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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Julietta Singh


Indra Sinha’s novel Animal’s People opens with the words “I used to be human once. So I’m told”. With these two short sentences, the novel immediately calls into crisis our commonly held notions of the human. That the narrator “used to be human” posits the “human” as something changeable that one can be and then not be, a shifting state that can only be determined by recognition from another. To be considered human, these opening sentences suggest, we must be “told” of our inclusion. Rather than learning something about the narrator or context of the text in the opening paragraph, we are challenged to unlearn the definition of “human” that we as readers bring to the text. This challenge to unlearn the human is likewise central to J.M. Coetzee’s lecture-narrative The Lives of Animals. Both literary texts challenge their readers to unlearn the human. In so doing, they challenge the discourses of anti- and post-colonial studies that are commonly concerned with restoring or defending the humanity of subjugated peoples. These texts pose an even more fundamental question about the human: rather than rethinking the category of the “human” in relation to its historical exclusion of colonized and enslaved peoples as much of postcolonial discourse does, Animal’s People and The Lives of Animals are concerned with the category of non-human alongside the human. Both texts reveal a growing concern in postcolonial literature about the relationship between the non-human and the human. Working at the boundaries between humans, animals, and the environment, both texts display uneasiness with the anthropocentrism within postcolonial discourse and beyond. Through their consideration of the non-human, these texts bring ecological issues to bear on postcolonial concerns, blurring the line between postcolonial and environmental literature and signaling the interconnectivity between humans and other life forms.