The temporality in Kindred is about movement within simultaneous time; entangled, moored time is zigzagging time, kinetic time that is neither linear nor forward, but rather errant and mangroved. What this means is that, though moored in an unchanging black abjection, temporality in Butler’s novel whirls in a zigzagging entanglement out of which history is made present without circumscribing and petrifying the present in which it lives.

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‘Then’ and ‘Now’ of Mangrove Time: The Temporality of Lived Blackness in Octavia Butler’s Kindred

Chiasma International, Vol. 23, 2021, 275 – 300

What does it mean to be linked to and intimately shaped through the Western Hemisphere’s history of anti-blackness? We find an answer to this question in the pivotal chapter of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, where he describes being weighed down by the anti-black stereotypes of a white imaginary, most notably, in a way that escapes the theoretical boundaries of Merleau-Ponty’s body-schema. Another possible answer is given in Octavia Butler’s Kindred. The novel’s protagonist, Dana Franklin, lives through her linkage to this particular past of Western-hemispheric, colonial violence in unexplainable travels across time that are driven by entanglements with complex ancestral relationships on a plantation in antebellum Maryland. Using Octavia Butler’s Kindred as both ground and frame, this paper develops a notion of mangrove time as a way to think through how, against this historical context, openings of possibility might emerge for black life. In other words, from the notion of mangrove time I find a way to understand how the memory of a Western hemispheric anti-black violence might both continue to signify in the present and open onto a different kind of future (how a memory of black abjection can be for the sake of something other than black abjection and its reproduction).

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