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Donna Haraway “When Species Meet”

Haraway, Donna J. 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis; London: Univesity of Minnesota Press.3. Sharing Suffering

[…] human beings are not uniquely obligated to and  gifted with responsibility; animals as workers in labs, animals in all their worlds, are response-able in the same sense as people are; that is, responsibility is a relationship crafted in intra-action through which entities, subjects and objects, come into being. People and animals in labs are both subjects and objects to each other in ongoing intra-action. If this structure of material-semiotic relating breaks down or is not permitted to be born, then nothing but objectification and oppression remains. The parties in intra-action do not admit of preset taxonomic calculation; responders are themselves co-constituted in the responding and do not have in advance a proper checklist of properties. Further, the capacity to respond, and so to be responsible, should not be expected to take on symmetrical shapes and textures for all the parties. Response cannot emerge within relationships of self-similarity. (71)

I am arguing that instrumental relations of people and animals are not themselves the root of turning animals (or people) into dead things, into machines whose reactions are of interest but who have no presence, no face, that demands recognition, caring, and shared pain. Instrumental intra-action itself is not the enemy; indeed, I will argue below that work, use, and instrumentality are intrinsic to bodily webbed mortal earthly being and becoming. Unidirectional relations of use, ruled by practices of calculation and self-sure hierarchy, are quite another matter. Such self-satisfied calculation takes heart from the primary dualism that parses body one way and mind another. (71)

To be in a relation of use to each other is not the definition of unfreedom and violation. Such relations are almost never symmetrical (“equal” or calculable). Rather, relations of use are exactly what companion species are about: the ecologies of significant others involve messmates at table, with indigestion and without the comfort of teleological purpose from above, below, in front, or behind. (74)

4. Examined Lives

I believe that ethical veganism, for example, enacts a necessary truth, as well as bears crucial witness to the extremity of the brutality in our “normal” relations with other animals. However, I am also convinced that multispecies coflourishing requires simultaneous, contradictory truths if we take seriously not the command that grounds human exceptionalism, “Thou shalt not kill,” but rather the command that makes us face nurturing and killing as an inescapable part of mortal companion species entanglements, namely, “Thou shalt not make killable.” There is no category that makes killing innocent; there is no category or strategy that removes one from killing. Killing sentient animals is killing someone, not something; knowing this is not the end but the beginning of serious accountability inside worldly complexities. Facing up to the outrage of demands on the more-than-human world and also radically reducing the number of human beings (not by murder, genocide, racism, war, neglect, disease, and starvation – all means that the daily news shows to be common as sand grains on the beach). (105-106)

5. Cloning Mutts, Saving Tigers

Flourishing, not merely the relief of suffering, is the core value, one I would like to extend to the emergent entities, human and animal, in technocultural dog worlds. Compassionate action is, of course, crucial to an ethics of flourishing. (134)

[…] the crucial ethical issues now in human cloning are the biological matters. In a very short program in which even the rudiments of the biological techniques and developmental and genetic processes could barely be sketched, he [Hogness] was repeatedly asked to interview “a bioethicist”. Society was on one side; science on the other. But the biologists wanted to savor a mutated metaphor that let them stress what is really at stake in processes such as nuclear reprogramming in cloning, because that is where many of the conditions for flourishing lie. The ethics is in the whole apparatus, in the thick complexity, in the nature-cultures of being in technoculture that join cells and people in a dance of becoming. (138)

At the turn of the millennium, “saving the endangered [fill in the category]” emerged as the rhetorical gold standard for “value” in technoscience, trumping and shunting other considerations of the apparatus for shaping public and private, kin and kin, animation and cessation. “Endangered species” turned out to be a capacious ethical bypass for ontologically heterogeneous traffic in dogland. (153)

6. Able Bodies and Companion Species

The corpse is not the body. Rather, the body is always in-the-making; it is always a vital entanglement of heterogeneous scales, times, and kinds of beings webbed into fleshly presence, always a becoming, always constituted in relating. The corpse’s consignment to the earth as ashes is, I think, a recognition that, in death it is not simply the person or the soul who goes. That knotted thing we call the body has left; it is undone. (163)

