Science Fiction Film & Television

Maternal back/grounds in Children of Men Notes toward an Arendtian biopolitics

Science Fiction Film & Television (2011), 4, (2), 249–270.

Abstract

This article intervenes in readings of Cuarón's Children of Men that privilege the psychic and political trajectory of the film's anti-hero, Theo Faron. Inspired by comments about the importance of the cinematic background and the biopolitical order it represents, I engage the material, corporeal dimensions of in/fertility in the film and take the 'race/reproduction bind' (Weinbaum) as central to biopolitical analysis. I interpret the miraculously pregnant illegal immigrant, Kee, in relation to two intersecting strands of fiction and theory: a lineage of dystopian speculative fiction on the one hand, and transatlantic studies on the other. Through a sustained consideration of 'grounds' and 'backgrounds' as they appear in both strands of work, I generate a more elastic conception of 'background'. Such an analysis opens up new angles of approach for biopolitical theorising by foregrounding two figures – the reproductive female and the child – that embody generativity in excess of the now familiar biopolitical category of Homo sacer, or bare life (Agamben). I conclude by showing how the film resonates with Hannah Arendt's enigmatic principle of natality as a possible point of departure for biopolitical analysis.

Access Token
£25.00

Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. 1995. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Google Scholar

Agawu, Kofi. Representing African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions. New York: Routledge, 2003. Representing African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions. Google Scholar

Ahmed, Sara. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke UP, 2006. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Google Scholar

Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. 1951. 2nd edn. 1968. New York: Harcourt Inc., 1994. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Google Scholar

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. 1958. Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 1998. The Human Condition. Google Scholar

Arendt, Hannah. The Promise of Politics. Ed. Jerome Kohn. New York: Schocken Books, 2005. The Promise of Politics Google Scholar

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. 1985. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999. The Handmaid's Tale. Google Scholar

Bacon, Terryl, and Govinda Dickman. 'Who's the Daddy? The Aesthetics and Politics of Representation in Alfonso Cuarón's Adaptation of Children of Men'. Adaptation in Contemporary Culture: Textual Infidelities. Ed. Rachel Carroll. London: Continuum, 2009: 147–59. Google Scholar

Baucom, Ian. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2005. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Google Scholar

Benjamin, Walter. 'Theses on the Philosophy of History'. Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken Books, 1969: 253–64. Theses on the Philosophy of History Illuminations. 253 64 Google Scholar

Bowman, James. 'Our Childless Dystopia'. The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society 15 (Winter 2007): 107–10. Our Childless Dystopia The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society 15 107 10 Google Scholar

Brennan, Matt. 'What a Waste: The Apocalyptic Prophecies of T. S. Eliot and Alfonso Cuaron'. Bright Lights Film Journal 57 (August 2007): http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/57/apocalypse.php Google Scholar

Chaudhary, Zahid. 'Humanity Adrift: Race, Materiality, and Allegory in Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men'. Camera Obscura 72 (2009): 73–109. Google Scholar

Dargis, Manohla. 'Apocalypse Now, but in the Wasteland a Child is Given'. Review in New York Times (25 December 2006): http://movies.nytimes.com/2006/12/25/movies/25chil.html Google Scholar

Deutscher, Penelope. 'The Inversion of Exceptionality: Foucault, Agamben, and "Reproductive Rights."' South Atlantic Quarterly 107.1 (Winter 2008): 55–70. The Inversion of Exceptionality: Foucault, Agamben, and "Reproductive Rights." South Atlantic Quarterly 107 55 70 Google Scholar

Edelman, Lee. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Google Scholar

Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women. New York: Crown, 1991. Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women. Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel. 'Nietzsche, Genealogy, History'. The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon, 1984: 76–100. Google Scholar

Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Google Scholar

Gilroy, Paul. Darker Than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010. Darker Than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture. Google Scholar

Glissant, Édouard. Poetics of Relation. Trans. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor, MI: U of Michigan P, 1997. Google Scholar

Hall, Stuart et al. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order. London: Mac-Millan, 1978. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order. Google Scholar

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Google Scholar

James, P. D. The Children of Men. 1992. Toronto: Vintage, 2005. The Children of Men. 1992 Google Scholar

Korte, Barbara. 'Envisioning a Black Tomorrow? Black Mother Figures and the Issue of Representation in 28 Days Later and Children of Men'. Multi-Ethnic Britain 2000+: New Perspectives in Literature, Film, and the Arts. Ed. Lars Eckstein et al. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008: 315–25. Google Scholar

Latimer, Heather. 'Popular Culture and Reproductive Politics: Juno, Knocked Up, and the Enduring Legacy of The Handmaid's Tale'. Feminist Theory 10.2 (2009): 211–26. Google Scholar

Lauret, Maria. Liberating Literature: Feminist Fiction in America. New York: Routledge, 1994. Liberating Literature: Feminist Fiction in America. Google Scholar

Macek, Steve. Urban Nightmares: The Media, the Right, and the Moral Panic over the City. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2006. Urban Nightmares: The Media, the Right, and the Moral Panic over the City. Google Scholar

McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge, 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. Google Scholar

McKittrick, Katherine. Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2006. Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. Google Scholar

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 1987. New York: Penguin, 2000. Beloved. 1987 Google Scholar

Moylan, Tom. Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000. Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia. Google Scholar

Rothberg, Michael. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2009. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Google Scholar

Schwartzman, Sarah. 'Children of Men and a Plural Messianism'. Journal of Religion and Film 13.1 (April 2009): http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol13.no1/ChildrenMen.htm Google Scholar

Tyler, Imogen. 'Designed to Fail: A Biopolitics of British Citizenship'. Citizenship Studies 14.1 (2010): 61–74. Designed to Fail: A Biopolitics of British Citizenship Citizenship Studies 14 61 74 Google Scholar

Vatter, Miguel. 'Natality and Biopolitics in Hannah Arendt'. Revista de Ciencia Politica 26.2 (2006): 137–59. Natality and Biopolitics in Hannah Arendt Revista de Ciencia Politica 26 137 59 Google Scholar

Wacquant, Loïc. 'Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh'. Punishment & Society 3.1 (2001): 95–134. Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh Punishment & Society 3 95 134 Google Scholar

Weinbaum, Alys Eve. Wayward Reproductions Genealogies of Race and Nation in Transatlantic Modern Thought. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2004. Wayward Reproductions Genealogies of Race and Nation in Transatlantic Modern Thought. Google Scholar

Wynter, Sylvia. 'Beyond Miranda's Meanings: Un/Silencing the "Demonic Ground" of Caliban's "Woman"'. Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literature. Ed. Carole Boyce Davies and Elaine Savory Fido. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1990: 355–72. Google Scholar

Žižek, Slavoj. 'The Possibility of Hope'. DVD Bonus Feature. Children of Men. Dir. Alfonso Cuarón. DVD. Universal, 2007. Google Scholar

Žižek, Slavoj. 'The Clash of Civilizations at the End of History'. Slavoj Zizek – Philosopher and Cultural Critic – Reacts to Children of Men: http://www.childrenofmen.net/slavoj.html Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Trimble, Sarah