Printer Friendly

"Sticky" Identities: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Nalo Hopkinson's The Chaos.

NALO HOPKINSON'S SPECULATIVE NOVELS ARE WELL KNOWN FOR DESTABILIZING genre conventions in order to draw attention to issues as diverse as race, gender, sexuality and nationality. As Leif Sorenson argues, her work often mixes styles, influences, and genres in order to create new combinations, adapting, for example, "the sonic style of dub to create new Afrofuturist literary forms and narrative trajectories" in Midnight Robber (2000) and The Salt Roads (2003) (2014, 267). Drawing from Caribbean and global histories, and blending dialects to create multifaceted and multivocal worlds, Hopkinson's work has tended to decenter the white patriarchal canon of science fiction and fantasy in order to emphasize the plurality of experiences traditionally untapped by genre fiction. In 2012, Hopkinson published her first young adult novel, The Chaos. Weaving together fantastic elements with multiple folkloric traditions, The Chaos is narrated by Sojourner--also known by her nickname, Scotch--a mixed-race teenager attempting to come to terms with her racial identity, gender expression, and developing sexuality. (1) Her inner struggle materializes through growing black patches that begin to appear on Scotch's body, spots that continue to grow and resist normal medical treatment. These spots are itchy, tar-like in appearance, and clearly visible on the surface of her medium-brown skin. Proposing to approach these patches as instances of what Elizabeth Grosz calls "corporeal inscriptions" (Grosz 141), this article examines how the meaning and substance of the body is recreated through distinct cultural and embodied interactions all imbued with particular power relations, as well as through its relation to various disciplinary forces. Weaving together the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, theories of performativity, and critical race theory, it considers how race, sexuality, and gender are constantly (re)produced, territorialized, and deterritorialized throughout the novel.

Organized around three main components, this article argues that within the first portion of The Chaos, Scotch's black patches showcase the corporeal dimensions implicit in all social and cultural identifiers. Exposing how Scotch's body is progressively territorialized by racial, sexual, and gender identity, the black patches mark and label her body, forcing her to conform to the normative socio-cultural tropes they signal. Subsequently, I argue that the narrative shift signaled by the emergence of the Chaos coincides with a re-coding of the black patches to represent Scotch's deterritorialization, her becoming-anomalous. Becoming-anomalous involves the dissolution of coherent corporeal signifiers and the untethering of Scotch's body from normative disciplinary codings. This process is framed by Hopkinson's incorporation of folkloric and mythological figures who represent transitional states and liminality, and who act as gatekeepers, or guides. Yet, this process of becoming, progressive as it may be, is also problematized by the return, at the end of the novel, to a state of reterritorialized staticity and to a sedimented and "coherent" form of identification. Scotch ultimately rejects hybridity and reaffirms a traditional conception of agency by actively embracing her new black identity. Accordingly, the third section of my argument examines how Scotch's reterritorialization problematizes a reading of The Chaos as promoting, without qualification, the anomalous as a means of unsettling rigid identity categories and the set of binary oppositions upon which they rely. Despite Scotch's ultimate reterritorialization, this article nonetheless argues that her experience of becoming-anomalous acts as a catalyst for accepting other, non-normative bodies. While Scotch is initially represented as socially isolated, her bodily transformation parallels her movement from solipsism to social engagement. The Chaos results in a large-scale deterritorialization of sedimented social relations whose main effect is the production of new socio-political affinities. In this sense, Hopkinson's novel provides an alternative and affirmative ethics of the body and a model for accepting non-normative embodiment in different social and political contexts, though without completely disavowing identity politics.

"Sticky" Identities, or Disciplining the Body

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's concepts of assemblage and (de)territorialization have recently been taken up by a number of scholars who have combined their theories of embodiment with critical race theory and affect theory (Nayak 2010; Saldanha 2010, 2011; Lim 2010; Colebrook 2010). As a model for thinking identity, assemblage theory allows us to imagine how individuals emerge not in isolation, but as a result of their positionality within cultural, linguistic, and material flows and forces. It presents a vision of the world in which "establishing connections between certain multiplicities" results in the emergence of particular constellations of power and identity formation (Deleuze and Guattari 23). Employing assemblage theory in conjunction with theories of race illuminates how "racial difference (like all social relations) is a reality involving the interactions, imaginations and biologies of human bodies" and exposes how "racial formations are from the start phenomena of collective embodiment" (Saldanha 2010, 2410). In this sense, an assemblage-oriented approach to studying race allows us to consider how racial difference materializes, that is, how racial difference is inscribed on the body as a result of the specific social, material, and affective intensities that traverse particular sites.

Throughout The Chaos, the signification of Scotch's body shifts depending on her positionality within these assemblages, determining in turn how she experiences her own identity. As the novel opens, Scotch has recently transferred to a more diverse school. Having experienced bullying in her previous environment, where she had been called the "school slut" despite not being sexually active (Hopkinson 12), and where her mature body made her the target of harassment, her new school presents Scotch with a new environment within which she finds herself more at ease in her body. Actively and frequently finding reasons to express pride in this body and its talent for dance, an activity that makes her feel in tune with the "rhythm of the world" (Hopkinson 20), Scotch even goes so far as to comfortably express her sexual desires to friends, admitting "[she]'d been exploring" and that she "wasn't the only one, either" (Hopkinson 13). Concluding that "finally, [she] was normal" (Hopkinson 13), her new school represents a space within which her desires and bodily expression can be voiced and approached as sites of pride. Stemming from her ability to perform her gender in ways that are deemed appropriate, Scotch's comfort in her new environment highlights the ways in which gender and sexuality both unfold as "corporeal style[s]," as acts that are both "intentional and performative" (Butler 2008, 190). Dependent on the framework within which it emerges, Scotch's performance thus relies on, even as it reinforces, an acceptable version of womanhood, an ideal of what a "real" and "proper" woman is and of where her essence lies.

Scotch's anxiety increases, however, when she trespasses (intentionally or not) social rules, resulting in her being policed by both explicit and implicit networks of control. Governed by what Michel Foucault calls the "political technology of the body," a set of strategies, dispositions, techniques, and a diffuse network of relations whose primary effect is to constrain and delimit what the body means and how it can act (Foucault 1995, 26), Scotch's body is policed by networks of disciplinary power that frame and influence her social experiences, often resulting in her being "exposed" as out of place. As such, and though Scotch feels relatively comfortable in her new school, she also finds it challenging to form strong bonds with other students. For example, while she previously experienced dancing and dating as positive forms of self-expression, in her new school, these become sites of policing, discrimination, and bullying that progressively cast a long shadow over her self-confidence. Because, as Foucault argues, power "invests [individuals], is transmitted by them and through them; it exerts pressure upon them, just as they themselves, in their struggle against it, resist the grip it has on them" (1995, 27), Scotch's experience of her own body is informed and limited by the kind of power dynamics suffusing her new environment.

