climate change/disaster, such figures of the monstrous are analysed by Giuliani as symptom of the reconfiguration of the boundaries between Life and Nonlife, a key site of political contestation in the face of tangled planetary crises. With a thorough and theoretically engaged exploration of visual imaginaries, Giuliani shows how apocalyptic (environmental) narratives extend into the future the postcolonial, racialised, gendered and classed relations that structure current fears and visions. Putting in conversation political theory, environmental humanities, postcolonial and critical feminist studies, Giuliani’s is a thought-provoking intervention in critical debates on the Anthropocene, and a contribution to the pursuit of non-exploitative, caring and decolonized constellations of (non)human Life/Nonlife."— Giovanni Bettini, Lecturer in Climate Politics and Development, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK
"With clear insight of the fringes and structural contradictions of our time, Giuliani’s analysis celebrates an investigative method developed through her long-standing research. Through a broad comparative analysis of visual apocalyptic materials, such as films and TV series, to trace protagonists of present popular imaginary, Giuliani offers original reflections and a visionary energy toward a postcolonial critical approach to contemporary fears of the End. Through a careful use of diverse disciplinary registers, Giuliani’s book innovates philosophical form by building a historical and symbolic journey through the space-time geography of the world, masterfully braiding the threads of the colonial past and neo-colonial present to fix its knots in the construction of figures at the border of social fear; from the monster to the alien, from the virus to environmental catastrophes. The inevitability of concluding on the occasion of the COVID-19 pandemic perfectly closes the circle of reflection, stigmatizing our time and future as an era of a realized (capitalistic) dystopia. The culmination of Giuliani’s brilliant book, however, is nested in its luminous ability to incite ways to think and move toward "a feminist, post-developmental and ecologist epistemology and a political project that embraces a new conception of the political." – Giovanni Ruocco, Associate Professor in History of Political Thought, Department of Political Science, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Italy, author of Razze in teoria. La scienza politica di Gaetano Mosca nel discorso pubblico dell’Ottocento (Quodlibet, 2017)