Tag Archives: zoogenesis

Telling Tales in Troubled Times

The following is my review article on Donna J. Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Duke University Press, 2016), which has just been published in Humanimalia: a journal of human/animal interface studies 9:1 (Fall 2017), pp.186-198.

The pdf of the article is here: http://www.depauw.edu/humanimalia/issue%2017/pdfs/iveson-haraway.pdf

The full issue is available at: http://www.depauw.edu/site/humanimalia/issue%2017/index.html


The Trouble

More than anything else, a particularly keen generosity of practice runs throughout Donna Haraway’s latest book, titled Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016). In this, Haraway shares in the same ‘curious’ methodological practice that she attributes to philosopher and psychologist Vinciane Despret, one that ‘is not interested in thinking by discovering the stupidities of others, or by reducing the field of attention to prove a point’ (126). Rather, such practice constitutes a kind of thinking that ‘enlarges, even invents, the competencies of all the players, including [one]self, such that the domain of ways of being and knowing dilates, expands, adds both ontological and epistemological possibilities, proposes and enacts what was not there before’ (126-127). Only with such a change in kind, suggests Haraway, do we become capable of changing the story – aptly described here as ‘the prick tale of Humans in History’ – that has captivated, and kept us captive, for so long. Such curious and generous practice, she continues, loosens the grips of cynical defeatism, allowing us to think outside of the ‘abstract futurism’ that currently dominates thought and steeps us all in ‘its affects of sublime despair and its politics of sublime indifference’ (4).

For Haraway, the prick tale’s current iteration can be approached most clearly by way of the work performed by the conceptual frameworks known as ‘the Anthropocene’ and ‘the Capitalocene.’ More or less commonplace in academic discourse today, Haraway convincingly argues that such terms readily maintain the prick tale with their ‘self-certain and self-fulfilling predictions, like the “game over, too late” discourse’ (56). However, to accept such deadening abstract futurism and thus its championing of supremely indifferent despair is as equally senseless – and brings with it exactly the same potential for catastrophic futures – as it would be to deny absolutely the seriousness, urgency, and magnitude of the problems that confront us today.

Neither willful naivety nor perpetually despairing quietism, Haraway advocates instead staying with the trouble, which she describes as ‘redo[ing] ways of living and dying attuned to still possible finite flourishing, still possible recuperation’ (10). We all, she insists, ‘require each other in unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles,’ a requirement that, in Staying with the Trouble, she aims to both argue and perform (4). In order to do this, she writes, we must first ‘look for real stories that are also speculative fabulations’ (10). A somewhat vague specification admittedly, this is quickly augmented by a list of ‘oddkin’ terms, all of which come under the order of the acronym SF: string figures, science fact, science fiction, speculative feminism, and so far. ‘Not in the world, but of the world,’ says Haraway, the ‘worlds of SF are not containers; they are patternings, risky comakings, speculative fabulations’ (14).


Initial troubles

Haraway’s narrative of composable and decomposable worldings brought forth through countless unaccountable multispecies players all ‘enmeshed in partial and flawed translations across difference’ is as compelling as it is necessary (10). Before we can address Staying with the Trouble in greater critical depth, however, we must first consider two troubling textual issues, the first aesthetic and economic, the second terminological.

1.The Market Demands of Celebrity. The influence of Donna Haraway’s work across an array of disciplines and inter-disciplines has long been undeniable. Indeed, she is one of very few thinkers working in English today whom one could legitimately – that is, in a positive, non-pejorative sense – describe as a ‘celebrity’ academic. Moreover, there are probably even fewer contemporary thinkers, in any language, who are as aesthetically and cognitively committed to design and pattern in the presentation of their work as Haraway. In the case of Staying with the Trouble, however, it seems that the demands of the latter have suffered somewhat at the hands of the former. Or, put in the language of political economy, we could say that the exchange value of ‘Haraway’ as the name of a commodity appears to have been privileged at the cost of the use value of Haraway as thinker.

Hence, what will likely strike the reader first of all about Staying with the Trouble is its obvious imbalance, with very nearly half of the total content being made up of largely extraneous material: namely, an incredible mass of end notes, an extended bibliography, and, lastly, a whopping – and largely redundant – 32 page index covering a main text that itself covers less than 170 pages and incorporates dozens of images along the way. The likely second thing to become all too frustratingly evident to the reader – after the first dozen or so pages – is that Haraway’s ‘new’ book is in fact a collection of six previously published stand-alone articles, and concluding with a hitherto unseen piece of fiction or ‘speculative fabulation’ entitled ‘The Camille Stories.’ All of this, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing – extensive revision coupled with adroit use of differently focused draft versions, for example, can indeed transform a set of related yet independent articles into a dramatic and coherent monologue. Unfortunately, however, that has not been the case here.

Rather, a great deal of the same statements and descriptions are repeated again and again, over and over in every chapter, along with the same names and same references, the same intellectual debts and the same points of collaboration. Indeed, the amount of repetition found within Staying with the Trouble is largely the reason why the endnotes stretch out over sixty pages, all of which is a lot less interesting than the actual work of staying with the trouble that Haraway is committed to here. The trouble, one assumes, is the consequence of stand-alone journal articles being forced too violently into the generic framework of book chapters. There are times, however, when the sheer weight of reiteration comes to sound less like an acknowledgement of comrades banded in their shared struggle and more like a branding of kinship onto others, a marking of names aimed more toward ownership and legacy. But then again, and as is well known, reiteration tends toward odd, unpredictable doings when left unchecked for too long.

With respect to repetition, moreover, the same question can be asked on a more general level, as Haraway herself makes clear: ‘It is no longer news,’ she writes, ‘that corporations, farms, clinics, labs, homes, sciences, technologies, and multispecies lives are entangled in multiscalar, multitemporal, multimaterial worlding’ (115). Rather, she continues, it is the details that matter, as it is the details that ‘link actual beings to actual response-abilities’ (115). Indeed, but this once again begs the question as to why Haraway spends so much of her latest book reiterating the former at the expense of the latter.

2. Posthuman/ism. Reiterating the position put forward in When Species Meet, Haraway again places herself in opposition to both ‘the Posthuman’ and ‘posthumanism’ – two distinct notions that, more often than not, she condenses into the single term ‘posthuman(ism).’ She does this first by retroactively invoking ‘companion species’ as conceptually opposed to ‘posthuman(ism),’ and then with the introduction of a new term intended to signify, among other things, its antagonistic distance from all things posthuman: compost.

Critters are at stake in each other in every mixing and turning of the terran compost pile. We are compost, not posthuman; we inhabit the humusities, not the humanities. Philosophically and materially, I am a compostist, not a posthumanist. Critters – human and not – become-with each other, compose and decompose each other, in every scale and register of time and stuff in sympoietic tangling, in ecological evolutionary developmental earthy worlding and unworlding’ (97).

Here, the trouble centres on just what Haraway is referring to with the term ‘posthuman(ism).’ First of all, the conflation of ‘the posthuman’ (considered as either an entity or an event) and ‘posthumanism’ (understood as a position subsequent to the deconstruction of the traditional discourse of humanism) strongly suggests that, for Haraway, the two terms are synonymous, despite both terms having long served to mark sites of intense contestation across a wide variety of positions and disciplines.[i] While the term for the most part remains without gloss throughout Staying with the Trouble, in the manifesto-type section that opens the first chapter there are signs that, for Haraway, ‘posthumanism’ refers above all to Heideggerian existentialism (11).

Here, Haraway tells of being ‘finished’ with both ‘Kantian cosmopolitics’ and ‘grumpy human-exceptionalist Heideggerian worlding,’ further claiming to be without any relation whatsoever to the ‘existentialist and bond-less, lonely, Man-making gap theorized by Heidegger and his followers’ (11). In contrast to the ‘world-poor’ condition Heidegger infamously attributes to nonhuman animals, she continues, the worlding of ‘the SF web of always-too-much connection’ is rather ‘rich in world, inoculated against posthumanism but rich in com-post, inoculated against human exceptionalism but rich in humus, ripe for multispecies storytelling’ (11). On closer inspection, however, would do well to wonder just how anti-Heideggerian we really are here. First of all, the strain of existentialism that, at least from this very brief description, would seem to ineluctably stain every notion of the posthuman, sounds far more akin to Antoine Roquentin’s world of nauseous isolation as described by Jean-Paul Sartre than it does to anything put forward by Heidegger.[ii] Yes, ontological difference for Heidegger does indeed constitute and, in so doing, privilege the human as Dasein and, moreover, it does so at the cost of relegating every other living being to the vaguely articulated status of ‘poor-in-world.’ On the other side of the coin, however, is that with his rigorous articulation of radical new concepts such as the structure of significance, of being-open, and of a calling forth into being that is simultaneously a being-thrown, Heidegger dramatically informed and transformed our understanding of being-in-the-world. Moreover, he continues to do so, as is the case here when, writing of the capabilities of pigeons that so impress and surprise their human kin, Haraway notes that human beings

often forget how they themselves are rendered capable by and with both things and living beings. Shaping response-abilities, things and living beings can be inside and outside human and nonhuman bodies, at different scales of time and space. All together the players evoke, trigger, and call forth what – and who – exists (16).

