Posthumanism as settler colonialism: W. Oliver Baker, ‘”Words are Things”: The Settler Colonial Politics of Post Humanist Materialism In Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian’, Mediations: Journal of the Marxist Literary Group, 30, 1, 2017


Excerpt: Blood Meridian is a historical novel that tells story of settler colonial conquest in the borderlands of Northern Mexico in the years following the US-Mexico war of 1848. It fictionalizes the actions of a group of American scalp hunters who were paid by the Mexican state after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to help exterminate the Apache peoples and other Indigenous groups whose claims to and defense of their ancestral lands stood in the way of Mexican and US settler colonial expansion. The novel demonstrates that the essence of this history is like that of the very desert where the events of colonial conquest and violence take place: “This desert upon which so many have been broken is vast and calls for largeness of heart but it is also ultimately empty. It is hard, it is barren. Its very nature is stone.”5 In emphasizing the nature of colonial conquest and violence as “stone,” which is to say, as a history of the nonhuman, Blood Meridian becomes an important text that helps us understand the historical trajectory and political meanings of post-humanist materialism. This essay will demonstrate through a reading of McCarthy’s novel that post-humanist materialism not only embodies a neoliberal colonial politics of recognition, reconciliation and affirmation that functions to erase the structural violence found in the histories of colonialism and capitalism, but is also a theoretical and aesthetic project premised on, even as it disavows, the settler colonial (re)production of indigeneity as the social ontology of the savage, wild, nonhuman outside to modern liberal humanism. In what follows, then, I want to argue for a reading of post-humanist materialism that understands it as a neoliberal settler ideology that traces and tracks, just as much as it seeks to manage and legitimate, the ongoing role of settler colonialism in our era of late capitalism.

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