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Humanimal, a Project for Future Children

Humanimal, a Project for Future Children


Bhanu Kapil


    2009, 74 pages

    ISBN 978-0-932716-70-5



    In this new prose document, Bhanu Kapil follows a film crew to the Bengal jungle to re-encounter the true account of two girls found living with wolves in 1921. Taking as its source text the diary of the missionary who strove to rehabilitate these orphans—through language instruction and forcible correction of supinated limbs—Humanimal functions as a healing mutation for three bodies and a companion poiesis for future physiologies. Through wolfgirls Kamala and Amala, there is a grafting: what scars down into the feral opens out also into the fierce, into a remembrance of Kapil’s father. The humanimal text becomes one in which personal and postcolonial histories cross a wilderness to form supported metabiology. "Lucidly, holographically, your heart pulsed in the air next to your body; then my eyes clicked the photo into place. Future child, in the time you lived in, your arms always itched and flaked. To write this, the memoir of your body, I slip my arms into the sleeves of your shirt. I slip my arms into yours, to become four-limbed."



    Bhanu Kapil was born in the United Kingdom and lives in the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of a number of full-length works of poetry/prose, including The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works, 2006 with a new edition forthcoming from Kelsey Street Press), humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009), Schizophrene (Nightboat, 2011), Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat, 2015), and How to Wash a Heart (Liverpool University Press, 2020).

    In 2020 Kapil received the T.S. Eliot Prize for her collection How to Wash a Heart, as well as the Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry.


    What are the limits of cruelty in what passes for love or civilization? The implications of even asking these and other questions are fully explored in this startling and informative text. Bhanu Kapil’s artful combination of documentary, poetic and narrative genres into an anatomy of human wildness is absorbing. This book is compassionate and savage; a physical act, filled with risks and satisfactions. "Each feral moment is valuable."

    —Laura Moriarty


    In the famous story of the "Bengali wolf girls," Kamala and Amala, found running wild in 1921 and "recuperated" to Indian society—poet and novelist Bhanu Kapil has found her ideal subject. To recreate a vanished era of colonial rigidity, Kapil travelled to Midnapure with a camera crew, and revisited the sites of the girls’ capture and torturous domestication. Can one reach back through time? Can one move forward after such horror? If you stick a girl in a dress, can you eradicate her animal?

    —Dodie Bellamy




    Half [ ]-half [ ]-half [ ]: Trauma and Transformation in the Humanimal Letters to Bhanu Kapil

    Galatea Resurrects review of Humanimal, a Project for Future Children

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