‘I am a compostist, not a posthumanist,’ Haraway declares, ‘we are all compost, not posthuman’ (101-102). A better idea, I suggest, would be to stay with all the troubling humus and hubris of the posthuman, would be to continue taking the trouble with posthumanism for some while yet – com-post, that is to say, with-post. At the very least, this ‘having finished with’ Heidegger (and with Kant before him) suggests a symbolic setting-free that accords rather with something like a ‘near-utopianism’ that can be sensed throughout Staying with the Trouble, of which more later.[iii]


Three Tales of Trouble

The heart of Staying with the Trouble can be found at the various intersections and crossings-over of three different stories that speak themselves in three mostly distinct genres. First, now as then, is the prick tale of Humans in History. Second, comes the nested narrative – and sublime quietism – of the Anthropocene. And, third, stories that somehow narrate outside the first and somehow think beyond the helpless despair of the second – stories of a living future for living in the Chthulucene, and where, in the end, we will ultimately encounter Camille.

1. The prick tale. ‘Tool, weapon, word,’ writes Haraway, ‘that is the word made flesh in the image of the sky god; that is the Anthropos’ (39). Much of earth history, she writes, is a Man-made tragedy ‘told in the thrall of the fantasy of the first beautiful words and weapons, of the first beautiful weapons as words and vice versa’ (39). This is the prick tale, featuring but a single actor in the role of hero and world-maker engaged throughout in murderous conquest that allows of space for nothing else and nothing more: ‘All others in the prick tale are props, ground, plot space, or prey. They don’t matter; their job is to be in the way, to be overcome, to be the road, the conduit, but not the traveler, not the begetter’ (39). In Staying with the Trouble, Richard Dawkins’s ‘later sociobiological formulations within the Modern Synthesis, The Selfish Gene’ (62) serves as an exemplary moment in its ongoing action-movie plotline.

Working against this simplistic quest narrative, Haraway poses SF writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘carrier bag theory of narrative’ and what she calls the ‘Gaia stories’ of prominent social theorist Bruno Latour. As regards the latter, however, Haraway is right to maintain her reservations with respect to Latour’s reliance on ‘the material-semiotic trope of trials of strength’ (42), not the least of which being its obvious availability for appropriation within the prick tale quest narrative, and within that of neo-Darwinist sociobiology in particular. At this point, Haraway displays her talent for close textual analysis – albeit a talent far more in evidence in her early works – in tracing back Latour’s structuring trope to its foundation in the work of political theorist Carl Schmitt. As Haraway astutely remarks, ‘Schmitt’s enemies do not allow the story to change in its marrow; the Earthbound need a more tentacular, less binary life story. Latour’s Gaia stories deserve better companions in storytelling than Schmitt. The question of whom to think-with is immensely material’ (43).[iv] Also interesting here is that, while Haraway reiterates this last sentence any number of times over the course of the Staying with the Trouble, only here does it take on weight and meaning as only here it is sufficiently contextualized and, as such, become something more than a simple slogan.

2. The Anthropocene. According to Haraway’s excellent analysis, ‘the Anthropocene’ understood in terms of an epochal period of time on earth is essentially a continuation of the prick tale of Humans in History by way of a nested millenarian narrative that lends itself all too readily ‘to cynicism, defeatism, and self-certain and self-fulfilling predictions, like the “game over, too late” discourse I hear all around me these days’ (56). For all of that however, continues Haraway, the idea of imminent catastrophe is hardly new – and this is a hugely important point: ‘disaster, indeed genocide and devastated home places, has already come, decades and centuries ago, and it has not stopped’ (86). That we ‘stay with’ such trouble is at the very center of Staying with the Trouble insofar as resurgence ‘is nurtured with ragged vitality in the teeth of such loss, mourning, memory, resilience, reinvention of what it means to be native, refusal to deny irreversible destruction, and refusal to disengage from living and dying well in presents and futures’ (86). Such are the stories of living and dying in what, as a far better alternative to the misplaced but by now entrenched terms Anthropocene and Capitalocene, Haraway gives the name ‘the Chthulucene’.

With this in mind, Haraway is right to foreground the need to think of the Anthropocene not as the name of an epoch, but rather as a boundary event akin to the K-Pg boundary between the Cretaceous and the Paleogene periods. ‘The Anthropocene,’ she insists, ‘marks severe discontinuities; what comes after will not be like what came before’ (100). Of particular interest for Haraway, however, is just why it should be that the epochal name of the Anthropocene imposed itself in the way it did at just the time ‘when human exceptionalism and the utilitarian individualism of classical political economics become unthinkable in the best sciences across the disciplines and interdisciplines’ (57). Could it … perhaps, just perhaps … be that the Anthropocene is not in fact a guarantor of the end of the world as a fait accompli but simply a last desperate fable along the prick tale of Humans in History, simply ‘the last gasps of the sky gods’ (57)? And again, what is simple sloganeering elsewhere here becomes a thing of weight and meaning: ‘It matters which thoughts think thoughts’ (57).

3. The Chthulucene. Despite Haraway’s claim that, as words go, the inelegant Chthulucene is in fact quite ‘simple’ (2), the term – all questions of pronunciation and catchiness aside – is not without its issues. As a term, ‘Chthulucene’ would seem to constitute a clear and obvious reference to the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft in general, and to his 1928 short horror classic, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ in particular. However, at the very outset what for Haraway must be made absolutely clear is that ‘Lovecraft’s misogynist racial-nightmare monster Cthulhu’ has no role to play here whatsoever (101, 174n4). In other words, it is imperative for Haraway that, upon the introduction and every subsequent reiteration of the term ‘Chthulucene,’ we somehow not allow what is its sole, blaringly obvious reference to impact upon our relation to the word. In a move that can hardly be described as helpful, Haraway signals this utter absence of relation by way of an extremely subtle change in spelling (a difference so subtle, it should be noted, that we must be parenthetically reminded to take note of upon each appearance). Hence, Haraway’s entirely discrete conceptual beast is properly the Chthulucene, as opposed to that founded upon the Lovecraftian term ‘Cthulhu,’ which would have yielded instead the noun Cthulhucene. There, it’s just so obvious now, right? Problem solved. All facetiousness aside, however, I am baffled as to why Haraway would select for a central concept of the book – perhaps the central concept, and most certainly it’s unifying term – a term that refers uniquely and explicitly to the Lovecraftian oeuvre, only to then deny the sole significance it necessarily brings with it? Just what is going on here? Is the shift from ‘Cthulhu’ to ‘Chthulu’ at once magical spell and magical spelling by which the monstrous anxiety of influence can apparently be rendered inoperative, or at least inapparent? It is difficult to understand exactly what is at work here, and what is at play. What appears and what disappears, and what is being made to appear and what is being made to disappear?

The story as Haraway sees it is that she ‘rescues’ the Cthulhu from Lovecraft in order to make it available for other stories, and marks this liberation from Lovecraft’s patriarchal mode ‘with the more common spelling of chthonic ones’ (174n4). In this way, she argues, are unveiled diverse undulating and ongoing ‘tentacular powers and forces and collected things with names like Naga, Gaia, Tangaroa (burst from water-full Papa), Terra, Haniyasu-hine, Spider Woman, Pachamama, Oya, Gorgo, Raven, A’akuluujjusi, and many many more’ (101).

Sounding a little vague and somewhat utopian at first, Haraway begins to articulate the new contours of the Chthulucene by first making very clear just what it is that we must not be doing, or must not continue to do, if we are to have any hope of staying with the trouble: this is not an argument for cultural looting; it is not about raiding situated indigenous stories for their use as resources for harnessing the ‘woes’ of colonizing projects and peoples; and it is not ‘a way to finesse the Anthropocene with Native Climate Wisdom’ (87). From the other side, meanwhile, it is not the answer to anything and everything: it is not about playing games for ‘universal oneness,’ and it is not a ‘posthumanist solution to epistemological crises’ (87). Finally, it is not a general program that, if followed to the letter, promises a solution to any given particular: Staying with the Trouble, as is the case also for any one of its exemplary narratives, is not a general model for collaboration. It is not ‘a primer for the Chthulucene’ (87).

So, after learning of all that it is not, what exactly is going on here? How might we set out ‘to learn somehow to narrate – to think – outside the prick tale of Humans in History’ (40)? The answer, posits Haraway, is sympoiesis.


Staying with the Trouble: Sympoiesis

Demon Familiars. In a move that will be familiar to readers of her previous books, Haraway narrates the story of the Chthulucene by way of figures that are at once real and imagined: material-semiotic. Christened ‘demon familiars’ here, previous figures of Haraway have included a certain post-gender cyborg, a Harvard mouse with an activated oncogene and, more recently, a protozoan by the name of Mixotricha paradoxa. In Staying with the Trouble, however, the importance of such figures to the ongoing ebullience of worlding feels immeasurably greater, as too does the urgency with which they are required (the latter, no doubt, playing a major role in the former): ‘We need another figure,’ she writes, ‘a thousand names of something else, to erupt out of the Anthropocene into another, big-enough story’ (52).

Perhaps, then, Haraway can be forgiven for the somewhat obvious instrumentality in her use of another demon familiar and fellow North Central California resident – the spider Pimoa cthuluhu – as a stepping stone on the way to the latest figure of privilege: ‘Bitten in a California redwood forest by spidery Pimoa chthulhu [note spelling],[v] I want to propose snaky Medusa and the many unfinished worldings of her antecedents, affiliates, and descendants’ (52). From the Greek Μέδουσα, meaning ‘guardian’ or ‘protectress,’ Medusa is a powerful winged being with living snakes for hair and possessing a gaze with the power to turn its recipient to stone. Moreover, as the only mortal member of the race of Gorgons, Medusa is a chthonic being without proper genealogy, of ‘no settled lineage and no reliable kind (genre, gender)’ despite being ‘figured and storied as female’ and with a reach that is ‘lateral and tentacular’ (53-54). In this, Medusa is a figure and the figure here – one of a thousand names – of sympoiesis.

