Curious Kin in Fictions of Posthuman Care

Amelia DeFalco

The latest book by Professor Amelia DeFalco, Curious Kin in Fictions of Posthuman Care, has won the 2024 British Society for Literature and Science Book Prize.

Over the past decade cultural theory has seen a number of ‘turns’ – the materialist turn, the animal turn, the affective turn – that address the human as an affective, embodied, and ultimately vulnerable animal embedded in dense webs of more-than-human relations, in short as a posthuman phenomenon. Care philosophy shares this focus on embodiment and vulnerability in its insistence on interdependence as the defining condition of human life, making it well positioned for a posthuman turn. To this end, Curious Kin in Fictions of Posthuman Care draws together contemporary narrative fictions that challenge humanist conceptions of care in their imaginative depiction of more-than-human affective bonds, arguing for an expansion care philosophy’s central figure: the embodied, embedded, and encumbered ‘human’.

Fictional narratives of care between humans and robots, bioengineered creatures, clones, nonhuman animals, aliens or inanimate things, highlight the limits of humanist ethical models’ capacity to register and accommodate posthuman relational intimacies, while gesturing towards a model of care able to accommodate networked interdependencies that extend beyond the human realm. Texts by Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, Louisa Hall, Eva Hornung, Kazuo Ishiguro, Bhanu Kapil, and Jesmyn Ward, along with films and television programmes like Robot and FrankUnder the Skin, and Real Humans, depict a range of scenarios in which more-than-human care relations not only supersede human-human relationships, but suggest new human/animal/machine ways of being that offer novel insights into the possible presents and futures of posthuman care. Curious Kin in Fictions of Posthuman Care reveals how these fictions do their own theorizing, imagining the politics, ethics and aesthetics of specific, contextualized scenarios of posthuman contact and companionship.

Interweaving posthuman theory, care philosophy and contemporary fiction, Curious Kin in Fictions of Posthuman Care offers generative visions of care that make room for the incredible range of affects, energies, behaviours, attachments and dependencies that produce and sustain life in more-than-human worlds.

Image courtesy of Oxford University Press and Patricia Piccinini


Amelia DeFalco (2023) Curious Kin in Fictions of Posthuman Care, Oxford University Press