Jea Sophia Oh
By employing Deleuzian conceptualizations of “desire,” “deterritorialization,” and “doubling,” this study examines Avatar (James Cameron’s 2009 film) as a hybridity of becoming the Other. This paper sketches the contours of an oppositional politics within the figure of Empire (or the American capitalist empire which is almost always transcendental). The binary structure of the movie oscillates between two utterly opposing modalities (deploying high-tech military force against eco-friendly indigenous culture, weapons against trees, killing to healing, earth to space, human to nonhuman-nature, white skin against blue skin, etc.) This dualistic tension seems to create a Neo-Platonic Augustinian confrontation between Good and Evil. Nevertheless, the Avatar’s ambivalent body provides us with a post-human fable of becoming with an eco-theological edge. This paper suggests a reading of this movie as an allegory of the history of the Human (or American) Empire’s colonizing influences—even though the movie is a science fiction story set in the future (year 2154) and the “native” Na’vi people on the planet Pandora have blue skin—through Deleuzian 3D (Desire, Deterritorialization, and Doubling), focusing on the postcolonial term “hybridity,” in order to provide a postcolonial eco-theological analysis. The primary conceptual repertoire of Deleuzian 3D enables us to view Avatar as the rhizomatic interplay of 1) Desire and Empire, 2) Deterritorialization and Reterritorialization, and 3) Doubling and Becoming. Through these multi-dimensional glasses, this study provides a postcolonial ecotheological review of Avatar. In conclusion, this paper suggests a new power against the destructive forces of human civilization, namely the power of Life (nature), interconnectedness, and “becoming together.”
Dr. Jea Sophia Oh finished her Ph.D. from Drew University. Her research areas are constructive theology, ecotheology, postcolonialism, women’s and gender studies, and comparative theologies and religions. She is the Section Chair of Religion, Gender, and Sexuality at AAR-Mid-Atlantic Region. Her forthcoming book, Salim, Decolonizing Process of Life: A Postcolonial Ecofeminist Theology, will be published in fall 2011 by Sopher Press.