Perhaps, just perhaps, writes Haraway, Medusa might ‘heighten our chances for dashing the twenty-first century ships of the Heroes on a living coral reef instead of allowing them to suck the last drop of fossil flesh out of dead rock’ (52).

Sympoiesis. Haraway offers less a rigorous accounting of ‘sympoiesis’ as a concept, and more an exuberant surging and outpouring of synonyms, likenesses, kinships, and recursive patternings. We can, however, pick out three key aspects of sympoiesis. First, and most important, is an underlying relational ontology: entities are constituted by ‘an expandable number of quasi-collective/quasi-individual partners in constitutive relatings; these relationalities are the objects of study. The partners do not precede the relatings’ (64). Second, and following on from the first, any research that takes substance as prior to relation will necessarily fail in any attempt aimed at ‘studying webbed inter- and intra-actions of symbiosis and sympoiesis’ (64). And third, the generative nature of sympoiesis is made possible by its recursive structure – it is the passing of ‘relays again and again … that make up living and dying’ (33).

Familiarly Demonic. With all the talk of ‘abyssal and dreadful graspings, frayings, and weavings’ (33), of sympoiesis understood as ‘alignment’ and not inheritance, and of chthonic entities as beings lacking proper genealogy and settled lineage, one cannot help but wonder at the glaring absence of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari throughout Staying with the Trouble, and in particular their hugely influential notions of alliance, genealogy, becoming, demonic animals, and assemblage. Haraway, for example, proposes that we replace the term ‘beings’ with ‘holoents’ (or ‘holobionts’), meaning ‘symbiotic assemblages at whatever scale of space or time, which are more like knots of diverse inter-active relatings in dynamic complex systems’ (60). At this point, one can only assume that Deleuze and Guattari are still a little too demonic – or differently demonic – as yet for Haraway, given her brief but scathing dismissal in When Species Meet and elsewhere. That said, one hopes that Haraway’s renowned generosity of practice might well return her to Thousand Plateaus at some time in the future – a sympoietic engagement that would likely prove to be extremely productive indeed.

In the same vein, one might well wonder as to potential results of a closer engagement with both Nietzsche’s will to power and Spinoza’s conatus. In opening the chapter on ‘Sympoiesis’, for example, Haraway suggests that critters become-with each other perhaps ‘as sensual molecular curiosity and definitely as insatiable hunger, irresistible attraction toward enfolding each other is the vital motor of living and dying on earth’ (58). At present, the text is very unclear at to whether or not what is being described here is in fact a drive – especially given the use of terms such as ‘insatiable’ and ‘irresistible’ in this context, as this would seem to return us to the deeply problematic issue of the instinctive, the driven, and the mechanistic, of the vitalism of program and instinct and of the paradoxical entity that would be a ‘vital motor.’

Material Semiotics and Life at the Limit. This paradox of a ‘vital motor’ possibly plays an obscure role in Haraway’s extremely important notion of ‘material semiotics,’ insofar as the latter would seem to open up the idea of ‘living’ far beyond its traditional restriction to that of individual biological organisms. Material semiotics, she writes, ‘is exuberantly chemical; the roots of language across taxa, with all its understandings and misunderstandings, lie in such attachments’ (66). For Haraway, ‘critters’ are always dynamic multipartnered entities across every scale and time, and theoretically without privilege. Hence the need to ask how multicellular partners in the symbioses affect the microbial symbionts, and not just vice versa: ‘at whatever size, all the partners making up holobionts are symbionts to each other’ (67).

Despite this, however, it nonetheless remains unclear as to whether Haraway includes within her definition of critters – holobionts, holoents – such multipartnered relatings as would traditionally be defined as nonliving entities, that is, ‘simple’ material objects, mere ‘things.’ At times the answer appears to be yes: ‘Critters – human and not – become-with each other, compose and decompose each other, in every scale and register of time and stuff in sympoietic tangling, in ecological evolutionary developmental earthy worlding and unworlding’ (97). At other times, however, it would seem not to be the case: ‘Plants are consummate communicators in a vast terran array of modalities, making and exchanging meanings among and between an astonishing galaxy of associates across the taxa of living beings. Plants, along with bacteria and fungi, are also animals’ lifelines to communication with the abiotic world, from sun to gas to rock’ (122).

Blueprint for Global Change, Salve for the Suburbanite, Academic Ego-Aggrandizement. In the end, Staying with the Trouble offers its readers an almost endless series of fascinating, inter- and intra-linked stories – of the Crochet Coral Reef, of the Madagascar Ako Project, of the console game Never Alone, and of many more stories and of so many still to come. However, one question haunts every one of these stories: Can such necessarily local commemorations ever translate into global change? Take the tale of the Melbourne pigeon loft, for example: can and do such tales ever amount to more than self-serving narratives of middle-class philanthropy? Can and do they escape charges such as idealism and naivety given the notion of staying with the wider trouble, such as the fate of aborigines? Or are they only pocket utopias, mere academic compositions? It is a question, moreover, of which Haraway is fully aware: ‘the municipal pigeon tower certainly cannot undo unequal treaties, conquest, and wetlands destruction, but it is nonetheless a possible thread in a pattern for ongoing, noninnocent, interrogative, multispecies getting on together’ (29). Such a practice of ‘cultivating response-ability,’ she further argues, ‘is not a heroic practice … is not the Revolution … is not Thought. Opening up versions so stories can be ongoing is so mundane, so earth-bound. That is precisely the point’ (130).

Quite so. But this still does not answer our question: can such a resolutely mundane, so decisively earth-bound a practice, ever bring with it potential for change on a global scale? Or does it rather narrate the impossibility of any such practical potential? Responding to the question of a self-serving salve, Haraway claims instead that the processes of symbiogenesis or sympoiesis are necessarily infectious (64) – an infectiousness that therefore has the potential to be world-changing. But are they really, in fact, infectious, as Haraway claims: ‘Companion species infect each other all the time. Pigeons are world travelers, and such beings are vectors and carry many more, for good and for ill. Bodily ethical and political obligations are infectious, or they should be’ (29). They are infectious, or they ought to be infectious? To be, or to ought to be: that is indeed the question, but on this point, at this point, Haraway hesitates. Only at the very end, with the introduction of ‘The Camille Stories,’ does Haraway at last engage with this question of the relation, or otherwise, of local and global.

Camille began life at a writing workshop at a colloquium at Cerisy in 2013, in which participants were collectively asked ‘to fabulate a baby, and somehow to bring the infant through five human generations’ (134). The first iteration (‘Camille 1’) is born in 2025 and the last (‘Camille 5’) dies in 2425, during which time the global human population continues to increase to a high of ten billion in 2100, before then declining to a stable three billion by 2400. As one of the conditions for a sustainable global future, Haraway writes, this massive reduction in the overall number of human animals is initially made possible through a ‘new’ collective practice among small, close-knit communities of birthing babies bonded with animal symbionts. Camille 1 is one of the first of these, born in symbiosis with a Monarch butterfly and, at least in one of our futures, ushering in a new age of kinship, intimacy, and response-ability.

Ultimately, the potential for global change from local commemoration can be located here, in this speculative account of a future history. A ‘story, a speculative fabulation,’ and, according to Haraway, ‘a relay into uncertain futures’ (134), the stories of Camille offer an account of – and attempt to account for – a four-hundred-year period bearing witness both to the end of capitalism (and thus the Capitalocene) and the inauguration of the Chthulucene. Camille, writes Haraway, ‘is a keeper of memories in the flesh of worlds that may become habitable again. Camille is one of the children of compost who ripen in the earth to say no to the posthuman of every time’ (134). A story, then, a fabulation; but also manifesto and blueprint.

And so, in the end, it matters more how we might we read this new genre of manifesto – it matters, in Haraway’s words, which thoughts think thoughts and what stories we use to tell stories. Is this utopian SF? Does it bespeak of Idealism, of naivety and of the Ego? Do we see in Camille the vision of Haraway as New (Age) Earth Mother? And is this even fair criticism? Or else prick thinking? And can this even be answered in accordance with the framework that Haraway sets out – a kind of unfalsifiability that it itself denounces as irrelevant?

‘Tool, weapon, word,’ we recall, ‘that is the word made flesh in the image of the sky god; that is the Anthropos’ (39). And ‘Camille’ too is of course tool, weapon, and word, one purposefully aimed at crafting – at creating, speculating, constructing – a word and a world to be made flesh in the image of the chthonic god. But does Camille offer anything beyond a simple change of name alone? Is this perhaps a change of genre, but not of narrative structure? And how can we be sure that Haraway’s tentacular ‘Chthulu’ is not, in the end, Lovecraft’s deeply patriarchal prick? After all, the sky god too has a thousand names.

In the end, our question can be further concentrated: is it possible to propose – to speculate – a figure of sympoiesis? Or is it not rather the case that sympoiesis is the very impossibility of being named, of being figured (out) in advance?





[i] Oddly, elsewhere in Staying with the Trouble Haraway appears clearly cognizant of the need to differentiate between the two distinct concepts, noting that ‘posthumanists’ constitute ‘another gathering altogether’ than those of the ‘Posthumans’ (50). Just why Haraway should abruptly bestow capital letter status upon the latter term remains unclear.

