Haraway – When Species Meet

Here are some ofmy thoughts on Chapters 1 and 2:

1. Her writing – accessibility: I guess the first thing I want to reflect on is the quality of her writing. I was all prepared for a mind-busting read and I was surprised to find it quite accessible, almost beach reading. I don’t know why she chose to make it so “entry-level.” One thing people have griped about for years is her lack of accessibility, which is a big issue for me, since I always wonder (like many people) what’s the point of doing feminist work if no one can read it. For instance, I really think you need to be an insider to decades of feminist theory to fully ‘get’ her Cyborg Manifesto, to see its value through its “chrome.” (Although she doesn’t use the term “chrome”, she does talk critically about the “blessed-out techno-sublime reading or something like that in the interview in the Haraway Reader; finally I feel vindicated!) I don’t think that I really want to rehash the issues of the accessibility debate. I just wanted to say I was pleasantly charmed by her writing.

I loved her personal reflections and narratives, especially the one that sort of gives how she conceived of the birth of the kennel (59-60). Reading about the everyday life connections that she makes and then marshals into these everything-but-the-kitchen-sink critiques was fun. I don’t know if people unfamiliar with the Foucault theory would get it without having to slog through thorough analysis/critique, but I think they would just via her narrative.

Frustration: I found both engaging and frustrating the way she casually uses vocabulary that you struggle over in other writings as if they were no problem at all and having them still work – assemblage, natureculture, situated, etc. These are subtle and nuanced words that she develops and deploys throughout her oeuvre. So, part of me is awed at how easily these words work without the connected explications. But part of me is frustrated, first of all because I’m selfish. I had to work hard to see the nuances and layers of all these words when I read her other work. Second of all, I do wonder how much of the conversation people get. Do they get the nuances and subtleties. And third of all, I think her perspective on various iconic phrases would be valuable. So, for instance, what’s her analysis/critique of human exceptionalism, besides the fact that it’s bad. I can surmise easily what it is, because I’ve read everything she’s ever written, but I’d still like to see it.

2. Autre-mondialization and alter-globalization: These terms are a good example of what I’m talking about regarding her casual style. WTF is autre-mondialization and alter-globalization? Rather than a careful discussion, she just drops these words in the very first paragraph, but she never picks them up again. I don’t know why she even brings the terms up, when she simply reiterates the term “otherworldly” over and over again throughout the rest of what I’ve read. Ok, I’m quibbling, but I think you get my point. The histories of these concepts would be neat to know.

3. Becoming Animal/D+G: Many people try to link her work to D+G. They both use rhizome as a trope for analysis for similar reasons, for instance, and some people claim that the cyborg is a body without organs. I think these are very naïve linkings. I don’t like D+G, and it’s probably because I don’t understand them. I have read Anti-Oedipus and sections of ATP, as well as other surrounding literatures, especially by Rosi Braidotti. But I still don’t get them. I’ve always been impressed with Alice Jardine’s point in Gynesis where she states that D+G, like many other male postmodernist writers (ok, ok, I know that’s a problematic term), mobilize the feminine at the expense of “real women” (whatever that means). For me, Haraway never fails to remember “real women” in all their deconstructed materiality. It seems to me she makes the same critique of D+G’s “Becoming Animal.”
She writes, “This is a philosophy of the sublime, not the earthly; not the mud; becoming-animal is not an autre-mondialization” (p. 28). And, “…we will learnnothing about actual wolves in all this” (p. 29).

However, I don’t get the critique, and that’s probably because I don’t get D+G.

This is what I do get: A. D+G critique the figure of the domesticated animal and its owner because of its bourgeois exemplification of Oedipal capitalism, but Haraway finds their representation of this image a misogynist, ageist abjection, wherein the material woman and her dog are elided in favor of a sublime critique.

B. She has problems with the wild/domesticated binary that plays out in the D+G critique. I can see why.

Is there more that I’m missing?

4. I found interesting her easy use of interpersonal-esque theories of interaction, which I am reminded of after spending a couple of semesters teaching interpersonal again. These are basic to IPC. For instance, the following passage reminds me of the difference between the mechanistic and the transactional models of communication that opens every IPC textbook: “Smuts defines a greeting ritual as a kind of embodied communication, which takes place in entwined , semiotic, over-lapping, somatic patterning over time, not as discrete, denotative signals emitted by individuals” (26). She even hauls in Gregory Bateson for this passage.

Of course, as a communication person, I’d love to see her worry these a bit more. I’m sure she’d have fascinating things to say about them. But she sort of takes things like touch and care for granted (which is interesting given the whole body of literature on care in feminist theory and feminist philosophy). But situating some of these terms would raise the accessibility issue again. So, why bother. Ok, I’m repeating myself. I’ll stop now.

1 Comment

  1. The must-read entry point into D&G is Holland’s book IMHO, and several people smarter than me have told me Deleuze’s piece on Foucault is as close as one gets to an AntiOedipal onramp/off-ramp and I’ve found them both helpful to my limited engagement. That’s my two-cents anyway.

    Thanks for the commentary!


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