Margarita Smagina (Ecole normale supérieure, Lyon): Entangled Cultures, Entangled Species: The Promise of “Alter-Globalization” in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and the Denial of Reciprocity in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rainforest
This paper will focus on two novels that represent human and more-than-human “naturecultures” – a term borrowed from Donna Haraway, referring to states which are complexly intertwined and interdependent. I will argue that the authors employ different themes and tonalities to build and explore this aesthetic network of connectedness. In A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki restores and re-evaluates multiple connections between characters that inhabit different cultural and historical contexts. In this way, the writer shows her belief in the promise of a more ecologically sound, inclusive and less hierarchical process of bringing cultures and natures closer in infinite “mortal world-making entanglements”, something that Paul B. Preciado called “autre-mondialisation”, or “alter-globalization”. Following on from Haraway and Preciado, Ozekei sees alter-globalization as a phenomenon that necessitates an acknowledgement of the reciprocal exchanges at work between various actors. Yamashita, on the other hand, creates a very different, darker kind of ecological “tale”, which depicts utter ecological and cultural destruction as a consequence of the inability to acknowledge the interdependence of all living entities. My own argument seeks to build on this, suggesting that both Ozeki and Yamashita powerfully demonstrate that “culture” is always a site of entanglement and a cohabitation. The authors’ urgent message is that whether we acknowledge or deny interconnectedness will define the feasibility and sustainability of our cultural and political projects, and possibly even our survival as a species.