[ii] See Jean-Paul Sartre Being and Nothingness [L’Être et le néant] (1943) and Nausea [La Nausée] (1938). Sartre’s telling philosophical tales is also germane to the issues in Haraway’s case of inheritance, alliance, alignment, and legacy.

[iii] The notion of ‘a near-utopianism’ in relation to Haraway’s oeuvre comes initially from Istvan Csicsery-Ronay’s review of When Species Meet entitled ‘After Species Meet’ in which he writes of ‘the erstwhile Human’ becoming for Haraway ‘a dynamic, tumbling network of living relationships’ that includes ‘a near-utopian web of scholars and fellow-teachers constantly supplying new energies to each other’ (n.p.). In Humanimalia: A Journal of Human-Animal Interface Studies, Vol.1, No.2 (2010).

[iv] In my book Zoogenesis: Thinking Encounter with Animals (London: Pavement Books, 2014), I argue that Schmitt’s Friend/Enemy dichotomy as and at the origin of the nation-state is nothing short of the political logic of genocide in its purest form, 220-230.

[v] And note the perceived need, on Haraway’s part, to note the spelling correction/impropriety.


On the importance of Heidegger’s anthropogenesis, and of moving beyond it


The following is a copy of the paper I presented at the Unruly Creatures, 2: Creative Revolutions conference at the Natural History Museum yesterday. It was a great event and, if the main papers (by Andre Dias, Erica Fudge, Jonathan Burt & Anat Pick) are posted as a podcast, they are well worth catching. My own paper, which was put together at short notice, is largely drawn from my “Animals in Looking-Glass World” article and, in a sense, serves as an introduction to that paper, which explores in detail the implications of thinking “language” beyond its traditional reduction to the human.


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Here I want to talk about the originality and importance of Martin Heidegger’s notion of anthropogenesis which, once it is stripped of its remaining humanist-metaphysical trappings, paradoxically offers much for thinking with other animals.

In a series of lectures from 1929-1930 entitled The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, Heidegger argues that nonhuman animals are excluded from the world as a necessary result of their essential “captivation” within an environment. Put simply, and in contrast to the human, for the animal there can be neither anything beyond, nor any differentiation within, the ring which marks the absolute limit of her environmental capture. She is trapped, completely absorbed and dissolved within her specific environment, essentially unable to perceive herself as a separate being. As a result, an animal can therefore never “have” her own captivation, can never apprehend her own capture, and is thus, Heidegger concludes, “poor-in-world.”

Despite the time spent considering “the essence of animality,” it soon becomes clear, however, that Heidegger is only interested in animals to the extent that they might serve as the scenery against which the essence of the human can be thereafter revealed. In this way, says Heidegger, we come to recognise that only the human exists in a world rather than an environment because only the human is able to apprehend or “have” her own captivation. Hidden in this apparently simple gesture, however, is the award of ontological difference to human animals alone – a gesture with devastating consequences. Put simply, the human differs from the animal insofar as the former can perceive the difference between Being (as existence), and beings (as discrete entities). For Heidegger, this founding distinction consists in the having of “the ‘as’-structure” as that which gives to the human alone – in the originary event of what Heidegger calls “profound boredom” – the ability to apprehend beings as beings and thus, in contrast to the animal, to perceive itself as an individuated being. It is here, with the worlding of world, that Heidegger locates the origin and genesis of the human in the simple wonder that beings are. For other animals, however, there can be only dissolution. A chimpanzee, for example, can never perceive another chimpanzee as another chimpanzee (or as a non-chimpanzee), nor can she cognise water as water, as a liquid that quenches thirst, nor recognise her mother as her mother. Moreover, the apprehension of ontological difference is at once the apprehension of finitude, that is, to recognise that beings are is also to recognise the possibility of not being. It is here then, with the capacity to apprehend something as something, that Heidegger draws the line between the human-Dasein and the nonhuman animal.

In negating the animal as lacking the revelation that beings are, this leaves Heidegger free to posit the Dasein, whom we can now positively identify as the human, as that which “is” closest to Being, and thus reserve for her alone the possibility of authentic existence. However, the poverty attributed by Heidegger to nonhuman animals raises an immediate problem. Given the essential withholding from the animal of the apprehension that beings are, it is clear that this apparent “poverty” can be a “deprivation” only when viewed from the perspective of the human. This, as Heidegger himself points out, would appear to disallow his thesis, given that such an essential characterisation is in fact conceived only in comparison with man and “not drawn from animality itself and maintained within the limits of animality” (270).

Heidegger, however, does not object to this charge, arguing instead that, while the perhaps unassailable charge remains, it nevertheless “surely suffices that his admittedly problematic thesis has nonetheless “led us to our destination in a practical fashion.” Let us wait, defer our objection, he suggests, because “[i]n spite of everything it has brought us closer.” In other words, he tells us to wait and see, because ultimately the essence of animality as captivated will serve us in a pragmatic fashion as the “negative” by which our own “positive … proper essence has constantly emerged in contrast.”

As is well known, Heidegger explicitly seeks to escape from the confines of traditional metaphysics. As regards the human-animal relation, two dominant configurations have shaped its conception since the beginnings of the Christian era in the West. In the first configuration, the genesis of the human is predicated upon the death or nonexistence of the animal, thus marking an absolute break between human and nonhuman being. In the second, the human remains in a constant struggle with his or her own animality, an animality that must be repeatedly overcome in being-human. As a result, and regardless of whether the break is absolute or reiterated, in every instance “the human” is thus defined in contrast to other animals and at once as ontologically incomparable – a fine example of what Freud calls kettle logic. Moreover, insofar as both configurations define the nonhuman animal by what he or she lacks within a teleological dialectic, every nonhuman animal is paradoxically determined only as that which the human transcends, that is, as incomplete and thus subhuman, while nonetheless remaining absolutely, incomparably other. Such is the contradictory position that the metaphysical tradition has forced nonhuman animals to occupy, and which Heidegger sets out to escape.

To do this, Heidegger draws a very different kind of line between human and animal. Instead of sublating the animal, the human rather “stands out” from a background animality that serves only to focus attention while providing an arbitrary point of departure. The line, in other words, is that of an organisational frame that establishes and delineates its focus. At the same time, this frame is also a boundary wall, the determined limit of which is rendered invisible by its mirrored surface and which, while appearing to open up the space of “the animal,” in fact serves to enclose “the human” within an infinitely regressive image of itself which reflects only the essence of being-human which being-human itself renders invisible. The animal, in short, serves as a reflective framing device in which “we humans” will find only ourselves. Hence, we begin to understand Heidegger’s insistence that the correctness or otherwise of his claim regarding the essential poverty of the animal must paradoxically await the disclosure of the essence of the human, a circling back to the animal such as is available only from within the human world, and he does so in order legitimate in retrospect the posited essence of animality which “founded” that world.

In a gesture familiar from Being and Time, Heidegger thus sites his discourse outside both the human sciences and traditional metaphysics, claiming for himself an absolute distance from discourses which, on the one hand, “abandon” the human to animal physiology and, on the other, from those which posit the human as dependent upon the dialectical negation of the animal. For him, the animal of biology is simply “a free-floating thesis” that remains to be secured by “the proper method” that is its turn through the hermeneutic circle (61). Again, Heidegger insists that such a turn is indifferent to its apparent object (“the animal,” in this case), remaining instead always within the orbit of the human-Dasein. The animals of biology and ethology are thus merely “everyday” points of departure that set the stage for an ontological understanding of the human-Dasein which never in fact encounters any other animals whatsoever.

Ultimately, in The Fundamental Concepts Heidegger proposes only an extended fable, a fabulous sacrificial myth that focuses upon the origins of humanity to the exclusion of all else. As Heidegger himself acknowledges, he is, in the end, always talking about nonhuman animals as if they were human animals. He anthropomorphises them, in short, with an unapologetic Procrustean violence. But then again, Heidegger asks himself, if it is the case that animals are senselessly absorbed in their environments, what then of the overwhelming evidence that animals do indeed relate to other beings as beings? Heidegger’s answer is brutally simply: appearances are deceptive. The animal, he says, only “appears as a living being,” and it is this “seeming like which gives rise to the mistaken claim that animals too “have” the “as.” With this, Heidegger thus writes off every single piece of evidence, now and forever, which even suggests that other animals exist as beings-in-the-world.

Put simply, animals only appear as living beings as a consequence of one exceptional animal’s “having” of the “as”-structure, an exclusive property that subsequently reduces every other being, whether poor elephant or worldless stone, to a dependence upon the existence of the human insofar as it is the human who, albeit mistakenly, constitutes other animals as beings. Hence, one understands why Heidegger claims that the essense of animality is something available only from within the human world. Other than as a ghosted outline, a phantom individuation through the looking glass that is the human-Dasein, all other beings come into being merely as a frame to reflect the uncanny brilliance of the human.

Of all the problems here, the most immediate concerns this apparent “fact” that nonhuman animals are without the “as”-structure, which Heidegger simply assumes – an inevitable assumption given the indissociability of language, Being, and human privilege fundamental to his thinking during this period. In this, Heidegger’s thinking is stymied by the very metaphysical tradition he claims to escape. More precisely, it is the traditional conception of language that ultimately prevents Heidegger from even considering the possibility that language may extend beyond the human, despite having liberated it from its constricting identity with the word. As a result, being-human remains corralled within a circle that excludes every other “who” or “which” who does not share “our” language, thus foreclosing any potential opening to a radical alterity: becoming-other, by definition, being a moment and a movement in which “I” can no longer recognise “my” reflection.

