Collapse and Reversed Extinction:Beyond Inherited Epistemologies of Species Loss in Louise Erdrich’s "Future Home of the Living God"


  • Ida Olsen Independent researcher



extinction, Louise Erdrich, post-apocalypse, colonialism, Indigenous Futurism


This article argues for the importance of a critical examination of the frameworks and epistemologies through which species extinction is conceptualized. As global biodiversity loss rates accelerate, the legacy of nineteenth-century colonial science continues to inform understandings of species extinctions, whereby the discourse around species loss is profoundly intertwined with notions of taxonomies, race, and hierarchies. My article demonstrates how Louise Erdrich’s post-apocalyptic novel Future Home of the Living God (2017) exposes and destabilizes these inherited Western epistemologies of extinction. Erdrich’s narrative centres around a bizarre extinction event where evolution begins to spin out of control, perhaps running backwards, and where biological categories and species boundaries lose their meanings. As an Indigenous Futurist text, the novel is told from the perspective of a pregnant woman of Ojibwe ancestry who becomes imprisoned when a white authoritarian government, in an attempt to maintain the status quo, detain all women of child-bearing age. The reverse extinction scenario, as my discussion shows, produces an ontological uncertainty within the diegesis, with characters left in a state of unknowability about the nature of the world – a situation that provides Indigenous communities with opportunities for land reclamation and empowerment. The novel reads as a counter-narrative to Western notions about scientific progress also on the level of form, as the text presents an introspective and cyclical unfolding of events.  In this way, rather than to provide post-apocalyptic resolution, Erdrich’s novel mobilizes uncertainty and subverts the mainstream post-apocalyptic genre template in order to gesture towards the possibility of alternative futures liberated from colonial epistemologies.


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Author Biography

Ida Olsen, Independent researcher

Ida M. Olsen is an independent scholar living in southern Norway. Her research examines literature’s engagement with the sixth mass extinction of species, with special emphasis on the structural and material drivers of biodiversity loss and on the representations of non- charismatic species. Her work has appeared in journals such as ISLE, Green Letters, Studies in the Novel, and English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920.






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