Sunday, January 18, 2009

When good animals go bad (an ongoing story)

I should like to contrast three modes of engagement with animals: appropriation, contact zone, and animal revolution:

1. We know appropriation well and see it often in the state of domesticated animals. We see it too in the way in which we "weigh" upon the earth and cause the extinction of other species or a change in habit and habitat of these species (see Michel Serres Natural Contract regarding "weighing" on the earth and Ursala Heise Sense of Place and Sense of Planet). Looking at Susan Stewart's On Longing and the souvenir she writes: "Such objects allow one to be a tourist of one's own life, or allow the tourist to appropriate, consume, and thereby 'tame' the cultural other" (146). The same could be said of relation to animals by which we appropriate them or become tourists of their worlds.

2. Contact zone. I've written on this in On the Surface using Mary Louise Pratt. Haraway mentions this as well in When Species Meet. The idea here is creating a pidgen language for negotiating umwelts.

3. We see evidence of the animal revolution when "good animals go bad," when the domestic bites the (Heideggarian) hand that feeds it and when the friction of the animal world does not allow for appropriation. The revolution creates noise such that the pidgen language is jammed and translation fails.

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