Skip to main content

Gautam Basu Thakur publishes essay critiquing ‘zoocriticism’

Studio portrait of Gautam Basu Thakur.

Gautam Basu Thakur, an associate professor of English, published an essay titled, “‘A Strangeness Beyond Reckoning’: The Animal as Surplus in Postcolonial Literature” in  the book Postcolonial Animalities, edited by Suvadip Sinha and Amit R. Baishya and published by Routledge.

Basu Thakur’s essay argues against current exercises of postcolonial zoocriticism by noting how these fall into the trap of excluding “the real,” or what remains as impossible kernel in human encounters with animals, and therefore privileging a correspondence between truth and knowledge.

Basu Thakur urges instead in reading the animal as “real,” that is, as limit to discourse and meaning-making, yet responsible for the emergence of discourse and associated practices of meaning production. Put differently, this essay claims that even with the “animal question” dominating our twenty-first century critical mindscapes, it can be argued that we have merely replaced the positive form of Enlightenment anthropocentrism – “I am the master of animals” – with a more self-consciously negative albeit feel-good form of neoliberal anthropocentrism: “I am guilty of mistreating/misrepresenting animals but by admitting this guilt I still am.”

This essay presents a case for jettisoning this latter logic by expanding the focus of postcolonial zoocriticism via discussions of animals unmarked by the signifier, that is, animals that function as the excluded-included of the socius and, therefore, are responsible for simultaneously disrupting and reconstituting the social.