“The Future That Haunts Us Now”

Oblique Cli-Fi and Indigenous Futurity

  • Kyle Bladow Northland College

Abstract

This article assesses how recent literary depictions of Indigenous futurity coincide with grassroots activism that has been ongoing for generations and that is finding new iterations in current movements for climate justice and against settler colonial resource extraction. Such actions espouse interdependent, reciprocal relationships between humans and the more-than-human world. Stories illuminate and reinforce these relationships; one recent novel to exemplify this role of narrative is Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God. Despite what seems a harrowing dismantling of biological reproduction and species evolution in the novel, Ojibwe characters find renewed purpose as adapting to the situation revivifies traditional practices. Although rampant environmental devastation threatens lifeways and bonds of reciprocity, Erdrich demonstrates how those responsibilities were never predicated upon fixed, unchanging environments but instead dynamically respond to them as characters seek right relationships with other beings. Future Home can be read alongside other postapocalyptic Indigenous novels (e.g., Cherie Dimaline’s Marrow Thieves) as “oblique cli-fi”: novels whose catastrophes are not figured as climate change, but whose readers cannot help but consider them in its light, given the pervasive framing of climate change as catastrophe. However, in the drive to read Future Home as cli-fi, readers should not lose sight of its singular nature as a departure from Erdrich’s “standard” literary fiction, not to mention the novel’s political message as a response to the 2016 U.S. election and its calls for reproductive justice and land restoration. Future Home received mixed critical reviews, but as one of the most experimental and speculative works in Erdrich’s oeuvre, it should be celebrated as an example of transmotion that flouts American literary expectations while imagining Indigenous futurity.

Author Biography

Kyle Bladow, Northland College

Kyle Bladow is an assistant professor in the Native American Studies and English programs at Northland College. His recent publications appear in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Feminist Studies, and Studies in American Indian Literature. He coedited the collection Affective Ecocriticism and is the Book Review Editor for Western American Literature.

Published
2021-11-17
How to Cite
BladowK. (2021). “The Future That Haunts Us Now”. Transmotion, 7(2), 130-150. https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent/03/tm.986