In Narrating Humanity, Cynthia G. Franklin makes a critical intervention into practices of life writing and contemporary crises in the United States about who counts as human. To enable this intervention, she proposes a powerful new analytical language centered on “narrative humanity,” “narrated humanity,” and “grounded narrative humanity” and foregrounds concepts of the human that emerge from movement politics. While stories of “narrative humanity” propagate the status quo, Franklin argues, those of “narrated humanity” and “grounded narrative humanity” are ones that articulate ways of being human necessary for not only surviving but also thriving during a time of accelerating crises brought on by the intersecting effects of racial capitalism, imperialism, heteropatriarchy, and climate change.
Through chapters focused on Hurricane Katrina; Black Lives Matter; the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; and the Native Hawaiian movement to protect Mauna a Wākea, Franklin reveals how life writing can be mobilized to do more than perpetuate dominant forms of dehumanization that underwrite violence. She contends that life narratives can help materialize ways of being human inspired by these contemporary political movements that are based on queer kinship, inter/national solidarity, abolitionist care, and decolonial connectivity among humans, more-than-humans, land, and waters. Engaging writers, artists, and activists who inspire radical forms of relationality, she comes to write side-by-side with them in her own acts of narrated humanity by refusing the boundaries between autobiography, community-based activism, and literary and cultural criticism.