As the novel progresses, these forms of social disciplining demonstrate the "duress under which gender performance always and variously occurs" (Butler 2008, 190). During a dance practice near the beginning of the novel, one of her teammates makes note of Scotch's short shorts, suggesting that those "batty riders" are cutting off circulation to her brain, inciting an uproar of laughter aimed at Scotch (Hopkinson 17). Although Scotch initially brushes off the comment, this confrontation is soon followed by a flashback of past bullying:

Suddenly I was that scared little eleven-year-old again, sitting alone in a crowded assembly while the whisper was passed from mouth to cupped ear, from one sneering student to another: Sojourner masturbates! Pass it on! I was back hearing the exclamations of disgust, the hateful laughter as more and more and more kids passed the story on and on, and I just sat there getting more and more alone with my pale brown face going redder and redder and thinking, But I've never even tried it yet! (Hopkinson 18)

The disparaging comment from her dancing teammate and the ensuing laughter from the other members triggers memories of past bullying and provokes panic. Finding herself short of breath, this exchange compels her to double check that her black patches are not exposed to her teammates. Becoming the object of a "normalizing gaze" that classifies her, renders her visible as abnormal, and subsequently punishes her through disciplinary social response (Foucault 1995, 184, 179), Scotch's experience exposes the ways in which teasing here functions as a corrective process. Highlighting a particular kind of social violation and making it public, it acts as a reminder to Scotch of the necessity of correcting her self-presentation in order for her to be considered a "good" or "proper" subject.

Isolating Scotch--responding as she does by cultivating a defensive stance and retreating from her teammates--these events illustrate how particular assemblages can result in territorializations. Applying what Brian Massumi calls "apparatus [es] of capture" (75), territorialization is a process through which certain significations come to be attached to the body. Echoing Ervin Goffman's description of stigma as "social facts [that] can be attached [to the individual's social identity], entangled, like candy floss, becoming then the sticky substance to which still other biographical facts can be attached" (Goffman 57), Scotch's experience of bullying is thus directly linked to her black patches. Embodied signs of her social abnormality, her black patches indeed function as material crystallizations of her social identity markers. Caught up within a vicious circle, her black patches are both product and source of her alienation. Bearers of a material and tangible quality not unlike the black patches covering Scotch's body, these linguistic markers "stick" to the person and become essential parts of her identity. Just as Scotch can neither cure her black spots with normal medicine nor cover them successfully with clothing or makeup, the labels she is progressively associated with haunt her daily life to the point they themselves become part of her being. Unable to disengage herself from them, she experiences these signifiers as material burdens inscribed on her flesh, blurring the line between physical and social abnormality, and thus exposing the interwoven nature of the two realms.

Though it appears to be tied primarily to gender issues, this encounter is also directly linked to Scotch's sexuality. Recalling past experiences when she was shamed for her perceived hyper-sexuality--"once people decide you're the school slut, it sticks. It gets tangled up in you like the chewed-up gum in your hair. It's like you're wearing a big S on your forehead, and no matter how much foundation you put on over it, eventually it shows through" (Hopkinson 140)--Scotch's reference to the way in which social labels seem to materialize on the body draws a direct connection between invisible sexual transgression and the visible body. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne's heroine--to which her description is an obvious reference--Scotch's black patches materialize on the surface what until then remained hidden below. The similarity between Scotch's description of the "slut" label and the black patches thus reinforces a reading of stigma as a form of revelation. Exposing a specific "truth" about the individual, an undesirable social identity that was until now concealed--in this case, her perceived promiscuity--the stigma sets up the conditions for social engagement. As Goffman argues, stigma "determine[s] how [a] person is received in public spaces, rendering visible that person's abnormality" (48), and thus marking her as socially abnormal. Conceiving of the body as "a surface whose permeability is politically regulated" (Butler 2008, 189), stigma operates as a form of surficial policing whose action is felt and processed within the body. Interweaving corporeal, social, and identificatory dimensions, the stigmatized black patches not only mark Scotch physically and emotionally; they also circumvent her possible cultural spaces of identifications. Revealing the intrinsically embodied dimension of power and power relations, they act as restrictions on the power of the body itself, limiting its capacity to challenge social mores and disrupt the dominant status quo.

If Scotch's black patches can thus be read as markers of a particular kind of social stigma tied in with adolescent experience, they are also representative of the ways women's bodies, and in particular the bodies of women of color, are stigmatized within androcentric cultures. Indeed, and though Scotch's racial difference is never explicitly stated as a source of the bullying, her narration more than suggests that the two are in fact related. At her old school, Scotch was one of the only black students in a predominantly white cohort. Following the events described above, her parents decide to transfer her to a high school with a more diverse population. Implicit in this decision is the belief that Scotch's racial difference is at least partially responsible for the oppression she experiences. Product of what Hazel Carby describes as a tradition of pathologization of black female sexuality (751), Scotch's experience of bullying highlights how black sexuality is policed by a white culture that continuously perceives it as a threat to its own authority. Linking sexual and racial difference, Scotch's experience presents her as yet another iteration of the "always-already sexual black woman" that suffused medicalized discourses of the 18th and 20th centuries (Hammonds 95). Processed through the lens of Hammonds and Carby's argument, Scotch's experience of bullying highlights how, even when it is not explicitly stated, black women's sexuality and gender expression is always-already embedded in and intersecting with their racial identity. Scotch's black patches thus enact at the level of the body the kind of ideological beliefs that were until now only projected within it. Making visible the way race and sexuality "stick" to the subject (Saldanha 2011, 7), they reframe race, gender, and sexuality as signifiers whose viscous quality "adheres to bodies, spaces and things, thickening relations between people and generating felt capacities of difference" (Nayak 2387).

Affecting the subject and delimiting how her body comes to signify, these stigmatizing marks not only circumscribe the expressive capacities of Scotch's body within specific social settings; they effectively inscribe these settings upon her body. As such, Scotch's markings are not to be read as an essential response to a given biological landscape but as the result of social pressures, that is, as a result of her positionality within a specific affective field. Products of her milieu, including her friends, her teammates, and the school itself, her patches are materializations of the different regulations that constrain her behavior, organize her social encounters, and restrict her body to its "proper" place. During dance practice, Scotch is, for example, reprimanded for wearing short shorts. As her team captain Glory explains, "nobody wants to watch [her] dance with all [her] business hanging out" and so she should "wear track pants next time" (Hopkinson 28). Yet, only a few pages earlier, the reader learned that the dance team uniform was composed of a baby doll hoodie t-shirt and super-short skirts with burgundy bloomers and the words "Raw Gyals" written on the back (Hopkinson 23). The contradiction between Glory's remark and the nature of their uniform--a uniform made specifically for public consumption--exposes how "gender is made to comply with a model of [both] truth and falsity" and how gender and gender norms serve "a social policy of gender regulation and control [in which] performing one's gender wrong initiates a set of punishments both obvious and indirect" (Butler 1988, 528). Scotch's self-presentation, her choice of clothing, and her confident attitude mark her as abnormal within a social setting that privileges "proper" ideals of femininity. Exposing the insidious effect the passive acceptance of these kinds of disciplinary behaviors can have on the subject, these moments draw attention to the countless micro-aggressions that ultimately compose the experiences of black women.

Assemblages and Networks, or Codifying the Body in situ

Although Scotch notes that she is "thrilled to pieces to not be in my old school anymore" (Hopkinson 7), being in a more diverse environment and fitting in with the popular crowd does not entirely alleviate her anxieties about her racial identity. As the example above suggests, she pretty quickly finds herself both envying and resenting her best friend, Glory, whom she describes several times as a "black Barbie." First uttered during one of their rehearsals when she resentfully notes that "Gloria had worked harder than all of us, but she was barely glowing and she had not a hair out of place" and concludes that "Black Barbie lives" (Hopkinson 24), this moniker highlights the ways in which the performance of blackness inevitably seems to become aligned with white aesthetic standards. Reiterating the comparison a few pages later when Glory is fixing her make-up in the locker room--"perfect black Barbie, complete with matching accessories" (Hopkinson 40)--Scotch's reference to Barbie directly links Glory's successful performance of black femininity with white Eurocentric beauty standards. Her comment that Glory has "no hair out of place" and "perfectly tweezed" eyebrows indicates that Glory regularly invests in controlling her body to better conform to acceptable models of femininity. Her glib reference to Glory's "matching accessories" further indicates her resentment of the beauty industry and its role in the production of these standards and suggests that Scotch is pursuing an alternative model of black beauty and black identity, one that she herself considers more authentic.

