Biocolonial Pregnancies: Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God (2017)

Article Summary by Anna Kemball

As part of the Special Issue on Global Health Humanities, this article considers Native American experiences of reproductive healthcare through the lens of biocolonialism. Biocolonialism is a form of colonialism that extracts value and profit from Indigenous knowledge, living organisms, and biological or genetic material. How we examine the relationship between coloniality and medicine requires an understanding of this mode of power.

In Future Home of the Living God (2017), Louise Erdrich (Ojibwe) imagines a future of revoked reproductive rights. An evolutionary crisis threatens the survival of humanity, prompting the capture of pregnant women, systemic abuse in healthcare settings, and the forced insemination of imprisoned women. Currently, the future of federally protected rights to abortion in the United States remains unclear. This article explores the US foreign policy and legislation – the Mexico City Policy and the Hyde Amendment – which have similarly restricted access to full reproductive healthcare and which shape Erdrich’s speculative text. I propose that speculative writing encourages readers to connect our histories of healthcare with the future consequences of such rulings.

The biocolonial practices portrayed in Future Home of the Living God draw upon historic and ongoing forms of violence experienced by Native American peoples, including forced sterilisation and widespread forms of child removal. A challenge faced by the health humanities is how to theorise complex forms of domination which position Indigenous bodies as “new colonies”. But, as I argue, Indigenous narrative forms and cultural frameworks offer productive directions for future work within the global health humanities.

Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.

 

Dr Anna Kemball has recently completed an AHRC-funded PhD in the School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, where she has also been a Tutor in English Literature. Her thesis explores representations of health and wellbeing across a range of contemporary Indigenous literatures, bringing Indigenous literary stud​ies and the critical medical humanities into closer relation.

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