The Politics of Caregiving within Octavia Butler's Bloodchild and Other Stories Open Access

Dautrich, Katherine (Spring 2019)

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 Within Octavia Butler’s short stories, “Bloodchild,” “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” and “Speech Sounds,” protagonists share a critical character arc as they reluctantly chose to care for others at climax of the narrative. Their decisions, occurring in wildly disparate circumstances, offer a radical potential to reshape their social worlds, fantastically imaged by Butler through the invocation of alien life forms, a Frankensteinian genetic disease and an apocalyptic aphasia. Within this thesis, I excavate caregiving from a marginalization or outright erasure from a Western capitalist dialogue, utilizing Butler’s alien environments to estrange caring labor from a normative cultural context. Using theories of feminist ethics and disability studies, I underscore the key parallels between Butler’s fictional imaginings and the concerns facing contemporary human beings in regard to gestational surrogacy, healthcare, and community organizing. This thesis engages the complex dimensions of carework within Butler’s writing, addressing its potential for corruption, the factors impacting the quality of labor, and the political location of care’s occurrence and its involved parties. By examining these texts as both calls for care and critiques of it, I ultimately discover care to be Butler’s biological imperative, necessary for structuring any social world and subsequently for the survival of the highly social human species.

Table of Contents


“Mournful Grieving” and an “Uncomplicatedly ‘Happy’ Ending”:

Saving the World with Octavia Butler


Chapter One

Alienating and Estranging Care in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”


Chapter Two 

“How Beautiful That Tiger Is [When] It’s Got You by the Arm”:

Dissecting Disability in “The Evening and the Morning and the Night”


Chapter Three

What We Need From Each Other—

Community, Collaboration and Care in “Speech Sounds”




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