Yet, although Scotch is heavily critical of Glory's particular performance of black femininity, she is also obviously envious of Glory's success. Echoing Butler's articulation of gender as "the disciplinary production of the figures of fantasy through the play of presence and absence on the body's surface" (2008, 184), Scotch's criticism of Glory exposes how norms are not only imposed upon the black, female subject, but ultimately performed and maintained by this same subject. Having absorbed the framework within which her own body is assessed, Scotch reproduces its ideological bias when assessing the body of her own black classmate and best friend. Highlighting the ways in which social norms are legitimized and naturalized through the "reenactment and reexperiencing of a set of meanings" (Butler 1988, 526), Scotch's criticism reveals the pernicious impact of these norms on the constitution of identificatory spaces. What is inscribed on the body--what is perceived as present on its surface, but also that which is disavowed, rendered absent--not only participates in the crystallization of particular identities, it enforces their repetition. Glory's re-enactment of a proper and acceptable mode of black femininity thus marks her as both a site of envy and resentment, as both a success and a failure.

The fact that Scotch's criticism of Glory emerges during vulnerable moments when Scotch herself is made aware of her embodiment and experiences anxiety about her body--and in particular, the black spots--reinforces a reading in which Scotch's own potential is limited by her ability to conform and to render her own presence culturally invisible. As Butler notes, the final objective in managing of the body, its activities, and surfaces is to achieve "coherence" (2008, 185). Perceived not only as a consistent surface, coherence here entails the ability to obscure the reality of embodied identities as performative. Aligning the body, its ability, and the identity to which both are attached, the objective of performance is to naturalize the tie between internal and external truths, appearance and essence (Butler 2008, 185). Glory's performance, unlike Scotch's, is marked by a consistency between her embodied expression and an internal, coherent self or identity. In contrast, Scotch's body is rapidly becoming colonized by deep black spots that essentially negate any possibility of "passing."

Scotch's criticism of Glory is one that participates in a longer trend within Hopkinson's novel, tied to Scotch's own identity as a biracial, bi-national young woman. Indeed, her comment about Glory in many ways echoes her envious relationship to Panama and Ben. As she explains during a conversation with a fellow student, "for the umpteenth time I envied Panama's strong Jamaican accent" (Hopkinson 6). Struggling to perform a proper Jamaican accent and acknowledging that "[her] accent wasn't the best. Even Ben and Glory sounded more comfortable than I did when they spoke like their Caribbean parents" (Hopkinson 18), Scotch's painful relation to liminality serves as a direct commentary on the hybridity of the Afro-Caribbean community in the Greater Toronto Area. Her inability to correctly embody either a distinctive racial identity or an acceptable gendered role thus parallels her inability to locate herself within any one community, to speak one language. Unable to comfortably fit within one group or another, Scotch is left feeling like an outsider within her own diasporic communities, a stranger to her own cultural history.

This feeling of alienation and her preoccupation with language are both reinforced by Scotch's home situation. Indeed, her relationship with her parents in many ways acts as a reinforcement of her sense of marginality. When she uses Jamaican patwah (patois) in front of her brother, for example, he notes that "Dad would ground you for a week if he heard you say that" (Hopkinson 60). Insisting on Scotch conforming to "ladylike" behavior (Hopkinson 45), her father's own relation to Jamaican culture forces Scotch to negate part of her own history and to, instead, mimic a traditionally white Canadian culture. This conflict between past and present identities is reinforced, within the economy of the novel, through the presence of Jamaican spirits, or duppies. Duppies are central to the obeah religion of Jamaica and are traditionally "called or summoned as helpers in the process of revealing mysteries, affording protection, or inflicting harm" (Fernandez Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert 170). Manifesting in the novel as "Horseless Head Men" (Hopkinson 30), disembodied animal heads looking like a crossing between a dog and a sea horse and covered in short fur, the duppies have been following Scotch for a while, appearing more frequently and in packs only during moments of social anxiety. Reminders of her cultural difference, the duppies are perceived as a threat to Scotch's successful integration. Rather than potential guides or helpers in her journey, they reinforce her sense of cultural alienation. As she attempts to position herself within a white Canadian framework, the continuous penetration of Afro-Caribbean spirituality can but be perceived as yet another threat to the production of a coherent identity.

If this dissonance could be interpreted as a rejection of racial and gender roles altogether, within The Chaos it more directly plays out as the result of a preoccupation with "passing" as black. As biracial, Scotch has medium brown skin that marks her as racially ambiguous to others. As someone who identifies as black, Scotch comes to resent the way that others respond to her light skin tone. When she meets an older male student at a bar, she is initially excited by this renewed attention. However when, after a few minutes of flirtatious small talk, he leans forward and explains to her that "what's really cool" is that she doesn't look like she is half black: "I mean, you could be almost anything at all, you know?" (Hopkinson 59). Reflecting upon his reaction, once he is gone, she describes how:

I was seething as I walked back to our table. I could be anything. Right. I could pretend to be Jewish, maybe from one of those old Montreal families. Invent a whole different set of parents, of relatives. Disown my brother, maybe, so no one would see him and wonder about me. Disown my mum, too. Or I could hint at some "exotic" Middle Eastern heritage. Or Greek, or Gypsy. I could be anything but what I actually was; the daughter of a white Jamaican and a black American. Yeah, that would be so freaking cool, to have no people, no culture. (Hopkinson 59-60)

Proudly identifying as a black, bi-national woman, Scotch rejects the cultural void or polyvalence implied in the student's comment. Though she does struggle to situate herself in relation to race, she nonetheless clearly despises the racial hierarchical structure that grants privilege to lighter-skin tones above dark ones. As such, his suggestion that she could pass for white--"you don't have to be black or white. You're like, a child of the world!" (Hopkinson 59)--is not perceived as a positive sign of multi-culturalism but rather as a form of cultural erasure.

As Margaret Hunter argues, the privileging of lighter skins over dark ones is the result of a long history. Dominated by "ideals of white supremacy established during slavery and colonialism" (2002, 178), this prevalence thus relies on the pre-existence of a specific racial and social framework. As Scotch's admirer's language suggests, her racial ambiguity is "cool" because it allows her to escape or circumvent her own blackness in a culture in which being black is judged as inferior. Within the context of this encounter, Scotch's body is read in a way that reinforces patriarchal and white supremacist codes of "coolness." Explicitly linked to sexual attractiveness, her light skin tone is here made into a site of fetishization and exoticism. Scotch's ability to codify a form of post-racial identity and thus to circumvent racial identification thus never escapes the white aesthetic framework in which her non-whiteness is judged as inferior. Exposing how Scotch's body--and black bodies in general--come to signify differently as a result of specific encounters and social assemblages, her experience highlights the cultural and ultimately idiosyncratic specificity of territorialization. Indeed, in this situation both Scotch and her brother Rich are territorialized, albeit in opposite ways. Scotch is territorialized through the fetishization of her light skin tone, marking her as an exotic sexual object; while Rich, despite the fact that he is also mixed race, is read as strictly and "fully" black. Even Scotch herself acknowledges that her brother is "darker than me. You got that 'breathing while black' thing going on. Makes you instantly suspicious" (Hopkinson 50). The difference in treatment between the two siblings here demonstrates how race, sexuality and gender are constituted within networks of affect, cultural signs, and material, lived encounters with others. Race, sexuality, and gender are not static biological facts nor are they entirely socially constructed; instead, they emerge within particular assemblages, constituted out of "a multiplicity of material, social and semiotic forces and flows" (Deleuze and Guattari 22-23) that are felt and materialized on the body.