Moreover, Heidegger’s denial of the “as-structure” and thus death to nonhuman beings has, in common with the metaphysical tradition, far-reaching and murderous consequences that stretch well beyond the domain of philosophy. Heidegger, in short, joins forces with Christian and Enlightenment traditions to argue that nonhuman animals have no death, no possibility, and no meaning. Thus written out once again as soulless mechanisms, essentially condemned to the capture of “instinctual drivenness,” Heidegger reiterates the hubris of a human exceptionalism which, based upon the surety of absolute superiority, sanctions our doing whatever “we” like to other animals, further underwriting the current, resolutely material global practice of systematic violence and mass murder on a truly unthinkable scale.

However, once we commit to thinking the formative conjunction of language and being stripped of all its habitual humanist constraints, Heidegger’s notion of anthropogenesis opens up a radical new direction for thinking with other animals, one which interrupts the metaphysics of human exceptionalism on the one hand and, on the other, renders inoperative the murderous rhetoric of biological continuism. To understand this, however, it is first of all necessary to consider exactly how, according to Heidegger, the human-Dasein arrives to take its place authentically in the world.

This originary event is, as we know, an entirely human affair. This does not, however, refer to the biological origin of the species, understood as a specific stage of evolution located at some precise point in the past. Instead, what Heidegger is seeking in the event of profound boredom – the event he previously located in the experience of existential angst – is the originary moment of the human-Dasein’s becoming. That is, the supremely creative event through which the human is constituted completely anew, hence anthropo-genesis. This potential for creative transformation, moreover, belongs essentially, ontologically, to the human as the potential for authentic being-in-the-world. Opposite this is not some inauthentic sub- or proto-human, but rather a uniquely human version of captivation. Such, argues Heidegger, is our habitual human capture within the facile opinions of “the They” that offer reassurance while concealing authentic existence beneath sham inauthenticity. Moreover, this capture is not simply something that happens to the human-Dasein as the result of external, ontical pressures, but it too is an essential, ontological characteristic of the human-Dasein’s very being.

The experience of profound boredom, argues Heidegger, accords with the event of becoming-other because only in such a boredom does the human-Dasein find itself utterly detached from the usual everyday concerns that conceal the truth of existence. In such a state of untethered attunement, beings-as-a-whole ultimately disclose themselves in showing themselves as concealed, as withdrawn within an obdurate materiality that permits of no apprehension other than the fact and the force of their existence. No longer rendered invisible by the everyday use we make of them, beings appear as withdrawn, both hidden and obstinate, exceeding our habitual ways of making sense in such a way as to shock the human-Dasein out of its tranquilised captivation and into authentic existence. In other words, in the experience of profound, existential boredom, the human becomes other by sensing the existence of beings that exceed all prior sense. In this, beings reveal themselves as monstrous, unrecognisable, utterly uncanny, and in so doing the human-Dasein, as a bodying co-constituted in its exposure to being, finds itself transformed in encountering that which has been foreclosed by habitual recognition. Such an encounter thus marks an eruption of the real within the familiar and discloses a gap within the known. For Heidegger, it is here, and nowhere else, that the essence of man is finally “thought in its origin.”

Given that such a genesis depends upon a moment of “affective manifestness” during which beings are sensed as concealed, the human-Dasein thus finds itself already “in” language at its origin. Similarly, in being thrown from the everyday discourses of “the They,” humans are thus already anxiously constituted within infinitely entangled structures of meaning. The human-Dasein, in short, is thrown into a world that precedes it, and then thrown from it again in the event of profound boredom. Nonhuman animals, meanwhile, in being denied language, are essentially denied the privilege of creation, refused access to a life-giving genesis that shatters habitual absorption.

Nonetheless, once we strip language of its old metaphysical constraints – as is being done today in domains as seemingly far removed from each other as linguistics, ethology and philosophy – this event of anthropogenetic boredom offers a new understanding of being-in-the-world, one that can deny neither individuation nor finitude to other animals. Instead, its co-constitutive exposing of being that is the creation of life becomes equally the potential of all life.

The importance of broadening the sense of the term “language” thus becomes clear. In short, “language” must be reconfigured as a species-specific way of being that is at once originary force and resource of creation. For this, the work of Jacques Derrida is crucial. Language, as Derrida insists, must be understood as the constructed community of the world, simulated by “codes of traces being designed, among all living beings, to construct a unity of the world that is … nowhere and never given in nature.” Language, as the originary relation of being as such as that in which the transfer of sense can take place, marks the community of all living beings – every passion being at once an act of interpretation and every action being at once dependent upon a passive infolding of externality. All living beings both inhabit, and are inhabited-by, machines for generating meaning.

In this way, as Derrida says, every living being constructs a world nowhere and never given in nature. Rather, the indissociability of being and language is marked, as and at the origin of sense, by the installation of technicity. Originary technicity is, quite simply, the condition of being alive, the condition of the reproduction of sense without which a being ceases to live as such, and the condition of genesis, of creation. One obvious consequence of this is that the divisions between “Nature” and “Culture,” and between the “natural” and the “artificial,” break down utterly – as indeed they must. Instead, we discover a world populated by living bodyings or materialities which, while already technical, need be neither organisms nor even “organic” in any traditional sense.

Other consequences of this reconfiguration of language are equally important. First of all, both vitalism and biological continuism are a priori excluded from consideration. Secondly, the murderous ideology of the undying animal is irredeemably fractured, thus undoing along the way every hierarchy of proximity and every narcissistic notion of identity politics. Thirdly, it makes clear that the perfect reciprocity demanded by liberal contract theory is simply impossible, one result of which is that its exclusion of nonhuman animals from ethical concern is rendered both unjust and unjustifiable. In place of the liberal delusion – whether naïve or cynical – of imaginary consensus, originary technicity demands instead the affirmation of an encounter with another whose language “I” do not recognise and with whom consensus remains impossible. At the same time, “language” – in the narrow sense of human verbal language – ceases to be the privileged site from which one can sovereignly attribute to another only a mute bestiality. Nevertheless, this by no means results in the subsumption of “the human” beneath “the animal,” which would simply reiterate an uncritical biological continuism. Rather, the difference of originary technicity necessarily structures infinitely diverse ways of being and, moreover, structures them differently. Hence, while differences subsist, a humanist hierarchy does not. Lastly, in both following and moving beyond Heidegger, this extended imbrication of language and being means that every living being, insofar as he or she lives, retains the potential to undergo an evental rupture in their specific way of being that is the moment not of anthropo-genesis, but always of zoo-genesis. In this creative event of the breach, this forced exposing to the possibility of being, any given existence realises the potential that is to be alive. To conduct one’s self towards such an encounter is to be open to the incalculable, to be exposed to that which exceeds sensible recognition. It is, in short, to affirm the chance and necessity of life’s ever again.

Ultimately, to accept the premise that language marks the community of all living beings is to accept that humans do not have the right to do whatever we like with other animals. It is to accept that our given state of affairs is unacceptable and must be radically transformed. Put simply, accepting such a premise is to no longer accept the habitual global economy of slaughter into which we have all been thrown. For this, however, it remains imperative that any genuine posthumanist philosophy think both the finitude and the nonsubstitutable deaths of other animals.

What is Zoogenesis (2)?

The following is the draft of a paper given at the “Zoontotechnics” conference at Cardiff University last year under the title “Nietzsche’s posthumous placeholder: demanding animals and the technics of posthumanism”:

“To begin with,” writes Nietzsche in “On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense,” “a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image.” With this deceptively simple statement, Nietzsche inaugurates a post-humanism which explicitly deconstructs any notion of metaphysical pre-fixity. Making clear that “image” refers not solely to human perception but to the production of sense in its entirety, Nietzsche thus puts forward an explicitly nonanthropocentric understanding of “language” which is always a transference or translation within a nonnecessary relationship. Given that any such movement of translation necessitates an over-leaping from one sphere into a second, absolutely discontinuous sphere—an overleaping marking the image as vehicle to the stimulus-tenor—every image is therefore a “perceptual metaphor.” It is a discontinuity, moreover, which makes of every perceptual metaphor “a stammering translation into a completely foreign tongue.” Nothing less than a material laying-claim in and as which a body comes-to-be, the sense-image is thus a vehicle ever lost to an errant transmission, to dissemination. At once then, living beings possess only discontinuous metaphors of physical responses, responses which themselves mark the taking-place of material encounters. Hence, in coming to be doubly displaced in and as a metaphorical vehicle always radically divided from an originary being-with which can be neither perceived nor known nor re-presented, the sense-image is thus never in a relation to or of truth, but is—“at most”—an aesthetic relation. Further, given that this being-disposed-outside that is to be attuned to a condition is the aesthetic production of sense, it follows that that which appears to us simply as “our bodies”—that is to say, the sense of a body as well as the sense of the self—is necessarily founded upon an a priori infolding of the outside which always already interrupts any such delimitation. Every passion is thus at once an act of interpretation, just as every action depends upon a passive infolding of externality. This ek-static production of sense is thus irreducible to the modern Cartesian notion of egological “consciousness” and divested of both anthropocentric and organismic restriction; every nonhuman animal too is first of all be-ing outside itself, and thus, as Nietzsche insists, they too come to their senses only in and as metaphoric perceptions.

Sense thus carries an imbrication of the material and the semiotic that always exceeds any reduction to the words spoken by human animals alone. The taking place of sense is at once the opening of and as language, and to a necessary movement which, in the proximal distancing of the “as,” installs a technics at and as the origin of life, irredemiably fracturing the distinction between the “natural” and the “artificial.” In and as the transfer and thus in and as existence, all living beings thus inhabit, and are inhabitated by, machines for generating meaning, and it is this which renders untenable any recourse to the myth of a “natural” pathic animal communication and, ultimately, to the ideology of the undying—and thus infinitely substitutable—nonhuman animal.