Every species is a multispecies crowd. Human exceptionalism is what companion species cannot abide. In the face of companion species, human exceptionalism shows itself to be the specter that damns the body to illusion, to reproduction of the same, to incest, and so makes remembering impossible. Under the material-semiotic sign of companion species, I am interested in the ontics and antics of significant otherness, in the ongoing making of the partners through the making itself, in the making of bodied lives in the game. Partners do not pre-exist their relating; the partners are exactly what come out of the inter- and intra-relating of fleshly, significant, semiotic-material being. (165)

8. Training in the Contact Zone

Many critical thinkers who are concerned with the subjugation of animals to the purposes of people regard the domestication of other sentient organisms as an ancient historical disaster that has only grown worse with time. Taking themselves to be the only actors, people reduce other organisms to the lived status of being merely raw material or tools. The domestication of animals is, within this analysis, a kind of original sin separating human beings from nature, ending in atrocities like meat-industrial complex of transnational factory framing and the frivolities of pet animals as indulged but unfree fashion accessories in a boundless commodity culture. (206)

The kind of “domestication” that [Vinciane] Despret explores adds new identities; partners learn to be “affected”; they become “available to events”; the engage in a relationship that “discloses perplexity”. The personal pronoun who, which is necessary in this situation, has nothing to do with derivative, Western, ethnocentric, humanist personhood for either people or animals, but rather has to do with the query proper to serious relationships among significant others, or, as I called them elsewhere, companion species, cum panis, messmates at table together, breaking bread. The question between animals and humans here is, Who are you? And so, Who are we? (207-208)

[…] it is essential for a human being to understand that one’s partner is an adult (or puppy) member of another species, with his or her own exacting species interests and individual quirks, and not a furry child, a character in Call of the Wild, or an extension of one’s intentions or fantasies. (213)

I insist “with” is possible. (222)

I rather like the idea that training with an animal, whether the critter is named wild or domestic, can be part of disengaging from the semiotics and technologies of compulsory reproductive biopolitics. That’s a project I like to see in human schools too. Functionless knowing can come very close to the grace of play and a poiesis of love. (222-223)

The coming into being of something unexpected, something new and free, something outside the rules of function and calculation, something not ruled by the logic of reproduction of the same, is what training with others is about. That, I believe, is one of the meanings of natural that the trained people and dogs I know practice. Training requires calculation, method, discipline, science, but training is for opening up what is not known to be possible, but might be, for all the intra-acting partners. Training is, or can be, about differences not tamed by taxonomy. (223)

Disarmed of the fantasy of climbing into heads, one’s own or others’, to get the full story from the inside, we can make some multispecies semiotic progress. To claim not to be able to communicate with and to know one another and other critters, however imperfectly, is a denial of mortal entanglements (the open) for which we are responsible and in which we respond. Tehcnique, calculation, method – all are indispensable and exacting. But they are not response, which is irreducible to calculation. Response is comprehending that subject-making connection is real. Response is face-to-face in the contact zone of an entangled relationship. Response is in the open. Companion species know this. (226-227)

I suggest people must learn to meet dogs as strangers first in order to unlearn the crazy assumptions and stories we all inherit about who dogs are. Respect for dogs demands at least that much. (232)

I am not uninterested in the lively theoretical work and empirical research going on these days in regard to questions about language touching human and nonhuman animals. There is no doubt that many animals across a wide range of species, including rodents, primates, canids, and birds, do things few scientists expected them to be able to do (or had figured out how to recognize, partly because hardly anyone expected anything interesting to show up, at least not in testable, data-rich ways). (234)

Figuring out how to do the needed sorts of experimental work, in which heterogeneous material-semiotic entanglements are the norm, should be great fun and scientifically very creative. That such acute work largely remains to be done gives a pretty good idea about how abstemious, if not frightened of otherness, researching and philosophizing humans in Western traditions have been. (236)