At the end of her short exchange with the older student, Scotch finds a spot away from the crowd from which she sees "Mr. Be-Everyone-But-Yourself" approaching another woman whose "background was even harder to place" (Hopkinson 62). After suggesting that "maybe he had a thing for that" (Hopkinson 62-63), she begins to question how she herself is being read in public: "He hadn't been able to tell I was black. Was I really looking that pale?" (Hopkinson 63). Revealing her anxiety about her own blackness and her ability to perform as black within social contexts, her comment reverses traditional racial positions, subverts conventional European standards of beauty, and promotes instead an alternative model of beauty. Yet, if Scotch's experience showcases a willingness to move beyond a Eurocentric aesthetic, it also exposes the difficulties implicit in this attempt. Confronted at every turn with normative cultural processes that continuously code her body in a way that re-aligns her with white ideals of beauty, her attempt to model an idiosyncratic ideal of black beauty continuously brings her back to the failure of her body to comply with this ideal. As she herself notes, only a few seconds after noticing her own performative failure, "my wrist was itching. I slipped the other hand under the sleeve of my blouse and scratched the slightly raised place. If this kept up, pretty soon, I'd be nothing but one big, sticky blob" (Hopkinson 63). Signs of her inability to re-frame her own codification, Scotch's patches enact the crystallization of her identity. Sticking to her body like tar, they reify her status and negate her attempts at subverting aesthetic and identificatory norms and her embrace of any alternative model of embodiment.

As this shows, throughout The Chaos, encounters like this not only act as self-reflective triggers, bringing Scotch's back to her black patches; they actively contribute to the latter's growth. Resulting in her becoming increasingly more and more tar-covered as racially-charged negative situations increase, these encounters force Scotch to focus her attention on the ways in which she performs her sexuality, her gender, and her race and on the ways in which this performance itself shifts in function of the environment. (2) Yet, they also reminds her of how little power and agency she has over how her race and sexuality are interpreted in public. Scotch's black patches thus symbolize the extent to which her embodied codification escapes her, how her self-image is always already modified and negotiated within various affective and material assemblages that mark her body in both a literal and a figurative way. Highlighting how the inscription of racial, gender, and sexual differences within specific affective and socio-material assemblages forces them to be both experienced and coded as "problems," Scotch's narrative showcases how bodies are constantly required "to enforce a proper mode of relating upon another" (Lim 2397). The various forms of discipline Scotch experiences thus corresponds to the many ways in which our bodies are continuously aligned, organized, and territorialized to fit into certain assemblages. Exposing the effects of power relations on the body--as Foucault argues, the structures of power in place within a given society not only have an immediate hold upon this body; "they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs" (1995, 25)--Scotch's experience showcase how the repetition of social and political processes within certain networks comes to define what a body is, what it should and can do, and how it should affect and interact with other bodies.

Deterritorialized Social Assemblages and Becoming-anomalous

While the first portion of the novel focuses on forms of oppressive territorialization that mark Scotch's body as out of place, the arrival of the Chaos causes new forces and new assemblages to coalesce. Beginning while Scotch is attending her brother's spoken word reading, the Chaos first manifests when the floor of the bar suddenly disappears, sending her brother into the depths of the earth. At the same time, outside the bar, the volcano named Animikika emerges from Lake Ontario and starts to spew lava. As she escapes the bar, Scotch witnesses widespread panic on the streets. Human bodies are changing into new forms while the unaffected few are trying to orient themselves in a fundamentally changed urban landscape. Releasing previously hidden forces into the real world, the Chaos wreaks havoc on normal routines and forms of social organization. Indeed, in addition to environmental changes, one of its defining features is the sudden emergence of mythological and folkloric creatures into the Canadian landscape. For example, whereas previously, the Horseless Head Men were only visible to Scotch, the Chaos releases them from this restricted prism and renders them visible to all. Similarly, creatures as variable as the Sasquatch of North American folklore; Baba Yaga, the witch of Slavic and Russian myth; and the rolling calf born out of the Jamaican obeah religion all emerge on the streets of Toronto. Merging the material and the spiritual worlds, the Chaos thus acts as a large-scale deterritorialization through which previously virtual or incipient forces are suddenly set loose and the fabric of everyday life is de-stratified and disassembled.

Hopkinson's incorporation of magic, and in particular the incorporation of Afro-Caribbean spiritual figures and practices, into the everyday sheds light upon some of the suppressed cultural voices occupying Toronto. The fluid mixing of these worldviews and figures exposes alliances and encounters between cultures and highlights the hybridity of Toronto's diasporic communities. In this sense, the Chaos lays bare and destroys the colonialist frameworks that sought and continue to seek to suppress these variable belief systems. The emergence of the volcano Animikika as one of the most visible features of the Chaos, for example, clearly indicates a kind of reckoning. The Ojibwe word for "it thunders" or "there is a thunderstorm" (Baraga 631), Animikika represents the Indigenous populations of this region--the Anishinabek, Haudenosauneega (Iroquois), Huron-Wendat, and Mississauga/Eastern Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) tribes (Temprano, territories were stolen from them as a result of European colonization. Subjected to genocide and continuously affected by institutional and cultural oppression, these communities find in the Chaos a way to disrupt the colonialist narrative that constrained them to ever-shrinking geographies.

Further emphasized by the appearance of Baba Yaga and her bird-house speeding down University Avenue, "careening every so often against one of the big bronze statues of old, dead white guys" (Hopkinson 121) and destroying them in the process, this process of reterritorialization is also clearly framed within a feminist revolt against patriarchal structures. Indeed, Baba Yaga is an ambiguous figure in Slavic and Russian folktales. Most commonly represented as an old hag, she is also usually represented as possessing a double nature. Both a "genetrix"--a master of natural elements and fertility--and a cannibal witch (Hubbs 47), she is traditionally characterized as a symbol of femininity whose role is to "dislocate power from patriarchal institutions" (Ellis-Etchison 76). Denigrated by the Russian church, her power contains within it a reference to the tension between feminine and masculine orders (Hubbs 41). As such, her mobilization within the novel reinforces the link between the Chaos and the ability of marginalized groups to deploy alternative epistemological and ontological frameworks whose own semiotics challenge traditional forms of power and oppression.

As it unfolds, the Chaos forces people to engage differently with one another as it progressively unsettles sedimented social relations. At the same time, this shift is also what ultimately instigates Scotch's journey from solipsism to community, as she is compelled to mingle with new groups and individuals. After the flash that triggers the Chaos, Scotch indeed finds herself in a subway car with Punum--a queer, disabled, Sri Lankan woman that she met at the spoken word event--who has been transformed into "a purple triangle with an elephant's trunk" (Hopkinson 85). Scotch herself has sprouted eleven legs, some of which seem to be connected to other people on the train, including Punum and "some mouthy punk chick" (Hopkinson 86). The train, with its "wet and flexing" walls (Hopkinson 85), thus becomes a meeting place where normally contained, ordered, and disciplined bodies are rendered indistinguishable from each other. Though this abnormal expansion quickly recedes, it nonetheless forces Scotch to connect with people who she would normally avoid. Enforcing closeness where separation was the norm, the process of deterritorialization triggered by the Chaos--losing their individual coherence, the bodies of the people on the subway become fluid before blending into one another--represents both a break-down and a re-formulation of the normative socio-material assemblages networks that typically create divisions between social groups.