Given that the image which remarks every perception is always an inadequate interpretation of a relation, it can only be that the experience which Nietzsche calls the “first” image—the “unique and entirely individual original experience”—is the perception of a singularity. That is to say, this “first” image is the perception of being as such, the immediate perception of this uniquely situated relation of be-ing—the discontinuous aesthetic relation that remarks our exposure such that it is only as it is. This “original” relation, however, can never be perceived as such—that is, can never be the translative production of an image—in that it is precisely this immediate relation which must escape in the transference into the discontinuous domain that is its sense. Thus, writes Nietzsche, the X of the original “acquaintance” remains always “inaccesible and undefinable for us.” In short, the sense-image can only ever mark the escape of the individual relation as such in its being-sensed, the translation having always already taken-place of and in language. As a result, Nietzsche’s “first” image, the sense of this singular being as such, must thus be read as that which re-marks only the taking place of the “as” which has withdrawn. The original experience is, in other words, that alien, uncanny transport that gives a being to apprehend that beings are in the blunt materiality of their withdrawal, a zoo-genesis in which the attunement of Heidegger’s “profound boredom”—a sense only of the reserve of being as such in the withdrawal of sense—is one shared potentially by every living being. Moreover, as the condition of possibility for the image, this sense of that which withdraws is necessarily a pure performative, referring only to its senselessness. This follows necessarily from the fact that, for any perception to “make sense”—that is, for an image to be recognised as an image—it must, upon its “first” appearance, always already be repeated (and so come to differently divide its indivisible essence in a double movement of protention and retention); an idealization which, as Derrida says, “permits one to identify it as the same throughout possible repetitions” and which is indissociable from the constitution of historicity. In that the stammer of perception must necessarily ignore singular differences—must, in Nietzsche’s words, “omit the aspects in which they are unequal”—in order for an image to be recognised as an image, for sense to make sense, this movement is at once reiteration and habitual perceptual response.

Here then are two distinct but indissociable sites of non-sense: the taking place of language that is the necessary withdrawal of being as such that is the condition for the production of sense on the one hand and, on the other, language having always already taken place in the violent elision of singular differences in the recognition of sense. Thus, withdrawing in giving itself in and as the everyday finite state of affairs, the impossible event of infinite being as such is no-longer perceptible in its being-recognised and at once notyet perceptible, the reserve of pure potentiality. In short, originary being-with prior to any recognition—and thus prior to the constitution of the “human” or the “nonhuman”—“is” (and is not) absolutely inter, no-longer and not-yet.

This deafening, benumbing reproduction of sense which places every living being “in” language thus presupposes machines of habitual recognition that are both constitutive of bodyings and coextensive with the reproduction of materialisation. Indeed, the very materiality which fixes the common sense boundary of “the organism” is just such a reproduction. As Judith Butler writes, “materialisation is coextensive with its investiture with power relations, and materiality is the effect and gauge of this investment.” Nevertheless, the unique Nietzschean acquaintance remains to haunt every actualisation as the unlivable trace within every repetition, the spectre of pure potentiality foreclosed in and as the contingent reproduction of its caricatured materialisation. As a result of this habitual effacement of difference, the unlivable excess can thus be “actualised” only as withdrawn—as a sense, that is, only of its without sense. The call and demand of the singular laying claim of being as such is thus a pure formal telling only of itself, exceeding every structure of meaning upon which its affective manifestness nonetheless depends. This for Nietzsche is the singularity, the individual experience of an unheard-of correspondence which does not live, does not exist, but rather out-lives every determinable form. Hence, as Werner Hamacher asserts, rather than “being a social or psychic form of human existence, the individual—exceeding type and genus—is the announcement of the Über-mensch.” Nietzsche’s out- or über-human is thus a demand which, remaining to come, withdraws from all re-cognition and, as such, exceeds all specular delimitation in marking the singular relation in and as a silent announcing which necessarily out-lives or sur-vives any enclosure of the properly “human.” An announcing, in short, of the post-human which, announcing itself in proclaiming only that the fact that this (other) be-ing has no sense is an issue, calls forth an “invention beyond the limits of experience.”

Such an announcing remarks the dis-posing of the “I” in and as what Giorgio Agamben describes as “the suspension and withholding of all concrete and specific possibilities.” The encounter as such—the untimely impossibility of possibility and thus heterogeneous to the state of affairs in which an “I” always already finds itself—“is” thus that from which an “I” can only return, but never experience as such. Moreover, in that its demand calls forth that which cannot be predicted from within the everyday state of affairs, the certainty of being the “I” that “is”—both the secure sense of self as self, and the surety of repose within the world—is thus violently dis-located. This “other I” thus bodies a transformed relationality, an intensive, maddening relation of forces in and as which there can be nothing recognisable, nothing properly human in its attunement of an intensive composition without sense. Our “serious endeavour,” Nietzsche writes, is “to abandon our selves temporarily to life.”[i] Whereas one only ever calculates the human, such an encounter is precisely that which interrupts its most proper of properties: at once a nonhuman moment that exceeds every stable delimitation of the self and any fixed contour of the body, and an inhuman movement through the technicity of language.

We get a sense of Nietzsche’s out- or post-human in Derrida’s encounter with his “little cat,” an encounter which offers—

the abyssal limit of the human: the inhuman or the ahuman, the ends of man,… the bordercrossing from which vantage man dares to announce himself to himself. And in these moments of nakedness, as regards the animal, everything can happen to me, I am like a child ready for the apocalypse. I am, I follow, the apocalypse itself,… the ultimate and first event of the end, the unveiling and the verdict.

In this non-moment “of extreme passion,” of absolute receptivity that is to encounter the “unsubstitutable singularity” of this cat, everything can happen, but within which no one possibility, no one configuration can be actualised. Be-ing this apocalyptic suspension, the pure potentiality of the not yet taken place, thus necessarily precludes every “I” and, insomuch as “I” am, “I” can only ever follow. That is to say, an “I” comes to its self only in the anxious trace of the encounter’s having already taken place: “I” follows the apocalypse as a remarking of pure ex-position; its sense of the without sense the trace of that which exceeds making-sense-ability in a making manifest of that which was previously foreclosed, a manifesto in the most literal sense. “All telling refusal,” as Heidegger has demonstrated, “is in itself a telling.” Responding to and as this call, the “I” that comes back to its self is an other, obligated to a response exceeding all knowledge, all self understanding and certainty. This call which out-lives, which proclaims itself, in Derrida’s words, “only under the species of the nonspecies,” in the mute, formless form of monstrosity, necessarily marks with its posthumous demand only that which remains to come, an eternal return of the same. Hence Zarathustra comes to be other—all prior certainty destroyed—only in following the fall into the well of eternity that is the impossible apocalyptic (non)moment, the “golden round ring,” of the world’s singular perfection.

The question remains, however, as to how the as yet formless form of monstrosity, this posthumous demand, come-to-be reenacted, its sense only that of the taking-place of sense prior to its recognition? How, in short, might one recognise the unrecognisable? For Nietzsche, it is the affirmation of life in the face of the inartistic, reactive violence of habit. In an announcing of that which is without sense, its foreclosure of sense is thus performed—a performative which at once posits the limit as (contingent) limit, as the prison of delimitation. Hence, as the sense only of exclusion, its sensible void marks the opening of a space and a time of invention by which that which was once effaced can potentially come to be recognised. Thus it is that such “originality” is never creation ex nihilo, but rather that of a forbidden metonymy remarking an unheard relation: the becoming-perceptible of that which Nietzsche describes as having “no name as yet and hence cannot be mentioned although it stares us all in the face.”[ii] The affirmative response which remarks the singular, unmentionable relation which out-lives every determinable form is a response which materialises the silent announcing which sur-vives the properly human, and which Hamacher acutely contends comes-to-be “only in the form of one who, having outlasted the death of its type, has returned to haunt the living: a living corpse.” This posthumous monstrosity thus out-lives its type and genus in an exceeding of its proper sense and limit: its “dangerous” reiteration constituted by an originary technics which interrupts all life by which life out-lives itself. In this, the affirmative turn of a phrase—or rather, a phrasing, that is, a relation of spacing which does not necessarily refer to a (human) speech act—its improper parataxis, interrupts a given state of affairs in announcing the return of the repressed which “out-lives” its “proper” sense—that is, its actualisation in a given state of affairs—in being raised again and catachrestically posited within contexts where it had not previously belonged. This positing of a prosthetic, placeholding metonymy preserves the opening of a space of recognition to-come in disrupting the linear temporality reproduced by the ideality of iterability. While such an untimely reinscription refuses complete subsumption to the Same, it nonetheless remains immanent to sedimented power relations, its chance the necessity of our passive being-thrown. Agency, as Butler writes, is “a reiterative or rearticulatory practice, immanent to power, and not a relation of external opposition to power.” It is thus irony which permits the untimely call without sense to become sensible, that is, which makes it possible to constitute an effect. Inaugural and citational, its impossibility is the impossibility of invention itself: both a reiteration and at once absolutely other to that which is possible—which can make sense—within a given state of affairs, and which thus puts into question the previously apodictic propriety of the prevailing order. “We can destroy only as creators,” writes Nietzsche, “But let us not forget: it is enough to create new names in order to create new “things.”’[iii] Through the improper metonymic prosthesis, the “impossible” sense of the enactment—the mute manifesto of a content-less relation—thus comes-to-be-ing, becomes manifest; a restaging in which the new-old language refuses to make sense, that is to say, in its being between senses it both no longer and not yet makes sense, but rather constitutes a space-time of intensive correspondence—the sense of the materiality which exceeds its placeholder being precisely the content out-living its phrase as its phrasing.

