The Power of Nothing(s): Parahumanity and Erasure in Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People
Spencer, Matthew Loyd
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Indra Sinha’s 2007 novel Animal’s People, a fictionalized account of the legacy of the Bhopal industrial disaster, centers on a young man who has been physically altered by a large-scale chemical spill that killed thousands and left countless more ill or disfigured. Left with a bent spine that necessitates walking on all fours, he is constantly teased by other children in his youth and dubbed with the epithet “Animal.” Rather than separate himself from this derogatory name, he embraces it and all that being an “Animal” entails, all but shunning his humanity and forming a strong, often vulgar personality in the process. In many ways, the character of Animal presents a case of what critic Monique Allewaert terms parahumanity. Parahumans exist on a horizontal plane alongside humans and animals, thereby subverting enlightenment organizational thinking that places a definite border between the two. The category of parahuman also stands in contrast to the posthuman as it reinforces one’s humanity while also refusing to rely on binary thinking. Animal represents this category as he consistently declares his inhumanity while maintaining traits that firmly cement his conditioned human nature, including his quest for sex, love, and occasional misogynistic attitudes. While critics have interrogated the posthuman nature of the character and Sinha’s text, they often rely on a hard definition of posthumanity that reflects prior definitions of humanity and neglects the subtlety inherent in such a complex narrative and its equally complex narrator. By situating Animal and the novel he inhabits within a more nuanced parahuman context it is possible to challenge the concepts of humanity and posthumanity while simultaneously deepening Allewaert’s concept of parahumanity.