Within this deterritorialized space, new bodies collide and novel alliances are formed. Whereas, prior to the Chaos, Scotch was hesitant to engage with Punum, the two decide to team up to find Rich and make sense of their new environment. Their partnership compels Scotch to reconsider her own prejudices about others. Indeed, only a few moments before, Scotch had shown surprise at another woman demonstrating romantic interest in Punum. Noting that she herself had "never seen anyone come on to someone in a wheelchair before" (Hopkinson 96), her surprise re-produces a traditional, ableist stereotype that can only read people with disabilities as desexualized (see Shakespeare et al. 1996; Milligan and Neufeldt 2001; or Kim 2011). Yet, as she journeys with Punum throughout the ravaged cityscape, Scotch becomes increasingly aware of her own ignorance about social issues and social stigmas. When they encounter a homeless man sitting on the side of the street, Scotch is initially reluctant to talk to him or give him money, but Punum insists on providing him with some financial help and striking a conversation (Hopkinson 101, 110). Soon after, Punum and Scotch pass by a coffee shop on their way to a shelter. Realizing that the shop is not accessible to individuals with disabilities, Punum refuses to go in. When Scotch notes that Punum herself can access it using her crutches if she wants to, Punum explains that her protest is one of principle, based on the fact that, though she can enter the shop, many of her disabled friends could not (Hopkinson 103).

As the narrative progresses and the Chaos unfolds, Scotch's prejudices regarding homelessness, individuals with disabilities, and queer relationships are steadily challenged, culminating in a confrontation in a coffee shop when a few people suggest that Punum should not go outside on her own due to her disability. Responding to one woman's insinuation of inferiority--"But can she be on her own? I mean, does she understand what's she's doing?" (Hopkinson 111)--Scotch erupts in anger: "I understand what you're saying, but you need to check yourself [...] You were just making assumptions, and now you're going to just mind your own business" (Hopkinson 111). Though Scotch ultimately learns to question her own preconceptions and biases regarding non-normative forms of embodiment, this process is not without hurdles; shortly after their encounter in the shop, she gets in a fight with Punum and accuses her of being deaf as an insult (Hopkinson 113). Using ableism as a foundation for discrimination, her comment causes Punum to (temporarily) abandon her to her own devices. If she may have been politically conscious before, particularly regarding racial discrimination, the emergence of the Chaos and her "forced" association with Punum, whom she previously dismissed as a "rude [...] snarling [...] dyke" (Hopkinson 77), compel Scotch to re-consider some of her earlier assumptions and to expand critical sympathies beyond her own self. Destratifying normative modes of social organization and discipline for better and for worse, (3) the Chaos throws Scotch outside her usual socio-material assemblages and forces her to adapt to and adopt new social, affective and material affiliations and becomings.

One such social assemblage is a small community of volunteers Scotch joins while visiting the Toronto Convention Centre. Transformed into an emergency shelter where individuals from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds gather to find help or provide aid, the Center acts as a microcosm of cultural interaction. A provisional and liminal space shaped by the collective labor of individuals, it materializes, at a micro-level, the kinds of collaborative politics necessary to support marginalized populations. Although Scotch herself ultimately falls back into old patterns, preferring her own company to the difficult labor and self-reflection required to participate in these politics--at the first sign of conflict with Glory, she angrily leaves the Centre, claiming to be sick of "the misery, the bad food, the yelling kids" (Hopkinson 147)--her initial engagement with the volunteers at the Centre indicates the beginning of a broader and gradual progress from a state of isolation to pursuing community engagement.

This mode of ambivalence between individualism and collectivity is echoed in Scotch's approach to the folkloric figures that have now been rendered omnipresent by the Chaos. The rolling calf Spot, for example is represented both as a frightening enemy whose appearance coincides with and even causes Scotch's body to break out in more black spots, and as a spiritual guide who triggers her rebirth. A pivotal figure in Afro-Caribbean religions, the rolling calf is known as the most fearsome of duppies and is often represented as a large animal wrapped in chains and spouting fire from its nostrils (Fernandez Olmos and Parvisini-Gebert 171). If her initial presentation of Spot differs from tradition--Spot first appears to Scotch as a shadow following her--Hopkinson nonetheless stays true to traditional representations, revealing him to be an amorphous, matte-black pile of goo, wrapped in chains, with angry yellow eyes (Hopkinson 148). Chasing Scotch through the streets of Toronto and throwing gobs of tar-like matter at her (Hopkinson 149), he ultimately leads her to her aunt Maryssa who is drowning in Lake Ontario. With the help of the Horseless Head Men, Scotch pulls her Aunt from the water before discovering that Spot in fact was none other than the invisible guard dog her aunt claimed had been following and protecting her for years. Discarded, at the time, as one of her "eccentricities" and as the product of a lapse in medication (Hopkinson 153), the revelation of Spot's actual existence, like the new visibility granted to her own Horseless Head Men, forces Scotch to reconsider the role played by popular narratives in the legitimization of certain experiences and belief systems and not others. Encouraging Scotch to see these new materializations as her "little friends," as forces whose role it is to look after her (Hopkinson 154), Maryssa's approach is the first to question the inherent evil nature of the duppies.

Ultimately, Scotch's exchange with her aunt, supported by her continued animosity towards and distrust of Spot, reveals Scotch's profound cultural indoctrination. Though these events clearly showed that Spot and the Horseless Head Men often act to the benefit of the humans they are supposed to protect, Scotch continues to perceive them as inherently evil, threatening, and as signs of abnormality. Having absorbed a colonialist ideology, she is utterly unable to process her own Afro-Caribbean tradition outside the lens provided to her by the white, patriarchal, dominant belief system. Thus, part of her journey involves slowly unpacking these prejudices in order to eventually accept these figures as an essential part of herself. Re-framing her voyage towards embodied acceptance as a journey towards cultural acceptance, The Chaos exposes how ambiguous a relationship bi-racial and bi-national subjects entertain with their own bodies, identities, and traditions. Rejecting any attempt to delineation--the rolling calf, as Aunt Maryssa explains, "can take different forms" (Hopkinson 162)--these folkloric figures in many ways reflect Scotch's own move towards fluidity, ambivalence, and co-presence. Capable of both destruction and guidance--Spot is, in fact, the figure that provokes Scotch's ultimate deterritorialization, and reterritorialization--they invite both characters and readers to consider the futility and ultimate fictionality of binary-thinking and to adopt instead an approach rooted in polyvalence and contradictory co-existence.

