Society and Space: Ariel's Ecology
Shakespeare’s Tempest character Ariel has been central to a number of critical engagements with colonialism. A spirit being of ambiguous gender and power relations, Ariel has alternately served as a signifier of contented (political, sexual) submission (e.g. in Octave Mannoni’s The Psychology of Colonisation) or of non-violent transformative resistance (e.g. in Aimé Césaire’s rewriting of The Tempest). Monique Allewaert’s book pursues and extends the latter direction, unfolding an intriguing materialist reading around the character that seeks to destabilise dominant notions of personhood. Bringing together themes from the discourses around ‘new materialism’ and ‘postcolonial ecologies’, Allewaert weaves her narrative around the colonial anxiety that Europeans would become ‘a different kind of organisation of matter and thus a different kind of being’ in more extreme climates (2013, page 4). In this she is guided by the human-nature interplay in Ariel’s song (especially the ‘Full Fathom Five’ stanza), which serves as a prompt for reinterpretations of references to bodily dismemberment, intrusion and convergence as a potential for resistance to imperialist and capitalist projects.