Metamorphosis and the Genesis of Xenos

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Ronald Bogue

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Department of English, NTNU


In the Xenogenesis Trilogy (1987-89), Octavia Butler recounts the recolonization of earth by human-alien hybrids following a catastrophic nuclear war. Although Butler never read the works of Deleuze and Guattari, her trilogy provides apt illustrations of Deleuze-Guattari's concept of "becoming." Diverse forms of becoming—becoming-woman, becoming-child, becoming-animal, becoming-molecular, and becoming-imperceptible— characterize various elements of Butler's plot, and all these becomings have ramifications in the domain of gender politics. Deleuze-Guattari valorize becoming as a mode of metamorphic invention, and they situate it within a general ontology of affective intensities, whereby human sexuality is at once fully sociohistorical and cosmic. Butler, too, imagines a world of sociohistorical and cosmic intensities, and she grants becoming a privileged role in creating new possibilities for future life. Yet she also envisions in alternative sexual, social and natural relationship the ambiguities and dangers of reconfigured networks of affectivity. Especially of concern to her are the perils of unbridled metamorphosis and the antithetical threat of addiction as a means of stabilizing the chaotic tendencies of uncontrolled processes of becoming. Ultimately, Butler's saga poses the question of free will and its relationship to biological imperatives. Deleuze-Guattari also see the dangers of anarchic becoming, arguing frequently that becoming-other must always be pursued with caution and in selected domains of activity. They do not address the topic of addiction in the same manner as Butler, but their articulation of the politics of social oppression implies a similar concern with the concept of agency in relation to desire. Finally, both Butler and Deleuze-Guattari subordinate their speculations about becoming, sexuality, politics, and sociohistorical and cosmic networks of relation to the general task ofimagining a new mode of collective living, which Deleuze-Guatta