In short then, the dislocating trace thus calls to an untimely deterritorialisation of sense which, dependent upon the fact that a context is never fully determined, thus functions as a meaningless placeholder which explicitly refuses identity, mimesis and surrogacy. As a result, that which the prevailing order must exclude comes-to-be reinscribed as the outside of that order and thus, outside of consensual reflection, as a division within that ordered state of affairs. Thus it is that the death machine of living be-ing, which is both the condition of possibility of proprietary norms and of their “out-living,” reserves and thus enables—in a being-thrown of Nietzsche’s die—the shattering return of the oppressed. A conjuration from unnameable monstrosity to resurrected corpse as a calling upon death to summon the future and invent the impossible. It should nonetheless be recalled, however, that such an encounter can never be restricted to the human, both as that which necessarily exceeds “the human” and as that from which a nonhuman animal in her ways of being can never be excluded, just as she can be excluded from neither time nor historicity: “Artistic force,” affirms Nietzsche, “inheres our becoming, not only in that of the human being, but also in that of the animal.”

Whereas the monstrous mute announcing addresses itself perhaps more obviously to the founding exclusions upon which the ideology of liberal consensus depends, more than even this its an-archic call to dis-order makes perceptible the whole murderous theatrics of animalisation, that is, the institutional reconfiguration along a humanist teleological dialectic of a constructed “identity” as synonymous with “subhuman.” An economy which, reducing “other” humans to the “non-status” of “mere animals” and at once reproducing the limit and limitation of the “properly” human collective, is largely reducible in the modern era to the demands of capital. Such tropological displacement depends, of course, upon the reproduction of “the animal” as the constitutive outside of the properly “human,” and thus singular encounters with other animals, with the radical alterity of a nonhuman or inhuman be-ing, constitute the primary challenge to this anxious delimitation, marking, and thus disrupting, the measure and the limit of humanity in making explicit that which “the human” has repressed in order to delimit itself. In contrast to the genocidal economy of animalisation, the call without sense is nothing less than the call of and to tropes that function in precisely the opposite direction: a calling forth not of reductive metaphors of “proper” identity, but rather the coming to be of improper relations which make it unthinkable that other living beings—whether human or nonhuman—can be put to death with impunity. Improper, transforming metonymies have nothing to do with the identification of recognised rights, whether human or other animal, which, however important, are nonetheless doomed to repeat the exclusionary posture of mastery. Against anthropomorphic border extensions with passport applications and limited citizenship, what is needed are encounters with animals that call to disidentifications—singular encounters of finite be-ing calling forth transformed and transforming relations without relation which, demanding responsibility before and beyond the human, breach the enclosures of property and propriety. Paraphrasing Adorno, this begins in the same place where Auschwitz begins, and yet moves in precisely the opposite direction—it begins, that is, “wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and can no longer think: they’re only animals.” It is, in short, the impossibility of such a thought.

[i] Werke XII, i, 21; qtd. in Kofman 134

[ii] Gay Science, 261

[iii] Gay Science, 58


What is Zoogenesis (1)?

As the recent proliferation of academic texts, artworks, manifestos, political treatises and so on clearly demonstrate, the so-called “question of the animal” can no longer be penned within the traditional domains of biology and ethology. As a matter of life and death which always exceeds the lives and deaths of “mere” animals, the “animal turn” is rather central to contemporary thought and politics. Nevertheless, the multidisciplinary domain that has become known as “animal studies” and/or “posthumanism” is still very much a newly emergent and emerging discipline. The French philosopher and psychologist Vinciane Despret, for example, states that even as recently as 2006 her work would have been sidelined by way of a (gender-based) accusation of sentimentality—the same accusation which, far from coincidentally, had for so long served to bar women from access to the sciences.[1]

Even now, in 2011, thinking with animals outside of the natural sciences nevertheless remains largely a marginalised pursuit. Refused incorporation or assimilation, anyone who feels unable not to “bring up” animals, anyone for whom the right of putting to death sticks in their throat, who cannot not see industrial murder, who cannot not respond to the consumption of flesh, will all too soon become familiar with the dismissive reply: “Why bother?” In a sense, this nonresponsive question has already defeated every answer, insofar as it is a question which can only take place from within the privileged space of humanism. The animals in question, therefore, must always include human animals.

It is here, in fact, that the discourse of “animal rights” already falls down, moving as it does within the same or another humanism, redrawing again and again the same unthought lines of exclusion, the same metaphysics of either-man-or-animal. The utilitarianism of Peter Singer, for example, remains inevitably inscribed within the calculus of ends, a human mastery which thus views the animal only according to its enclosure within an ordered technological schema. Tom Regan’s neo-Kantian approach, in its turn, determines the place of the nonhuman animal only according to an essential human morality, and in so doing inscribes human subjectivity as the ground of the animal. In both cases then, it is man who must determine, and thus delimit, the animal.[2]

Instead, there is only one response to the question “Why bother?,” and that is to always again put “the human” itself into question. Such a response is not only required, but it is of the utmost urgency, even for those who dismiss animal concerns as perhaps laudable but nonetheless most definitely secondary, maybe even somewhat self-indulgent or sentimental. This is because the killing—rather than the “murder”—of nonhuman animals actually serves as the excluded support of all other structural excludings, namely those which exclude, extort, and distort others on the basis of race, gender, class, sexuality, and so on. A support, it is important to note, which is nonnecessary. All values constituted in and as the exclusion of their binary opposites must thus be understood as both historically contingent and mutually articulating, each one supprting the proper standing of every other.

The question of the animal, in other words, cannot await the answer of the human. It cannot, that is to say, await the inauguration of a utopian human community before being given its turn, the very impossibility of the answer to “the human” serving in such a case to condemn nonhuman animals to an interminable death. One cannot discharge oneself of the responsibility of thinking with animals simply by claiming for oneself a “more important” concern with human oppression—an all too familiar repose marked by the delusion of a nostalgic desire for a purely human anything. No one would suggest that one must unfortunately support racism, at least until the exclusion and abjection of women is undone, or that one is free to sexually abuse women, at least until racism has been eradicated. Nor would anyone suggest that politics can and must be limited to single issues existing in isolation. When it comes to speciesism, however, such opinions are not only generally tolerated, but are often explicitly celebrated.[3] However, it is only by tracing the interrelations and interarticulations of oppression that an affective genealogy becomes possible. One cannot, for example, put into question the privileged sexuality afforded to the ideal of whiteness, without an understanding of the speciesist machinery which devalorises people of colour by way of a displacement which shifts nonwhite sexuality towards “animality.”

Beginnings and ends: the human

We can thus begin to understand how the exclusion of “the animal” is inseperable not only from a determining of “the (properly) human,” but also from questions of autonomy and sovereignty, of the subject and of subjection. The exclusion of the animal, in other words, functions to inscribe properly human ends, that is, to inscribe stable human meaning and to ascribe stable meaning to humanity. Hence the link, as philosopher Jacques Derrida insists, between the impossibility of “murdering” an animal and “the violent institution of the ‘who’ as subject” (“Eating Well,” 283). One result of this interminable quest for the ends—and the end—of “man” is the privative determination of “animality” which, albeit variously and fabulously clothed, pads mutely throughout Western philosophy.

According to Plato, for instance, nonhuman animals lack reason and thus an immortal soul. Aristotle then marks out the human as zōon logon ekhōn, “the living being possessing language” who, insofar as she is the only animal with the ability to form universal concepts, thus designates the site of teleological reason. Scripture thereafter delivers over every nonhuman animal into the hands and mouths of men, refusing them freedom and reducing them to meat. Descartes then transforms these “mere” bodies into clockwork, simple meat machines experiencing neither pleasure nor pain. After this Kant, in a renewal of Platonic ontoteleology countersigned by Aristotle, insists that only the rational being—by which he means the human animal—can think the unconditional law of morality. This is again repeated, mutatis mutandis, by Hegel, for whom only the human can possess an infinite relationship to self. Moving rapidly then through the twentieth century, while Freud avers that nonhuman animals are without conciousness and Heidegger claims they are without death and thus “poor-in-world,” Levinas in his turn refuses every nonhuman animal a face, and thus any claim to an ethical response.[4]

In fact, the list of what animals are alleged to lack is at once finite yet endless, depending as it does upon the ever-shifting requirements of what it means to be “properly” human. One can, nonetheless, offer in its place a short and brutal summary: throughout Western philosophy—albeit with some notable exceptions—“the animal” is constituted as an unfeeling object under the technical mastery of man and definable only by negativity. One cannot murder such an animal, only kill her over and over again, and moreover one can do so with impunity. It is this all too human construction of “the animal” therefore, which holds open the space for what Derrida describes as a “noncriminal putting to death,” be it the site of war, of capital punishment, or of the unprecedented subjection and subjugation of human and nonhuman beings all around us today.

