Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Eugenic Nostalgia: Self-Narration and Internalized Ableism in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2020), 14, (4), 437–452.


Rosemarie Garland-Thomson has recently argued that Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go deconstructs ableism’s binary structure by postulating the existence of clone characters who occupy an abject position in a eugenic dystopia precisely because their genetically engineered, idealized able bodies exist to be used to “cure” the disabilities of others. The article builds on Garland-Thomson’s work, discussing the role of science fiction in Ishiguro’s book as a means to explore how ableist narratives contribute to cultural norms that enable an overt disciplining of disabled bodies that still occurs, despite it no longer being socially acceptable, and posits protagonist Kathy H.’s story as a narrative of disability identity that exposes the contradictory nature of a belief in the able body and its opposition to disability. Putatively able-bodied, Kathy narrates her experience of the world from a subject position that undermines a stable construction of the body within an ableist framework, ultimately showing these distinctions to be untenable. By discussing the role of first-person perspective in Ishiguro’s novel as a means to interrogate internalized cultural narratives that perpetuate ableist practices, the article examines how cultural notions of ability and disability function as terms that define through exclusion the citizen-subject in liberal democratic societies.

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Author details

Kanyusik, Will