Writing Ecological Revolution from Millennial South Africa: History, Nature and the Post-apartheid Present


  • Rebecca Duncan University of Stirling


post-transitional literature, world-ecology, Lauren Beukes, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Zinaid Meeran


The period since the turn of the millennium has witnessed the appearance in South African literature of ecologically inflected speculative imaginaries. Existing accounts of these thematic and generic developments have emphasised transnational and “post-transitional” (Frenkel and MacKenzie 2010) experimentation, socio-economic anxiety, environmental crisis, and Anthropocene – a keyword in conceptualising the proliferating emergencies of the millennial present.  This article brings together these disparate approaches, while providing a perspective that locates contemporary South African eco-speculative narratives at the material interface of local history and millennial geopolitics. These fictions, I suggest, apprehend the systemic production of historical Natures, both within South Africa and on a planetary scale. Emerging after the post-apartheid nation’s integration into the global geography of neoliberalism, their extraordinary lexica register the febrile climate in which one local ecological order is reconfigured for the ends of a newly violent regime. In making these arguments, the article draws from and expands “world-ecological” cultural studies (Moore 2015, 2016), and brings the Warwick Research Collective’s retheorisation of world-literature (2015) to bear on recent South African contexts. Further, the article engages with the paradigm of Anthropocene, showing that from a contemporary South African vantage, converging millennial crises derive – not from human activity writ large – but from racialised and systemic world-historical formations of power.

Author Biography

Rebecca Duncan, University of Stirling

Rebecca Duncan is Crafoord Foundation postdoctoral researcher at the Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. She is the author of South African Gothic (University of Wales/University of Chicago Press 2018), which was shortlisted for the 2019 Allan Lloyd Smith prize. Her recent work includes the co-edited projects Patrick McGrath and his Worlds (Routledge 2019), and “The Body Now (2020), a special issue of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. She has research interests in world literature, political ecology, speculative fiction and decolonial thinking.