Reading group : Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler

Online reading group: Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler

Orlow's exhibition, which tells the story of the African wormwood commonly used to treat fevers and malaria, feels particularly timely in light of the current pandemic.

During two online sessions on 13 and 14 May, the reading group revisits Clay’s Ark (1985), a novel from the Patternist series by African-American science fiction author Octavia E. Butler. In Butler’s plague story Clay’s Ark, ‘The other’ (the virus) becomes the creator of a different way of life, upending the distinction between ‘we’ and ‘them’ and laying the foundation for a new social contract. What would it mean, Butler asks, to approach an infectious organism as an unavoidable cohabitant, rather than a hostile invader that ought to be eliminated? The online reading group will adopt the form of an open discussion connecting Butler’s novel to the present day.