Throughout this interview, Jesmyn Ward emphasizes the humanity of her fictional and nonfictional subjects – subjects whose humanity has been eviscerated by what has been characterized as the postwar, neoliberal shift in American politics and economics. The socioeconomic and political neglect of African Americans was, of course, demonstrable in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, revealing the structural racism that had often resided in the US's political unconscious. Ward's emphasis on the ideas of survival and renewal – a “savage” resilience of humanity in its most precarious state – offers a corrective to the proclivities of some critical theory deployed in the framing of Hurricane Katrina's victims and the longer history of suffering they represented. For examples, theories of biopolitics used to conceptualize the ways in which African American life has been removed from the protections of citizenship and state sovereignty do run the risk of universalization. A transhistorical version of that life, consistent from slavery to the present day, might emerge from such theory, indistinct from examples of “bare” lives rendered by states of emergency beyond the US and across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as Giorgio Agamben might describe such life. In other words, theory risks a process of re-othering and a suspension of historical agency. Anna Hartnell finds in Ward's work the resonance of the jeremiad, and so narratives that are structured by the possibility of the redemption of historical experience – future-oriented narratives. These are narratives that represent the negotiation of historical conditions, not utter submission to them, and following Hartnell's reference they are aptly framed by Henry Giroux's reconceptualization of biopolitical life and the limits of American democracy.