Between and Beyond Metamorphosing Identity:
A Biopolitical Reading of The Metamorphosis and Blackass
Keywords:metamorphosing identity, biopolitics, anthropocentric speciesism, debility
This paper offers a critical comparative reading of the representation of animal and racial metamorphoses in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915) and A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass (2015), respectively, with a view to underscoring how the processes and consequences of metamorphosing identity foreground biopolitics. While the first novel muses on the transformation of Gregor Samsa, a human being, into a monstrous vermin, the second novel, a farcical take on Kafka’s narrative, traces the transformation of Furo Wariboko, a black Nigerian, into a white-skinned man. The comparison is premised upon two axes: first, the human-animal interaction and tension that inform anthropocentric speciesism on one hand and the civilized-white/savage-black binary opposition on the other; second, the circuits of economic privilege and social accommodation. Exploring the ways in which we identify ourselves and are identified by the people in power, the paper locates the identity rubric of the human subjects in two different settings where the logic of the world is disturbed by unusual transformations and the disabled/non-disabled binary is put in a dialogue. In its enterprise of unmasking disability from its hegemonic referents, the paper incorporates insights from Disability Studies, Critical Posthumanism, Critical Race Theory, and Critical Animal Studies. By exploring the potential of debility’s capacitation, that is, the extraction and exploitation of “body maiming” and/or “body capacities” in The Metamorphosis and Blackass, this paper suggests a non-anthropocentric interspecies vision of affective politics.
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