Exploring the movement by which such a space is opened in which a human animal can be “legitimately” murdered, alongside and entangled with the exclusion of nonhuman animals, is thus a major preoccupation in the articulation of zoogenesis. This movement, in the “animalisation” of a specifically targetted human or human grouping—an identity the posited homogeneity of which is always imposed from outside—, functions to exclude the subject of its tropological displacement and, in so doing, constitute a non-subject that can be killed with impunity. By way of this reactive movement of sedimented traces—the solidified dregs of ressentiment and bad conscience—one can always again redefine the slave, the barbarian, the foreigner, or the immigrant as a “mere” animal. One thinks here of the Nazi demonisation of Jews as Saujuden (“Jewish swine”), but also of the photograph taken in the Abu Ghraib prison showing Private Lynndie England leading an Iraqi prisoner around on a dog leash. Indeed, to reduce a singular, nonsubstitutable living being to an essential identity which is in turn reconfigured as “animal” is nothing less than the economy of genocide. Excluded from itself through a murderous theatrics of displacement, a nonhuman animal or an animalised human is effectively rendered speechless, a subjugated body which may be killed but never murdered.

The interruption of this murderous logic is therefore of the utmost importance, not only for other animals, but also for those millions of “other” humans displaced and thus excluded by the regulatory norms of gender, sexuality, race, and/or class. We are thus faced with an extremely pressing question: are there perhaps tropes that function in the opposite direction, that make it unthinkable that living beings can be put to death with impunity? Whilst at the same time remembering that the question of what, exactly, is meant by “living being” is far from being resolved, it is this question which the thinking of zoogenesis attempts to answer.

Neither beginning nor end: the undying animal

“The human,” I have suggested, depends upon the exclusion of “the animal,” a logic which reserves the space for a noncriminal putting to death. This genocidal logic is, however, further complicated by the fact that this movement itself depends upon the finite bodies of nonhuman animals being paradoxically inscribed as undying. By this I mean that “the animal,” as a single undifferentiated body in opposition to the human, is defined both as lacking the possibility of death and as sharing a transparent pathic communication. With each of these reciprocally grounding the other, the murder of a nonhuman animal, as we shall see, becomes ontologically impossible, even as corpses are produced in exponentially increasing numbers.

The apparent “fact” that nonhuman animals do not know or “have” language, do not know or “have” death, is simply and precisely an ideology, one which, as feminist writer Carol Adams notes, “ontologises animals as usable” (Neither Man Nor Beast, 15). Whether as untouched by the Fall into self-awareness, or as absolutely determined by genetics and thus infintely substitutable automata, this figuration of the undying animal remains central to human exceptionalism. Moreover, the ideology of the undying animal must be understood as an entanglement of both material and symbolic economies. The “question of the animal,” in other words, is a question of and to Capital: a question of the literal rendering of animals’ bodies, and at once a demand which infinitely exceeds the democratic order founded upon, and conserved by, the semantics of an agent-centered subjectivity and of the sovereign human subject of rights and duties. That the ideologically undying animal, as well as presupposing human exceptionalism, simultaneously reproduces the machinery of Western patriarchy founded upon the illusion of a freely willing human subject, can be seen most clearly in the context of previous justifications of slavery. Indeed, the argument will no doubt be familiar: the white male oppression of people of colour depends upon the latter being configured as incapable of resisting their “natural” bodily inclinations—that is to say, incapable of overcoming their animal instincts—and thus, excluded from “pure” reason, are thereby fit only to be ruled.

With this example, I am simply suggesting that nonhuman animals cannot be overlooked when it comes to putting into question the humanist hubris which claims on its own behalf an inalienable free will or, at the very least, an ontologically exceptional status. Rather, the infinitely diverse ways of being—both human and nonhuman—irredeemably explode the illusion of a boundary dividing responsive Culture from reactive Nature. In this way, one hopes, the delusion of liberalism will finally be dispelled—a delusion constituted, as Spinoza maintained so long ago, in ignorance of the disposition of bodies, a delusion in which subjected bodies come to desire their own subjection.

Encountering posthumanism

Rather than seeking to prop up those tottering relics of reductive division, it is rather the case that to efface originary relatedness on the basis of the destructive yet empty concept of “the human” serves to severely constrain what animals—both human and nonhuman—might become. By contrast, it is an open relation to this potential becoming which for me defines what I understand by the term “posthumanism.”

Here, however, it is first of all necessary to differentiate posthumanist thinking from the notion of the “posthuman” or the “transhuman” as construed by a number of (mainly liberal) writers. For the latter, as philosopher Cary Wolfe writes, the “post-” prefix rather marks an “historical succession in which … the human is transformed and finally eclipsed by various technological, informatic, and bioengineering developments” (“Bring the Noise” in Serres The Parasite, xi). According to my understanding, however, posthumanism refers rather to both the interruption that always already takes place before and beyond every conception of “the human,” and to our historical situatedness as subsequent to the deconstruction of the delimited human subject, be it in terms of soul, cogito, ego, or body. In short, “posthumanism” is that which doubly marks us as “coming after” the interruption of the human, and as such demands a thinking which takes place beyond any humanist metaphysics.

I take here as the starting point for any genuinely posthumanist discourse a movement beyond the traditional (Christianised) forms taken by the relationship between the human and the nonhuman animal. These dominant forms, as philosopher Andrew Benjamin demonstrates, are configured by two “original and importantly different determinations” (“Particularity and Exceptions,” 76). In the first configuration, the emergence of the human is predicated on the death or nonexistence of the animal, whereas in the second the human remains in a constant struggle with his or her own animality, an animality which must be repeatedly overcome in being human. These two types or configurations endlessly reiterate a logic of dependence-exclusion. Moreover, insofar as both determinations fallaciously define the nonhuman animal by what he or she lacks within a teleological dialectic, every nonhuman animal is thus figured as incomplete, as subhuman. Consequentially, “the human” is not a site of ontological exception, but rather an effect of this reiterated exclusion of “the animal,” a reiteration which in itself presupposes a primordial relatedness.

Arguing that posthumanist discourse must interrupt such anthropomorphic hubris, however, is not to say that the movement of humanist exclusion should simply be inverted, positing instead some kind of homogeneous inclusive equality. While such a simplistic inversion would merely reinstate the human-animal dichotomy in its refusal, it is rather the case that a given human only “is” in an originary and complex relational network with nonhuman ways of being.

Articulating just such a posthumanist thinking is thus to explore the philosophical, ethical, and political implications of a rigorous deconstruction of the human-animal division, as well as some of its less-than-rigorous articulations within contemporary “posthumanist” discourses. Along the way, it becomes clear that the figuration of the nonhuman animal as undying is essential to the two determinations of teleological humanism and, by extension, to figuring it a human right to do whatever we like to other animals.

We can thus already begin to perceive why the giving of a death potentially interrupts such brutal, murderous hubris. Only initially paradoxical, such a gift returns to this nonhuman being his or her place, that is, the singularity of his or her nonsubstitutability. The “having” of death, furthermore, marks the exposure of every living being across an indissociably doubled abyss: on the one hoof, an abyssal technicity of language which necessarily exceeds any reduction to the verbal and, on the other, an abyssal embodiment which exceeds any delimitation of the organism. A rigorous posthumanist thinking, therefore, must concern itself with an exposition which already confounds every distinction between the interior and the exterior and the organic and the technical.

Zoogenesis: the apocalyptic arriving of monstrosity

“Zoogenesis,”  in short, names those potential tropes which make it unthinkable that living beings can be put to death with impunity. In contrast to the limited anthropo-genesis explicated by Martin Heidegger, such tropes trace the movements of an excessive zoo-genetic transport virtually promised to every living being by an originary technicity. This originary technicity of being is the condition of both that which for strategic reasons I am calling the animal encounter, and of the monstrous zoogenesis to which such an encounter gives rise. A priori excluding both vitalism and biological continuism, its difference as and at the origin of sense necessarily derails every judgment of absolute truth and value, undoing every hierarchy of proximity and any narcissistic notion of identity politics. (For more on this, see my “Animals in Looking-Glass World: Fables of Uberhumanism and Posthumanism in Heidegger and Nietzsche” here: http://www.depauw.edu/humanimalia/issue02/pdfs/Iveson.pdf.)

Instead, originary technics demands the affirmation of an encounter with another whose language “I” do not recognise, an “other” with whom or with which consensus remains impossible. In this way, “language” (in a narrow sense) ceases to be the privileged site from which one can sovereignly attribute to another only a mute bestiality. Instead, with Friedrich Nietzsche we discover the imperative of active forgetting which is, in short, zoogenesis—the call of which shatters the psyche in calling forth unheard-of and forbidden monstrosities. Ultimately, the promise of zoogenesis resides in the responsibility of a vigilant Nietzschean betrayal, a response which always again offers itself as a curative to the poison of a certain neoliberal notion of the transhuman. Such a thinking encounter with animals, in other words, seeks to replace reductive calculation with an ethics of emergence.

[1] As recounted by Florence Burgat in her preface to Despret Penser comme un rat (2009), 4.

[2] Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (1975) and Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights (1983) are generally considered the founding texts of contemporary animal rights’ discourse.

[3] On this privileging of oppressions, see Carol J. Adams The Sexual Politics of Meat, 200-201. On the “intersectionality” of exclusions, see also Rosi Braidotti Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics (2006).

[4] For two excellent intellectual histories of “the animal” in Western philosophy, one crafted in meticulous detail and the other brief yet highly illuminating, see Elisabeth de Fontenay Le silence des bêtes: La philosophie à l’épreuve de l’animalité (Paris: Fayard, 1998) and Gilbert Simondon Deux leçons sur l’animal et l’homme (Paris: Ellipses, 2004). Interesting perhaps, is the fact that neither text has yet been translated into English, despite their quality and influence.


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