Disability and Human Rights in Postcolonial LiteratureChristopher Krentz
Characters with disabilities are often overlooked in fiction, but many occupy central places in literature by celebrated authors like Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, J. M. Coetzee, Anita Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, and others. These authors deploy disability to do important cultural work, writes Christopher Krentz in his innovative study, Elusive Kinship. Such representations not only relate to the millions of disabled people in the Global South, but also make more vivid such issues as the effects of colonialism, global capitalism, racism and sexism, war, and environmental disaster.
Krentz is the first to put the fields of postcolonial studies, studies of human rights and literature, and literary disability in conversation with each other in a book-length study. He enhances our appreciation of key texts of Anglophone postcolonial literature of the Global South, including Things Fall Apart and Midnight’s Children. In addition, he uncovers the myriad ways fiction gains energy, vitality, and metaphoric force from characters with extraordinary bodies or minds.
Depicting injustices faced by characters with disabilities is vital to raising awareness and achieving human rights. Elusive Kinship nudges us toward a fuller understanding of disability worldwide.
"Krentz’s excellent study into the depictions of disability in postcolonial literature.... is hugely ambitious in both its scope and subject matter. Krentz’s prose is clear and highly readable, his grasp of the thorny theoretical issues with which he grapples is detailed and impressive, and the balance of classic works of postcolonial literature with lesser-known texts gives the work a broad appeal and relevance.... This study will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, including those working in disability, postcolonial, and human rights studies."
—Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies
"Krentz effectively traces the evolution of disability in literature from 'a subtle, easy to miss presence' to something central to a work’s narrative, and... makes a strong case for literature as an agent of change.... (T)his book should have a spot on the shelves of literature students and scholars."
"Recognizing the parallel growth of postcolonial literature and global human rights, Krentz traces how literary works published after the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights potentially informed future rights instruments, most notably the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)…. Krentz primes readers of postcolonial fiction to read for disability, an approach that promises to uncover new dimensions even to classic works…. (H)is study does open a plethora of possibilities for future scholarship."
“Krentz’s triangulation of disability, postcolonial studies, and human rights is original and significant work. In lively and engaging analysis, Elusive Kinship yields important insights about the intersection of disability with trauma and the different ways in which activism and community may be constituted, while providing critical discussions of the limitations of disability rights models. This book is a welcome addition to scholarship in literary postcolonial studies and disability in global contexts.”
—Clare Barker, Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Leeds, and author of Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality
“Elusive Kinship is a vital contribution to the growing literature on the geopolitics of disability and debility. Krentz provides a lucid analysis of disabled lives in the Global South as represented in literature while also thoughtfully deconstructing the politics of knowledge production of disability studies in the Global North. Making a powerful case that postcolonial literature assists in challenging these divides, Krentz’s attention to overlooked aspects of disability offers a deep understanding, complicating and transforming what disability is and how it is lived."
—Jasbir K Puar, Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University, and author of The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability
"Krentz’s scholarly text is a brilliant work of disability studies, a brilliant work on the Global South and on current systems of power, and a brilliant consideration of twelve works of postcolonial literature. This work will become a go-to text for academics, and it will appeal equally to casual readers. Like the works of fiction that Krentz discusses, Elusive Kinship shows readers that disability visibility is important, that care ethics can be a strategic and activist antidote to oppression, and that current debates over human rights must be expanded. Hopefully, Krentz’s work will go on to spur more debates about human rights, definitions of humanity, and systematic inequalities."—Wordgathering