Walking through Post-Apartheid Wastelands: A Postcolonial Ecocritical Reading of Lauren Beukes’s <em>Zoo City</em>
In the last two decades, planetary issues at the time of the Anthropocene, such as global warming, pollution, the slow violence of rampant capitalism, and the anthropocentric disregard for non-human animals have been increasingly tackled in science fiction narratives emerging from the ‘peripheries’ of the former Western Empire. As they guide us through alternative or futuristic wastelands, these postcolonial stories interrogate and re-imagine what it means to be human, or nonhuman, in a world of persisting inequalities and exploitation, inviting us to reconsider our ethical accountability to the Other(s). This article focuses on one of South Africa’s most prominent voices in contemporary speculative fiction: Lauren Beukes, who, in her post-apartheid dystopian novel Zoo City (2010), skilfully intertwines postcolonial and ecocritical concerns. Interrogating ‘the politics of waste’ from both a socio-economic and ecological perspective, I analyse how the text brings to the fore the conjoined ‘wastification’ of the urban environment and its stricken residents, while spurring critical thought on the relationship between humans and non-human animals. In so doing, I argue that Zoo City simultaneously enacts a re-visioning of the concept of dystopia itself, thus falling under the rubric of Jessica Langer’s ‘anti-dystopia’.
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