Memories of Extinction and Human Subjectivity
Challenging the Human-Nonhuman Divide Through Technology in Kawakami Hiromi’s Ōkina torini sarawarenaiyō
This paper seeks to analyse the role of technology and memory in Kawakami Hiromi’s novel Ōkina torini sarawarenaiyō. Set thousands of years in the future, in a world that has been subjected to several catastrophes, the novel highlights the interconnections between humanity and technology in order to defamiliarize ideas of human centrality and exceptionalism. Kawakami’s characters are forced to face the cyclical possibility of human extinction, which turns into a recurring threat rather than an abstract and discrete event. In this narrative time chronically affected by crises, the definition of what it means to be human is constantly challenged and renegotiated, allowing for the development of non-anthropocentric forms of existence. This paper will demonstrate how, in a world in which the human species is chronically experiencing the threat of extinction, technologies – such as AI entities, clones and factories – allow the renegotiation of ideas of human centrality and singularity, effectively suggesting possibilities for survival outside of a humanist and anthropocentric framework.