Play is the practice that makes us new, that makes us into something that is neither one nor two, that brings us into the open where purposes and functions are given a rest. Strangers in mindful hominid and canid flesh, we play with each other and become significant others to each other. The power of language is purported to be its potentially infinite inventiveness. True enough in a technical sense (“discrete infinity”); however, the inventive potency of play redoes beings in ways that should not be called language but that deserve their own names. Besides, it is not potentially infinite expressiveness that is interesting for play partners but, rather, unexpected and nonteleological inventions that can take mortal shape only within the finite and dissimilar naturalcultural repertoires of companion species. Another name for those sorts of inventions is joy. (237)

If “desire” in the psychoanalytic sense is proper only to human language-constituted subjects, then sensuous “joy” is what play-constituted beings experience. Like copresence, joy is something we taste, not something we know denotatively or use instrumentally. Play makes an opening. Play proposes. (240)

9. Crittercam

[…] technologies are not mediations, something in between us and another bit of the world. Rather, technologies are organs, full partners, in what Merleau-Ponty called “infoldings of the flesh.” […] What happens in the folds is what is important. Infoldings of the flesh are worldly embodiment. (249)

But perhaps most striking of all is the small amount of actual Crittercam footage amid all the other underwater photography of the animals and their environments that fills the episodes. Actual Crittercam footage is, in fact, usually pretty boring and hard to interpret, somewhat like an ultrasound recording of a fetus. Footage without narration is more like an acid trip than a peephole reality. Cameras might be askew on the head of the critter or pointed down, so that we see lots of muck and lots of water, along with bits of other organisms that make precious little sense without a lot of other visual and narrative work. Or the videocams might be positioned just fine, but nothing much happens during most of the sampling time. Viewer excitement over Crittercam imagery is a highly produced effect. Home movies might be the right analogy after all. (258)

But the Crittercam people offered a means to got with the animals into places humans otherwise could not go to see things that change what we know  and how we must act as a consequence, if we have learned to care about the well-being of the entangled animals and people in those ecologies. (259-260)

There is no general answer to the question of animals’ agential engagement in meanings, any more than there is a general account of human meaning-making. […] Human bodies and technologies cohabit each other in relation to particular projects of lifeworlds. “In so far as I use a technology, I am also used by a technology.” […] Hermeneutic potency is a relational matter; it’s not about who “has” hermeneutic agency, as if it were a nominal substance instead of a verbal infolding. Insofar as I (and my machines) use an animal, I am used by an animal (with its attached machine). I must adapt to the specific animals even as I work for years to learn to induce them to adapt to me and my artifacts in particular kinds of knowledge projects. (262)

They touch; therefore they are. It’s about the action in contact zones. That’s the kind of insight that makes us know that situated human beings have epistemological-ethical obligations to the animals. […] The animals make demands on the humans and their technologies to precisely the same degree that the humans make demands on the animals. […] That part is “symmetrical”, but the contents of the demands are not symmetrical at all. […] The privilege of people accompanying animals depends on getting these asymmetrical relationships right. (263)

12. Parting Bites

Encounterings do not produce harmonious wholes, and smoothly preconstituted entities do not ever meet in the first place. Such things cannot touch, much less attach; there is no first place; and species, neither singular nor plural, demand another practice of reckoning. In the fashion of turtles (with their epibionts) on turtles all the way down, meetings make us who and what we are in the avid contact zones that are the world. Once “we” have met, we can never be “the same” again. Propelled by the tasty but risky obligation of curiosity among companion species, once we know, we cannot not know. If we know well, searching with fingery eyes, we care. That is how responsibility grows. (287)

[…] killing well is an obligation akin to eating well. […] There is no rational or natural dividing line that will settle the life-and-death relations between human and nonhuman animals; such lines are alibis if they are imagined to settle the matter “technically”. (297)

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