This epistemological shift is further reinforced, later in the novel, by the introduction of additional figures and guides who seems to all point towards transformation and regeneration. While on her way to save her brother, Scotch, for example, watches in horror as Spot attacks an archaeopteryx. Faced with a wounded animal, Scotch calls on Baba Yaga to help save the injured creature. Although Yaga insists that the archaeopteryx is beyond help, Izbouchka, Yaga's bird-house, steps forward and engulfs the archaeopteryx with flames, reducing the creature to a lump of coal. Seconds later, a bird-shaped body emerges out of the ashes and the two birds begin to mate. Reworking folkloric traditions, Hopkinson emphasizes in these scenes the semiotic importance of regeneration and hybridity. Though not a mythical feature, the archaeopteryx, as the oldest-known fossil animal considered a bird, nonetheless occupies a liminal position within animal history. Its re-birth as a phoenix--itself a symbol of transformation and regeneration--thus signals yet again how ontology continuously shifts in relation to the social and material assemblages within which it materializes.

This promotion of ontological indecision as a new norm also accounts for Hopkinson's mobilization of Baba Yaga itself. Often associated with rituals of initiation (Hubbs 47), her role in folktales often involves guiding adolescents from childhood to adulthood, acting as a gatekeeper between the two worlds, and "help[ing] the protagonist reach maturation, and gain access to the adult world" (Ellis-Etchison 86; see also, Johns, 261; Propp 159). Representing her as both monstrous and as a kind of helper or gatekeeper aiding Scotch in her journey, Hopkinson emphasizes how Yaga, like Spot and the Horseless Head Men before her, can be seen as both a source of danger and as an ally. Having threatened to eat her, she nonetheless came to Scotch's help when called. Later in the novel, she inquires whether Scotch would like to become her next Vassilisa, a reference to the tale of "Vassilisa the Beautiful" in which a young woman is taken in by Baba Yaga as a maid (Afanas'ev 439). However, in the context of the novel, this invitation is not as innocuous as it may seem as it is the result of Yaga's own desire to consume and possess the racialized other Scotch has come to represent. Once again drawing attention to historical and contemporary forms of racism and colonialism, these exchanges negate the possibility of a strictly positive or simplistic reading of Baba Yaga's role and compel both Scotch and the reader to accept the ever-shifting nature of reality.

Scotch's encounters with these folkloric and mythological beings, dangerous as they may be, ultimately help to frame her journey from deterritorialization and becoming-anomalous to her eventual reterritorialization as a necessary and vital initiation into adulthood. Like the archaeopteryx's rebirth into a phoenix, her transformation is a vital component of her journey towards self-acceptance. During her final confrontation with Spot, these characters all come together to fulfill their role as gatekeepers and guide Scotch through the last steps in her journey. At this point, Scotch no longer resembles a human; instead, she describes herself as "a lumpy asphalt snowman" who inspires fear in everyone she encounters (Hopkinson 195). Pursued by Spot, Scotch jumps into the fire of Yaga's oven only to find herself projected into the heart of the volcano Animikika where her final battle with Spot will take place. The predominance of fire at this point in the novel clearly harkens back to a long iconographic tradition that reads in fire both the signs of destruction and rebirth. Recalling the archaeopteryx's own transformation into a flaming phoenix, Animikika and Yaga's oven thus act as symbols of feminine re-empowerment through transformation. By re-appropriating a traditionally male-centric imagery and deploying it within the context of a female narrative of social empowerment in which the main enemy is delineated as male, Hopkinson not only subverts cultural expectations, she once again exposes the contextually-dependent nature of signification.

Once in the belly of Animikika, Scotch confronts Spot one last time. During this final confrontation, Spot becomes the embodiment and manifestation of the social and affective forces that pressed down on Scotch's body and that compelled her to conform to particular racialized identities, to police her appearance, and to discipline her sexuality. Rather than run away, this time, Scotch decides to face Spot head on. Grabbing his body with her thighs, she proclaims herself "Queen of the Thunder-Thighed" (Hopkinson 230), drags him to the edge of the volcano and uses her weight to unbalance their intertwined bodies and send the two of them plunging into the mouth of Animikika. While Spot's body shrinks, Scotch experiences "something squeezing me all over, like I'd put on a woollen bodysuit and stepped into hot water. Like my skin was getting too small" (Hopkinson 232). Having recovered her normal size, she realizes that her body is no longer covered in tar but is "gleaming," her skin shiny and black as though "enameled" (Hopkinson 234-35).

Having gone through the hardship of liminality, deterritorialization, and reterritorialization, Scotch inhabits a new narrative in which different configurations of social, material, and affective flows allow us to conceive of Scotch's difference in a new light. Rather than being signs of her territorialization, that is, of the way identities are inscribed onto bodies through the repetition of circulating affective, cultural, and material networks, the black patches come to represent in this final instant Scotch's deterritorialization. Having covered her whole body, they become a second skin or shell. This shell in turn makes visible a "dismantling of the organism" that is Scotch's body and instigate a process of in which she is unmoored from the points of subjectification that secured her position (Deleuze and Guattari 160).

This deterritorialization in turn results in the emergence of what Deleuze and Guattari call the anomalous, that is, that exceptional figure whose positioning at the "cutting edge of territorialization" constantly challenges the firm delineation of boundaries (Deleuze and Guattari 244). Not abnormal, a state that still infers a definition in relation to solidified identities, the anomalous a set of positions on the periphery and at limit of the laws. A borderline phenomenon that traces the edge of the multiplicity and that has the potential to destabilize any one assemblage, the anomalous is a force that continuously stir new becomings (Deleuze and Guattari 245, 249). In her work on transgression, Margrit Shildrick further defines the anomalous as that which repeatedly exceeds regulatory mechanisms; it is that which resists normalizing discourses and the disciplinary effects of biopower (2005, 33). Having evolved from a bi-racial, bi-national young woman to a tar-like blob, it is only by finally passing through the anomalous that Scotch is able to confront and destroy Spot. It is only when her body reaches a new limit or threshold, when her body fully becomes, that is, when its connections with territorialized assemblages are challenged and it taps into new forces, new affects, and new modes of becoming, that Scotch is capable of challenging the figure who represents the system of oppressive subjectification that triggered her identificatory crisis in the first place. Inviting an ontological shift in which the black tar-like crust that covered her body moves away from being a manifestation of territorialization and towards a surface of productive intensities that de-stratify normative alignments, her final moments in the volcano unfold as Scotch's first true experience of becoming anomalous.

Reterritorializations and Productive Alliances

Though her experience in the belly of Animikika forces Scotch not only to undergo transformation but also to reach the limit of her own categorization via her occupation of an anomalous position, this transitional and mutational experience is also quickly short-circuited when, after her confrontation with Spot, Scotch's body abandon its state of fluid dynamism and reverts instead to a fixed and stratified mode of being. Horrified and ashamed of her progressively monstrous body, Scotch achieves happiness not through an acceptance of her body as anomalous, but only when she sheds her tar-like crust and comes out "black all over. A for-real black, not brown" (Hopkinson 233). As her skin eventually fades from a shiny, metallic black to a shade of deep brown (Hopkinson 239), Scotch realizes that "no one will ever again tell me that I don't look black" (Hopkinson 239). Concluding with her reterritorialization in a new way that allows her to circumvent being read or positioned as racially ambiguous, a territorialization that she experiences as positive because her outward appearance aligns more closely with her self-identification, Scotch's narrative, in its final moment, clearly rejects hybridity for a sense of stability and coherence. This reterritorializing process does not escape her. As she notes, since her transition, she has received more attention from security guards and "some of the guys who used to be sniffing around me now look at me like I'm the help" (Hopkinson 239). Confirming the impossibility of truly escaping the socio-material assemblages that dominate a culture, this passage in many ways suggests a bleak ending to Scotch's tale. Whereas at her old school she was too different, not white enough, to escape bullying; at her new school, she was neither "properly" black nor properly feminine; in her experience at the bar, her light skin tone reduced her to an exotic fetishistic object; and now, finally "fully" black, she finds herself objectified and yet again caught up within different though not dissimilar disciplinary forces and systems of oppression.

