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PhD Student

Jemima Middleton

The thesis, ‘Being Animalled: Women and Trauma in Contemporary African Fiction’ (working title), explores the capacity of African fiction, and of five novels in particular, to interrogate and complicate the dichotomy that separates the human and the non-human, calling into question the legacy of Enlightenment categorisation. The investigation is rooted in the concept of what it means to ‘be animalled,’ a term used by Lauren Beukes in her novel, Zoo City (2010). Beukes’ imagining of the animalling concept speaks to a re-negotiation of the boundaries between the human and the non-human themselves. The novel challenges the conception of animal companionship and focuses on the complicated relationships between guilt, trauma and violence. My thesis takes the idea of animalling and interprets it as a broader, more heavily weighted concept. I offer it as a way of exploring the contemporary African novel’s re-evaluation what it means to be a human: not simply in terms of the relationship between humans and non-human animals, but also, crucially, in terms of the animal parts of our human selves. My comparative study of these novels will shed light on the ways that African literature complicates and enriches the field of trauma studies by challenging particular conceptualisations of subjectivity that place human beings, their existence and sense of self, as distinctly split from the natural world.