“The Future That Haunts Us Now”
Oblique Cli-Fi and Indigenous Futurity
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.
Copyright (c) 2021 Kyle Bladow
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).