Marine Entanglements: Tropical Materialism and Hydrographic Imaginary in Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon


  • Sanchar Sarkar Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India
  • Swarnalatha Rangarajan Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India



Tropical Materialism, Nnedi Okorafor, Hydrographic Imaginary, Hyperobjects, Material Determinant, Afrofuturism, Sci-Fi


In the epoch of the Anthropocene the environment is predominantly characterised by innumerable entanglements of matter. According to materialist theorist Jane Bennett, matter acts as a ‘distributive agency’ that intertwines itself with a “multiplicity of other material bodies and formations'' across space and time (Khan, 2012, p. 42). Nnedi Okorafor’s novel Lagoon (2014) centres around the material entanglement scenario between oil and marine waters off the coast of Nigeria in Africa. Okorafor’s Afrofuturist Science Fiction narrative focuses on oil’s vitality and overwhelming presence in the tropical marinescape and elaborates on the significance of oil as a material determinant that forces us to rethink matter’s affective influence in the marinescapes of the tropics. This article analyses how human extracted matter like oil acts as a vital agentic force that confronts, reconfigures, and modifies the physical compositional properties of marine water. The article employs tropical materialism to study the performative role of matter as a ‘hyperobjective’ register within the constructed eco(aqua)-speculative and hydrographic imaginary of Okorafor’s Sci-Fi narrative.

Author Biographies

Sanchar Sarkar, Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India

Sanchar Sarkar is a research scholar (PhD) at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India. He is currently pursuing his PhD in environmental humanities under the supervision of Dr Swarnalatha Rangarajan. He is engaged with writing research papers on specific topics that trace the contemporary trajectories of ecocriticism in post-apocalyptic environments and literature. His interest lies in the field of eco-speculative fiction and he is also passionate about visual narratives that represent and engage with the insights of environmental consciousness. Currently he is working in the arena of climate change games and its eco-speculative performativity among the contemporary young adult generation.

Swarnalatha Rangarajan, Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India

Swarnalatha Rangarajan is Professor of English at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras and is passionate about environmental humanities. She is the founding editor of the Indian Journal of Ecocriticism (IJE). Her academic publications include Ecocriticism: Big Ideas and Practical Strategies (2018) and co-edited works titled Ecoambiguity, Community, and Development (2014) and Ecocriticism of the Global South(2015). She is the co-translator of Mayilamma: The Life of a Tribal Eco-Warrior(2018). She is one of the series editors for the Routledge Studies in World Literatures and Environment and the co-editor of the Routledge Book of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication (2019). Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies of publishing houses like Penguin, Zubaan, Westland, New Asian Writing, South Asian Review to name a few. Her poetry has appeared in the collection All the Worlds Between (Yoda Press, 2017) and in Muse India. Her debut novel, Final Instructions was published by Authorspress in 2015. She has co-edited a collection of interviews with Contemporary Women Writers from Tamil Nadu titled Lifescapes which was published by a leading feminist press, Women Unlimited in 2019. She is currently working on a book project that straddles the domains of ecocriticism and medical humanities.


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How to Cite

Sarkar, S., & Rangarajan, S. (2022). Marine Entanglements: Tropical Materialism and Hydrographic Imaginary in Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 21(2), 180–197.