All posts by Kallie Swyer

Language Politics

One of the most powerful things that I’ve read in all of Butler’s assigned fiction, is the passage in Mind of My Mind where Doro asks Anyanwu if she understands the term ‘mute,’ and she replies:

“I know what it means, Doro. I knew the first time I heard Mary use it. It means n—–s!”

I know I’ve quoted this in at least one of my other blog posts, but I keep coming back to it. In light of racial tension seeming at an all time high, the events in Ferguson and Baltimore are drawing more attention and momentum across the country. While the larger issue of institutionalized racism in American law enforcement is finally being noticed, the smaller scale issue of the politics around language being used to discuss what is happening is almost entirely under the radar. An article on the Feminist Wire, Thugs-R-Us, discusses “the epithet ‘Thugs’” and how it is “a word that has an egregiously racial/black association.” The word ‘thug’, as the article says, “[conjures] up…scenes of ghetto chaos, criminality and macho swagger,” and therefore instantly brings up a negative connotation in our minds. Continue reading Language Politics

On Capitalism and Lilith’s Brood

Ever since the class we had where Beth broke our time into 15-minute segments, I’ve been trying to do this on my own. Ever since, I’ve noticed a huge increase in my productivity. I remember that when that class finished, Beth mentioned something along the lines of keeping in mind why we usually break our time into one or two hour sessions, and how capitalistic society encourages this. The success of my own experiment reminded me of the first time I ever consciously realized the depth to which I had internalized a negative capitalistic concept:

I had just graduated high school, and was out to dinner with an English teacher I had gotten especially close with. I mentioned to her my confusion over how to become a productive member of society. I was half-joking, though it was a topic I had a lot of anxiety about: my health at the time was very poor, to the point where I wasn’t capable of getting out of bed without significant pain and some assistance, and I didn’t see a future in which I would be able to contribute to our society. In response to my comment, my teacher told me that there was “no such thing as a productive member of society,” and it was just something I had been trained to think. She said that solely by existing I was contributing to the world just as much as lawyers or doctors. It made me reevaluate how I saw value, and why I saw it that way.

Continue reading On Capitalism and Lilith’s Brood

Lilith’s Brood, Doctor Who, and Humanity

When reading Dawn, I was both disturbed and fascinated by a conversation Lilith had with Jdahya on page 16:

“…it has been several million years since we dared to interfere in another people’s act of self-destruction. Many of us disputed the wisdom of doing it this time. We thought… that there had been a consensus among you, that you had agreed to die.”

“No species would do that!”

“Yes. Some have. And a few of those who have have taken whole ships of our people with them. We’ve learned. Mass suicide is one of the few things we usually let alone.”

I was with Lilith at first, in complete disagreement that any species would ever come to a self-driven extinction. After all, how could any species survive that didn’t have a strong self-preservation instinct? Evolution would have weeded out any species whose first priority wasn’t to keep itself alive.

So I was left with a few questions: Is it possible in our universe (outside of Butler’s fiction) for any species to commit a mass suicide? Is it possible for humanity to do this? What would ever drive us to intentional extinction? And why does the idea of it bother me so much? Continue reading Lilith’s Brood, Doctor Who, and Humanity

Disability and Autonomy as Race Issues in Patternmaster

In Patternmaster, on page 673, there is a quote about mutes born with physical or mental deformities:

“And there was a certain Patternist woman who had made an art form of controlling and changing the development of unborn mute children. Already she had created several misshapen monstrosities that had to be destroyed. She got away with what she did because infants and even older children, Patternist or mute, were considered expendable. Those who were defective in some irreparable way were routinely destroyed.”

This provides an interesting (and terrifying) look into how disability is treated in their world, while also showing more of the racial/disabled dichotomy between mutes and Patternists: disability is essentially turned into a race.

Continue reading Disability and Autonomy as Race Issues in Patternmaster

Relative Linguistics: Our Language as a Cultural Lens

What happens when people try to imagine new ways of being? This is something Butler’s fiction asks us when we are reading, as we try to put ourselves in the world of her characters. She also poses this to her characters – for instance, Doro not fully being able to imagine the effects of the pattern until he experiences it himself. In class we spoke about imagining the pattern, and how it was outside of what we could imagine because we ourselves had never experienced it, like Doro. I wanted to take a look at the sociology behind the language aspect of this inability, namely, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Continue reading Relative Linguistics: Our Language as a Cultural Lens

Doro’s Whiteness

Kayla V. made a really great post about Doro’s relationship to the seed people and its similarities to what whiteness is to black people, as Rajanie Kumar discusses in the article “White Terror: Spirituality, Ancestral Memory, and the Politics of Remembering” on The Feminist Wire. After reading both the post and the article, I started thinking about the bodies Doro chose at different times, and what the significance of those choices were.

Continue reading Doro’s Whiteness

Consent, Fate, and the Humanities Curriculum

The catalog entry for the Western Humanities I course says it is “A search for moral, social, and political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization from the beginnings to 1600.” The entry for the Humanities II course is the same, except that it is the study of the works from the 1600s to the present.

My suite mates and I have been discussing this pursuit, and why it might not be the most logical in terms of understanding our humanity, which seems to be the desired outcome from this moral, social, and political search. The conversation was actually started from my reading of Aeschylus’s Oresteia at the same time as we read Butler’s Fledgling, and my comparing of the two. Professor McCoy mentioned the Oresteia trilogy during class in relation to Fledgling because of both stories concluding with a trial. When reading the two side by side, I found a lot of other similarities and themes about fate and consent as well, which led me to think about what lessons about humanity are better taught in Fledgling, the merits of reading one over the other, and why the HUMN curriculum doesn’t function as it should.

Continue reading Consent, Fate, and the Humanities Curriculum