The Chaos thus exposes the ways in which systems of territorialization continuously surround, engulf, shape, and restrict the ways in which bodies are able to signify. Confirmed by Scotch's discussion with her aunt before her concluding transformation--as Scotch laments over her tar-encrusted body, her aunt retorts, "so you're changing. You mean to tell me you don't already change every day? [...] Everybody changes every day. Change is hard," a comment to which Scotch responds, "but not like this! I'm not supposed to change like this!" (Hopkinson 185)--Scotch's journey highlights how the body constantly mutates within an ever-shifting semantic structure whose role is to re-capture each mutation into its own stratified system of signification. Aunt Maryssa's comment not only draws attention to the fact that all bodies are anomalous in some form but also exposes how there is no such thing as an essentialized form of normality and that, therefore, all signification can, by default, only be context-dependent and ultimately arbitrary. As Deleuze and Guattari note, any collective contains within itself an anomalous borderline that "each and every animal" has to, at some point, occupy (245). All structures possess a borderline that challenges their coherence and solidity. Because bodies continuously evolve and shift position within this structure, they relate to each other via their own relation to a center that, through the same disciplinary mechanisms, produces the norm, the anomalous, and the abnormal.

Reliant on the constitution of an "impossible ideal" itself rooted in a "normative standard of ordered and sealed bodiliness against which monstrosity is measured" (Shildrick 2001, 160), the socio-material assemblage within which Scotch's body comes to signify as normal or abnormal is one that cannot truly tolerate liminality. In this way, the novel as a whole seems to depart from Scotch's own narration. Framing her experience of de- and reterritorialization within a meta-structure in which Scotch's own perception, preferences, and preconceptions are often presented as lacking, the novel highlights the political potential inherent in conceiving of bodies as capable of challenging normative configurations. Promoting Scotch's own becoming fluid and deterritorialization as an escape from the regulatory forces that produced the illusion of a body as static, Hopkinson presents an alternative vision in which bodies instead emerge through various processes and intersections of affects, materialities, and discourses. And because these processes continuously require an active repetition by the subject, their "materialization is never quite complete," leaving open the possibility of subversion, challenge, and normative re-appropriation (Butler 1993, 2). De-framing the body, this approach finds in its exciting fluidity an unfinished quality that compels reconsideration of what bodies are and what they are capable of.

Progressive and powerful as it may be, this conception of the body as product of particular assemblages of affect and social forces whose authority can be challenged does not actually seem to "stick" with Scotch herself. Indeed, her earlier response to her aunt already demonstrates a commitment to normalcy and the power of coherent self-representations that exposes a dissonance between the novel's celebration of anomalous embodiment and Scotch's own narrative of discovery. When in battle with Spot, Scotch desperately asks the volcano in which she is trapped "how to get back to my normal self," only to be told that she already is her "normal self' (Hopkinson 232). Though, throughout the novel, various characters repeatedly confront Scotch with the idea that normative embodiment is itself a performative fiction made possible through the arrangement of forces within particular material, discursive, and affective assemblages, she remains committed to a traditional conception of the body. Rejecting the new paradigm introduced by the Chaos, her journey is one shaped by a desire to re-establish the old, traditional, categorical structures that dominated her pre-Chaos experience. Hence, Scotch's pleasure at having a new, darker skin tone should be read as a disavowal of the anomalous, that is, as a resistance to ambiguity and a commitment to territorialization.

Yet, if in this way, Scotch's narrative may be read as a conservative reinforcement of the status quo of identity politics, her journey nonetheless is marked by a desire for blackness. Her pleasure in finding herself clad in a smooth, dark skin at the end of the novel thus retains a fundamentally progressive quality. The culmination of her active quest for a distinctive political identity--in opposition to her bi-racial and multi-cultural past--her embrace of blackness within a racist system that privileges white skin and consistently pressures women of color to conform to white, European standards of beauty marks a clear departure from more traditional fiction for young adults. Confirming Deleuze and Guattari's assumption that some amount of territorialization can in fact be productive to the formation of political identities--as they argue, it is necessary to retain "small supplies of significance and subjectification, if only to turn them against their own systems when the circumstances demand it" (160)--Scotch's final realization aligns her more directly with a traditional ideal of social challenge in which cultural intervention is not strictly the privilege of the liminal but can be effected from the margins themselves. As Deleuze and Guattari explain, retaining a stratified conception of society can allow the individual to "experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization" (161). Highlighting the political advantage of sustaining territorialized identities in order to use them as foundations for cultural and social experimentation, Hopkinson's novel exposes how identity politics can be productive in challenging the way that bodies are typically disciplined. As long as they do not rely on essentialisms and instead take into consideration how identities are always-already constructed within networks of power and discipline, they can reject a vision of solidified, clearly demarcated identities (including, in this case, Scotch's self-identification as black) as reflective of some inner truth about an individual and be used instead to forward anti-oppression activism.

If the novel does not reveal how Scotch engages with her black identity after the Chaos, her reterritorialization nonetheless coincides with a simultaneous re-orientation towards the Afro-Caribbean spiritual systems that thread through the novel. In the epilogue, Scotch notes that she now has a Horseless Head Man as a pet and that she is no longer annoyed or scared of them (Hopkinson 239-40). This new appreciation for the duppy companion symbolizes an acceptance of her Jamaican identity and culture. As her body transformed to more directly align with her family history, so did her belief system. Having been directed, throughout the process, by these spiritual guides, she is able to finally find a place for herself within the Afro-Caribbean and African-American communities she was until then excluded from. Finding in these different collectives--including the assembly of mythological and folkloric creatures themselves--a new way to articulate her identity, Scotch's narrative appears to simultaneously promote personal growth, identity development, and social experimentation, as well as the retention of traditional cultural narratives and belief systems. Providing a framework within which Scotch can rebuild and construct a new sense of self, distinct from territorializing and disciplining processes, these collectives symbolize a new pathway towards self-acceptance and cultural resistance.

Although the epilogue does not provide much information regarding Scotch's engagement with her community prior to the Chaos, it clearly highlights her newfound acceptance of marginalized communities. Having herself contributed to their marginalization earlier in the novel--either when she used the word "dyke" as an insult or when she criticized Gloria's sexualized behavior--in the epilogue, Scotch happily relates how Gloria came out as a lesbian and that they have since mended their competitive relationship. She has also remained friends with Punum, a relationship that forced her to reconsider her own conception of the world:

Punum said Glory was too "ableist." I had to look that one up, but when I did, I understood. I couldn't date someone either who couldn't wrap their mind around the fact that even though we live in the same world, my world is a different one from theirs. (Hopkinson 239)

Despite her final reterritorialization, the Chaos has made Scotch more tolerant and better able to accept other anomalous, non-normative, stigmatized bodies and identities as valid. Signaling Scotch's first steps towards engaging in a more intersectional mode of anti-oppression politics, this conclusion in many ways leaves open the possibility of further ontological deterritorialization. As she herself confesses, having "been a total wreck a couple of times already in my life" and having "learned that I can make it through the other side," she finds herself "hunger[ing] for something different" (Hopkinson 241). While Scotch does disavow her own anomalous body during the Chaos, relishing her reterritorialization, the process has nevertheless rendered her more amenable to change, open to the possibility of both embodied and ontological transformation.


