Bloodchild Revisited

I had meant to post this earlier, but I of course forgot to do so. So although I wasn’t present in class on Friday for the discussion on Bloodchild, from what I’ve gathered from recent posts it seems as though at least part of the discussion pertained to Butler’s assertion in the afterword that, despite what many have claimed, the story is not about slavery. As Clarissa and Audrey have already insisted, respectively, a great deal of our interpretation of this story is dependent upon the context in which we read it. For me, when I first read Bloodchild, it was within Dr. McCoy’s African American Literature class, so nearly everything we read I would immediately fit within the narrative we were building in the class, which almost always was related to African diasporic cultural tradition(s) as well as the issues of slavery and its aftermath. At that time, when I reached the afterword to Bloodchild, I had already convinced myself of the seemingly inextricable links between the relations of power and subjection dealt with in the story and those of American reproductive slavery. In a sense, the afterword pushed back against my assumptions, instead offering another host of themes around which Bloodchild was centered and toward which I could redirect attention, including male pregnancy, botflies, and “paying the rent.”

In addition, and this has plagued me during my second reading of Bloodchild this past week, I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with this issue of authorial intent with respect to Butler’s unequivocal assertion of the meaning of her story. It’s interesting because more than just state what she was trying to accomplish with the story, Butler actually felt the need to dispel rumors of a certain reading of it. I think at least part of what puts Butler in this perhaps unwanted position of having to defend against certain readings of her work pertains to what Dr. McCoy described as how there exists a long and persisting history of marginalizing, or compartmentalizing, the cultural production of women of color in the United States, which inclines me as a reader to treat with respect the author’s own words regarding intent and meaning as part and parcel of her artistic production. At the same time, I consistently have to grapple with my alternative inclination to question the author’s own words as the ultimate or only authority to which my reading should defer, especially given the fact that our main resource throughout the course of this semester in regard to analyzing Butler’s work has been Butler’s own interviews.

However, this time around, after having read some of Butler’s other work, I found myself engaging in a totally different type of reading of Bloodchild. In fact, I found myself reading strong similarities between T’Gatoi and Doro from Butler’s Wild Seed, both in their negotiations with intimate partners as well as in their relative positions of paternal power. I felt similar ambiguity in regard to the ability for there to be consensual intimate relationships in which the context is always already structured by an uneven dynamic of power. However, in Gan and T’Gatoi’s final dialogue towards the end of Bloodchild, I read in Gan’s seemingly affirmative enunciation of consent to bear the offspring of T’Gatoi not as an articulation of “space alien” parasitism, but rather a complex negotiation of intimacy and the “risks” involved in “partnership,” the affective consequences of which at least for me were quite powerful.

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