Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (viii, 228 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Glyne Griffith

Committee Members

Richard Barney, Wen Liu


Biopolitics, Human, Postcolonial Literature, Posthumanism, Race, Trauma, Dead in literature, Death in literature, Death, Humanity in literature, Spiritualism

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


ABSTRACT“The Assemblage of the Dead: Speech, Subjectivity, and Being Human” reimagines the construct of the human as a political subject of the state through a bio(necro)political lens. The project re-envisions the conceptual framework of biopolitics through an engagement with the figure of the living dead, centralized in Giorgio Agamben’s work through his casting of the figure of the Muselmann as the cipher that reveals the limits of humanity and being human. With a bid to counter-narrate the twinning of death and resistance and death and subjectivity as foundational markers of humanity in current critical scholarship of the field, this project works intersectionally to recast the meaning of being a human and indeed, the posthuman by looking to sites near death, and makes malleable the ontological core of being human. Through the building of an alternative, vibrant assemblage of dead, nonhuman subjects in their embodied, racialized, gendered, and colonized subjectivities, “The Assemblage of the Dead” is committed to disrupting the hegemonic, overdetermined primacy of the Eurocentric human subject. Each chapter examines a violent political upheaval, and each chapter employs distinct and yet interlinked theoretical frameworks that critique, examine, and reorganize the idea of death as the ultimate marker for establishing human subjectivity. The project brings together literary and visual works—Sadat Hossain Manto’s “Colder than Ice” (1950) and “Khol Do” (1949), Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India (1991), Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Living and the Dead” (1892), Amy Waldman’s The Submission (2011), and Ramy Youssef’s TV episode “Strawberries” (2019)—highlighting the site and scope of death. It demonstrates that an engagement with nonhuman, non-living speech and subaltern subjectivity is integral to the project’s intention to unbuild the supremacy of the genre of the human. Ultimately, the characters’ commitment to conquering the limits of the categories life and death and the conditions under which they attempt to resist the constraints of bare life urge a reconsideration of the concepts of life, death, and being human.