Totemic Human-Animal Relationships in Recent Sf (Science Fiction) (Critical Essay)
Extrapolation, 2008, Spring, 49, 1
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* Late 19th-and early 20th-century armchair ethnographers from Frazer to Freud based their influential discussions of totemism on European colonizers' accounts of undiscovered territories, unfamiliar communities, and the misunderstood languages of indigenous peoples in North America and Australia. During the 1930s-1960s, though, the impulse to universalize social evolutionary categorizations fell into disfavor, and the academic community's obsession with sorting out animal-human kinship elements of totemism disappeared. Nevertheless, fanciful romanticisms regarding totemism clearly remain as popular culture tenets today, including deifying animals as potential gods and ancestors, shape-shifting into one's designated totem, and ritualistic killing, eating, or otherwise maiming of one's totem qua ancestor. These views assume that totemic thinking is symptomatic of a primitive, barbarous, and undomesticated neolithic capacity distinct from a civilized state. (1) Sf often hyperbolizes contemporary social interests (after J. G. Ballard's fashion) and recaptures social concerns (in Jean Baudrillard's sense of hyperreality). The question surfaces, then, whether contemporary sf that depicts totemic relationships among humans and animals extends popularized misreading, or whether sf thought experiments reveal the conundrums created by social science, figuratively asserting that totemism as conceived by these ethnographers is an illusion. Do forms of sf simultaneously recover the more accurate indigenous sense or senses, varying from tribe to tribe, band to band, of totem? To what degree is it possible to set side-by-side the hardheaded thinking of scientific method with the extraordinary design of totemic practice?
- Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
- Published: Mar 22, 2008
- Publisher: Extrapolation
- Seller: The Gale Group, Inc.
- Print Length: 49 Pages
- Language: English