In The Chaos, Nalo Hopkinson explores how race, sexuality, and gender come to adhere to certain bodies and how thinking through the anomalous provides new pathways for conceptualizing and embodying difference. Although Scotch ultimately embraces her reterritorialization, her experience compels her to establish productive new alliances with marginalized individuals and communities as well as to cultivate an increased openness to transformative processes. The Chaos thus provides its young adult readers with a critical framework within which to assess issues related to embodiment, identity politics, social justice, and aesthetics, issues that are often lacking in popular cultural texts. Celebrating black beauty and black skin, Hopkinson's novel challenges normative, patriarchal, and white European depictions of blackness that continue to promote the fetishization and exoticization of people of color. Embracing a vision that purposely resists white beauty standards, Scotch's experience promotes instead an alternative framework within which blackness and black identity can be sought as its own ideal. If her black spots provoke horror and anxiety, they never symbolize a fear of "turning black." Instead, they unfold as the marks of a lack of control over how her body is changing, how it is disciplined, and how it is perceived. Exposing the ways in which black women lack power over how their bodies come to signify, Scotch's experience during the Chaos operates as a metaphor for the ways black women's bodies are captured by various disciplinary lenses. Presenting an alternative to the dominant approach, Hopkinson offers her young readers a tale in which a young black woman not only progressively regains control and autonomy over her body, but is able to find and express pride in the rich blackness of her skin. A powerful statement in a world in which black skin--and particularly, dark black skin--is often coded as undesirable, The Chaos exemplifies the importance of the fantastic as a critical genre able to challenge and subvert oppressive cultural norms and to model new and more equitable orientations for the present and the future.


(1.) The name references Sojourner Truth, a black American abolitionist and women's rights activist (c.1797-1883). This reference consistent with Hopkinson's commitment to promoting the rights and freedoms of people of color, and reflects Scotch's own criticism and resistance of racial and gendered oppression. The word 'sojourner' also defines someone who is a temporary resident of a place. This latter meaning also has significance for the novel, given Hopkinson's focus on place and the shifting assemblages of people, communities, and nonhuman elements within the city. Scotch is herself a sojourner not only because of her bi-national status, but also because she finds it difficult to fix herself within one specific identity.

(2.) References to Scotch's tar-like skin also harkens back to another racially-charged narrative, commonly referred to as The Tar Baby. The Tar Baby story is connected to African-American and Afro-Caribbean oral traditions. Long before its appropriation by Joel Harris Chandler in his folktale collection Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings (1881), the tar baby story was a formative component within black culture under slavery. As Bryan Wagner notes, the figure is "central to our understanding of cultural traditions that slaves brought from Africa to America" (xi) and "showed that culture not only survived but thrived under stories like the tar baby taught slaves how to push back against their masters" (xii). Scotch's parents tell their own distinctive version, and playfully challenge one another's variations throughout the telling, indicating to Scotch that she will have to make her own decisions about the details when she becomes the story-teller.

(3.) There are other examples during the Chaos in which the public respond to marginalized others with violence and increased hostility. Disruptions in the status quo thus also reveal patterns of bigotry, causing individuals to act of out on their fear of difference where propriety and social norms would normally prevent them from making such prejudices public.

Works Cited

Afanas'ev, Aleksandr. Russian Fairy Tales. 1945. Trans. Norbert Guterman. London: Random, 1973. Print.

Baraga, Frederic. A Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language, Explained in English, Part 2. Cincinnati: J. A. Hemann, 1853. Print.

Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." London: Routledge, 1993. Print.

--. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. 1990. London: Routledge, 2008. Print.

--. "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory." Theatre Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 1988. 519-531. Print.

Carby, Hazel V. "Policing the Black Woman's Body in an Urban Context." Critical Inquiry, vol. 8, no. 4, 1992. 738-755. Print.

Colebrook, Clare. "Face Race." Deleuze and Race. Ed. Arun Saldanha and Jason

Michael Adams. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011. 46-57. Print. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and

Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987. Print.

Ellis-Etchison, John W. "'But Not Every Question Has a Good Answer': Baba Yaga as Embodied Wisdom in Slavic Folk and Fairy Tales." Turning Points and Transformations: Essays on language, Literature, and Culture. Ed. Christine DeVine and Marie Hendry. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2011. 75-94. Print.

Fernandez Olmos, Margarite, and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert. Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santeria to Obeah and Espiritismo. 2nd ed., New York: New York UP, 2011. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage, 1995. Print.

Goffmann, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, 1963. Print.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1994. Print.

Hammonds, Evelynn M. "Toward a Genealogy of Black Female Sexuality: the Problematic of Silence." Feminist Theory and the Body. Ed. Janet Price and Margrit Shildrick. London: Routledge, 1999. 93-104. Print.

Hopkinson, Nalo. The Chaos. London: Margaret K. McElderry, 2012. Print.

Hubbs, Joanna. Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988. Print.

Hunter, Margaret L. "If You're Light You're Alright: Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color." Gender & Society, vol. 16, no. 2, 2002. 175-193. Print.

Johns, Andreas. Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004. Print.

Kim, Eunjung. "Asexuality in Disability Narratives." Sexualities, vol. 14, no. 4, 2011. 479-493. Print.

Lim, Jason. "Immanent Politics: Thinking Race and Ethnicity Through Affect and Machinism." Environment and Planning A, vol. 42, 2010. 2393-2409. Print.

Massumi, Brian. A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations for Deleuze and Guattari. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992. Print.

Milligan, Maureen S., and Aldred H. Neufeldt. "The Myth of Asexuality: A Survey of Social and Empirical Evidence." Sexuality and Disability, vol. 19, no. 2, 2001. 91-109. Print.

Nayak, Anoop. "Race, Affect, and Emotion: Young People, Racism, and Graffiti in the Postcolonial English Suburbs." Environment and Planning A, Vol. 42, 2010. 2370-2392. Print.

Propp, Vladimir Yakovlevich. The Russian Folktale. 1984. Trans. Sibelan Forrester. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2012. Print.

Saldanha, Arun. "Bastard and Mixed-Race are the True Names of Race." Deleuze and Race. Ed. Arun Saldanha and Jason Michael Adams. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011. 4-26. Print.

--. "Skin, Affect, Aggregation: Guattarian Variations on Fanon." Environment and Planning A, vol. 42, 2010. 2410-2427. Print.

Shakespeare, Tom, et al. The Sexual Politics of Disability: Untold Desires. London: Cassell, 1996. Print.

Shildrick, Margrit. "Transgressing the Law with Foucault and Derrida: Some Reflections on Anomalous Embodiment." Critical Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 3, 2005. 30-46. Print.

--. "'You Are There, Like My Skin: "Reconfiguring Relational Economies." Thinking Through the Skin. Ed. Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacey. Londong: Routledge, 2001. 160-175. Print.

Sorensen, Leif. "Dubwise into the Future: Versioning Modernity in Nalo Hopkinson." African American Review, vol. 47, no. 2-3, 2014. 267-283. Print.

Temprano, Victor. 2018, Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.

Wagner, Bryan. The Tar Baby: A Global History. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2017. Print.
COPYRIGHT 2018 The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Shaw, Kristen
Publication:Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 22, 2018
Previous Article:"I have to figure out who I am": Embodied Self, Time, and the Ethics of Adolescence in David Levithan's Every Day.
Next Article:Ashcroft, Bill. Utopianism in Postcolonial Literatures.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |