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Animalities: Literary and Cultural Studies Beyond the Human
 9781474400039

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Animalities Literary and Cultural Studies Beyond the Human Edited by Michael Lundblad

Edinburgh University Press is one of the leading university presses in the UK. We publish academic books and journals in our selected subject areas across the humanities and social sciences, combining cutting-edge scholarship with high editorial and production values to produce academic works of lasting importance. For more information visit our website: edinburghuniversitypress.com

© editorial matter and organisation Michael Lundblad, 2017 © the chapters their several authors, 2017 Edinburgh University Press Ltd The Tun – Holyrood Road 12(2f) Jackson’s Entry Edinburgh EH8 8PJ Typeset in 10.5/13 Adobe Sabon by Servis Filmsetting Ltd, Stockport, Cheshire, printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 4744 0002 2 (hardback) ISBN 978 1 4744 0003 9 (webready PDF) ISBN 978 1 4744 2396 0 (epub) The right of Michael Lundblad to be identified as the editor of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 (SI No. 2498).

Contents

List of Figures v Acknowledgmentsvii Introduction: The End of the Animal – Literary and Cultural Animalities1 Michael Lundblad   1.   2.   3.

Each Time Unique: The Poetics of Extinction 22 Cary Wolfe Posthuman New York: Ground Zero of the Anthropocene 43 Neel Ahuja J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies: Unsettling Nature, Animals, and Literary Tropes 60 Frida Beckman   4. Staging Humanimality: Patricia Piccinini and a Genealogy of Species Intermingling 80 Sara E. S. Orning   5. “Sparks Would Fly”: Electricity and the Spectacle of Animality 104 Anat Pick   6. The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer: Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge and When Women Were Birds127 Michael Lundblad   7. Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide148 Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai   8. Looking the Beast in the Eye: Re-animating Meat in Nordic and British Food Culture 168 Karen Lykke Syse

­iv     Contents   9. Love Triangle with Dog: Whym Chow, the “Michael Fields,” and the Poetic Potential of Human-Animal Bonds 190 Colleen Glenney Boggs 10. Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals: Zoophilia in Law and Literature211 Greg Garrard Notes on Contributors 236 Index238

Figures

1.1 Martha’s Peel. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)24 1.2 Passenger and Peel’s Foe. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.) 25 1.3 Detail of Passenger. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.) 26 1.4 Flügel (Catalog of Extinct Birds). (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.) 27 1.5 Piano Harp. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)27 1.6 Oliver typewriter detail from Piano Table. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.) 28 1.7 Bird Machine. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)28 1.8 Muybridge detail from Martha’s Peel. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.) 33 1.9 Unveiled. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)35 1.10 Mel Chin, Bird in a Cage. (Photo courtesy of the artist.) 38 2.1 Alexis Rockman, Manifest Destiny, 2004, oil on wood, 96 x 288 in. (Courtesy of the artist.) 46 4.1–4.3 Patricia Piccinini, The Welcome Guest, 2011, silicone, fiberglass, taxidermied peacocks, timber bed, bed clothes, variable dimensions. (Courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.) 81–2 4.4–4.6 Patricia Piccinini, The Embrace, 2005, silicone, fiberglass, leather, plywood, human hair, clothing, variable dimensions. (Courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.) 92–3

­vi     Figures 4.7–4.8 Patricia Piccinini, The Young Family, 2002, silicone, fiberglass, leather, human hair, plywood, 85 cm high x 150 cm long x 120 cm wide approx. (Photographer Graham Baring, courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.)

96

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the Department of Literature, Area Studies, and European Languages (ILOS) at the University of Oslo for its funding of an international symposium I organized on “Animalities” in Oslo in November 2014. This symposium provided an opportunity for many of the contributors to this volume to discuss and develop our potential chapters. I would also like to thank ILOS for its financial support in the preparation of the manuscript. My thanks as well to Jackie Jones at Edinburgh University Press for first approaching me about developing this project and for her support along the way. Adela Rauchova has also been a patient and encouraging editor and a pleasure to work with, along with all the other staff at the Press, including Rebecca Mackenzie on the cover design. I am grateful to all the contributors for their excellent work and for their patience throughout the process of pulling this book together. Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank my wife Sonya, my daughter Harper, and our dog Finn: masse spennende, ikke sant? In Chapter 1, the photographs of Michael Pestel’s Requiem: Ectopistes Migratorius and Mel Chin’s Bird in a Cage appear courtesy of the artists. In Chapter 2, the photograph of Alexis Rockman’s Manifest Destiny appears courtesy of the artist. In Chapter 4, the photographs of Patricia Piccinini’s work appear courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

Introduction: The End of the Animal – Literary and Cultural Animalities Michael Lundblad

Hvordan sier du “animality studies” på norsk?1 How do you say “animality studies” in Norwegian? How would you translate it? How about “animal studies”? I pose these questions to my graduate students at the University of Oslo, as an American trying to learn Norwegian, without knowing what the best translations or neologisms might be. But what am I asking? What does “animality studies” or “animal studies” mean in English? How do we explain what these fields are to English speakers as well as students and scholars around the world? How is animality studies different from animal studies, or critical animal studies, or human-animal studies, or humanimal studies, or species studies, or posthumanism? And what does it all have to do with literary and cultural studies? The chapters in this volume help to explore potential answers to these questions, but they are not necessarily focused on explicit distinctions or definitions of these terms. To be bold, then, in an attempt to clarify what we are doing in these perhaps murky waters, I want to call for a change. I think we can distinguish more clearly between the various projects that have often been lumped together under the umbrella of animal studies. But “animal studies” strikes me as the least productive possibility out of all of these terms, if only because it has come to include such a wide range of work that can often be at odds with (if not explicitly opposed to) each other. I propose dropping the use of “animal studies.” If “the” animal is over, following Derrida – if some of us believe that it no longer makes sense to lump together all nonhuman animals in a singular opposition to “the human” – then we might be able to think further about the end of the animal and the end of animal studies.2 To what ends do we engage these various projects? How do literary and cultural studies in particular move beyond the human? I think it will help to identify what I call “animalities” as objects of study that can be approached in three primary ways. Animalities is not a substitute for “animal studies,” but rather a set of dynamics that move

­2     Michael Lundblad beyond the human, to be defined as texts (broadly conceived, not just literary), discourses, and material relationships that construct animals, on the one hand, or humans in relation to animals, on the other hand, or both. My argument is that humanities and social-science approaches to animalities can be seen as taking three primary forms that can be defined more clearly: human-animal studies, animality studies, and posthumanism. These forms represent different priorities with different aims or ends in mind, rather than rigid distinctions without overlap. Within each of these approaches, I would argue, we can identify a different primary focus, different sub-fields and connections with other fields, and different sites of analysis within literary and cultural studies. Here, then, is my proposal for reorganizing these fields (see Table 1). This taxonomy requires some further explanations, which can also serve to indicate how it relates to other recent attempts to define these various fields. My goal, then, is to specify more clearly the different aims and ends within what has previously been called animal studies.

Human-animal studies vs. animal studies In their recent edited collection, the Routledge Handbook of HumanAnimal Studies (2014), Garry Marvin and Susan McHugh make the case for “human-animal studies” – rather than “animal studies” – in ways that I believe have good potential. They sketch out the genealogy of this term in their introduction, “In It Together: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies,” which argues that “In human-animal studies the research and intellectual focus is on how animals figure and are configured in human worlds, but these worlds are formed through the relationships that humans share with animals.”3 The key here, from my perspective, is on intertwined interactions, relationships, and becomings that involve human and nonhuman beings. While this emphasis might suggest the reinforcement of a singular binary between the human and the animal, Marvin and McHugh claim otherwise: the hyphen in “human-animal studies”, signally a linking, “together in one”, is the thing that has come to mark a precise starting point, which is to study animals with humans, and humans with animals, never forgetting that we are both animals in general, and humans in particular.4

While the hyphen can thus point to relationships, the retention of the term “human” also suggests an insistence that we cannot somehow avoid being human when we think about, represent, and interact with nonhuman animals, even if humans are seen as animals too. For McHugh,

The End of the Animal     3 Table 1 Human-animal studies

Animality studies

Posthumanism

Primary focus

Interactions, co-constructions, and material relationships between human and nonhuman animals or constructions of animals as animals

Constructions of humans as animals or discourses of animality in relation to human cultural politics

The knowing “human” subject of humanism, including the human/animal binary in philosophical terms; not necessarily always focused on animalities, though, such as when binaries like human/machine and human/alien are emphasized instead

Sub-fields and connections with other fields

Humanimal studies, critical animal studies, animal rights, animal welfare, ecocriticism

Species critique, postanimal studies, ecofeminism, environmental justice

Transhumanism, systems theory, biopolitics, plant studies

In literary and cultural studies

Texts and discourses with images, representations, or constructions of animals and relationships between human and nonhuman animals

Texts and discourses with humans likened to animals, or humans with animal characteristics, or humans oppressed like animals, or animals signifying humans

Texts, discourses, or systems that engage with the theoretical problematic of humanism or the deconstruction of the human subject

with a background in literary studies, and Marvin, with a background in social anthropology, “we cannot talk, write, or even think about animals in any sense except in the context of humans, if only because we can never get away from ourselves.”5 While this formulation could be seen as risking the reinforcement of the knowing subject of humanism, which

­4     Michael Lundblad might then be critiqued by posthumanism, it can also be seen as a better way of distinguishing certain kinds of work in animal studies that focus specifically on humans interacting with nonhuman animals. Rather than claiming both human-animal studies and posthumanism as sub-fields of animal studies, then, it seems more productive to me to look at the ways they can be seen as distinct fields. Human-animal studies seems more closely aligned with an emphasis on advocacy, on better relationships and physical interactions, or better treatment of nonhuman animals. The prioritization of advocacy and activism has also been made in the distinction between critical animal studies and animal studies. Another recent book collection, Screening Nature: Cinema Beyond the Human (2013), edited by Anat Pick and Guinevere Narraway, addresses this distinction in its introduction, which is titled “Intersecting Ecology and Film.” Pick and Narraway see critical animal studies as the “intersectional, politically and ethically engaged sister area” of animal studies.6 Their definition of animal studies is representative of the sense that it can be the broader umbrella term, since it “explores various aesthetic, philosophical, and interdisciplinary questions pertaining to animal representation, human-animal relations and the human/nonhuman binary.”7 My aim here is to avoid this lumping together of disparate projects, but Pick and Narraway point toward a history of critical animal studies, as opposed to animal studies, that “espouses a commitment to animal liberation and veganism, with activist links to other social justice movements.”8 They refer to the Institute for Critical Animal Studies and the Journal for Critical Animal Studies as representative of this emphasis not just on advocacy and activism, but specifically on animal liberation and veganism. While these positions might be critiqued as themselves too universalist or ultimately humanist, they also fit more logically under what I would like to reformulate as human-animal studies, as opposed to posthumanism. In contrast with the abolitionist and vegan roots that Pick and Narraway outline, the “critical” part of animal studies seems to have been reclaimed recently as a reference to critical theory or critical studies broadly conceived, with a desire perhaps to place it more in line with posthumanism, and perhaps unaware of its earlier association with animal rights. But, to the extent that the emphasis remains on advocacy and physical relationships between human and nonhuman animals, we can see the basis for placing critical animal studies under the broader category of human-animal studies, even if there are disagreements about questions such as moral absolutism or anthropocentrism. Other terms are relevant here, such as “humanimal studies,” which can be seen as leaning toward human-animal studies if the emphasis is on

The End of the Animal     5

interactions between human and nonhuman animals. But some work in what has been called humanimal studies might move in other directions as well.9 The same could be said for other terms, such as “post-animal” in a book collection edited by Aaron Gross and Anne Vallely, Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studies (2012). According to Gross in his “Introduction and Overview: Animal Others and Animal Studies,” animal studies is “equally preoccupied with questions of ontology and ethics,”10 and it can be seen “both as an area of study and as a critical lens,” including “a particular exploration of the shifting boundaries of human self-conception through animals.”11 This latter exploration strikes me as further afield from the activist emphasis of animal studies, which I am suggesting could be better categorized as human-animal studies. But Gross’s call for a “post-animal discussion”12 and beyond suggests moving more in the direction of what sounds like posthumanism (or post-gender, or post-race), in the sense that: moving “beyond the post” lies in actually making that once-familiar word appear strange or, as Derrida has quipped, “stupid” [bête] even as one continues to use the word. Beyond the “post” is our ability to proactively imagine ourselves and others anew.13

Because of her resistance to this kind of proposal, Donna Haraway has famously rejected the “post,” despite publishing her influential book When Species Meet (2008) within Cary Wolfe’s “Posthumanities” series at the University of Minnesota Press. Haraway explains: I never wanted to be posthuman, or posthumanist, any more than I wanted to be postfeminist. For one thing, urgent work still remains to be done in reference to those who must inhabit the troubled categories of woman and human, properly pluralized, reformulated, and brought into constitutive intersection with other asymmetrical differences.14

She goes on to say that “Fundamentally, however, it is the patterns of relationality and, in Karen Barad’s terms, intra-actions at many scales of space-time that need rethinking . . .”15 While Wolfe positions her in the category of “posthumanist posthumanism” in What Is Posthumanism?,16 he might agree that the emphasis of her general project is rather different than his, particularly when she reveals her priorities: “To hold in regard, to respond, to look back reciprocally, to notice, to pay attention, to have courteous regard for, to esteem: all of that is tied to polite greeting, to constituting the polis, where and when species meet.”17 My point here is not to suggest that Haraway’s work is incompatible with Wolfe’s, but rather that Haraway’s focus on interactions between human and nonhuman animals – however much she might want to destabilize the critters

­6     Michael Lundblad who are involved and co-constituted – seems closer to other work that could be more clearly categorized as human-animal studies, rather than animal studies or posthumanism.

Posthumanism vs. animal studies Wolfe’s work to define posthumanism has been particularly influential, even though he acknowledges that there have been various other formulations and projects under the rubric of the posthuman or posthumanism, including versions emphasizing technological advancements, cyborgs, transhumanism, and so on.18 For Wolfe, the primary project of posthumanism should be to reject humanist formulations of the knowing human subject, which he often explores through developments in systems theory (via Luhmann) and deconstruction (via Derrida). Wolfe has often expressed the problems he sees with claiming “animal studies” as a field, even distancing himself from it, and arguing instead that it might just be a passing fad if it does not foreground the kind of posthumanist critique he advocates. In What Is Posthumanism?, for example, he argues that: the full force of animal studies – what makes it not just another flavor of “fill in the blank” studies on the model of media studies, film studies, women’s studies, ethnic studies, and so on – is that it fundamentally unsettles and reconfigures the question of the knowing subject and the disciplinary paradigms and procedures that take for granted its form and reproduce it.19

Wolfe assumes that animal studies aims toward the same end as posthumanism, but then critiques it when it is revealed to be at times too humanist. As he suggests, “To put it another way, there are humanist ways and there are posthumanist ways of engaging in this supposedly always already posthumanist pursuit called animal studies.”20 But there are plenty of people working in what they would call animal studies who do not necessarily share Wolfe’s view that calling out humanism wherever it can be found should be the most important priority in animal studies. These alternative perspectives – in the form of animal rights philosophy, for example – might not be so troubled by the accusation of humanism, while others working in animal studies might, to the contrary, be more inclined to follow Wolfe into the form of posthumanism he advocates. Rather than calling all of the above animal studies, though, why not separate it into human-animal studies as opposed to posthumanist theory? It only leads to confusion, I believe, to suggest that animal studies should be seen as a sub-field or even the naive or

The End of the Animal     7

unsophisticated sister-field related to the “larger problematic of posthumanism.”21 Instead, we can see posthumanism and human-animal studies (rather than animal studies) as overlapping when it comes to animalities, but not when posthumanism turns toward the human in relation to technology, for example, or when human-animal studies turns toward animal rights. I invoke the gendered formulation of animal studies (as a “sisterfield”) deliberately here in order to address Susan Fraiman’s important critique of Wolfe in “Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies,” which appeared in Critical Inquiry (2012). Focusing primarily on Wolfe’s influential article in PMLA, “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities” (2009), which was part of a special forum on animal studies, Fraiman argues that Wolfe’s discomfort with animal studies can be tied to an apparent disavowal of its feminist and ecofeminist roots. Rather than foregrounding the earlier work of Carol J. Adams, Vicki Hearne, Greta Gaard, and Donna Haraway, among others, Wolfe elevates Derrida to be the founding father of animal studies at the turn of the twenty-first century, in a move that has become routine in other animal studies work. While acknowledging the ways that Derrida has been and can continue to be useful for thinking through gender politics, Fraiman highlights Wolfe’s insistence that “taking animal studies seriously . . . has nothing to do, strictly speaking, with whether or not you like animals.”22 According to Fraiman, this insistence “feels both overstated and disingenuous.”23 But it makes more sense if it is connected to an association between “liking animals” and what Fraiman describes as “emotionally and politically engaged work on gender, race, and sexuality.”24 Wolfe’s resistance, then, can be connected to a kind of “pussy panic”25 in which the more theoretically “rigorous” form of “Derridean animal studies” first becomes the “sexy subset” of animal studies but soon becomes the “subset called upon to speak for animal studies and accorded prestige by the profession.”26 Fraiman also takes Wolfe to task for lumping together all of cultural studies into a bit of a straw man that can only be redeemed, apparently, by the rigors of posthumanist theory.27 From Fraiman’s perspective, Wolfe’s posthumanism would not want to be tainted by association with women’s studies and other “flavors” of cultural studies that can ultimately be revealed as reinforcing humanist frameworks. While Fraiman’s critique serves as an important reminder of foundational work done by Adams, Haraway, and others prior to Derrida’s emergence in relation to animalities, it also seems to reinforce the need to make further distinctions about what kinds of work we are talking

­8     Michael Lundblad about. The gender dynamics that Fraiman tracks are crucial to keep in mind, but they also point toward another aspect of animal studies that might help to explain Wolfe’s comment about not needing to “like animals.” On the one hand, it seems to me that Wolfe also wants to address cultural critics who might otherwise see concern for animals as some sort of luxury, as the realm of the privileged, while the problems they address might seem more pressing, if they assume that human problems are more important than the treatment of animals. While there are obviously all kinds of ways to trouble these distinctions and reveal how interconnected they inevitably are, there also can be some value, when first introducing animal concerns, to begin with the reminder that discourses of animality have long been used to oppress various human groups. My sense is that Wolfe’s comment is meant to open the door to critics more responsive to that kind of dynamic, before then revealing how concern for animals is in fact also logically connected to concern for various human populations as well. I also think that Wolfe might be responding to what could seem naive from a critical perspective, if, to follow the invocation of feminist theory, animal studies is seen as more in line with second-wave, “images of women” criticism. If reductive versions of animal studies can be seen as simply spotting the animals in literature – “images of animals,” then – before evaluating the extent to which those representations should be seen as good or bad, it might make more sense to distance the kind of project Wolfe has in mind from that kind of animal studies. Another analogy might be with “images of nature” in reductive versions of ecocriticism that end up being predictable litmus tests that do not want to be bothered by “theory.” But, again, it seems to me that another way to sort this out is to suggest that “animal studies” is not very effective as an umbrella term, under which we should lump the work of Wolfe as well as Adams and Kathy Rudy, both of whom are explored in more detail by Fraiman. Fraiman’s critique, in short, emphasizes the ways that Wolfe could be seen as “slighting ecofeminist precedents, reinforcing caricatures of Left academic work, overlooking complicity with gendered institutional dynamics, hampering our ability to braid ‘species’ with other aspects of identity – all this in addition to trivializing our emotional attachments to animals.”28 But she claims that she is addressing animal studies broadly conceived for “simplicity’s sake”: “using animal studies in its broadest, contemporary sense to mean the sprawling, multidisciplinary field known by some as animality studies or human-animal studies and not to be confused with the scientific usage meaning lab studies involving animals.”29 Yet hopefully we can begin to see by now why it might be more helpful to make distinctions between Wolfe’s posthumanist

The End of the Animal     9

theory, for example, and the formulation of human-animal studies I am suggesting here. This is not to say, of course, that feminist and ecofeminist scholarship should be walled off from posthumanism, even if it might seem as if, in Fraiman’s words, “Wolfe’s theoretical paradigm – in animal terms, a rather territorial one – categorically rules out what scholars working on such issues as gender, race, and sexuality have to offer a posthumanist discussion of species.”30 My own sense is that Wolfe would welcome those discussions, and examples come to mind such as his consideration of Judith Butler’s formulation of grievable lives – even if she has been reluctant to discuss nonhuman animals – in Wolfe’s Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame (2013).31 But what is also striking about Fraiman’s comment, to me, is the off-hand association between “animal terms” and territoriality: “in animal terms, a rather territorial one.” In this case, what is implied is that securing or defending territory is an “animal”-like thing to do, which in turns evokes the potential for aggression or even violence in constructions of what it means to be an “animal.” But what kind of discourse makes that comment legible? How might “animality studies” be seen as prioritizing that sort of question and thus situating itself between human-animal studies and posthumanism?

Animality studies vs. animal studies My own thinking about animality studies has focused on a historically situated discourse of animality in the United States that enables the association between “animal” and territorial aggression, or, more generally, the survival-of-the-fittest jungle in which humans like animals must fight to survive. This formulation of animality is tied to a particular situated context: the convergence of Darwinist and Freudian thinking at the turn of the twentieth century. But there are clearly other discourses of animality at that and other historical and cultural conjunctures, in which animals can be different kinds of signifiers for human characteristics or behaviors and might have rather different implications for both human and nonhuman animals. In The Birth of a Jungle (2013), I suggested that: One of the primary differences I see between animality studies and Wolfe’s posthumanism . . . is the prioritization of politics (in animality studies) over philosophy, of historicized cultural studies over an emphasis on aesthetic form, with animality studies focusing more on discourse analysis within the framework of theoretical advocacy against a wide range of exploitative practices, even if it cannot proceed with that analysis from a transcendent observational position.32

­10     Michael Lundblad It might be accused of residual humanism, in other words, or putting too much emphasis on cultural politics in ways that Wolfe might want to distance himself from, at least from Fraiman’s perspective. In terms of literary studies, animality studies can focus on examples in texts that both reinforce and resist dominant discourses of animality at different historical and cultural moments. In a certain sense, then, animality studies might seem closer to posthumanism with the suggestion that it need not necessarily be all about “liking animals.” But it still remains closely tied to texts and discourses that explicitly invoke animalities, while posthumanism might logically continue to track down other binaries to be deconstructed in relation to the figure of the human in humanist thought (which, after all, can be constructed as the binary opposite not only of the animal, but also of the divine, or the inhuman, or the alien, or the machine). Animality studies, then, might be seen as a broader term for other kinds of work that have previously been labeled species critique postanimal studies, or ecofeminist or environmental justice work that pays attention to human populations that are oppressed or discriminated against as much as the other species inhabiting the same environments or discourses. Critical attention to discursive animalities can thus be linked to postcolonial and ethnic studies, for example, in the form of what Neel Ahuja has called species critique, offering: new tools for rethinking transnational circuits of power and identity. By tracing the circulation of nonhuman species as both figures and materialized bodies within the circuits of imperial biopower, species critique helps scholars reevaluate “minority” discourses and enrich histories of imperial encounters.33

In When Species Meet, Donna Haraway gives us the pithy reminder that “Species reeks of race and sex . . .,”34 referring to the sordid history of “species” being constructed in the deployment of racist and heteronormative discourses in various historical contexts. While “species critique” or “species studies” might thus seem to have good potential for defining a field – with particular emphasis on the critique of species discourses – it seems more productive to me to see the term “species” as a specific way of thinking about animality, as a set of animalities that animality studies can explore, while other historical and cultural moments produce other kinds of discourses that can be studied in analogous ways. I am also reluctant to tether animality studies to species as the next identity category, added to race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and so on, and linked to “speciesism” as its primary object of study. That kind of work seems more logically aligned with what I am thinking of as

The End of the Animal     11

human-animal studies, whereas animality studies might find it problematic to insist that “species” should be seen as either simply analogous to other human identity categories or, to the contrary, more fundamental than all of them, as Wolfe has argued. In our introduction to the collection Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (2012), Marianne DeKoven and I discuss the implications of adding species as an identity category, particularly in relation to various advocacy movements. But we also suggest that it might be useful to think of the difference between animality studies and animal studies as more of a continuum or spectrum than a binary opposition: From our perspective, rather than establishing a binary between advocacy and no concern at all for “real” animals, it makes more sense to think of a continuum based upon the extent to which the work is explicit in its concern for the living conditions of actual nonhuman animals.35

While I continue to believe that explicit advocacy for nonhuman animals can be valid criteria for distinguishing these various fields, I would like to modify this formulation a bit, particularly since I am now calling for an end to “animal studies.” Both human-animal studies and animality studies can be seen as more engaged in situated and historicized political advocacy and activism than posthumanism. But the emphasis in animality studies remains more on discursive constructions of animalities in relation to human cultural politics, rather than representations of nonhuman animals with more of an emphasis on improving the relationships and interactions between human and nonhuman animals. The “end” or goal of studying animalities, in other words, can be variously conceived, even if there might be overlaps and movement from one end of the spectrum to the other end. This book collection illustrates a range of approaches to various animalities, with each chapter not necessarily fitting exclusively into human-animal studies, or animality studies, or posthumanism. There was no requirement to agree upon methodology or theory or label for one’s own work as the contributions were being developed, although the title of the volume was proposed prior to the completion of individual chapters and also served as the title of a symposium at the University of Oslo that allowed most of us to gather and discuss our chapter ideas in progress. I do not assume that each of the contributors would necessarily agree with my perspective on how to categorize work that might previously have been labeled animal studies, so I am resisting the impulse to label their work according to the frameworks I have set up here. Whether they might choose to label their own work differently in the

­12     Michael Lundblad future remains to be seen. But this volume illustrates the range and scope of these categories, with provocative and important studies that are sure to extend the discussion while raising further questions of their own. The first two chapters by Cary Wolfe and Neel Ahuja share an interest in extinctions. Wolfe’s “Each Time Unique: The Poetics of Extinction” takes up the question of species extinction in relation to a particular example, that of the passenger pigeon and the last known individual bird named Martha who died 1 September 1914. Focusing primarily upon an art installation titled Requiem: Ectopistes Migratorius by Michael Pestel, Wolfe explores the “nature” – or, rather, as his chapter title indicates, the poetics – of extinction that is exemplified in the various elements of Pestel’s work commemorating Martha’s death, as well as related issues, from the technology and mass killings that led to the extinction of the species to the present discussion of “de-extinction” projects stemming from revived DNA. Wolfe invokes Derrida and systems theory to question the desire to mark what at first appear to be clear distinctions: extinct or not, by way of a specific date; individual death; an event in relation to an archive; and sovereignty in relation to bare life. While each of these examples both reflects and produces what it claims to explain, the examples also relate to both human and nonhuman organisms in relation to their environments. While Martha was already a specter before she died (as a curated and caged “passenger pigeon,” removed from environments that shaped the system of her species in an ongoing process), her species is similarly much more complicated than mere DNA. Wolfe calls for rethinking forms of “dwelling” that are divorced from the market and property and protected from the kinds of violence that led to the end of passenger pigeons (as recounted, for example, in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers and the work of John James Audubon, among others). Rather than seeing these deaths as “natural” (even though 99.9 percent of species that have lived on the planet are now extinct), we can see how installations such as Pestel’s help us to recognize species as “spaces” rather than codes or scripts, in which systems and environments – like the performances and performativity within the installation itself – continue to evolve and change, despite our desire to find the underlying “truth” of a species, or an individual bird, or human beings who “are all, in some sense and at some time scale, extinct: living fossils, specters” (p. 37). Neel Ahuja’s “Posthuman New York: Ground Zero of the Anthropocene” calls our attention to the ways that environmentalists – as well as artists, writers, and ecocritics – have deployed the idea of “the Anthropocene” in order to critique human-caused climate change and environmental destruction. While this critique might be urgently

The End of the Animal     13

needed, Ahuja reveals how it also tends to rely upon a universalized and essentialized construction of “the human” that glosses over major differences between various human groups, both historically and in present circumstances in which less privileged people are both less culpable and more vulnerable in relation to the dramatic effects that climate change will increasingly have on the planet. This crucial insight from Ahuja is explored through a range of texts emerging after 9/11, often focused on New York City, and depicting post-apocalyptic climate scenarios, from the paintings of Alexis Rockman to Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, Junot Díaz’s “Monstro,” and the work of Dipesh Chakrabarty. While Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People serves as an important alternative, many of these texts, according to Ahuja, “operate as postcolonial fantasies of a universal human precarity” (p. 45). These fantasies can even include an environmentalist sense that “we” deserve to be wiped out because of “our” capitalist fossil fuel-driven modernity, without acknowledging the histories of imperialist conquest (including, for example, displacing indigenous people in order to create New York City) and ongoing neocolonial and often racist projects that have long divided “the human” into various racialized groups with radically different access to the benefits of global capitalism. Ahuja therefore calls for paying more attention to what he calls “the human of precarious futures” (p. 53), a figure that seems necessary for dramatizing the dangerous coming results of climate change, but one that also risks flattening out all the ways that racism and inequality and injustice distinguish human groups today and will continue to do so into the future. Ahuja’s work thus provides a particularly productive model of deconstructing “the human” in relation to present and future oppression, for both human and nonhuman beings in various situated contexts. The next two chapters by Frida Beckman and Sara E. S. Orning explore representations of creatures in literature and art that can be seen as hybrids of human and nonhuman figures. In “J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies: Unsettling Nature, Animals, and Literary Tropes,” Beckman invokes Timothy Morton to explore the ways that some of J. G. Ballard’s works can be seen as exemplifying a “dark ecology,” a critique of the universalist concept of “Nature” that keeps animals and the nonhuman world distinct and separate from “the human.” Instead, Ballard’s surreal novels can be seen as resisting a fetishized representation of birds in particular, while calling into question the literary tropes of metamorphosis and allegory that have often served to keep nonhuman animals at a distance, “locking them up” discursively, rather than deconstructing the line between “the human” and “the

­14     Michael Lundblad animal.” Beckman prioritizes questions of form and representation in order to track changes in the development of Ballard’s novels over the course of his career. Ballard’s early novels, according to Beckman, often depict post-apocalyptic landscapes, but the characters are constructed as adapting, rather than heroically fighting back against “Nature,” blurring the line between human subjects and external space. His middle novels seem to prioritize implacable urban space over human agency, while The Unlimited Dream Company breaks down the animal as metaphor and moves into a surrealist metamorphosis that suggests a deconstruction of “the human.” In Rushing to Paradise, the albatross moves from allegory to the symbol of a symbol, which then undermines not only Romantic and modernist notions of allegory, but also the novel’s apparent critique of animal and environmental movements. And yet Beckman finds a different form of potential advocacy in which postmodern allegory can be aligned with Morton’s dark ecology, refusing to hold up Nature as an ideal form. Ultimately, Beckman argues that Ballard’s work can “exemplify how literature can contribute to an imagining of a more nuanced ecology” (p. 77). Sara E. S. Orning’s “Staging Humanimality: Patricia Piccinini and a Genealogy of Species Intermingling” raises interesting and important questions about the provocative work of Patricia Piccinini, a contemporary sculptor and artist. Piccinini’s work often stages encounters between what look like human figures and what look like hybrid creatures with both human and nonhuman characteristics. Orning’s focus in these “humanimal” encounters is on the potential they hold for questioning easy distinctions between “the human” and “the animal,” while also drawing attention to the fact that human beings today can already be seen as hybrid, whether we have tissues or organs implanted from nonhuman beings or we recognize that human bodies are made up of cells and micro-organisms that are not necessarily human. Orning connects the uneasiness associated with unsettling what it means to be human to a longer genealogy of putting “monstrous” or “freakish” bodies on display, whether in the form of humans with animal-like features, or animals with human features, particularly in nineteenthcentury circus sideshows. But the “species intermingling” that is staged by Piccinini, according to Orning, holds more potential for ethical engagement with “others” of various kinds or species than earlier settings such as freak shows. While Piccinini’s work evokes a wide range of affects, from fear and revulsion to recognition and wonder, it stages the viewer’s own encounter with uncannily familiar others by putting human figures in the encounters themselves, rather than merely having the “humanimal” creatures objectified. From disability studies, the

The End of the Animal     15

work of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson can point toward better possibilities that can result from staring, although productive potential is never guaranteed, as Orning points out. But when viewers must question who is staring at whom in Piccinini’s work, and what might happen when different hybrid creatures intermingle, viewers become “aware of continually having to renegotiate the boundaries between ourselves and others” (p. 100). The chapters by Anat Pick, myself, and Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai focus on discourses and mutual constructions that cut across species lines, with significant implications for human cultural politics. Pick’s chapter, “‘Sparks Would Fly’: Electricity and the Spectacle of Animality,” traces the ambiguous and problematic history of electricity in relation not only to early cinema in the United States, but also to its use in electrocution as capital punishment, in the torture of vulnerable bodies, and in electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in psychiatric institutions. Focusing primarily on the film that Thomas Edison made depicting the electrocution of Topsy the elephant at Coney Island in 1903, as well as Sylvia Plath’s work in The Bell Jar and other poems, Pick reveals how “the injunction against visible cruelty in so-called humane societies makes electricity a preferred instrument of violence in film and beyond, and . . . what counts as visible in turn becomes difficult to determine” (p. 106). The death of Topsy on film turns out to be far less instantaneous and therefore “humane” than it might otherwise appear, while the extraneous “non-events” that are cut out can be compared to cases and histories of unseen coercion and torture of human beings. Pick tracks the significance of the film in relation to film history and theory, but also follows the development of electricity as a less visible instrument of control in democracies supposedly committed to human rights and the monitoring of punishment and interrogation methods, up through and including the current use of Tasers by police targeting communities of color. But there are surprising inconsistencies and ambiguities in these histories as well, such as constructions of nonhuman agency in which an elephant can be judged culpable and therefore deserving of capital punishment, while Sylvia Plath can exemplify the logic of ECT that can claim the ability to restore human agency in the mind of a schizophrenic or psychotic person. As Pick notes, Edison’s “Electrocuting an Elephant and its afterlives reveal the technological and cultural collusions that exert their power over the bodies of women and animals and as the objects of permissible, semi-visible violence” (p. 120). Pick thus reveals in fascinating and disturbing ways how the spectacle of animality links violence inflicted on both nonhuman and human bodies, with electricity as a “treacherous double agent” (p. 120) in the history of cinema as well.

­16     Michael Lundblad My own contribution to this volume is “The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer: Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge and When Women Were Birds.” I am particularly interested in these two memoirs from Williams for the ways they represent an attempt in contemporary nature writing and illness memoirs to come to terms with terminal illness and the end of life. Animality is invoked in the texts as a model for constructing supposedly the right way to approach a diagnosis of cancer, suggesting what kind of death could be seen as a good one, if that might ever be possible. Williams’s approach has long been to explore the nature of birds in particular, as a naturalist herself but also as a memoirist of her mother’s death from terminal cancer. The chapter is focused on the question of when it might make sense, from Williams’s perspective, to resist rather than acquiesce to a looming death, on the one hand, or environmental and social oppression or injustice, on the other hand. I explore the central puzzles of each text: trying to connect the illness and death of Williams’s mother with the flooding of a bird refuge near their home in Refuge; and trying to make sense out of her mother’s many shelves full of empty journals in When Women Were Birds. When her mother tells her before her death that she is leaving her the journals that all Mormon women were expected to keep, but that she should not open them until after she is gone, Williams is left with the unexplained mystery of their blankness. Williams’s two memoirs can be linked, though, by the ways they use birds and the discourse of what should be considered “natural” to explain when or how to resist patriarchal gender norms, as well as other injustices: imperialist U.S. aggression in the “War on Terror,” atomic testing at the Nevada Test Site, and the destruction of environments from Utah to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The emphasis is more on the ways in which constructions of birds can naturalize problematic human discourses, but the chapter also points toward the ways in which these essentialized constructions are limiting for nonhuman animals as well.​ Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai’s “Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide” explores Ghosh’s novel in relation to intersecting histories of both human and nonhuman violence. Set in the tide country of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh and India, the novel dramatizes vulnerable forms of life, including endangered river dolphins and dispossessed people, threatened not only by storms and floods stemming from global warming but also by the neo-imperialist violence of the state. The history of the Morichjhãpi massacre, in which local people were killed in order to clear room for a tiger reserve, reveals the apparent conflict between concern for subalterns and concern for nonhuman animals, which is also seen in the contrast between the characters Kanai

The End of the Animal     17

and Piya, a cetologist studying different species of dolphins typically limited to fresh or salt water. In the Sundarbans, though, there are interwoven flows or “balloons” of water that explain why these species intermingle in unexpected ways, although the indigenous knowledge of the character Fokir is necessary for the outsider Piya to know how to find them. Tsai’s insightful reading of the novel connects these “balloons” or “floating biodomes” to the concept of the Umwelt from Jakob von Uexküll, which is compared to a “soap bubble” that helps us to understand the world of individual nonhuman creatures as organisms interacting with their environments. If we can imaginatively step into those bubbles surrounding other organisms, we can try to understand the unknown experience of the creature, which is far more complicated than a world of mere instinct and simple response. Tsai connects and supports this idea to Derrida on animality, but also argues for what he calls a “critical bioregionalism” in which advocacy for vulnerable places needs to be attentive to the overlapping forms and histories of violence that connect human and nonhuman inhabitants. Tsai draws upon biopolitics, systems theory, and phenomenology, but emphasizes animality studies as a way to avoid the limitations of a kind of animal studies (or what I would call human-animal studies) that tends toward universalizing principles about how to treat nonhuman animals. In Ghosh’s novel, the dolphins are also historically the victims of state violence, along with the people, but Tsai productively points toward ways in which critical bioregionalism can pay attention to the multilayered and complex relationships between human and nonhuman animals, without simply romanticizing subalterns in a state of exception or bare life, or focusing instead on endangered or tourist-attracting species, or privileging only supposedly pristine or untouched bioregions. The final three chapters by Karen Lykke Syse, Colleen Glenney Boggs, and Greg Garrard can be seen as focusing on interactions between human and nonhuman animals, even though their approaches are quite different. Syse’s chapter, “Looking the Beast in the Eye: Re-animating Meat in Nordic and British Food Culture,” mounts a perhaps controversial defense of Nordic and British chefs, cookbooks, television shows, and food magazines advocating for meat-eaters to face up to the animals that must be killed before they are eaten. Slaughtering one’s own pig and eating all parts of an animal from nose to tail, for example, are put forth as better ways of “respecting” animals, and as a critique of industrial food production and factory farms. In this kind of food culture, looking back nostalgically to times when people were more likely to live on farms and slaughter their own animals supposedly can be a way of finding “authenticity” in the modern world. In Syse’s analysis, this desire

­18     Michael Lundblad to “re-animate” one’s meat also constructs masculinity and traditional gender roles. But for Syse, it is more important to focus on the stated intentions of the chefs and writers at hand, which includes condemning the distance between carnivores and the real lives of the animals they consume. Syse focuses on Norway among the Nordic countries, revealing how the history of industrial food production is not as problematic there as it has been in the United States, for example. According to Syse, Norwegian chefs and food magazines can still be seen as pursuing a laudable “quest for authenticity and a retreat from alienation from nature” (p. 181). For Syse, that quest is ultimately more important than the “apparent recuperation of pre-industrial gender roles” (p. 181); we should focus instead on “their articulated agenda, which is to focus on issues of sustainability, animal welfare, eating less but higher quality meat, and respecting the animals they kill by devouring every body part rather than wasting some parts” (p. 185). Colleen Glenney Boggs’s “Love Triangle with Dog: Whym Chow, the ‘Michael Fields,’ and the Poetic Potential of Human-Animal Bonds” explores a volume of poetry titled Whym Chow: Flame of Love, which was published pseudonymously by Michael Field in 1914. While Victorian and queer studies have focused on other works produced by this author, who was actually two women – Katherine Bradley and her niece Edith Cooper, both friends with Robert Browning – less attention has been paid to their later privately published volume that commemorates their dog who had passed away several years before, a chow named Whym. Boggs finds great potential in the poems for complicating theoretical explorations of “dog love,” particularly as it might be represented by Alice Kuzniar in Melancholia’s Dog. The poems, for Boggs, become a productive site for rethinking subjectivity and kinship, particularly in terms of the queer potential of human-animal relationships that resist what Lee Edelman has critiqued in No Future: the foreclosure of queer, nonreproductive forms of living. While discourses of sexuality at the turn of the twentieth century lacked a vocabulary for human-­animal pleasure beyond bestiality, the poems of the “Michael Fields,” for Boggs, suggest alternatives through an emphasis on affect that results in “the presence of the literal body in poetry” (p. 195). Rather than reading the poems as examples of anthropomorphism and a privileging of the human over the animal, Boggs sees them as deconstructing these distinctions, with the dog Whym as an “equal partner” (p. 205): “Entering a space that moved zoe beyond bios, and that envisioned a life and love after death, they established a way of thinking the human-animal in and as a beyond. That beyond for them is poetry” (pp. 205–6). Greg Garrard’s “Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals: Zoophilia

The End of the Animal     19

in Law and Literature” explores the idea and practice of zoophilia in recent legal and cultural discourses, with particular attention to relevant literary texts and films. While the term “zoophilia” generally denotes a love for nonhuman animals that is embraced and defended by some (as opposed to bestiality, which has its own history), it also raises controversial questions about sexual or erotic interactions between human and nonhuman species as perhaps inevitably coercive, or exploitative, or cruel. But the examples Garrard cites are also connected to issues such as consent, agency, and desire across species lines. He reads representations of animals in human sexual contexts not as allegories but as reflections upon interspecies sexuality, tracking examples that he believes dramatize provocative interspecies sexual encounters: David Garnett’s Lady into Fox, a metamorphosis story in which a young wife transforms into a fox but still has sex with her human husband; Robinson Devor’s Zoo, a documentary film about a community of zoophiles and one who is killed as the result of anal penetration by a horse; and Marian Engel’s Bear, a novella about a woman who has a sexual relationship with a bear. Rather than reading the two literary texts as allegories, Garrard insists upon reading the animals as animals, with particular attention to the narrative strategies that make it harder to see them as either defenseless creatures without agency and in need of protection, or as hypersexualized and masculinized animals with nothing else to them. Instead, he concludes that both Garnett’s and Engel’s texts resist allegory enough to tell “the inimitable, singular story of interspecies love” (p. 231). Together these various chapters engage with very different kinds of animalities, or animaliteter, to coin a neologism in Norwegian. Like English, Norwegian has a range of signifiers for animalities, with different kinds of associations. Animalitet corresponds generally with “animality,” while dyr is the word most often used for a nonhuman animal. My students have suggested that “animal studies” might thus be translated as dyrestudier and “animality studies” as animalitetsstudier, although the latter would need more of an explanation for many Norwegian speakers. How, then, might we best explain how these labels differ from human-animal studies or posthumanism? We might suggest menneskelige-dyrestudier for human-animal studies and posthumanisme for posthumanism. But what are the different ends we have in mind? My hope is that this volume might help us to continue to develop and refine these important questions.

­20     Michael Lundblad

Notes   1. My thanks to Jacob Bull for his helpful review of this Introduction and for subsequent thought-provoking exchanges.  2. Derrida’s influential deconstruction of the human/animal binary can be found in Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008).   3. Garry Marvin and Susan McHugh, “In It Together: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies,” in Garry Marvin and Susan McHugh (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies (New York: Routledge, 2014), 1–9, 1.   4. Ibid. 2.   5. Ibid. 2.   6. Anat Pick and Guinevere Narraway, “Introduction: Intersecting Ecology and Film,” in Anat Pick and Guinevere Narraway (eds.), Screening Nature: Cinema Beyond the Human (New York: Berghahn, 2013), 1–18, 6.   7. Ibid. 16n.3.   8. Ibid. 16n.3.  9. I have in mind here, for example, the Humanimal Research Group at Uppsala University, available at (last accessed 1 November 2016). 10. Aaron Gross, “Introduction and Overview: Animal Others and Animal Studies,” in Aaron Gross and Anne Vallely (eds.), Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studies (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 1–23, 3. 11. Ibid. 15. 12. Ibid. 17. 13. Ibid. 18. 14. Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 17. 15. Ibid. 17. 16. Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 125. 17. Haraway, When Species Meet, 19. 18. For a survey of these alternative genealogies, see Wolfe’s introduction to What Is Posthumanism? 19. Ibid. xxix. 20. Ibid. xxix. 21. Cary Wolfe, “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities,” PMLA, 124: 2 (2009), 564–75, 571–2. 22. Ibid. 567. 23. Susan Fraiman, “Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies,” Critical Inquiry, 39: 1 (2012), 89–115, 102. 24. Ibid. 93. 25. Ibid. 100. 26. Ibid. 92. 27. Ibid. 104–6.

The End of the Animal     21 28. Ibid. 107. 29. Ibid. 90n.2. 30. Ibid. 114. 31. Cary Wolfe, Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 18–22. 32. Michael Lundblad, The Birth of a Jungle: Animality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 15. 33. Neel Ahuja, “Postcolonial Critique in a Multispecies World,” PMLA, 124: 2 (2009), 556–7. 34. Haraway, When Species Meet, 18. 35. Michael Lundblad and Marianne DeKoven, “Introduction: Animality and Advocacy,” in Marianne DeKoven and Michael Lundblad (eds.), Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 1–16, 3.

Chapter 1

Each Time Unique: The Poetics of Extinction Cary Wolfe

What kind of event is extinction? To answer that question, we have to begin with an assertion that will seem paradoxical to some and commonsensical to others: that extinction is both the most natural thing in the world and, at the same time, is never and never could be natural. On the one hand, 99.9 percent of all species that have ever existed in the history of this planet are extinct; on the other hand, extinction can hardly be regarded as “natural” in any simple sense, and not just because, as a number of people have argued, “nature,” conceived as some realm apart, untouched and unshaped by human affairs, ceased to exist a long time ago, as all the recent talk about climate change and the Anthropocene makes clear.1 Beyond this, the psychoanalytically inclined among us point out that any human registration of the so-called “fact” of nature is always already radically denaturalized because the symbolic and imaginary realms that make the presence of nature manifest to us in their different ways are anything but “natural.” As Slavoj Žižek put it, now twenty-five years ago, “the fact that man is a speaking being means precisely that he is, so to speak, constitutively ‘derailed,”” an “open wound of the world,” as Hegel put it, that “excludes man forever from the circular movement of life,” so that “all attempts to regain a new balance between man and nature” can only be a form of fetishistic disavowal.2 One way to complicate this assertion is to realize that everything Žižek says does not apply only to human beings (because we are not the only “speaking beings” in the full sense intended here) even as we cannot say in any neat and simplistic way which nonhuman forms of life fall under the purview of this assertion and which do not – a desire for neat and tidy distinctions between different forms of life, different ways of being in the world, that would constitute its own form of fetishistic disavowal, as Jacques Derrida (among others) has pointed out. Indeed, as Derrida argues, in what may seem like a counter-intuitive if not outlandish assertion,

Each Time Unique     23 death is nothing less than an end of the world. Not only one end among others, the end of someone or something in the world, the end of a life or a living being. . . . Death marks each time, each time in defiance of arithmetic, the absolute end of the one and only world, of that which each opens as a one and only world, the end of the unique world, the end of the totality of what is or can be presented as the origin of the world for any unique living being, be it human or not.3

Now as we shall see in a moment, this seemingly brazen assertion can redescribed in more naturalistic terms that make it seem a lot less counter-intuitive. This will help us, in turn, draw out the fact that what is going on here is not just an excessively Heideggerian hangover on Derrida’s part; rather, he is trying to move us from what he calls the “dogma” of Heidegger’s famous (or infamous) investigations of the differences between humans, animals, and stones to the necessity of tending to different ways of being in the world for different creatures, and it is on those differences that the hard and complicated ethical and political questions of thinking about extinction depend.4 When a being, human or nonhuman, dies, what goes out of the world? When an entire species becomes extinct, what leaves the world? What world are we left with? To begin to answer these questions is to realize that extinction, whatever else it may be, is never a generic event. * * * At the center of Michael Pestel’s remarkable installation Requiem: Ectopistes Migratorius (mounted in fall 2014) is not just a species of bird, the passenger pigeon – the centennial of whose extinction the installation memorializes – but also the specter of a single bird, Martha, the last of her kind who died in a display in the Cincinnati Zoo on 1 September 1914. I shall come back to the significance of this quite unusual fact in a moment – namely, knowing the exact date of the extinction of an entire species – but I shall begin by noting that the centrality of Martha marks the extinction event of this particular species (and Pestel’s installation) as something qualitatively quite unusual if not unique. At the center of this extremely complex work is a large, round, wooden structure called Martha’s Peel (Figure 1.1). The term “peel” refers here not to any kind of sheath or (used as a verb) the removal of one, but to the small, square, defensive towers of the sort that were built in the sixteenth century in the border counties of England and Scotland, here mimicked by the twelve feet high by eight feet in diameter wooden structure resembling a large bird cage, with a rotating stool at its center and a video camera mounted on top to record the activities of those who momentarily inhabit the

­24     Cary Wolfe

Figure 1.1   Martha’s Peel. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

structure. Martha’s Peel is paired with two other components that stand across from it: Passenger, a wooden train trestle of about twenty feet long supporting a modified O scale train car that moves back and forth across its length, casting a shadow both inside and outside the trestle as it moves, where viewers are invited to sight down the length of the trestle as the train moves; and Peel’s Foe, consisting of a long palindrome inscribed on slate panels that sit above the train trestle, reading “Peel’s Foe Not A Set Animal Laminates A Tone Of Sleep” (Pestel has long been fascinated with palindromes, anagrams, and the like) (Figure 1.2). As the artist explains it on the exhibition website, the large wooden cage-like structures are: a kind of peel warning us of the rapidly accumulating ecological danger, the sixth extinction. The “foe” who Martha is watching is the overwhelming force of humanity driving global climate change. That foe is “not a set animal,” a static being, but a dynamic process causing the release of greenhouse gasses faster than the planet can absorb them. Thus, the extinction of millions of species (“laminates a tone of sleep”) is well under way. Many of those species are ones we have never even discovered. Possibly, one of those is we ourselves!5

Each Time Unique     25

Figure 1.2   Passenger and Peel’s Foe. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

These elements thus provide part of the conceptual skeleton of the exhibition by alluding to two of the three main factors that contributed to the passenger pigeon’s extinction: the rifle and the railroad, both of which are evoked by sighting down the interior of the train trestle (Figure 1.3). The role of the rifle will be clear enough in a moment, but the railroad, it should be noted, played a major role, both in transporting hordes of hunters to the migratory roosting sites and, crucially (with the invention of refrigerated cars), in shipping tons of fresh squab meat (as it was then called) to urban centers for sale and consumption. The third main factor in the bird’s demise, the invention of the telegraph, allowed masses of hunters to be alerted about roosting locations, where they could arrive in advance and make preparations for the massive slaughter. The telegraph – and specifically its iterability – is linked in the exhibition in numerous ways to writing, pecking, and musical notation (and, of course, to the iterability of birdsong itself), which include Flügel (Catalog of Extinct Birds) – a cluster of elements including a grand piano, a musical composition that algorithmically translates the Latin names of almost two hundred species of extinct birds into corresponding musical phrases, and a large collection of piano cluster boards (or PCBs) utilizing spaced wooden dowels that,

­26     Cary Wolfe

Figure 1.3   Detail of Passenger. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

when placed on the keys, automatically play the corresponding musical phrases (which means, of course, that the composition will continue to grow as more bird species become extinct) (Figure 1.4); an element called Erasure, which consists of a video of the names of extinct birds being written on a chalk board and then erased, which is, in turn, shown on a small screen mounted above Martha’s Peel, viewed through birdwatching binoculars; and one of three Piano Harps (Figure 1.5), which incorporates a 1914 Oliver typewriter (Figure 1.6) as part of the instrumentation that viewers play to generate a sound field for a looping video of a dancing bird, Pigeon 98 (and clearly the shape of the piano harps, like the shape of the typewriter mechanism itself, evokes the wings of a bird); in, Unveiled, the rows of letters mounted on the glass wall at the entrance of the exhibition (which I shall come back to later); and finally, the performances of Pestel himself at various times during the exhibition, which include improvisations on a large, handmade wooden recorder called the Bird Machine (Figure 1.7) that incorporates a row of various bird-calls mounted to the side, and on a flute which fires wadding of the sort used in muzzle-loading rifles into a gong mounted on one of the piano harps leaning against the wall to punctuate the performance.

Each Time Unique     27

Figure 1.4   Flügel (Catalog of Extinct Birds). (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

Figure 1.5   Piano Harp. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

­28     Cary Wolfe

Figure 1.6   Oliver typewriter detail from Piano Table. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

Figure 1.7   Bird Machine. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

What we find, then, in this exhibition is an extremely complex conjugation of the relationship between time and space and how those are related to questions of code, iterability, technology, notation, and performativity – all of which is in turn framed by the relationship of

Each Time Unique     29

singularity and multiplicity that structures the entire story of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, with its poignant contrast between the singularity of Martha, the palsied, twenty-nine-year-old, sterile sole survivor of her kind,6 and what the species itself was most known for: flocks that, according John James Audubon’s estimate, could number over a billion birds and were said to darken the skies for days at a time.7 As Anita Albus recounts Audubon’s experience in her beautiful book, On Rare Birds, Not one pigeon would land unless some of their millions of fiery red eyes could spy some woods with beech mast or acorns, or fields of wheat or rice for their millions of pitch-black bills. If a falcon tried to seize a bird in the flock, the pigeons quickly closed ranks into a compact mass, generating a roll of thunder with their beating wings. Like a living torrent they plunged down in almost solid masses and “darted forward in undulating and angular lines, descended and swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity, mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast column, and, when high, were seen wheeling and twisting with their continued lines, which then resembled the coils of a gigantic serpent.” Move by the beauty of the spectacle, this painter of birds observed how one flock after the other would fly into the space where a pigeon had just escaped a falcon’s talon, and how, even if no raptor were present, they would form a living river in the air and replicate the angles, curves, and undulations of the attached flock before them. A single memory bonded millions of pigeons together.8

Practically speaking, this strategy of “predator satiation” is precisely what enabled the passenger pigeon’s rapid demise once all the necessary technological ingredients were in place.9 In his Ornithological Biography, Audubon recounts the various strategies employed to produce the mass carnage that led to the passenger pigeon’s extinction. Various sorts of firearms were used, of course, but also large pole and net contraptions that would garner thousands of birds at a time; sulfur pots generated fumes that would asphyxiate birds by the thousands; trees were felled as tens of thousands of nests and nestlings fell to the ground; and birds were poisoned with whiskey-soaked corn so that they could be rounded up easily, just to name some of the more tried and true strategies. Some Native Americans, who had partaken of pigeon flesh as part of their subsistence for years, found these methods disturbing, to say the least. Potawatomi leader Pokagon, disgusted by one 1880 massacre he had witnessed where birds were burned alive and nestlings exploded upon hitting the ground, wondered about what sort of punishment in the afterlife would be “awaiting our white neighbors who have so wantonly butchered and driven from our forests these wild pigeons, the most beautiful flowers of the animal creation of North America.”10 Both of these – the scene of slaughter and the moral indignation – are

­30     Cary Wolfe depicted in a famous scene in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers (published in 1823), a novel that is a “call to judgment,” as Jerome McGann has recently argued, about the treatment of “other species, other native peoples” during the period.11 As the massive flocks of passenger pigeons descend upon the town of Templeton, the people of the village are whipped into a frenzy, and, along with the familiar pole and net contraptions, “every species of fire-arms, from the French duckinggun, with a barrel nearly six feet in length, to the common horseman’s pistol, was to be seen in the hands of the men and boys.”12 But the most significant of these is an old, small swivel cannon, once used to make “inroads into the Indian settlements,”13 and later deployed for patriotic ceremonies such as Fourth of July celebrations, but now filled with duckshot and fired into the passing column of pigeons.14 As Leatherstocking observes the scene, he is “a silent but uneasy spectator” who is “able to keep his sentiments to himself until he saw the introduction of the swivel into the sports.”15 But then, he objects: it’s wicked to be shooting into flocks in this wastey manner . . . to kill twenty and eat one. When I want such a thing, I go into the woods till I find one to my liking, and then I shoot him off the branches without touching a feather of another, though there might be a hundred on the same tree.16

In the meantime, he says, taking his leave, “I wouldn’t touch one of the harmless things that kiver the ground here, looking up with their eyes on me, as if they only wanted tongues to say their thoughts.”17 Much could be said, of course, about all the various ethical and political dimensions of this scene (not least of all, the use of the patriotic cannon to “clear” both Indians and pigeons), but one of the things that Leatherstocking’s response draws our attention to is the difference between multiplicity and singularity that frames the entire story of the passenger pigeon. Now this image of the birds as a kind of superorganism or swarm is an easy mark, I take it, for any armchair Deleuzian, and we find here, no doubt, an amazing transindividual intensification that binds thousands, even millions, of birds into something the earth had rarely, if ever, seen. But I want to return now to the installation, and specifically to Martha, and ask what resides at the other pole of this configuration, the pole of singularity. What is Martha, exactly? A pet? A fetish? A curiosity? A relic? We might say that her captivity, display, and proper name attempt to turn her into all of these things, but these compensatory gestures only underscore all the more that this is a case of fetishistic disavowal, not only of our own grotesque role in the extinction of her species, but also of our own finitude in relation to other forms of life, which calls forth these compensatory attempts to “curate,” you

Each Time Unique     31

might say, the boundaries between life and death, survival and extinction. Indeed, as much of the media coverage around the centennial of the passenger pigeon reminds us, there has perhaps never been an individual organism that has been more the subject of curatorial care (both during and after life) than Martha.18 All of this and more is indexed, it seems to me, by the strange fact of having an exact date for the extinction of her species. As Derrida points out, a date, like a signature, is an attempt to fix that which cannot be fixed. It simultaneously marks that which happens only once and that which, to be legible as a date, must be able, and unavoidably so, to come around again. As he writes of dates in an essay on Paul Celan’s poetry, Assigning or consigning absolute singularity, they must mark themselves off simultaneously, at the same time, and from themselves, by the possibility of commemoration. Indeed, they mark only insofar as their readability announces the possibility of a return. Not the absolute return of precisely what cannot come again. . . . But rather the spectral revenance of that which, as a unique event in the world, will never come again. A date is a specter. But this revenance of impossible return is marked in the date.19

The resonance of Derrida’s observation for the feature of Pestel’s installation called Unveiled will become clear in a moment, but for now I simply want to register that “on that date,” 1 September 1914, Martha became a specter – and not just in the sense of her taxidermied, curated body “living on” beyond her demise. In fact, she became an agent for a whole legion of “hauntings,” for as one journalist notes: people kept “seeing” the birds after the great flocks vanished, or devising outlandish theories to explain where they might have gone. The journal Science speculated that they were in the desert of Arizona; another journal, the Auk, suggested they were east of Puget Sound, and a lumberman claimed to have seen millions in Chile. Henry Ford was convinced that they had all drowned in the Pacific en route to Asia. The flocks were like phantom limbs that the country kept on feeling.20

But Martha is a specter is another way, haunting the attempt to fix and domesticate (by deploying that discursive technology called “dating”) a more complex set of dynamics at work in the “event” (to use Derrida’s phrasing) called “extinction” that cannot be so easily tamed. In fact, Martha was already a specter before her death, the ghostly presence of a gaping absence, a hole in the life of the planet and indeed, if we follow Cooper, in the life of the nation. After all, the passenger pigeon as a species – considered as a complex of system–environment interactions that evolve over time, both phylogenetically and ontogenetically, versus what we might call the “simplex” of the brute material persistence of her

­32     Cary Wolfe material body and her DNA – was already extinct before Martha died. And our attempt to locate and domesticate these more complex dynamics of life and death, and our imbrication in them, by exercising a kind of phantasmatic sovereignty over the life–death relation – in giving an exact date to the extinction of an entire species, in exercising a fetishistic level of curatorial control over Martha’s existence in captivity, and so on – is registered, no doubt, in the sheer fact of Martha’s name itself: Martha, who was named for the young widow of the first president of the United States – the epitome of sovereignty for the young nation if ever there was one.21 On this point, it is worth remembering that Martha was and remains part of an archive (in which the date, of course, plays a central, indeed constitutive role): in the case at hand, the archive of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where she is, in the words of its curator of the bird division, “one of the Smithsonian’s most iconic specimens.”22 In this light, Martha’s death – and the extinction of her species in general – is anything but a “natural” event, even as the archive, and all of the curatorial protocols associated with it, is meant to testify to the preservation of something that archive does not create but merely records. By exercising what Derrida calls both a “power of” and a “power over,” the archive thus both deploys and masks its own sovereignty. For as Derrida writes at the opening of Archive Fever, the archive coordinates two principles in one: the principle according to nature or history, there where things commence – physical, historical, or ontological principle – but also the principle according to the law, there where men and gods command, there where authority, social order are exercised, in this place from which order is given.23

The archive, in other words, partakes of the paradoxical structure of sovereignty itself (whether we believe Schmitt, Agamben, or Derrida); it is both “constituted” (by the events it meticulously records but does not create) and “constituting” (in its ordering and selection of events worthy of the archive, an ordering and selection that is contingent and could always be otherwise).24 And at this juncture (whether we follow Agamben or Derrida) we are back to the question of “the animal” (including the animality of human beings, rendered as what Agamben calls homo sacer or “bare life”), who stands, like the figure of sovereignty, at the limits of the juridico-political order, simultaneously included and excluded by the law, the “outside” of the law that both allows the law’s establishment and is, at the same time, its product.25 We are back, that is, to the ineluctable link between what Derrida calls, in his late seminars, The Beast and the Sovereign – a link forged by the very attempts to keep them separate.26

Each Time Unique     33

But my whole point, of course (and Derrida’s too), is that the passenger pigeon is neither “beast” nor “sovereign,” all of which – to return now to Pestel’s installation – is “outed,” as it were, in Martha’s Peel, where we are invited to sit and spin around inside the cage, vocalize or play an instrument (in memory of Martha’s birdsong), and draw on the chalkboard floor (somewhat as Martha would have rubbed her beak on a chalk block inside her cage), while, as we spin, photographic stills from Eadweard Muybridge’s famous series of the passenger pigeon whiz by, perhaps quickly enough to show the bird in flight, creating a kind of spectral reanimation. Is this a process of “becoming-bird,” as the title of the live video projection of the inside of Martha’s Peel suggests? Maybe, but only as a fantasy and a eulogy, because the point is that the birds are already gone, already a part of a historical record archived by Muybridge’s photographs (Figure 1.8). We are, to be sure, invited to occupy our own version of Martha’s space, perhaps to identify with her singularity and isolation by having our attention focused on our own – we are, in short, invited to open the question of the relationship between her finitude, her death, and our own – but in the end, I think, we are brought back to the question of dwelling, to what constitutes a proper or appropriate form of dwelling and for whom, with whom – back,

Figure 1.8   Muybridge detail from Martha’s Peel. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

­34     Cary Wolfe in fact, to Leatherstocking’s protestation, “Put an ind, Judge, to your clearings.”27 We are back, that is to say, to the relationship between dwelling and the “eco-” of ecology via the oikos that links it to the “eco-” of economy – the oikos that marks off and delineates a home, inside from outside, as a place where the relation between organism and environment is stabilized, secured, even made calculable and economizable: the “place” where the “eco-” of a bird species thousands of years old meets the “eco-” of telegraphs, railroads, and cannons. If the “eco-” of “ecology” is fatefully linked, as Michael Marder puts it, to “the oikos belonging to the family and standing for property, the proper, domus, one’s own domain,”28 then the challenge here is how to think an “aneconomic” sense of dwelling, one divorced from property, the family, the proper name (such as “Martha”), and finally from sovereignty itself. Indeed, part of the conceptual and emotional torque of Pestel’s installation is the irony of Martha’s final dwelling – a single bird in a cage, ironically enough the last of a species known to move through the skies by the millions, like a superorganism. This testifies all the more, I think, to the necessity of thinking dwelling otherwise, perhaps as a migratory process, a process not of “clearing” but of “passing through,” like the passenger pigeons whose name derives from the French passager, “passing by” – what Derrida in the second set of seminars on The Beast and the Sovereign calls a “movement without repose,” “this being-onthe-path of a finite and lonely being in the world.”29 In another sense, as I have already suggested, what we have here in Martha’s Peel, and in the installation generally, is a kind of collocation or crossing of radically different temporalities that are central to thinking the problem of ecology and ecological poetics: on the one hand, the calculable, bankable, economizable clock and calendar time of “our” mode of dwelling (quite literally, as Julian Murphet has shown with regard to financial markets and computerized trading) – which enables us to say that the passenger pigeon went extinct precisely on 1 September 1914 – and a much more complex and multidimensional kind of temporality made manifest in specific system–environment relationships both ontogenetically and phylogenetically, so that, for example, Martha both “is” and “is not” a passenger pigeon as she sits in her cage in the Cincinnati Zoo. On the one hand, the biophysiology and its associated traits of her species still obtain in her person even though she is long separated from the environment and behaviors that made her a passenger pigeon – in this sense, she can still feel pain, feel alone, need rest and nourishment, and so on; but on the other hand, those physical characteristics and behavioral traits did not evolve as a result of her and her kind

Each Time Unique     35

living in cages for thousands of years. She is, in that sense, precisely both a “trace” and a “specter,” as Derrida puts it, and she marks how the crossing of these two modes of dwelling, these two “eco-s,” constitutes a time (as Derrida says, borrowing from Shakespeare’s Hamlet) that is “out of joint.”30 This complex nexus of concerns – temporalities, dwelling, ecologies, and iterability – is put very much on the front burner by other elements in the installation: in the component Eight Voices (Before Columbus), which references the names for the passenger pigeon used by the Lenape, Ojibwe, Kaskaskia, Mohawk, Choctaw, Seneca, and Narragansett Indians, where viewers are invited to drop an acorn (a key food source for the passenger pigeon) into the podium after reciting the name of an extinct bird species – which takes us back, of course, to our discussion of Cooper’s The Pioneers; and, most of all, in the component called Unveiling (Figure 1.9), the glass wall entrance to the gallery on which are printed letters that turn out to be fragments of the mitochondrial genome sequence of the passenger pigeon supplied by Ben Novak, who is working with the Long Now Foundation and its Revive and Restore program, to bring back the passenger pigeon as part of a larger deextinction project involving several species.31

Figure 1.9   Unveiled. (Photo courtesy of the artist, Michael Pestel.)

­36     Cary Wolfe The complexities of the de-extinction process, let alone the debates about its viability and ethics, are far too detailed to go into here – suffice it say that there is plenty to explore online, and in fact an entire TEDx conference was devoted to the topic of de-extinction32 – but even its proponents realize that the relationship between temporality and materiality here is quite layered and textured: not just in retrieving 100-year-old DNA and inserting it into band-tailed pigeons to produce viable offspring, but also and more crucially in the raising and socialization of the newly “hatched” pigeons themselves, which involves all sorts of factors such as training them for migration routes, ensuring habitat viability and associated dietary needs, and so on.33 The “miracle” with de-extinction initially seems to be that we can make time go backwards (a temporal loop that bears interesting lines of relation to the palindrome of Peel’s Foe), but that dream is complicated by the fact that there are other, slower and more multidimensional temporalities at work here than what we find in the laboratory: in the environmental factors affecting biomorphology and development, in the processes of imprinting, social learning, and communication, and much else besides. In other words, as Christopher Johnson puts it, genetic code “is both regulating (before) but also regulated (after) in the sense that its pro-gramme [sic] is executed in a context that is perpetually changing, hence perpetually modifying the conditions of possibility of the code.”34 And what this means, quite straightforwardly, is that “the replication of morphogenesis does not involve the repetition of the gene, but its being reiterated in a different context.”35 DNA, in other words, is a “relational determined part of a whole developmental system”36 – all of which draws our attention, once again, to the importance of tending to the non-generic nature of the system–environment relationship as that unfolds not just as a synchronic paradigm or “diagram” (to use Deleuze’s language), but in real time, subject to recursive contingencies that may be (and often are) redoubled in nonlinear ways, as so much recent work on epigenetics has shown.37 In a way, then, the simple part is the apparent “miracle” of completing the genetic sequence of a long-dead animal and implanting it into closely related birds that will create the “proper” offspring. This bundle of complexities is important to remember, for the danger in this new “script of life” (as Julian Murphet terms it in relation to de-extinction efforts around the woolly mammoth), is that it is playing out along the prototypical contemporary twin axes of commodity production and scientific molecularization [so that it] has nothing to do with the molar form, or representational shape of the creature . . . and everything to do with parcelized units of production, on the one hand, and strings of mapable code, on the other. Two correlated models of futurity are implicit in

Each Time Unique     37 this new script: the implicit eternity of the market, and the promise of species revival, whose innermost impulse is simply the infinite manipulability of life itself.38

This question of “scripts of life” is certainly in play in Pestel’s installation, not only in the contrast between the time-based writing and erasure of chalk on a board in Erasure (which requires, importantly, the prosthetic device of bird-watching binoculars to be viewed at all) and the clean synchronic rows of letters of Unveiled; and not only in the PCBs and the Catalog of Extinct Birds with its algorithmic translation of Latin names to musical notation; but also in the fact that the palindrome of Peel’s Foe is inscribed on pieces of slate, emphasizing both the “lamination” of the stones themselves and the “tone of sleep” of geological time that forgets the passing of 99.9 percent of all species that have ever existed, reminding us that the “lamina” of “lamination” means “bone”: that we are all, in some sense and at some time scale, extinct: living fossils, specters. As for Unveiling, much could be said here about glass and windows (both the architectural innovation and the computer operating system) in relation to processes of capture that I cannot go into in any detail.39 Both – the glass window and the graphically based computer interface – tantalizingly make available and unavailable, at the same time, the object of our gaze, inviting us into a process of capture where the object of our desire is phantasmatically fixed, located, and displayed, but only in a spatial transaction in which we can reach to but not through. But I would like to see in Pestel’s glass wall – which at first glance promises to “unveil” not just the installation, but also the underlying “truth” (in the form of genetic code, with all its attendant metaphors of “the book of life,” and so on40) of the passenger pigeon itself, suspended there timelessly in glass – an agnostic if not indeed cautionary note, one that reaches back to Marcel Duchamp’s concept of “delay” at work in his famous piece The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors) – all of which is evoked by the title of this component of the installation (Unveiled) with the individualized and fetishized Martha now standing in the position of the bride in Duchamp’s famous work (think back now to “Martha” and her cage-mate, “George”). Such an association might seem far-fetched were it not for the fact of an intervening work of art (chronologically speaking) that provides a key intertextual bridge between the two works: Mel Chin’s early piece Bird in a Cage (1976) (Figure 1.10), which is in fact a portrait on glass of Martha that explicitly references Duchamp’s Large Glass and the concept of “delay,” as Chin and others have emphasized. As Jerrold

­38     Cary Wolfe

Figure 1.10   Mel Chin, Bird in a Cage. (Photo courtesy of the artist.)

Seigel puts it in his book on Duchamp, the artist used the term “delay” to mark the Large Glass itself as an “icon of perpetually forestalled communication” (and many critics of de-extinction seem to feel that the complexities of “forestalled communication” are exactly what gets swept under the rug by rapturous visions of a seamless translation of “molecular” genetic code to “molar” forms of life). “Among the ideas Duchamp treasured in this way,” Seigel continues, “were those given voice in the notes on shop windows, where the truth that the world we inhabit is external to ourselves is proved by the disillusionment that comes when we attempt to satisfy desire with the objects life offers” – an ascription whose connection to Murphet’s “scripts of life” and its collation of code and market is, I think, clear enough. “The personae of the Large Glass,” he continues, “remain forever in the condition of the window-gazer, whose state of being is expanded and animated by desire without ever experiencing the regret and disillusionment that follow from material possession.”41 Pestel’s glass, in other words, holds out to us the hope that the passenger pigeon may yet live again, and yet cautions us not to look at the species, or Martha, through a shop window that too readily links genetic code, market, temporality, and

Each Time Unique     39

what we call “life.” And in this sense, what is “unveiled” is both the psychic complex of our investment in Martha’s plight and the hopes of de-extinction – the diorama of our guilt, our desire, our hope – and the dangers attendant upon all of these. Finally – and this perhaps hardly needs emphasizing at this point – what draws me to this reading even more is the salient presence of both performativity and performance in Pestel’s installation. It is already there, of course, in the multidimensional incorporation of script and writing, of musical notation, genetic code, video copying and rebroadcast, and prostheticity – from writing and erasure on a blackboard, to the PCBs and their denaturalization of the algorithm between Latin nomenclature and musical notation and “expression” (in the medium of wood, no less), to the pecking of pigeons used in scientific experiments and its associations with both the iterability of birdsong and human speech, to the palindrome of Peel’s Foe, and much else besides. These aspects of the installation are only redoubled and intensified, of course, by Pestel’s incorporation of his own improvisational practices and those of the viewer, which become part of the unfolding work itself in time. Performance and performativity are made to disrupt and laminate each other, clouding the glass through which the meaning of the event before us is “unveiled.” And in this sense, Requiem: Ectopistes Migratorius is in fact neither a code nor a script but, as Derrida might say, a “space”42 in which we confront the fact that scripts and codes are not the end of the story of “life,” but only the beginning.

Notes  1. For one version of this argument, see Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).   2. Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 36–7.   3. Jacques Derrida, “Rams: Uninterrupted Dialogue – Between Two Infinities, the Poem,” in Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan, ed. Thomas and Dutoit and Outi Pasanen (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 135–63, 140.  4. Derrida’s characterization of Heidegger’s “dogma” appears in Jacques Derrida, “Geschlecht II: Heidegger’s Hand,” trans. John P. Leavey Jr., in John Sallis (ed.), Deconstruction and Philosophy: The Texts of Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 161–96, 173.   5. “Requiem: ‘Caged/Uncaged, Martha’s Peel,’” 15 June 2014, available at (last acc­es­ sed 17 May 2015).

­40     Cary Wolfe   6. Barry Yeoman, “Why the Passenger Pigeon Went Extinct: And Whether It Can, and Should, Be Brought Back to Life a Century After It Disappeared,” Audubon, May­–June 2014, available at (last accessed 18 November 2016).   7. Anita Albus, “The Passenger Pigeon’s Eclipse,” in On Rare Birds, trans. Gerald Chapple (Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2011), 1–10, 4.   8. Ibid. 2.   9. Yeoman, “Why the Passenger Pigeon Went Extinct.” 10. Ibid. 11. Jerome McGann, “Fenimore Cooper’s Anti-Aesthetic and the Representation of Conflicted History,” Modern Language Quarterly, 73: 2 (June 2012), 124. 12. James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers, ed. and intro. James D. Wallace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 244. 13. Ibid. 245. 14. Ibid. 245–6. 15. Ibid. 246. 16. Ibid. 247. 17. Ibid. 248. 18. See, for example, Chris Heller, “Martha, the Very Last Passenger Pigeon,” The Atlantic, 18 September 2014, available at (last accessed 21 November 2016). 19. Jacques Derrida, “Shibboleth: For Paul Celan,” in Sovereignties in Question, 1–64, 18. 20. Jonathan Rosen, “The Birds: Why the Passenger Pigeon Became Extinct,” The New Yorker, 6 January 2014, available at (last accessed 20 November 2016). 21. Albus, “The Passenger Pigeon’s Eclipse,” 8. 22. Heller, “Martha, the Very Last Passenger Pigeon.” 23. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 1. 24. On sovereignty as both “constituting” and “constituted” power, see Giorgio Agamben’s canonical formulation in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), esp. 40–2. For a full treatment of this question, see William Rasch, Sovereignty and Its Discontents: On the Primacy of Conflict and the Structure of the Political (London: Birkbeck Law Press, 2004). 25. Or as Agamben puts it, “the sovereign and homo sacer present symmetrical figures and have the same structure and are correlative: the sovereign is the one with respect to whom all men are potentially homines sacri and homo sacer is the one with respect to whom all men act as sovereigns” (Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84). 26. Jacques Derrida, The Beast the Sovereign, Volumes 1 and 2, trans. Geoff Bennington, ed. Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Ginette Michaud (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009 and 2010). For a thorough­ going commentary on these issues in Derrida’s work, see David Farrell Krell, Derrida and Our Animal Others: Derrida’s Final Seminar, “The

Each Time Unique     41 Beast and the Sovereign” (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013); Michael Naas, The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida’s Final Seminar (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015). 27. Cooper, The Pioneers, 248. 28. Michael Marder, “Ecology as Event,” unpublished MS, 1. 29. The Beast and Sovereign, Volume 2, 99. Derrida suggests that for Heidegger this is “the universal structure of human Dasein,” but my own point (and finally Derrida’s too) is that this “thrownness” (to stay with Heidegger’s terminology) does not apply to human beings alone. On this point, see Cary Wolfe, Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013). The itinerary of this thread in Derrida’s seminars is complex, and is directly related to his reading of the “Da” of Dasein and, ultimately, to his return in the seminars to Paul Celan’s phrase “The world is gone.” (On this point, see the second seminar, 100–7.) Here, on this precise terrain, I would spell out my differences with Marder’s reading of the desire for what he calls an “aneconomic” concept of ecology that he finds missing in deconstruction, his desire for “another sort of positivity underneath various negations of exchange, circulation, memory, and the subject’s odyssey without falling into the traps of metaphysics” (Marder, “Ecology as Event,” 2). My point – and it is finally Derrida’s as well – is that “ecology” (or what he calls the question of “world” in the second set of seminars) is not and cannot be a form of “positivity” – cannot be, as Marder puts it later in that same essay, a “place” (ibid. 3). 30. See the opening of Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx, trans. Peggy Kamuf (London: Routledge, 1994). 31. For more on the Long Now Foundation, see (last accessed 21 November 2016). 32. To view on YouTube, see (last accessed 21 November 2016). 33. In this connection, see Ben Novak’s TEDxDeExtinction talk “How to Bring Passenger Pigeons All the Way Back,” available at (last accessed 21 November 2016). 34. Christopher Johnson, System and Writing in the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 169. 35. Sam Solnick, “Reverse Transcribing Climate Change,” The Oxford Literary Review, 34: 2 (2012), 277–93, 280–1. 36. Ibid. 282. 37. See, for example, the work of Giuseppe Testa and Helga Nowatny, in Naked Genes: Reinventing the Human in the Molecular Age, trans. Mitch Cohen (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010). 38. Julian Murphet, “Scripts of Life,” unpublished MS, 6. 39. But see Dominic Pettman, “Just Another Manic Monad: Of Glass, Bees, and Glass Bees,” unpublished MS. 40. About which, see Judith Roof’s wonderful analysis, The Poetics of DNA (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

­42     Cary Wolfe 41. Jerrold Seigel, The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp: Desire, Liberation, and the Self in Modern Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 96–7. 42. See Peter Brunette and David Wills, “The Spatial Arts: An Interview with Jacques Derrida,” in Peter Brunette and David Wills (eds.), Deconstruction and the Visual Arts: Art, Media, Architecture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 9–32.

Chapter 2

Posthuman New York: Ground Zero of the Anthropocene Neel Ahuja

Forget “homeland security.” Time itself has changed. We know catastrophes are coming, and we know they’ll take us by surprise.1 The figure of the environment shifts: from the harmony of a natural balance to a churning seed-bed of crisis in the perpetual making. . . . It expressed nothing so much as the normality of a generalized crisis environment so encompassing in its endemic threat-form as to connect, across the spectrum, the polar extremes of war and the weather.2

The ground zero of extinction In the decade following the attacks of 11 September 2001, a number of mass media images depicting the destruction of New York City displayed the vulnerability of human life not to the specter of terrorism, but instead to the violence of a planetary environmental catastrophe caused by carbon emissions. One of the zero decade’s highest-grossing Hollywood films, Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, envisions a climate-driven disruption of the Gulf Stream bringing a new ice age that engulfs New York – along with most of the temperate Global North – in a quick-freezing layer of permafrost.3 The film portrays the mass migration of the remaining human inhabitants of the United States southward across the Mexican border to warmer climes. In contrast to xenophobic narratives of a settler-colonial United States endangered and engulfed by immigrants and terrorists, the film envisions the New York cityscape as the site of the blowback of the imperial carbon economy. The North succumbs to the effects of its own carbon-fueled excesses, transforming U.S. settlers into climate refugees. Emmerich’s film thus reflects how emergent forms of environmental speculation in visual culture create platforms for imagining how planetary environmental processes threaten to upend visions of modernity

­44     Neel Ahuja and humanity based on current geopolitical configurations of fossil fuel capitalism. This chapter explores the politics of form, place, and animality in twenty-first century speculative images of climate disaster in New York and beyond.4 While popular speculations of climate disaster reflect a heightened political urgency that attempts to use visions of crisis to generate political affects that disrupt the ecological violence of the carbon economy, the emerging environmental speculations are also remarkable for the subtle ways in which they universalize human responsibility for climate disaster and mask violences of colonialism that created the settler landscapes they depict as vulnerable. Like popular public representations of the 9/11 attacks in U.S. media, visions of the climate-driven destruction of New York appear to instantiate a hierarchy of violence and a politics of place that reveal the settler provinciality of public discourses of security. This chapter attempts to work through such aesthetic and political problems through a crossing between interdisciplinary approaches of species studies, the Anthropocene humanities, and postcolonial critiques of security in order to make sense of some of the emerging affective and visual dynamics of neoliberal climate representation. In the pages that follow, I pose questions about the recent deployment of the term “Anthropocene” to describe human geophysical agency and explore reasons why both artists and humanities scholars appear to be turning to a strong concept of the human as species at the very moment they envision a posthuman future in environmental art, journalism, and critical theory. Concurrently, this chapter explores animality in visions of posthuman New York in order to understand why the extinction of nonhuman species has not been a central concern of the field of “animal studies.” While there are exceptions to this trend,5 it is my sense that the relative lack of discussion of climate change within animal studies may reveal something about the field’s scales of analysis and forms of ethical engagement, which tend to preclude analyzing human-animal relations through economic and ecological networking. Dominant animal theories tend to abstract interspecies embodiments from ecological entanglement and industrial conditions of biocapitalism in order to situate an ethical recognition of some nonhuman species (often vertebrate mammals); as such, the mass violence of climate- and development-driven species extinction has largely remained out of the purview of emerging animal studies. In contrast, this chapter will attempt to articulate a materialist and decolonial critique of emerging forms of climate speculation, attending along the way to the aesthetic and political significance of animality and place. In sum, I argue that speculations of climate-driven extinction

Posthuman New York     45

in contemporary literature and visual culture operate as postcolonial fantasies of a universal human precarity, fantasies that are coming under increasing duress as transborder risk migration, indigenous and Southern environmental activisms, and persistent forms of ecological resilience challenge totalizing environmental visions of the human.

Worlds without us Climate speculation – particularly among artists and intellectuals in the overconsuming postindustrial states of the North – imagines the future extinction of humans marked by the hollowing out of the cityscape and the resurgence of other species, flora and fauna exhibiting resilient capacities and a transcendence of the terran landscape through airborne, underground, and underwater mobilities. Ice, heat, water, toxins, and invasive species – as slow-moving geophysical and biological risks – have in turn replaced airplanes, bombs, and collapsing buildings – images of geopolitical emergency – as the pre-eminent threat to humanity in twenty-first century depictions of New York. I am interested in the curious form and content of such projections, as well as in their uncanny representation of interspecies intimacies. Invoking the complete destruction of human settlement in New York, painter Alexis Rockman’s mural Manifest Destiny6 depicts an urban disasterscape 3,000 years into the future. Displayed in the Brooklyn Museum in 2004, the mural portrays a New York swamped by a global warminginduced sea level rise (Figure 2.1). Playfully titling his painting after the myth of the divinely ordained Westward movement of settler colonization, Rockman draws inspiration from the landscape tradition of the nineteenth-century Hudson River School, which romanticized the American wilderness as a pastoral setting ripe for settler appropriation. One element of this tradition’s wonder at the landscape, however, configures the power of destruction and processes of decay as emergent to both nature and empire. Rockman revises Hudson River artists’ visions of uncanny, destructive landscapes. In Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire (1833–6), human settlement ultimately disrupts the pastoral peace of nature in the vision of the rise and fall of the Roman imperium. Alternatively, Albert Bierdstadt’s Storm in the Rocky Mountains (1866) envisions nature itself as the source of destructive power as the dark clouds of a forming storm threaten to disrupt the idyllic mountain landscape. Rockman applies such visions of development and climate as ecological forces to a brightly hued Brooklyn waterfront that is submerged and decaying, overtaken by the sea, tropical ocean vegetation, and circling birds above.

Figure 2.1   Alexis Rockman, Manifest Destiny, 2004, oil on wood, 96 × 288 in. (Courtesy of the artist.)

Posthuman New York     47

In contrast to the Hudson River artists, who often produced landscapes unsettled by human and animal species and thus ripe for the Westward march of colonialism, Rockman gives nonhuman animals a central role in the imagined ecological formation of posthuman New York. Animality plays a central role in Rockman’s Manifest Destiny, which depicts pelicans, jellyfish, and cetaceans who appear in their future-evolved guises to return to prehistoric, prehuman biological form. A common technique in Rockman’s oeuvre, the out-of-time appearance of prehistoric animals indicates both the possibility that biotechnologies may repopulate extinct bodies and the potential that posthuman evolutionary processes will (re)generate curious bodily capacities to serve the needs of adaptation to an environment of extinction. Birds and ocean creatures in Rockman’s work thus appear as particularly capacious feeders in a world where species must be able to traverse land, sea, and air borders in order to survive. As such, Rockman repeatedly makes stark visual dividing lines between different ecologies and temporalities of disaster central to his aesthetic processes. Imagining a future without humans, Rockman’s use of ecological dividing lines suggests that extinction presses the painterly gaze to multiply perspective and shift dimensions or effect-times in order to speculate on changing forms of species and landscapes. In Manifest Destiny, this horizon line is formed by the border separating the water from the air across the center of the image. Above, birds of prey circle the carbon haze-filled sky; below, sea creatures populate the submerged landscape of the Brooklyn waterfront, feeding in hollowed-out structures of the built landscape as they are surveilled by the birds above. In an earlier work, Central Park (1997–8),7 Rockman depicts the iconic city park space divided vertically through the center by a line dividing two dimensions of the climatic future. In one, permafrost envelops the city, while in another, tropical vegetation and birds overtake urban skyscrapers emptied of human occupants.8 Formally, Rockman’s visual technique of ecological dividing lines is a departure from the detached, romantic visions of sublime landscape; ecologies generate a variety of possibilities for the form of bodies, which allows a speculative multiplication of possible lifeworlds. Nonetheless, Rockman’s wondrous gaze into the future of life and planet echoes the work of Cole, whose vision of ruins premised on the decline of Rome in The Course of Empire displays a profound colonial nostalgia linked with the romantic, pastoral view of landscape. Rockman’s vision of human depopulation and the nonhuman reclamation of ecological space echoes similar speculative experiments in narrating the longue durée of environmental agency in the landscape. In the realm of nonfiction writing, Alan Weisman’s speculative journalism

­48     Neel Ahuja imagines what it would mean for the New York cityscape if climate change brought about the extinction of humans. In his acclaimed book The World Without Us, Weisman imagines a posthuman cityscape in the shadow of 9/11: The breathtaking, swift collapse of the World Trade Center towers suggested more to us about their attackers than about mortal vulnerabilities that could doom our entire infrastructure. . . . The time it would take nature to rid itself of what urbanity has wrought may be less than we might expect.9

Weisman sweeps through select geophysical histories of the city’s settler-colonial rise and its imagined postcolonial fall. Beginning with the nineteenth-century razing of the hillscape for which the indigenous Lenape named the island Mannahatta, Weisman recalls the infilling of land that expanded the island, artificially producing the nationalized “ground zero” of present-day Lower Manhattan. He then turns to the future, speculating on a number of transformations that would occur in the absence of human management, life-processes, and domination of other species: the drowning of the New York subway, corroding buildings, the separation of the George Washington Bridge, the obliteration of cockroaches in the absence of artificial heating, the mass predation of garbage-starved rats, the overtaking of roadways by invasive Ailanthus trees. Like Rockman’s Manifest Destiny, then, Weisman’s vision of the environmental extinction of humanity occasions a deep-temporal echo between the destruction of indigenous lifeways during the colonization of North America and the new-imperial destruction of the land with the carbon-driven post-1945 “great acceleration” of neoliberal capital. Eventually for Weisman, as the atmosphere stabilizes following human extinction, New York suffers either an engulfment of coastal areas by rising seas or a return of the glaciers that covered Mannahatta at the end of the Pleistocene ice age. Like Rockman’s revision of the settler landscape tradition, Weisman’s journalism registers both a deep-seated fear of the vulnerability of carbon-fueled American empire and a contrasting postcolonial fantasy of justice: the dream of the end of man’s empire over nature, and a liberation of thought and politics to love what Weisman, along with Eugene Thacker,10 calls the world-without-us. In contrast to European postMarxists such as Slavoj Žižek and Jean Baudrillard, who announced “the death of the real” when nineteen al-Qaeda hijackers attacked symbols of U.S. hegemony and transnational capital on 9/11,11 I argue that recent environmental speculation infuses the spectacle of destruction with the force of accumulated environmental agency, attenuating the apparent unreality of apocalypse with visions of the deep history

Posthuman New York     49

of the Earth; the metamorphosis of bodies; and the cryptic ecological agency of the human.

(Anthropo)scene of the crime While the movement toward a speculative posthumanism appears at first glance to be a site of possibility for responding to climate change and a method of centering the vulnerability of animal life in the transborder routes of climate disaster, it also suggests a deep division in the international and class politics of species representation in the era of the so-called Anthropocene. The term “Anthropocene” proposes the establishment of a new geological era of Earth history (separate from the Holocene of the past 10,000 years) in which a phantasmic figure called “human” is the primary agent influencing the geophysical formation of the planet. Even as artists and activists begin to envision a far-off spectacular destruction of metropolitan empire, such seductive projections risk overshadowing the many colonial social, political, economic, and ecological violences that have formed the present time of extinction.12 Furthermore, they replicate the erasure of indigenous presences from the landscape in order to abstract the collapse of settler ways of life as the broader undoing of “the human” and of life itself. This temporal shuffle of past and present in the name of the future thus makes it difficult to see the destruction of everyday life that is ongoing – in the present rather than the future tense – for the world’s poor, displaced, and indigenous populations, who in the first decade of the twenty-first century have been actively turned into “sinks” for the environmental and economic destruction of rising sea levels, increasing weather events, extinctions, resource inequity, and toxic pollution. From hurricane victims to dam, oil, and forest refugees to populations subjected to life-threatening diseases and toxic waste, the planetary present is a time of mass genocide and extinction even as emerging neoliberal forms of climate speculation (particularly among artists in the Global North) attempt to grasp the risks that today’s normal poses to the very future of life and planet. The twenty-first century visions of ecocidal destruction that are permeating environmental art and literature are not limited to representations of New York and other hubs of global capital; in fact, they constitute an increasingly transnational sphere of speculation driven by mass-mediated images of disasters, accelerating impacts of anthropogenic waste, and growing transnational senses of insecurity in the reproduction of life itself. Emergent forms of environmental speculation increasingly dispense with romantic, pastoral landscapes of late

­50     Neel Ahuja twentieth-century mainstream environmentalism in favor of deathly spectacle, gothic mutation, and the sublime terrors of the complexity of life – marking the circuitous paths and uncanny forms of habitation emerging within today’s environmental transformations. As artists and writers respond to climate change, species extinction, and sudden and spectacular calamities like Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, visions of apocalyptic destruction increasingly situate crisis within the deep time, interlinked space, and dimensional phase shifts of planetary intimacy and friction. Such representations converge with an emerging critical discourse in the Anthropocene humanities, which idealistically invokes the radical potential of recognizing human ontological embeddedness in life and planet for undoing anthropocentric forms of thought and settlement.13 Yet to invoke the human and its relation to nonhuman species in this particular speculative form – a form in which humanity is totalized by aggregating anthropogenic wastes and projecting them into a future spectacle of environmental harm – is a strategy that comes into collision with the politics of indigenous environmental activisms, which have guided the international political discourse on climate at least since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.14 For this reason, Jason Moore offers “capitalocene” as an alternative to the Anthropocene concept, arguing that “nature” cannot be abstracted from the histories that entangle forms of capitalist development with the social worlds crossing species that constitute what Moore calls “the web of life.”15 Emerging in tension with visions of apocalyptic posthumanism that fold differently situated social and national groups into a vision of the human domination of nature, writings concerning weather disasters in the Global South insistently problematize the figure of “human” as totalized environmental agent. The 2010 Haiti earthquake, for example, is increasingly cited as both evidence of the international divisions of life and a site for speculating about the conjunction of economic and ecological precarities under neoliberalism. For geographer Arun Saldanha, The ecology of global capitalism has for some four centuries been intrinsically racist, making white populations live longer and better at the expense of the toil and suffering of others . . . the truly rational humanist response to such disasters is to prevent them, to change the economic structure making brown and black populations die in disproportionately large numbers where extreme weather, drought or earthquakes strike. As activists point out, places suffering most from climate change have contributed least to carbon emissions. The Anthropocene is in itself a racist biopolitical reality.16

There is much to unpack in this statement, which suggests that the capitalist system, rather than the life practices of humans in general,

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constitutes the central conduit of ecological violence. To understand how capitalist accumulation and the “great acceleration” of carbonfueled development generate specific racial effects might further require exploring the particular imperial nexus linking Euro-American arms and finance capital; West Asian oil; and East Asian manufacturing that ensures that the Gulf States and Japan have joined the overconsuming forces of carbon extraction through which a small minority of national populations consume outsize proportions of the total energy and materials colonized by contemporary capitalism. Nonetheless, Saldanha’s apt diagnosis of climate change as a racialized biopolitical crisis resonates with Junot Díaz’s framing of the question in terms of capital and prior histories of colonial extermination and slavery. In his essay “Apocalypse,” written in conjunction with the apocalyptic short story “Monstro,” Díaz writes: This is what Haiti is both victim and symbol of – this new, rapacious stage of capitalism. A cannibal stage where, in order to power the explosion of the super-rich and the ultra-rich, middle classes are being forced to fail, working classes are being re-proletarianized, and the poorest are being pushed beyond the grim limits of subsistence . . . perfect targets for any “natural disaster” that just happens to wander by. It is, I suspect, not an accident of history that the island that gave us the plantation “big bang” that put our world on the road to this moment in the capitalist project would also be the first to warn us of the zombie stage of capitalism, where entire nations are being rendered through economic alchemy into the not-quite-alive.17

Díaz’s essay offers a different kind of temporal shift that contrasts with Rockman’s and Weisman’s work of climate speculation. By shifting between the plantation formation of settler colonialism in the Americas to the present configurations of zombie neoliberalism, Díaz charts a settler ecological temporality that intervenes in the seamless production of the human as universal environmental agent. The geophysical trope he uses to describe the rise of the colonial plantation economy – the “big bang” – echoes the seismic disruption of the Haiti earthquake, obliterating prior social relations and ways of life as it instantiates new and destructive relationalities. Troping colonialism and slavery not as events but instead as the very instantiation of temporality, Díaz invests the political, economic, and ecological processes of colonial capitalism with geophysical force. This could be viewed as a reversal of the settler vision of the posthuman future – rather than abstracting the human as ecological agent, Díaz imparts to colonialism a vision of its biosocial force and its potential for fracturing the category of the human. This confirms the assessment of Mary Louise Pratt, following James Ferguson, that the transformation by neoliberal capitalism of large populations into human

­52     Neel Ahuja surplus of the capitalist order is generating crises of futurity and visions of millenarian apocalypse; such crises seem to invoke a universal human but actually reflect a submerged scene of inequality and violence.18 While the coming environmental crises are likely to first affect those humans and nonhumans already in the most precarious social and ecological positions,19 visions of the destruction of New York most often privilege dominant settler-colonial understandings of landscapes and systems, in the process advertising apocalyptic fears of the fall of settler societies and the waste-producing capitalist relations upon which they stake life. This is one reason that New York – the seat of world financial capital since World War I, occupying Lenape land – remains such a potent site for the imagination of ecological apocalypse. In a rhetorical move that Jodi Byrd terms “the transit of empire,”20 the figure of an always already vanishing native is transmuted into a figure of precarity that can be deployed to justify the securitization of settler empire. Alongside the spectacles of emergent destruction exists an everyday state of denial and politics as usual, evidenced by national elites’ postKyoto global impasse over action to rein in the excesses of the carbon economy. While environmental speculation opens up many different ways of thinking about and living with the ongoing planetary changes that humans and other species are collectively experiencing, I pay particular attention to how visions of disaster reveal a set of governing logics and an economy of hope invested in maintaining the current geophysical and biological parameters for life as we know it. Put differently, while it is necessary to oppose the massive forms of destruction created by the world carbon economy and various forms of industrial pollution associated with it, the publicization of environmental risk by environmentalists can easily collude with governing logics that exacerbate the postcolonial political divisions of North and South and rich and poor as they accommodate environmental violence and emerging politics of species into speculative risk media. This is why it is as necessary to pay attention to the politics of species representation as it is to simply find more creative ways to publicize the environmental destruction and the science that helps us explain it. There is an urgent need in the early twenty-first century for a robust critique of the investment in carbon economies by the world system of nation-states, one that furthermore accounts for the mass forms of ecocidal violence and the unequal subsidization of Northern life by the extractive carbon economy.

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The human of precarious futures In the speculative vision of human extinction, we may lose the complexity of animality and place in environmental representation. Neoliberal visions of universal human extinction in the North coalesce in a figure I have begun to call the human of precarious futures. This speculative vision of a dying humanity finds itself most at home in a reversal of the colonizing meme of traditional science fiction.21 Whereas science fiction traditionally recycles the settler-myths of manifest destiny as fictions of benevolent exploration, the emergent figure I am describing envisions the receding human as swamped by an insurgent and impure nature, literalizing invasive nonhuman species, the toxic excrement of human society, and the emboldened force of nonhuman species and the planet as the rising “wretched of the earth.”22 Paradoxically, this speculation of a reverse colonization recenters settler bodies in the blowback of a contaminated nature, rendering environmental vision characteristically anthropocentric and ethnocentric even as it troubles visions of the human as planetary sovereign. Despite the work that Marxist, feminist, queer, critical-race, and postcolonial theories have done to unravel liberal mythologies of human universality and progress, the turn to an Anthropocene humanities appears to be instituting a new universalist vision of human species-being. In his already classic essay “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Dipesh Chakrabarty argues that scientific thinking about climate change both “appeal[s] to our sense of human universals while challenging at the same time our capacity for historical understanding.”23 In particular, Chakrabarty claims that chemist Paul Crutzen’s attempt to periodize Earth time since the rise of industrial capital as “the Anthropocene” – namely, the period in which human environmental agency became the guiding force in the geophysical formation of earth – shatters a longstanding Enlightenment distinction between human and natural history. Chakrabarty reads the Marxist globalization literature alongside the climate change literature and attempts to reconcile the widely divergent takes on the human that frame these two accounts of destructive capitalist industrialism. Chakrabarty’s conclusion is that, in contradistinction to the impulses of some Marxist and postcolonial critiques of globalization, it is necessary to engage with the forms of species-thinking that a geophysical history of the human illuminates. There is an environmental agency that enables the existence of humanity, acting as a prior condition to capitalism and colonialism because it is a prior condition of humanity itself:

­54     Neel Ahuja Why think in terms of species . . . ? Why could not the narrative of capitalism – and hence its critique – be sufficient as a framework for interrogating the history of climate change and understanding its consequences? . . . We have slid into a state of things that forces on us a recognition of some of the parametric (that is, boundary) conditions for the existence of institutions central to our idea of modernity and the meanings we derive from them . . . [The agricultural revolution] was made possible by certain changes in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a certain stability of the climate, and a degree of warming of the planet that followed the end of the Ice Age (the Pleistocene era) – things over which human beings had no control. . . . In other words, whatever our socioeconomic and technological choices, whatever the rights we wish to celebrate as our freedom, we cannot afford to destabilize conditions (such as the temperature zone in which the planet exists) that work like boundary parameters of human existence. These parameters are independent of capitalism or socialism. They have been stable for much longer than the histories of these institutions and have allowed human beings to become the dominant species on earth. Unfortunately, we have now ourselves become a geological agent disturbing these parametric conditions needed for our own existence.24

What does it mean that Chakrabarty posits “parametric conditions” for human existence? He specifies that the climatic conditions that allowed large-scale agriculture are the common condition for the existence of humans. However, the general difficulty with which peasant agriculturalists attempt to survive persistent weather fluctuations and price instability in the present places pressure on Chakrabarty’s argument, demonstrating that physical vulnerability is not equally shared and is as dependent on economic factors as it is on climate. What does it mean to posit that “human beings are the dominant species on earth” after Chakrabarty’s own earlier writing in Provincializing Europe documented the failed attempts of the discipline of history to integrate all bodies speciated as human into a unity?25 While the idea of human domination is often taken for granted in animal studies and environmental humanities, it is in tension with feminist science studies works that attempt to break down the independence of the human body, to think about how microbiomes, food, and commodities persistently reproduce anthropomorphized bodies through interspecies relation. Saldanha furthermore argues passionately that carbon privilege has been geographically and racially concentrated. Yet perhaps like the image of the destruction of the New York cityscape – itself recycled countless times before and after 9/11 in U.S. popular culture – there is something seductive about thinking the human as a universal. Perhaps the rise of the Anthropocene humanities reveals not just a recognition of ecological crisis, but also a failure to adequately grapple with neoliberal forms of crisis thinking and a sense of exhaustion among humanists who are tired

Posthuman New York     55

of having to attend seriously to questions of difference “internal” to the anthropomorphized human.

Insurgent life, posthuman blowback Weisman’s vision of plant and animal forms slowly overtaking the posthuman New York cityscape has aesthetic resonances with some recent depictions of Southern ecological disasters, wherein life forms regenerate in spaces of contamination. One difference in such representations – such as Díaz’s short story “Monstro” depicting a climate-driven zombie apocalypse in Haiti26 – is that depictions of regeneration in the South often include the regeneration of human form in the space of apocalypse. By foregrounding debility as a condition of living through ecological crisis, such speculations situate the environmental force of capitalism as entangled with many animal species including unequal groups of humans. One case in point involves the aesthetic strategies used by activists and artists to represent the precarious ecologies of Bhopal, India following that city’s experience of a toxic gas leak by the U.S.-based Union Carbide Corporation. On 2 December 1984, that company’s chemical plant in Bhopal became the site of the world’s most toxic and deadly industrial disaster. Indian managers supervised directly by the U.S. office had cut corners on standard safety measures in the days leading up to the accident. After machinery used to produce agricultural pesticides for India’s green revolution failed to properly ventilate, an explosion occurred in the middle of the night that sent a toxic plume of methyl isocyanate gas over the surrounding shantytowns of Bhopal. Gas exposure directly affected over half a million humans and seeped into the air, water, and sediment, killing plant and animal species at varied scales and speeds. One piece of a broader neoliberal strategy of the Indian National Congress, carried out in cooperation with big U.S. chemical and agricultural corporations and championed by the development community, Union Carbide’s chemical inputs into Indian agriculture powerfully demonstrated their environmental costs. Some 4,000 humans died immediately, with another 8,000 dying from exposure in the next two weeks. As gas and other contaminated matter leached into the environment, hundreds of thousands more would ingest poison, developing cancers, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, and other ailments more slowly. In the process, the Bhopal disaster would split the temporality of ecocide: the spectacle of the explosion and instantaneous death (affecting thousands of humans) rocked a city overnight

­56     Neel Ahuja while the deeper effects of the chemical devastation (affecting hundreds of thousands of humans and unknown animal populations) permeated through bodies at slower rates through more mysterious routes. In addition to the spectacle of an environment out of control, there was a more insidious violence, a slow violence that Rob Nixon describes as central to understanding the emerging environmental poetics and politics of the poor.27 Bhopal has occasioned both an active environmental justice movement and a wide array of environmental representations that grasp both the violence of environmental destruction and the curious and circuitous routes of ecological entanglement and intimacy. Navigating a toxic environment like that of Bhopal reveals the ways in which the animal bodies we call “humans” encounter unexpected forms of life when anthropogenic waste transforms environments. In contrast to the works of Rockman and Weisman, Indra Sinha’s loosely fictionalized novel of life after the Bhopal disaster, Animal’s People, focuses intensely on national, bodily, and economic differences that circulate around the site of environmental disaster and ecocidal mass death.28 The narrative follows the disabled and animalized protagonist named Animal, walking on all fours, through a local campaign against the American multinational responsible for the destruction. Telling his story to a foreign journalist, Animal moves in and out of dreams, fantasies, and forms of social repression that follow him through the economically and environmentally depressed town. Early on in the narrative, Animal explores the ruins of the pesticide plant. He notes that despite leached chemicals’ continued extermination of insects and other small animals, sandalwood, caraway, dogs, and birds are overtaking the hollowed-out structures of the buildings, the pipes and foundations cracked by creeping tree roots.29 With some bodies exterminated, others living in differentiated conditions of disability and slow death, and still others capitalizing on the spaces deserted by the dead, mass death extinguishes some particular lives without ending Life as a broader ecological process; Life remains resilient, insurgent against apocalyptic landscape. The narration of the resurgence of life at the site of the abandoned factory entangles Animal – whose name reflects how environmentally produced disability threatens capitalist processes of anthropomorphism – with those very species repopulating the site of disaster. On all fours, Animal creeps among the emerging species outside the stigmatizing gaze of the “human” occupants of the city who seek justice on behalf of the community but who are unable to grasp the affective life of disaster that Animal experiences as a disabled subject transiting the urban crisis ecology. In the reshuffling of species

Posthuman New York     57

and bodies, environmental disasters disperse crisis time into everyday time, reordering the form of Life. Even in the most toxic of environments, there are bodies poised to fill in destruction. Any assumption that humans exist outside of ecological relations, and outside of the forms of regeneration that produce new futures out of carbon violences, bumps up against the reality of creatures that absorb the interspecies force of disaster. The vision of insurgent nonhuman life like Weisman’s or Rockman’s posthuman New York may easily miss what exists elsewhere throughout Sinha’s text: the existence of populations rendered debilitated surplus, who navigate and persist despite a necropolitical order that seeks their extinguishment. Sinha makes clear that it is possible to spatially and economically locate responsibility and redress for such slow violence, as activists in the novel attempt to bring to account the U.S. company responsible for the destruction. (Until his recent death, Union Carbide C.E.O. Warren Anderson continued to live in Long Island and Connecticut, not far from the setting of Rockman’s Manifest Destiny, avoiding extradition to India.) Between visions, then, of the spectacular fall of Manhattan as global city, and the dispersed forms of death and debility erupting in the Bhopal slums, the emerging literature and visual culture of ecocide opens precarious life into uncertain futures. Such representations capture the diversity of temporalities and spatializations of ecological violence as they signal a new set of terms for a neoliberal politics of animal life. If the end of the Pleistocene era (the long, glacial period of Earth’s geological history ending approximately 11,000 years ago) marked the beginning of a planet that could support a human diaspora and colonization of the majority of its landmass, the vision of coming ecocides signals an Earth that will be subject to mass adaptation rather than the wholesale extinction of Man. The emerging figures of human precarity are thus haunted by the deep inequalities that render the planetary form of life in constant states of flux and mutation.

Notes   1. Hugh Raffles, Insectopedia (New York: Pantheon, 2010), 320.   2. Brian Massumi, “National Enterprise Emergency: Steps Toward an Ecology of Powers,” Theory, Culture, and Society, 26: 6 (2009), 153–85, 154.  3. The Day After Tomorrow, film, directed by Roland Emmerich (U.S.A.: Lionsgate Films, 2004).  4. “Animality” becomes a useful keyword, as opposed to “animal” or “species,” since it signifies both a figural racial form of dehumanization and a possibility of shared interspecies intimacies. See further Michael Lundblad,

­58     Neel Ahuja The Birth of the Jungle: Animality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 12, 15–16; Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, “Animal: New Directions in the Theorization of Race and Posthumanism,” Feminist Studies, 39: 3 (2013), 669–85, 677–8.   5. I note in particular the work of ecofeminists including Donna Haraway, Val Plumwood, and Deborah Bird Rose, each of whom has explored postcolonial and indigenous critical discourses as well as problems of extinction and conservation.  6. See (last accessed 21 November 2016).   7. See (last accessed 21 November 2016).  8. Rockman’s American Icons series imagines such decay amidst a regenerating posthuman lifeworld in the depiction of many U.S. landmarks, including Disneyworld and the Hollywood sign.   9. Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007), 21. 10. Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet: The Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1 (New York: Zero, 2011), 3. 11. See Slavoj Žižek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real (London: Verso, 2002); Jean Baudrillard, “The Spirit of Terrorism,” Le Monde, 3 November 2011. 12. See further Neel Ahuja, “Intimate Atmospheres: Queer Theory in a Time of Extinctions,” GLQ, 21: 2–34 (2014), 365–85. 13. Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). 14. Arturo Escobar, “Whose Knowledge, Whose Nature? Biodiversity, Conservation, and the Political Ecology of Social Movements,” Journal of Political Ecology, 5 (1998), 53–82. 15. Jason W. Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life (London: Verso, 2015). 16. Arun Saldanha, “Some Principles of Geocommunism,” 23 July 2013, section 3.1, available at (last accessed 21 November 2016). 17. Junot Díaz, “Apocalypse,” Boston Review, 1 May 2011, available at

(last accessed 21 November 2016). 18. Mary Louise Pratt, “Planetary Longings: Sitting in the Light of the Great Solar TV,” in Mary Gallagher (ed.), World Writing: Poetics, Ethics, Globalization (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 207–23, 210–11. 19. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, available at (last accessed 21 November 2016). 20. Jodi Byrd, The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011). 21. Nalo Hopkinson, “Introduction,” in Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan (eds.), So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004), 7–9; Aimee Bahng, “Extrapolating

Posthuman New York     59 Transnational Arcs, Excavating Imperial Legacies: The Speculative Acts of Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rainforest,” MELUS, 33: 4 (2008), 123–44. 22. This planetary riff on Frantz Fanon’s famous appraisal of decolonial insurgency and nationalism is suggested by Leela Gandhi’s invocation of Fanon in her work on cosmopolitan radicalism of the fin-de-siècle. In Gandhi’s account of Indian and British political activity, the protection of nonhuman animal species became one invocation of “the wretched” alongside the homosexual and the colonized. See Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove, 2004); Leela Gandhi, Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-de-Siècle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006). 23. Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry, 35: 2 (2009), 197–222, 201. 24. Ibid. 217–18. 25. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). 26. Junot Díaz, “Monstro,” The New Yorker, 4 and 11 June 2012, available at (last accessed 21 November 2016). 27. Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). 28. Indra Sinha, Animal’s People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009). 29. Ibid. 29–31.

Chapter 3

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies: Unsettling Nature, Animals, and Literary Tropes Frida Beckman

Introduction Between 1961 and 2009, J. G. Ballard published nearly twenty novels as well as numerous short stories.1 Many of them are populated with strange creatures that in different ways strain conceptions of the borders of the human and the animal. Reading through Ballard’s oeuvre may leave you with an unsettling feeling of confusion or with an inspiring sense of dislocation. These works continuously challenge habitual conceptions of reality and try out different modes of approaching and understanding it as they play with the formalist borders of the mimetic, the representational, and the allegorical. Frequently, this experimentation, situated as it is in post-apocalyptic sceneries and bleak technological futures, has positioned him as a dystopian writer and as a narrator of “exhausted futures.”2 While many of the futures Ballard constructs are indeed rather bleak – his worlds are flooded, crystallized, dried out, covered in concrete, or populated by characters paralyzed by lives of leisure – I would like to reopen the question of what exactly is exhausted in the worlds he depicts. I wish to draw attention to two interrelated things in particular that seem exhausted in Ballard’s writing – the human, and the modes of representation that it has constructed to retain its ontological and epistemic priority as such. The human no longer quite recognizes itself as such in his books. While this repeatedly makes for unsettling character portrayals, it also opens for an interrogation of the means by which literary tropes have policed the borders of the human and the nonhuman. Ballard is well known for his explorations of human boundaries – the boundaries of sexuality, the boundaries of the psyche, the boundaries of technology. In what follows, I will argue that he not only explores such boundaries but that he also challenges the conceptualizations and

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epistemological systems of such boundaries in the first place. Such challenges have been and continue to be made in various ways in both animality studies and posthumanist research as we can see, for example in Michael Lundblad’s questioning of the way the representation of interspecies animal sexuality tends to be read as a substitution or displacement of forbidden human sexualities relationships3 or in Cary Wolfe’s and many others’ interrogation of the humanist frameworks that have constructed the exceptionalism of the human subject. What I hope to contribute to these discourses by my readings of Ballard’s work is an elucidation of the particular ways in which literary devices keep the human and animal locked into “Nature” in Timothy Morton’s understanding of the concept. Nature, Morton argues, is an idea that “is getting in the way of properly ecological forms of culture, philosophy, politics, and art.”4 The very idea of Nature – as something that exists out there, and as something that inevitably becomes saturated with historical, ideological, and political value – “impedes a proper relationship with the earth and its life forms.”5 Ballard’s texts seem uninterested in falling back on such notions of Nature. And just as Nature is unsettled, other questions are raised regarding some of the most fundamental categories and presumptions that stand in the way of developing a “proper relationship” to life. As we will see, he seems insistent on dismantling modes of representation that keep life from expressing itself beyond predetermined shapes. The semi-crystallized crocodile in The Crystal World, slowly moving “in its ancient reptilian mode” with its foreleg crystallized and light pouring “from the glacé eyes and from the half-opened mouth choked with jewels,”6 constitutes one example of the striking images of animals Ballard offers, the drowned fish in the abandoned aquarium in The Drought hanging “in the gloomy water, their blank eyes glowing like phosphorus, mouths agape,” the tropical ones efflorescing “like putrid jewels, their coloured tissue dissolving into threads of gossamer,” another.7 But most remarkable, perhaps, are the birds that reappear throughout his work. Albatrosses, swans, boobies, gulls, flamingos, falcons, cockatoos, macaws, condors, and even a phoenix populate his pages as do notions of flying more generally. This continuous preoccupation with birds in varying fictional settings not only provides the means of exploring different ways in which animals are written into a human production of meaning – ways in which they are locked into nature in Morton’s sense – but also, when combined with Ballard’s interrogation of epistemological boundaries, ways in which this nature, that is, Nature as a concept, may be dismantled. Morton suggests that “‘ecology without nature’ may mean ‘ecology without a concept of the

­62     Frida Beckman natural.’ Thinking, when it becomes ideological, tends to fixate on concepts rather than doing what is ‘natural’ to thought, namely, dissolving whatever has taken form.”8 Ballard’s texts are of interest in thinking about animality not only because of the many estranging human and nonhuman animals that populate them, but also because of the varying conceptual frameworks that they seem to invite only to challenge. In Ballard’s writing, these conceptual frameworks are exposed exactly as standing in the way of natural dynamics. If animals are differently inscribed into human geometries of meaning, then these geometries themselves tell us something about our abilities and inabilities to approach and understand ecological relations beyond the dichotomy that places both nature and animals as fetishized objects outside the human. Morton writes: Ecological writing wants to undo habitual distinctions between nature and ourselves. It is supposed not just to describe, but also to provide a working model for a dissolving of the difference between subject and object, a dualism seen as the fundamental philosophical reason for human beings’ destruction of the environment.9

In Ballard’s case, this undoing seems related specifically to the habitual relations supported, or even created, by literary tropes. The creatures that populate his pages can be read as more or less taunting players of theories of what is nature, natural, and natural selection, of what is human, nonhuman, and animal, of the meanings generated by Freudian dream interpretation, surrealist symbolism, and transhumanist theories and, centrally for this chapter, of the modes of representation that continually work to characterize, domesticate, and imprint more or less stable forms of life in its various expressions. Here, I am particularly interested in two tropes that are central both to Western canonical literature more generally and to its representation of animals more specifically – metamorphosis and allegory. These constitute two central tropes in which human and nonhuman animals have been “locked up,” to continue using Morton’s wording. Put together, they construct a powerful mode of control since they, as Bruce Clarke notes, exist in a “fundamental reciprocity” where the process of substitution that characterizes both is semantic or thematic in the one and literal or physical in the other. Where the allegorical produces “an inner transformation of its meaning, a substitution of signifieds,” metamorphosis portrays “an outer transformation, a substitution of signifiers.”10 Metamorphosis has always constituted a key mode of engagement with animal representations and it also reflects historical as well as contemporary views on the animal and the human. Thus, for example,

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     63

Joyce E. Salisbury notes how a pagan literature rich in metamorphoses reflecting a belief in the continuum and mingling of the human and the animal was followed by centuries of a Christian repudiation of any links between human and animal – animals were without soul and afterlife and “the boundaries between human and animal were wide.”11 Medieval literature saw a return to the interest in human/animal hybrids. Borderline creatures became common in art and literature, often inherited from the classical texts ignored in earlier centuries. Preceded by the metamorphoses in Homer’s work by several centuries, the fate of Ovid’s Metamorphosis is illustrative of a development where the scarce interest before the twelfth century was exchanged for an explosion of interest in the two following centuries.12 As the idea that animals only have extensivity, not intensivity emerged with Descartes in the seventeenth century, the need to make clear distinctions between human and animal returned with the birth of modern philosophy. The metamorphosis prevalent in the Gothic fiction that emerged in the late eighteenth century, can, as Marina Warner argues, be seen to emerge “in chronological symbiosis” with an imperial project and a clashing of cultures under which the Self was challenged by estranging elements not easily integrated into a Western set of convictions.13 Without attempting to account for the entire history of metamorphoses, we can note how central examples of it in more recent times include its significant role in, for example, the surrealist painting of Max Ernst and in many of the writings of Franz Kafka, whose The Metamorphosis stands as a centerpiece for much literary, artistic, and philosophical interrogations of human-animal relations. A more recent example still is the preoccupation with werewolves and other hybrid creatures in contemporary popular culture and how it reflects another stage in how the representation of the human-animal boundaries work to conceptualize contemporary challenges to human exceptionalism. Allegory constitutes another key mode of representation that has functioned to fetishize the animal and to maintain it at a safe distance from the human. Allegories of animals also belong to the very earliest of literatures. And wherever we find it, Rita Copeland and Peter T. Struck note, allegory tends to be “trailing its entire cultural history behind it.”14 As Onno Oerlemans point out, there is a deep connection between allegory and the representation of animals because allegory is “the dominant mode through which animals enter literature, and it becomes the mode through which they are read.”15 From the more manageable morals of Aesop’s fables to the unpredictable behavior of the trickster traditions, foxes and lions, coyotes and ravens have been telling us “truths” about the human through the shape of animal bodies. There is also nothing new about a critical intervention into such employment

­64     Frida Beckman of animal as allegory. As Oerlemans point out, the tendency to project human meaning onto animals has frequently been called into question by critics who see such allegorization as an erasure of the physical world in its actuality and the distinctness of animal and nonhuman animal differences. Importantly, however, he also suggests that there is often more complexity to allegorical representations of animals than what we tend to admit, which makes it worthwhile to revisit literary history with an eye to such complexities.16 In Morton’s terms, we might say that allegorization, if not always in practice, but as a habitual way of thinking about animals, tends to erase ecology in favor of Nature. A simple starting point, then, is the assumption that allegory has constituted a tool for keeping animals as Animals, as part of Nature rather than as part of the ecology of living relations. Understanding how human-animal relationships have been constructed in modern times thus requires an understanding of the mechanisms of allegory. If debates about how to read animals in literature are intimately linked to questions of allegory as a mode of representation more generally, as Oerlemans suggests,17 an attempt to rethink and reconfigure this relation thus requires a reconfiguration of the allegorical imperative. If metamorphosis and allegory can thus be positioned as two central tropes in the representation of animals in the history of Western canonical literature, it is interesting to note that Ballard seems quite actively to evoke and distort both. In this chapter, I will pay particular attention to the two of Ballard’s novels that seem to address these tropes most directly – The Unlimited Dream Company (1979) and Rushing to Paradise (1994) – both of which are intensely preoccupied with birds whilst at the same time offering decidedly different accounts of human and nonhuman animal relations. I will also situate these two texts in relation to the struggle with and resistance against habitual and delimiting modes of representation in Ballard’s oeuvre as a whole. As I will return to in my conclusion, there is a narrative of the struggles of human and nonhuman meaning to be reconstructed from such a reading. If Ballard’s writing mirrors a developing set of struggles with questions of human and nonhuman representation, following this development is like recording the fits of a dying body. Where the earlier novels begin to challenge preconceived notions of nature, human, and animal, as we will see imminently, and The Unlimited Dream Company and Rushing to Paradise explicitly address animals as caught up in literary tropes, the last of these also constitutes the end of this project. After this, there are no more animals in Ballard’s work. Arguably, however, we might also want to suggest that there are no more humans.

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     65

After the human Ballard’s earliest novels, including The Drowned World (1962), The Drought (1964), and The Crystal World (1966), are all set in more or less surrealist post-apocalyptic spaces. As the titles suggest, these worlds are subjected to drowning, drought, and crystallization. The organizing principles of human life are crumbling under such conditions and this does not seem to be a necessarily bad thing. Ballard’s drowned worlds, and dried-out worlds, and crystallized worlds refuse to buy into existing structures and cultural patterns of an anthropocentric liberal humanism. While Ballard seems keen to investigate the logic of his contemporaneity, he does so not by means of linking narrative content to any transcendent and stable mode of meaning, but rather by exploring it in relation to different epistemological frameworks. What is brought to the fore in these novels is not in the first instance the question of why the world has crystallized, dried up, or flooded, nor is the human agent placed as a hero at their center. Rather, what appears with increasing clarity is how the formal contextualization of natural disasters must affect our narratives of who we are. In other words, what is brought to the fore in these texts is how ecological events exceed their human conceptualizations. In these texts, representation is in ruins in the most affirmative sense as new formations of life become noticeable. There is little nostalgia in these stories. Although the settings are post-apocalyptic, there is a sense in which the temporality implied refuses the linear mourning otherwise characteristic of the genre. Ballard’s post-apocalyptic novels differ from many literary and cinematic texts about climate change. As Jonathan S. Taylor notes, Ballard’s post-apocalyptic novels do not rely on the heroic survival of protagonists in the face of global disaster, but depict, rather, characters accepting and adapting to the new conditions even when they are lethal.18 There is no clear separation between subject and external space, which also means that there is no polarized conflict between them. Rather, the inside and the outside are shown to be inextricable from each other. The landscapes and their climates are going through immense changes but instead of placing his characters as separate human subjects fighting, or fighting to escape from, these cataclysms, these worlds and selves transform together. As Fredric Jameson puts it, speaking of heat in these works specifically, there is: a kind of dissolution of the body into the outside world, a loss of that clean separation from clothes and external objects that gives you your autonomy and allows you to move about freely, a sense of increasing contamination

­66     Frida Beckman and stickiness in the contact between your physical organism and the surfaces around it.19

By this same token, the characters are not positioned as human heroes fighting a battle with nonhuman nature, but rather they are increasingly stripped of the frameworks of meaning that would construct them as distinctly human. Without nostalgia, Ballard’s ruins of what one can assume are previously functioning, if self-destructive worlds not unlike our own, seem to pull us into new ones where meaning has not yet sedimented into permanent, or even semi-permanent representations. As if we could start afresh. With the ruins of the human constructed societies come the ruins of representation, and life emerges anew. The collapse of a functional social, cultural, and political system seems to free nonhuman as well as human animals from a transcendent mode of meaning and from determined roles in a human epistemological system. In this way, these early books seem to actively resist the allegorical. The ruins on which modern allegory is based, according to Walter Benjamin, and which constitute the response to modernity and the crumbling of totality, have a very different sense here. In the Benjaminian tradition, allegory is related to a fall from grace. The loss of the unity of the symbol in its Romantic sense and the transcendence to which it aspires leaves modern times without access to a more foundational meaning. The ruins that Benjamin locates in relation to allegory are the ruins of unity, totality, and the link between the aesthetic and the symbol celebrated by the Romantics. Ballard’s novels do not only lack such nostalgia but seem, quite actively, to try to resist it. Let us take a quick look at a few examples. On the one hand, The Drought is full of animal similes and metaphors – Ransom feels “a hand like a bird’s claw clasped his shoulder,”20 Dr. Barnes has “flown like a bird,”21 and Quilter walks off, “the furs and dressing-gown lifting behind him like tattered wings.”22 Indeed, the idea that the city would rise like a phoenix from its fires is a tired symbol if anything.23 On the other hand, however, the novel begins to undermine the distinctions that such metaphors ultimately rely on – Whitman’s nostrils “flicking” at the sound of a dog barking,24 the threatening fishermen’s wives are not to be worried about until “they start moving in packs,”25 and similarly, Catherine invites Ransom to help her “teach the lions to hunt in packs.”26 In The Crystal World, distinctions between human, animal, and mineral diffuse as “The two had become merged, the man himself, half-white and half-black, fusing with the dark jeweled beast. Their outlines were still visible as they effloresced through each other’s tissues.”27 The supposedly human need to master both the earth and its meaning is

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     67

not emphasized in the face of disaster and while the characters fight for their physical survival, they do not seem particularly attached to human modes of understanding. Instead, the fragments of society are taken at face value – as building blocks without assembly instructions. The Other is no longer any more Other than the self. If we want to read Ballard’s oeuvre as a narrative as I suggested in the beginning, the fictional societies depicted in the texts that follow – Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974), and High Rise (1975) – have built new circles around the human. In this middle period, urban space increasingly seems to construct and control human agency. The concrete island in the novel with the same name is symptomatic of the way human agency is not dissolved so much as delimited by modernization and technology.28 Some of the elements of these texts would be interesting to explore in terms of animal representations, not the least the “heraldic beak of the manufacturer’s medallion” which, in the erotic fantasies of one of the protagonists in Crash, pierces Elizabeth Taylor’s uterus and empties its semen “across the luminescent dials that registered forever the last temperature and the fuel levels of the engine.”29 The seemingly inevitable phallic quality of this beak makes for what seems to be an equally inevitable psychoanalytical interpretation and as such, as holding a specific place within a framework of human relations in which the technology of the beak and the car to which it is attached are no longer merely technologies of steel and cogs but also become a technology of knowing – a clearly identifiable way of reading the text in a post-psychoanalytic context of sexuality and technology. As such, it constitutes a perfect example of the way in which interpretative strategies tend to keep nonhuman animals, and human animals too for that matter, caught up in a very particular anthropological bind to a human world in which they come to stand, if not for very concrete attributes such as the phallus or very typical characteristics such as cruelty or cunning, then as a symbol for unbridled lusts, unconquerable selfishness, and unacceptable irrationality. Keeping more strictly with our attention to the particular relation between literary tropes and animals, however, we will move on to the 1979 novel The Unlimited Dream Company.

The Unlimited Dream Company – metamorphoses The Unlimited Dream Company is a novel very much occupied by birds as well as flying more generally. Flying is a recurring theme in Ballard’s fiction, perhaps even, as Rosetta Brooks suggests, one of its most dominant images.30 In this novel, the borders between bird and human are

­68     Frida Beckman challenged by a surrealist aesthetic. Jeanette Baxter provides what may be seen to serve as a brief but poignant summary of the novel. Blake, the protagonist, “refashions himself as the radical artist, William Blake, transforms the suburban landscape of Shepperton into an ‘illuminated painting,’ and then embarks on a violent project of liberation which, in actuality, is an artistic experiment in genocide.”31 Blake’s past history, which includes pedophilia and domestic violence, is, Baxter suggests, eroded by the burning oil and black water of his plane crash “much in the same way as William Blake’s artistic acids attached and melted ‘apparent surface away.’”32 If we look at this transformation in more detail, we can see also how the metamorphosis that Blake goes through, taking the whole town with him, is not just a transformation of his own self but a move away from the animal as metaphor. Before we finish the first chapter, we are already befuddled by the wings and fluttering of flying creatures. This opening chapter, which narrates the end of the story, invites the reader into a vertiginous world that is hard to assimilate conceptually. The narrator, Blake, is standing at the heart of the deserted riverside town of Shepperton seeing his tattered flying suit reflected in the windows of a supermarket, and he recalls having crashed his burning aircraft into the Thames a week earlier. Now he is the only person remaining in the town but he is surrounded by thousands of birds rising through the air. These are birds from all over the world: flamingos, frigate-birds, falcons, albatrosses, cockatoos, macaws, scarlet ibises, condors . . . At the same time, a bunch of helicopters are circling in the air above him. This is the police who will, he realizes, probably want to interrogate him regarding the disappearance of the entire population of Shepperton. Stepping back from this surreal opening, the second chapter, which in some ways begins to answer this question, recounts the narrator’s identification with birds throughout his life. In this background information, the merging that the opening chapter conveys has not yet taken place and the bird figure is held at a distance and is readable on a metaphoric level. Accounting for the disasters of his past year, Blake explains how, whatever course he set, he “flew straight into the nearest brick wall.”33 As the chapter progresses, the metaphor becomes more and more physically embedded. Blake has a slight disability, an upward tilt of his left shoulder, which makes him think of himself as “a new species of winged man” and identify with Baudelaire’s albatross, “unable to walk because of his heavy wings.”34 Working in the aviary of London Zoo, he recounts how he had “learned a great deal” from the birds and how this constituted the starting point for his “obsession with man-powered flight.” He wants to build a “manpowered aircraft” allowing him to “take off” himself.35 His engagement

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     69

with flying is also constituted through his concrete experience of spending a lot of time on transatlantic jet planes throughout his childhood and he hooks up with a retired airhostess.36 After nearly killing his fiancée, Blake steals a Cessna aircraft and, since Blake is untrained as a pilot, the plane catches fires and crashes in the Thames in the town of Shepperton. This crash, which can be seen as the culmination of one part of obsession, and in which the Cessna sinks taking his “dreams and hopes into its deep,”37 brings with it a new dimension of flying in which the “manmade” aspect loses importance. The crash marks a transition in the novel in several ways. Indeed, the protagonist recognizes the weight of this transition from the very beginning: “While I strapped myself into the pilot’s seat I knew that a lifetime’s failures and false starts were at last giving way to the simplest and most mysterious of all actions – flight!”38 There is some uncertainty whether Blake survives the event or not, which positions what comes after on an uncertain ontological level. In addition, what has previously seemed like a distinction between Blake’s disoriented self and the logic of the world around him begins to dissolve as he has profound effects on the life forms in Shepperton. Dichotomies between life and death and between reality and dream are dissolved, as is any coherent sense of logic. Not only Blake’s flesh is stripped away, as Baxter suggests, but so is the conceptual distance between him and the birds. The crash also marks a transition between geographies of meaning in general and in terms of the birds in particular as the distinct metaphorical connotations in the beginning of the novel are exchanged for another mode of engagement that refuses the interpretative distance of metaphor. When the birds reappear, they do not so much reappear as appear for the first time in a new way. Now, they seem to have shed their metaphoric dimension, which had carried Blake throughout his troubled past, and have become, instead, part of a surrealist dream-reality that he begins to share with the people of Shepperton. It begins with Blake’s dream of being a bird among many, flying over the town: All over Shepperton birds were appearing on the rooftops, raised by my cries from the sleeping minds of the people below, husbands and wives wearing brilliant new night plumage, parents with their excited nestlings, ready to mount the air together. As I soared above them I could hear their eager cries and feel the beat of their wings overtaking mine.39

This dream, it turns out, is shared by many – “we’ve all been dreaming about birds”40 and “the whole of Shepperton slept with an aviary inside its head”41 – and its status remains uncertain. “So it was a dream . . . ?” the priest asks Blake. “I’m relieved to hear you say so.”42 Indeed, any

­70     Frida Beckman stable sense of reality begins to falter as Blake’s dream of falling through the roof of the church results in an actual hole in the roof: “A huge bird fell through here during the storm,” Father Wingate explains, “One of the condors must have escaped from Stark’s zoo.”43 As he lies among the scattered fossils and specimen cases dislocated because of this accident, Blake remembers: the shin bones of the archaic boar, and the barely human skull of a primitive valley dweller who had lived by this river a hundred thousand years earlier, the breast bone of an antelope and the crystalline spine of a fish – together the elements of a strange chimera.44

He also realizes that he is part of it – as Father Wingate’s drawing from the crash was a “reconstruction of this winged creature, which I too had become as I swam ashore, part man, part fish and part bird.”45 The Unlimited Dream Company intensifies the surrealist tendencies in Ballard’s earlier work as well as their focus on animal imagery. Baxter notes how Ballard, in the earlier The Crystal World, evokes Ovid’s Metamorphosis when he transforms characters into trees but with one crucial revision. Where the transformation is a violent and punitive one in Ovid, Ballard’s characters seem to passively affirm their transformation as they “‘stare’ at the refracted sun, thoroughly seduced by the jeweled spectacle.”46 This confirms the general sense that the humans that Ballard portrays are not at odds with that which dissolves their preconceived borders as discussed earlier. As we can begin to see, The Unlimited Dream Company tackles this dissolution in a more systematic manner. What is of particular relevance is the transition between the metaphorical and distinctly human relation to birds in the early part of The Unlimited Dream Company to the metamorphosis in the second. It is like flying out of a realist novel and landing in a Max Ernst painting. Ernst, as Baxter points out, is a strong presence throughout Ballard’s oeuvre, conjuring up his “phantasmagoric jungles” and performing “détournement of Ernst’s incandescent sun,”47 but curiously, Baxter does not point to the presence of birds in Ballard’s work nor to Ernst’s particular relation to birds. The fusion of birds and humans is a recurring feature of Ernst’s paintings.48 The “bestial gestures” of Ernst’s artistry, Margot Norris notes, go far beyond “donning bird masks and investing himself in an imaginary bird familiar.”49 Ernst, she notes, “deranges form, function, relation, and structure” and his “monstrous zoo” abolishes “the normative function of form.”50 Hooking up with Ernst is a constructive means for Ballard of stepping up the challenge of literary tropes that persists through his early work in two main ways. First, it clearly marks the transition between metaphor and metamorphosis

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     71

through the transition between the initial and the subsequent parts of the novel. Second, and by borrowing his wings more explicitly from Ernst who, as Norris argues, “embarked on a doomed quest to wrest art from reason and culture, where a long humanistic tradition had enshrined it,”51 to find his own metamorphosis. This way, the novel, and especially its marked transition from metaphor to metamorphosis, can be read as an attempt to push the human geographies of meaning yet another step. But there are more steps to be taken.

Rushing to Paradise – allegory In the very beginning of Rushing to Paradise, the literary history of the albatross as a Romantic symbol is evoked with some force. The first page of the novel sets this myth-ridden bird up as a symbol for the threatened future of humanity: “SAVE THE ALBATROSS . . . ! Stop nuclear testing now . . . !” And “Save the albatross and save the planet . . . !”52 The albatross is thus set up as a symbol in the particular context of the narrative but as is made immediately clear, this is not just any bird, but one that comes with a very distinct symbolic value. One of the protagonists, Dr. Barbara Rafferty, or simply Dr. Barbara, as she is mostly called, is “a veteran of the protest movements” and has been involved in various other projects – taking care of handicapped children in Honolulu, protesting against global warming, ozone depletion, and the slaughtering of whales – but it is with the albatross that she manages to find a project with a greater appeal to the public. This bird, she discovers, “stirred vague but potent memories of guilt and redemption that played on the imaginations of the University of Hawaii graduate students who formed her protest constituency.”53 The distinct role of the albatross as a specifically Romantic symbol is underlined as it is overtly positioned in relation to Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” This poem, Dr. Barbara suggests, is “the foundation-text of all animal rights and environmental movements” although, it is immediately added, “she was careful never to quote the familiar verses.”54 While the weight of the symbol in Romanticism is not to be taken lightly and while the albatross, appearing in the work of Coleridge as a writer both of and on symbolism, carries a particularly powerful symbolic significance, this is the first of many instances in the novel where the symbolic is evoked only to be exposed as arbitrary. Exactly how the role of the albatross in Coleridge’s poem can be transferred to the context of the animal rights movement is never made clear and the poem is never quoted. While Morton’s reading of the poem suggests

­72     Frida Beckman that it can be read a “powerful ecological statement” showing “Nature leaking out of the box,”55 Dr. Barbara’s strategy seems to be rather the opposite – to place it firmly within the box of Nature as that “out there” for the human characters to feel guilty about. In addition, the reference to Coleridge in effect functions to crack the very “organic unity” that Coleridge advocates as an essential dimension of the Romantic symbol as the albatross is evoked as an efficient and calculated means of pursuing a political goal. The arbitrariness of the symbol is hidden behind its calculated employment. While it may be correct, as Lee Rozelle notes, that there is no need to belabor the albatross as a central metaphor in Ballard’s novel,56 we need to note here, on a meta-level, how Ballard’s overt reference to Coleridge’s poem, an intertextual reference which many readers would have understood also without direct mention of the poem, spells out and seems to point more specifically toward the symbolic dimension of the bird. In Ballard’s novel, the albatross is not a symbol so much as it is a symbol of a symbol. In other words, we are directed directly at the symbolic leverage of the albatross in a human-made context as we are repeatedly reminded that what is at stake here is never really the albatrosses themselves, and neither is it only about their symbolic value more generally, but they also come to stand for the ruin of the symbol as part of the ruin of representation. All the things associated with the symbol for Coleridge – intuition, fluidity, feeling, and the general expressed in the particular – come under question as the albatross is placed center stage for its cultural, medial, and, ultimately, political value. This has nothing to do with “organic unity” and “subjective perception” and everything to do with political rhetoric. A second example of the arbitrariness of the symbol can be seen in how the albatross, despite being Dr. Barbara’s “trademark,”57 is easily replaced at the first sign of pressure. As the protagonists approach the threatened island for the first time, filming the landing as part of their propaganda, no albatrosses are to be seen, only boobies; Dr. Barbara is not discouraged, however, but declares rather impatiently: “Just film the birds – any birds. Good God . . . !”58 As the symbol falters, the narrative increasingly emerges as an allegory – not of birds – but of the insufficiency, or possibly disinterestedness, of human modes of meaning to grasp them. While the novel is clearly what some would call eco-fiction or “post-ecological” literature placing at center stage questions of environment, ecology, and the role of humanity within them, it could be seen as emblematic of how such literature struggles to move outside the interpretative framework of human culture. The novel, placing at its center Dr. Barbara and the gradual unveiling of her actual intentions, shows, Gasiorek suggests, how

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     73 the profane world will never be enough and will always need to be destroyed and remade in a circle of creation-destruction that will know no end because it is referred not to external reality but to the insatiable demands of a selfdefeating desire.59

And indeed, as the story progresses and reveals that Dr. Barbara’s primary interest is not really with the albatross at all but with the creation of a sanctuary for women and the extinction of men – “I’ve been a doctor for a long time, Neil, and as a whole men aren’t very well”60 – the materiality of the birds recedes even further into the background at the same time as the allegorical mode is strengthened. Quite simply, the sanctuary for the birds stands in for a sanctuary for women61 – an analogy which is strengthened further toward the end when both birds and women fall victim to Dr. Barbara’s supposedly merciful slaughter. As Neil discovers the corpses of the women of the sanctuary and tries to persuade Dr. Barbara to try to revive them, all she has to tell him is “Neil, we must kill all the albatross.”62 An unveiling of the meta-perspective also makes it possible to read how the novel, by pointing toward ways in which literary tropes become tools for political struggles or personal desires, can be read as allegorizing exactly such struggles. The symbol here comes to stand as an arbitrary evocation that cannot be separated from allegory according to the Romantic ideals that celebrate the intuition and unity of the former while denigrating the arbitrariness and intellectualism of the latter. Rather, the very idea of the symbol as capable of capturing unity becomes part of an allegory that ultimately tells us, like allegories in the Benjaminian traditions are wont to do, that our representations are but vain attempts to capture an ever-elusive truth. Allegory as a technology of knowing carries a theoretical, philosophical, and literary history that is far more complex than any direct transference of meaning between that which is represented and that to which it alludes. Its religious inheritance posits allegory as the plane of representation of a transcendent meaning that cannot be accessed. It points to the existence of transcendent truth at the same time as it admits to our failure to access it. As Benjamin suggests, allegory appears as a mode of being in the world of appearances, a realm of human knowledge, while truth is the ideal to which it cannot lay any claims.63 It “reveals more clearly than anything else the identity of the pure curiosity which is aimed at mere knowledge with the proud isolation of man.”64 The mode of allegory theorized by Benjamin, and similarly by Paul de Man, fundamentally renounces the capacity to access truth. If we understand allegory through de Man as an inherent instability within language that multiplies meaning at the same time as it

­74     Frida Beckman prevents us from determining it, allegory must be seen as a challenge to the idea of totalizing meaning. Indeed, the very raison d’être of this form of allegory is the realization that human knowledge necessarily fails to arrive at a general truth. In other words, there is a failure of knowing built into this mode of allegory, which, as de Man suggests, does not lay claim to truth or comprehension but rather is fueled by curiosity. Jim Dwyer suggests that Ballard’s novel constitutes the culmination of his anger and pessimism, showing that human nature is ultimately evil and self-obsessed and that environmental movements, and especially ecofeminism, are futile and maybe even dangerous.65 Ballard himself suggests that the novel is a satire of extreme fringes of the animal rights, environmentalist, and feminist movements, and that he wanted to show the dangers with how sensible political movements are frequently hijacked by fanatics.66 If this positions the novel in direct relation with an extratextual politics, I would suggest that it also addresses the politics of representation. What the novel brings out is the fundamental irony in how we, even with the most radical political intentions, repeatedly fail to see animals beyond preset and fundamentally humanist productions of meaning. Especially in the context of Ballard’s longstanding preoccupation with animals, birds, and flying and his continuous tendency to explore the limits of literary tropes, we can read the novel, not just as a representation of ecological concerns and the difficulties of pursuing them in a rational manner, but also as an allegory of a repeated failure of stepping outside our own interpretative framework. In a third example of the arbitrariness of the symbol, the activists eventually resort to eating the endangered species they originally set out to protect. Ballard further underlines this irony by letting them regret how “the glamorous birds that most appealed to the consciences of animal rights enthusiasts tended to be the stringiest in the cooking pot” and ponder how they would have been better off with “more humdrum fowl, more farmyard ducks and geese.”67 As if to crown this delicious irony, the eating of the animals is positioned in a bizarre notion of sustainability: at least the activists do not have to go hungry – ­“fortunately the world supply of rare and endangered mammals seemed inexhaustible.”68 It is deeply ironic that the birds for which the whole struggle supposedly started are devoured one by one. If there is a force in the novel that reaches beyond anger and pessimism and perhaps, by means of its own irony, ultimately beyond cynicism, this is it. The novel takes us through the process of an initial overt positioning of the birds as symbolic, through a gradual faltering of the symbol to an ultimate act of eating them and thereby devouring the framework of meaning into which they have been inscribed. Breaking down, ironizing, and

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     75

ultimately consuming the bird as symbol, what is left is flesh – stringy but inexhaustible – nonhuman and human. The continuous shipments of endangered species is equaled by the arrival of new enthusiasts to the island and most of them ultimately end up in the cooking pot of Dr. Barbara’s personal desires, needs, and visions. And indeed, flesh increasingly appears as flesh. Relieved when Neil has caught a fish “as large as you are, Monique,” Monique replies with relief: “Good. I’m so hungry I could eat myself.”69 As Dr. Barbara’s visions grow more feverish and as more and more of the endangered animals end up in the cooking pot, the production of meaning, neatly set up with the help of the symbol and the allegorical in the beginning of the novel, appears rather as so many vain attempts at dressing up the materiality of desire as representation. Jameson notes how the long domination of the symbol reaching from Romanticism to late Modernism is broken by a re-emergence of allegory in postmodernity. As the allegorical re-emerges in postmodernity, the ambition of uncovering natural relationships and organic forms that were key to the Romantic understanding of the symbol, and the modern reliance on allegory as a necessarily vain attempt to reach such allusive unity, both seem to be long gone. At the same time, more traditional ideas of allegory as “some one-to-one table of equivalences” and as such, as harboring “a one-dimensional view of this signifying process”70 are questioned as they miss out on the fact that equivalences are themselves constantly changing and transforming over time. Indeed, Jameson argues, the interest in allegory in contemporary literary theory is related specifically to the profoundly discontinuous spirit of allegory today. It has become, rather “a matter of breaks and heterogeneities, of the multiple polysemia of the dream rather than the homogeneous representation of the symbol.”71 Ballard’s text not only builds on such heterogeneity and discontinuity but also exposes how such polysemia hides the fact that we are still eager to locate systems of meaning that transcend nature. Unlike a Benjaminian allegory which exists as analogy to a higher and immaterial truth as that which cannot be represented, Ballard’s allegory ultimately emerges as one in which the immaterial will have to stand back in favor of the base and distinctly material ecology of human and nonhuman animals that cannot be fitted into overarching constructions of meaning. Read in the light of Morton’s argument, we can see how Ballard’s work seems to suggest that experience, if it is to be ecological, must try to escape the concepts and forms that keep it sealed in Nature. This is a dark ecology that Morton describes as an “ethics that refuses to digest the object into an ideal form.”72 Like the “noir” ecology he outlines, the

­76     Frida Beckman characters are implicated to the point where the idea of a world “over there” is undermined by messy involvement.73 If a Coleridgean belief in the symbol reflects a metaphysical belief in an organic unity and a later turn toward the allegorical reflects a faltering of this belief, Ballard’s constant shifts between such different frameworks may be said to reflect not a belief in any one particular mode but a belief in the political implications of such modes in the first place. In Rushing to Paradise, this is underlined by pointing to the insufficiency of existing conceptual frameworks to account for living relations. Around the island and the birds is built enormous scaffolding of human meaning – the Romantic symbol, the allegory of power – but as the albatrosses are exchanged for “any bird” and the birds are exchanged for other endangered species and ultimately also for humans, the scaffolding crumbles leaving us with nothing other than stringy meat.

Conclusion In the introduction to this chapter, I suggested that we can read the development of the human-animal relation in Ballard’s work as a narrative and that Rushing to Paradise, published in 1994, constitutes the culmination of this narrative. The works that come after this novel – Cocaine Nights (1996), Super-Cannes (2000), Millennium People (2003), and Kingdom Come (2006) – and which would prove to be Ballard’s last, all take a different course. If the first sets of novels may be seen to address the ecological instead of Nature in accordance with the Morton argument posed earlier, all these four final novels portray a geopolitical landscape where both Nature and the ecological seem to be missing. Along with this disappearance comes a disappearance of life in any dynamic sense. There is little room for agency of any kind as the needs of the characters that populate these novels have been completely attuned to a system of comfort and control. As Gasiorek puts it, all human needs “have been anticipated, and the entire social mechanism has been calibrated to minimise friction and disturbance.”74 We do not have enough space to analyze these novels in detail.75 Rather, and just as I paid particular attention to the transition between metaphor and metamorphosis in The Unlimited Dream Company, the point here is simply to note a development and transition in Ballard’s work more generally. The letting go of human and humanist presuppositions in the earliest work, and the struggle with metamorphosis, symbolism, and allegory in the subsequent stories seem to come to an end with the ironic undermining of allegory in Rushing to Paradise. In the final works, the closed-in

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     77

spaces of the characters are reflected in the closed-in frameworks of meaning. If Nature is a term that, as Morton suggests, “holds us back from meaningful engagements with what, in essence, nature is all about: things that are not identical to us or our preformed concepts,”76 the characters in the last novels are completely sheltered from anything not identical to them and their preformed concepts. On the one hand, this may be read as a sorry surrender to the allegorization in postmodernity theorized by Jameson, and to a world that seems to work in the opposite direction from what Morton calls for – a world in which the fetishization of nature damages rather than contributes to true ecological development. The perfectable landscapes of the last novels certainly suggest as much. On the other hand, Ballard’s work as a whole, as I have tried to show, raises questions of how we need to revisit and reconfigure traditional literary concepts. Looking closely at Ballard’s work may enable us to discuss the relation between traditions of literary form and Nature on a specific level and to exemplify how literature can contribute to an imagining of a more nuanced ecology.

Notes   1. I would like to thank Mike Lundblad for organizing the symposium dedicated to bringing the contributors of this volume together as well as the generous input of these other authors. I would also like to thank Charlie Blake for his excellent feedback.   2. Andrzej Gasiorek, J. G. Ballard (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), 171.   3. See Michael Lundblad, The Birth of a Jungle: Animality in ProgressiveEra U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), especially the section called “Becoming-Wolf,” and various works on posthumanism such as, for example, Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).  4. Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 1.   5. Ibid. 2.   6. J. G. Ballard, The Crystal World (Frogmore: Triad/Panther Books, 1978), 157.   7. J. G. Ballard, The Drought (London: Harper Perennial, 2008), 66.  8. Morton, Ecology Without Nature, 24.   9. Ibid. 63–4. 10. Bruce Clarke, Allegories of Writing: The Subject of Metamorphosis (New York: State University of New York Press, 1995), 2. 11. Joyce. E. Salisbury, “Human Beasts and Bestial Humans in the Middle Ages,” in Jennifer Ham and Matthew Senior (eds.), Animal Acts: Configuring the Human in Western History (London: Routledge, 1997), 9–21, 9–10.

­78     Frida Beckman 12. Ibid. 10–13. 13. Marina Warner, Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 25. 14. Rita Copeland and Peter T. Struck, “Introduction,” in Rita Copeland and Peter T. Struck (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Allegory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 1–11, 10–11. 15. Onno Oerlemans, “The Animal in Allegory: From Chaucer to Gray,” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 20: 2 (2013), 296–317, 299. 16. Ibid. 296. 17. Ibid. 299. 18. Jonathan S. Taylor, “The Subjectivity of the Near Future: Geographical Imaginings in the Work of J. G: Ballard,” in Rob Kitchin and James Kneale (eds.), Lost in Space: Geographies of Science Fiction (London: Continuum, 2002), 90–103, 96. 19. Fredric Jameson, Archeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso, 2007), 268. 20. Ballard, The Drought, 47. 21. Ibid. 57. 22. Ibid. 203. 23. Ibid. 53. 24. Ibid. 59. 25. Ibid. 60. 26. Ibid. 65. 27. Ballard, The Crystal World, 166. 28. I explore this in more detail in Frida Beckman, “Chronopolitics: Space, Time, and Revolution in the Later Work of J. G. Ballard,” Symploke, 21: 1–2 (2013), 271–89. 29. J. G. Ballard, Crash (London: Harper Perennial, 1973), 2. 30. Rosetta Brooks and J. G. Ballard, “Myths of the Near Future,” in Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara (eds.), Extreme Metaphors: Selected Interviews with J. G. Ballard, 1967–2008 (London: Fourth Estate, 2012), 241–7, 242. 31. Jeanette Baxter, J. G. Ballard’s Surrealist Imagination: Spectacular Authorship (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009), 215. 32. Ibid. 216. 33. J. G. Ballard, The Unlimited Dream Company (London: Flamingo, 2000), 11. 34. Ibid. 11. 35. Ibid. 13–14. 36. Ibid. 12–13. 37. Ibid. 19. 38. Ibid. 7. 39. Ibid. 57–8. 40. Ibid. 60. 41. Ibid. 74. 42. Ibid. 74. 43. Ibid. 77. 44. Ibid. 79.

J. G. Ballard’s Dark Ecologies     79 45. Ibid. 79–80. 46. Baxter, J. G. Ballard’s Surrealist Imagination, 56. 47. Ibid. 34–5. 48. Not the least through Ernst’s own alter ego Loplop – a bird/human that holds a special place in both Ernst’s work and life. 49. Margot Norris, Beasts of the Modern Imagination: Darwin, Nietzsche, Kafka, Ernst, and Lawrence (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 135. 50. Ibid. 137. 51. Ibid. 135. 52. J. G. Ballard, Rushing to Paradise (London: Flamingo, 1995), 9. 53. Ibid. 13. 54. Ibid. 13. 55. Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 45–6. 56. Lee Rozelle, “‘I Am the Island’: Dystopia and Ecocidal Imagination in Rushing to Paradise, Super-Cannes, and Concrete Island,” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 17: 1 (2010), 61–71, 64. 57. Ballard, Rushing to Paradise, 27. 58. Ibid. 15. 59. Gasiorek, J. G. Ballard, 135. 60. Ballard, Rushing to Paradise, 217. 61. Ibid. 189. 62. Ibid. 235. 63. Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osbourne (London: Verso, 2003), 36. 64. Ibid. 229. 65. Jim Dwyer, Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Ecofiction (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2010), 63. 66. Will Self and J. G. Ballard, “Conversations: J. G. Ballard,” in Sellars and O’Hara, Extreme Metaphors, 299–319, 306. 67. Ballard, Rushing to Paradise, 174. 68. Ibid. 181. 69. Ibid. 181. 70. Fredric Jameson, “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” Social Text, 15 (1986), 65–88, 73. 71. Ibid. 73. 72. Morton, Ecology Without Nature, 195. 73. Ibid. 187. 74. Gasiorek, J. G. Ballard, 21. 75. I have analyzed these late novels in the aforementioned Beckman, “Chronopolitics.” 76. Morton, Ecology Without Nature, 7.

Chapter 4

Staging Humanimality: Patricia Piccinini and a Genealogy of Species Intermingling Sara E. S. Orning In Patricia Piccinini’s sculpture The Welcome Guest (Figures 4.1–4.3), a small child of about two or three years old stands on a bed while looking adoringly up at a smiling creature standing in front of her. The creature, slightly taller than the child, has oversized single claws growing out of its feet and hands, and a head, torso, and upper legs reminiscent of both human and ape. We may describe it as both strange and familiar, frightening and interesting. It is in the process of embracing the child, who has begun to open her arms in return. The look and smile they share are loving, calm, and accepting. On the bed’s headboard is perched a peacock – as witness, or possibly decoration? The creature’s large, sharp-looking claws look both impractical and potentially threatening, the latter in contrast to the friendliness of the embrace. This kind of encounter, where the action is suspended in the sculptural moment, is characteristic of many of Piccinini’s works. The outcomes of her intimate humanimal encounters are hard to determine.1 In this chapter, I use encounters as the starting point for an investigation of Piccinini’s sculptures as part of a genealogy of species intermingling that goes back to much earlier forms of monstrosity and hybridity, such as early modern “monsters” and Victorian “freaks.” While placing Piccinini’s work in such a genealogy, I also claim that she breaks with it through facilitating a possibility for ethical engagement with the nonhuman animal “other” that the previous forms of species intermingling do not. My investigation is thus organized in a two-pronged argument. The first part of the argument is rooted in how I see Piccinini’s work taking up what Anat Pick calls “a crisis at the level of the human form.”2 In Pick’s analysis, it is the trauma of transformation from human to nonhuman animal that prompts the crisis of the human form. This crisis is easily recognizable in Piccinini’s humanimal forms, which take on a partly, but never wholly, human guise. In her sculptures, the transformation is

Staging Humanimality     81

Figures 4.1–3   Patricia Piccinini, The Welcome Guest, 2011, silicone, fiberglass, taxidermied peacocks, timber bed, bed clothes, variable dimensions. (Courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.)

Figure 4.2

­82     Sara E. S. Orning

Figure 4.3

occurring not just at the level of species, but at the level of bodily, phenomenological experience. As spectators, we are bound to wonder not only about what these creatures are, how they were created, and what they might do, but also about the implications for our own bodies and selves.3 A similar experience, also rooted in the questioning of the human form, was facilitated by the circus sideshow’s exhibition of nonhuman animals with human characteristics and humans with nonhuman animal characteristics for more than 150 years, mainly during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The exhibition of performers with carefully crafted humanimal characteristics constitutes a scene that has staged the experience of difference for hundreds of years. In the sideshow, particular bodies were put on stage or in the pit in order to perform humanimal hybridity, be they dogs dressed as humans and performing famous battle scenes from Western history, or human performers like the “Lobster Boy” and the “Bear Lady,” who purportedly showed us possible human/ nonhuman animal crossovers. Piccinini’s works are genealogically connected to these earlier experiences of hybridity that raised the question of the spectators’ own humanity/animality, but with some significant differences.

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Most importantly, the encounters staged in the sideshow and Piccinini’s works respectively have different ethical ramifications and, hence, different outcomes when it comes to the potential to spur engagement with the strange, familiar, abject, repulsive, and/or attractive humanimal in the encounter. This is the second part of the argument I make about Piccinini’s sculptures: whereas they may draw on some of the same mechanisms as the sideshow in exhibiting humanimal hybridity for our curiosity, repulsion, fascination, and human self-doubt, they also open up for a very different way of relating to our nonhuman animal others. Here I draw on what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson in the context of disability studies has described as staring leading to engagement.4 This happens partly by Piccinini’s emphasis on multivalent, but mostly peaceful and friendly, encounters between the actors in her sculptures, and partly by the way the not-quite-human creatures are portrayed in relation to their recognizably human counterparts. In contrast to the objectification and detachment between spectator and performer in sideshows, then, these features of Piccinini’s work make it more difficult for the audience to distance themselves from the staged bodies. This is not to say that the encounters Piccinini stages are only straightforwardly and simply benign; the creatures, situations, and potential interpretations are too complex for that. Their shapes, countenances, and texture certainly leave room for ambivalence in how we as spectators react to them, eliciting a mixed pleasure and disgust, but this ambivalence also serves as an entry point into engaging with otherness. The crisis of the human form takes the perhaps more familiar crisis of the category or status of the human to a concrete, bodily level. Erica Fudge writes, “Achieving human status has never been easy,” highlighting the continuous work put into occupying and defending this very category, and the animal’s “privileged” status as a popular “other” in this regard.5 In the same vein, Marianne DeKoven and Michael Lundblad describe one direction of animal studies as problematizing “an essentialist human/animal binary, for example, by focusing on that binary’s violent history in relation to constructions of what it means to be ‘human’ or how various human groups have been granted or denied ‘humanity.’”6 Indeed, Fudge finds, humans are wholly dependent on animals as others in order to be anything themselves: “To assert human supremacy writers turn to discuss animals, but in this turning they reveal the frailty of the supremacy which is being asserted. Paradoxically, humans need animals in order to be human.”7 Investigating the nature and manifestations of this need is at the heart of animal studies. More specifically, this chapter falls under what Lundblad has called “animality studies,” making a distinction between work with explicit ties to

­84     Sara E. S. Orning activism and animal welfare, and work that looks at how animality has been represented and worked through in literary and cultural studies. The material in this chapter springs out of an interest, which I share with much recent scholarship in animal and animality studies, of unmasking difference both internal and external to the human, as well as questioning historical and contemporary human exceptionalism.8 As such, I am adding to a discussion of the assumptions and ideas underlying the terms “man” and “human” in humanism that is questioning what Vanita Seth calls an “ontological privileging of the human.”9 The result is a challenge familiar to animal studies, namely of the hierarchies of being, and a destabilizing of the human as a monolithic (and automatically superior and powerful) actor. When it comes to hybridity, animal and animality studies intervene in and reformulate questions of humanimal hybridity in terms of both undermining human exceptionalism and making us realize that “existence is not an individual affair.”10

Hybrids, monsters, freaks, humanimals – a note on terms The moment captured in The Welcome Guest is indicative of a certain quality present in many of Piccinini’s works: it is filled with wonder, surprise, ambivalence, perhaps also alarm (if only in the spectator) – and one cannot be absolutely sure that the encounter in question will end well. It introduces species that simultaneously embody something familiar and something that might be the afterthoughts of future experiments in humanimal form. Frequently, we cannot be entirely sure about how to classify the bodies in front of us – are they human, animal, part of each? Piccinini’s oeuvre is home to a host of indeterminate creatures inhabiting the nooks and crannies of as-of-yet not quite familiar taxonomies, but nevertheless – like Margaret Atwood’s “pigoons” and “rakunks” – somehow vaguely familiar and definitely imaginable, and located somewhere on the continuum of human and nonhuman animal.11 These descriptions of ambivalence and wonder echo particularly three categories of human/nonhuman animal intermingling, namely monsters, freaks, and hybrids. It is possible to think of Piccinini’s creatures as monsters, in the sense of “a mythical creature which is part animal and part human, or combines elements of two or more animal forms.”12 “Monster” has been in circulation since the twelfth century, simultaneously demonstrating (Latin monstrare) and warning (Latin monere) of strange tidings, evil forces, unnatural conceptions, or forbidden actions. It is a category formed as much of the affective reactions it elicits as the actual bodies that fall under its description. Monsters thus have a long

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history, from Pliny the Elder’s accounts during Antiquity of the “exotic races” at the end of the world, via early modern Europe’s eclectic mix of beings worthy of the name,13 and Victorian medical terminology, to the more contemporary psychiatric use of the term.14 We find an offshoot of monstrosity in the term “freak,” commonly used for performers in Victorian circus sideshows, but originally describing “a capricious prank or trick” from the sixteenth century onwards.15 The sideshow performer was called “freak” mainly as a shorthand for “freak of nature,” the English translation of the Latin term lusus naturae (“nature’s sport”), which was the name for specimens – human, animal, plant – that diverged from the usual type.16 In the original Latin, we see remnants of the capriciousness, unpredictability, and variation that Nature, capitalized, was considered capable of up until the end of the seventeenth century.17 We see echoes of this ambiguous capriciousness in Piccinini’s sculptures, a playfulness that is laced with seriousness in that her creatures are sometimes bred with a purpose, and sometimes “byproducts” of untraditional modes of reproduction in contemporary medical technology. As such, they might be said to be freaks of a highly “cultured nature,” or, pace Donna Haraway, freaks of natureculture. A third pertinent category for Piccinini’s creatures is “hybrid,” understood as either “the offspring of two animals or plants of different species” or “anything derived from heterogeneous sources, or composed of different or incongruous elements.”18 That sounds quite close to the description of “monster” above, and monsters and hybrids do have close connections and several overlaps historically and affectively. Yet they are not the same.19 First off, in contrast to the long running time of the term “monster,” “hybrid” only entered the English language in the seventeenth century, and was used commonly from the nineteenth century. Its usage being chiefly within animal husbandry and botany, it lacks the connection to superstition, folklore, and religion that lends an extra sphere of interpretation and significance to the monster. Additionally, even if both terms include possible nonhuman/human animal intermingling, there are several types of hybrid that cannot be classified as monsters.20 In contemporary times, the term “monster” has traveled from its premodern meanings into a bifurcation of psychological monstrosity (as Foucault traces) and fictional, often cinematic or fairy-tale, ferocious creatures like werewolves, zombies, or vampires that inspire fear and horror. “Freak” as a description of sideshow performers has gone out of use due to the decline of the sideshow, which was a result of a combination of a shift in public attitudes to disability and disability rights activism.21 It also retains some of its refusenik connotations from the 1960s’

­86     Sara E. S. Orning counterculture use of the word, but becomes hard to use analytically for Piccinini’s sculptures because its use and history are so bound up with drawing a line between “them” and “us.” That is precisely the boundary I want to question in my analysis of Piccinini’s work, hence we must look to other terms. Meanwhile, “hybrid” has gone from the realm of plants and animals to entering everyday usage chiefly through technology and medicine. It does not invoke the same amount of automatically negative connotations as “monster,” while still having the potential to trigger worries about boundaries between species.22 In that sense, hybrids embody the promise and the threat of new advances in medicine. In the cultural imaginary, the ambivalence between the wanted outcomes and the feared byproducts is played out particularly in the realms of science fiction, horror, and art.23 This is the space that Piccinini’s creatures inhabit: between the promise and the fear of new creations that might challenge the boundaries between nonhuman and human animals. And this is where the term “humanimal” becomes productive, a term that gradually has come into common usage since the early 2000s. It is used for many different things and in different contexts, commonalities between which include the intermingling of humans and animals on the level of species, a relationship of care between humans and animals, or a critical evaluation of how that relationship has been understood and created in various historical contexts.24 In the context of this chapter, “humanimal” serves as shorthand quite generally for encounters between nonhuman and human animals where some kind of bond is created, either emotionally or on the level of species or bodily form. I also use it for denoting instances where the ontological boundaries between nonhuman and human animals are blurred, and where it is unclear where one ends and the other begins. As we will see, Piccinini’s hybrids can be interpreted as humanimal in all of these ways.

Genealogy and the body In analyzing the echoes in Piccinini’s work of past humanimal hybrids, I do not want to set up an unbroken, teleological narrative of unambiguous changes and feelings forever left behind. In other words, it is not a question of creating a narrative of “great moments” causally linked up through time – in the shape of Nietzsche’s “monumental history” – but rather of employing Foucault’s genealogical method.25 Hybrids have a long and fraught history, many-faceted and playing out across different

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media, arenas, and discourses. The affective landscape from which they emerge, the emotions they trigger, and the symbolic material they embody are identical neither between time periods nor between themselves. That is why a conventional or chronological history of species intermingling would be of little help in understanding the affective work that humanimal hybridity does, and its relation to our capacity to ambivalently wonder about the human form. Rather, we have to use a multi-origin approach. Michael Lundblad notes well that homogenizing different manifestations into one monumental history is not a fruitful way of looking at the vast number of examples of animality and discourses of the animalhuman over the past thousands of years.26 That would entail that the trope of the animal – as well as that of the human, we might add – has remained a constant across a vast range of cultural and historical moments. That is why I let Piccinini’s sculptures stand as the central bodies in this chapter, and draw on echoes as well as breaks between these sculptures and earlier manifestations of species intermingling. These echoes rarely constitute direct similarities or imitations of earlier examples, but could be transformations or revisitings of thematics embodied in earlier moments of species intermingling. As such, my aim is to illuminate how Piccinini’s sculptures can be seen in connection with other past and present instantiations of hybridity at the same time as emphasizing that there is no unbroken or inevitable line running from, say, Fred Wilson aka the Lobster Boy to The Welcome Guest. At the center of this genealogy rests the body, what Foucault called “the inscribed surface of events,” as that which embodies expressions and negotiations of how we understand species difference at various points in time. Foucault, in his effort to dissolve an origin- and essencebased approach to history by arguing for a genealogy of descent, states that “descent attaches itself to the body.”27 The body – not lofty ideas of essence or a singular origin – is at the center of genealogy, because “the body is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas), the locus of a dissociated self (adopting the illusion of a substantial unity), and a volume in perpetual disintegration.”28 However, like “the animal” and “the human,” “the body” is not a constant, nor is it a bounded, limited, self-same object. As Donna Haraway has pointed out about the human body, such a taken-forgranted entity could be called an illusion in itself since it is made up of only about 10 percent of genomes that can be described as exclusively “human.”29 The rest belong to various other “messmates” we keep as company, such as bacteria and other life forms. In other words, what we may call the fiction of the human body is based on difference already at

­88     Sara E. S. Orning our physical core. Our long humanist history of considering ourselves singular and human, as well as more contemporary neoliberal ideas of the coherent, in-control self, makes this a difficult concept to grasp.30 This is where Pick’s argument regarding the crisis of the human form is helpful to understand how Piccinini’s sculptures work at the level of unsettling ideas of the human as a constant, bounded entity free of the influence of nonhuman animal others. In her analysis of Marie Darrieussecq’s novel Pig Tales, Pick addresses the instability and lack of unity of “the human form.”31 Eschewing earlier interpretations of the central character of the novel, a woman who transforms into a pig, as merely a metaphor for human-to-animal transition, Pick argues that such interpretations “do not entertain hybridity at the literal level of species, nor, therefore, do they consider hybridity as complicating the very notion of a clear human/animal divide.” And she continues, “as metaphor, the transformations of species denote crises in human affairs (social, sexual, political, or personal) while brushing aside the overwhelmingly physical trauma of metamorphosis: the crisis of the human form.”32 The body, then, is where the battle for categorization is being waged and the experience of transformation takes place.

A genealogy of intermingling Piccinini’s creatures emerge from current medical and technoscientific debates about stem cells, gene splicing, reproductive technologies, cloning, and genetic engineering, giving faces (and sometimes other body parts) to the more abstract questions about our bodily realities that are being vigorously discussed in the public and academic realms. Her work appears during a time in which the Vacanti mouse with the human ear-looking cartilage on its back and xenotransplantation (the use of live, nonhuman animal cells, tissues, and organs in human patients) offer truly embodied models of hybridity, replacing and actualizing science-fiction imaginations. At the center of her practice is a cautiously optimistic investigation of the unintended consequences of current technological, environmental, and biomedical processes. Medicine and biotechnological interventions and transformations of bodies are of particular interest to her, as “various technologies, especially medical ones, have really changed our idea of what it means to be human.”33 Discussions regarding the unstable lines between species and what it means to be a human and a nonhuman animal have (re)surfaced at several points in history. In the nineteenth century, for example, new scientific advances resulted in the boundary between human and animal

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being contested from several quarters. Especially in its incarnation of human versus ape, the boundary had already become less solid in the eighteenth century, when Linnaeus – as Harriet Ritvo describes it – “located humanity firmly within the animal kingdom, constructing the primate order to accommodate humans, apes, monkeys, prosimians, and bats.”34 This affinity between human and ape, and more generally between human and animal, was solidified in Darwin’s The Origin of Species, published in 1859. At that point in time, people protested both from within and outside of science against having to think of themselves as a type of animal. Yet – or perhaps for that very reason – humans who were considered bordering on being animals, who embodied the in-between of human and animal by having animal bodily traits, were great attractions in popular entertainment, as they had been for centuries. In the nineteenth century, the commercial potential in such ambivalent, politically charged attractions was exploited to the fullest. In the sideshow, a likeness to an animal was an advantage in terms of selling tickets since it played on the audience members’ fascination with hybrid beings and their own classificatory closeness to apes. Humanimal hybrids were an integral part of the affective economies of the popular entertainment form of the sideshow in the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Human bodies – some with disabilities; some with other physical conditions; some self-fashioned – were constructed and staged as crossing over into the category of nonhuman animals. Anywhere hybridity could be used as a way to explain physical features, new categories of performers were invented: people with ectrodactyly (a congenital condition where two or more fingers and/or toes are fused together) were staged as “Lobster Girl/Boy”; people with hypertrichosis (hirsutism) were staged as “ape people.” Contrary to assumptions, performers were not dressed up as the animals they were purportedly related to. For example, on the cartes de visite of Fred Wilson, one of the most famous performers who went under the name of Lobster Boy, he is dressed neatly in a three-piece suit, leaning up against a chair and posed against a luxurious backdrop of draped curtains, flowers, and ornate carpets. His pants end at the knees in order to show off his feet, and he is holding up his hand while looking away from the camera. Here Wilson’s animality is staged in the body, the “claw”-looking hands and feet, and then contrasted with the trappings of humanity: a suit, cufflinks, a bowtie, lush furnishings. Humanimality becomes a hybrid body dressed up as human. It was not only in the case of human performers that hybridity was staged by contrast in that way. Nonhuman animals that performed as

­90     Sara E. S. Orning hybrids were also a hugely popular part of the sideshow during the Victorian period, and paralleled the growth of the human sideshow.35 In both iterations, the blurring of species boundaries held particular sway, which in the case of nonhuman animals was staged by playing to the “animal natures” of man and to the capacity of animals to be like humans.36 Animals were, for example, staged to enact famous scenes from human history, or they were anthropomorphized by being given names and back histories of particular actors in famous social events.37 Thus, in a kind of inverse relation, human performers drew on their bodily likeness to nonhuman animals, while nonhuman animal performers drew on human abilities, personhood, and characteristics. The humanimality in Piccinini’s sculptures is more difficult to separate into “human” and “animal.” The hybridity she portrays is at the level of species, which transforms the sculptural bodies to the point that the blurring taking place results in a new being rather than one disguised as the other. What she has in common with Victorian performers and showmen is drawing on and consciously manipulating existing classificatory categories and current theories of evolution. By doing that, her sculptures maximize the effect Garland-Thomson calls “enfreakment,” as well as appealing to the audience’s imagination. Both the sideshow performers and Piccinini’s sculptures are thus framed by and understood through a larger set of discourses – including forms of practice and exhibition – about the biological and cultural bonds between human and nonhuman animals, and how these bonds are understood and challenged through contemporary scientific practices.

Engaging with the other When considering the ambivalence of familiarity and strangeness of the humanimality both in the context of sideshows and in Piccinini’s work, we might argue that looking at different bodies is not only about confirming one’s own normality, but also about being allowed to recognize affinities between oneself and the humanimal. In other words, humanimal bodies offer an opportunity to recognize one’s own, hidden animality that cannot be otherwise shown. Our response to ambivalent bodies comes out of the particular contexts in which these responses take place. During the nineteenth century, for example, which was a time of rapid and chaotic modernization where industrial accidents and the Civil War in the United States “literally changed the shapes of human bodies on a dramatic new scale,” Garland-Thomson writes, “concern with the place and meaning of the body” took on new importance.38 As in other

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moments of change, the body was at the center when playing out fears and expectations for the new order; Foucault’s “inscribed surface of events.” Garland-Thomson writes this about the spectator of sideshows: “If this new body felt alien to the ordinary citizen, the freak’s bizarre embodiment could assuage viewers’ uneasiness either by functioning as a touchstone of anxious identification or as an assurance of their regularized normalcy.”39 The hybrid let the audience invest ambivalently in the freaky body, both through identifying with and repudiating it. When we bring Garland-Thomson’s analysis to bear on Piccinini’s work, the ambivalence between assuring normalcy and providing anxious identification is evident in several sculptures. Moreover, the ambivalence the sculptures inspire complicates an easy drawing of boundaries between an aggressor and a victim, or between species. A tidy pigeonholing of affect in the creatures both sculpted and watching becomes difficult. In the following readings of three of Piccinini’s works and the subsequent analysis, I will explore how this ambivalence is a hallmark for wonder as a productive affective state leading to potential engagement.

The Embrace In Patricia Piccinini’s sculpture The Embrace (Figures 4.4–4.6), a small, marsupial-like creature has lodged itself squarely on the front of a woman’s head. Its legs are resting on her neck, its arms clinging to the sides of her head, and its stomach glued to her face. With the woman’s facial expression obscured by the creature, we are left to interpret her reactions through her surprised, lent-back stance, bent knees, and flailing arms. In the moment frozen in the sculpture, she seems more surprised than terrified. Perhaps the setting might go some way to explain her reaction: in one of the shows where the sculpture appeared, the woman is facing a wall covered with paintings.40 In-between the paintings hang half-circles of tent-like pods, some closed, some open and revealing creatures similar to the one clutching the woman’s face. The pod directly opposite the woman is open and empty, and we can only imagine the leap that has gone before the moment we are witnessing. Is this an unprepared spectator who suddenly has come closer to the wonders she was contemplating than she bargained for? Is she abruptly befriended by the living exhibit? Is this part of the plan? Piccinini opens up for these, and more, questions.41 The creature, its face peering over the woman’s head, has an inscrutable look: its big, black eyes are not particularly hostile, not particularly

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Figures 4.4–6   Patricia Piccinini, The Embrace, 2005, silicone, fiberglass, leather, plywood, human hair, clothing, variable dimensions. (Courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.)

Figure 4.5

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Figure 4.6

friendly. Yet its paws (or should we say fingers? – the creature is not one easily placeable in any known taxonomy) carefully embrace the woman’s head without digging its claws into matter. There are no immediate signs that the encounter will end in violence or devouring, yet we cannot rule out the possibility that the woman, once she has recovered from the immediate surprise by which the creature has caught her, will not grab at the body lodged on her face, nor can we be sure that the claws (nails?) on the finger-paws of the creature will not leave marks if such a move should be attempted. If we think of the woman as the primary audience to the exhibition of creatures in pods on the wall, the distance between observer and observed is literally collapsed in this particular sculpture. The control usually afforded to viewers at an exhibition is taken away from her, which in turn hinders objectification of the exhibits. That the hybrid exhibits are alive is not the salient point in this collapse; the nineteenthcentury sideshow performers of hybridity were also very much alive. Yet here the point of contact is at the heart of the experience, collapsing distance and abruptly bringing the spectator into the performance or exhibition.

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The Welcome Guest The sculpture we encountered at the beginning of this chapter, The Welcome Guest, brings a seemingly more benevolent scenario than the startling one in The Embrace. The title is an allusion to Goethe, who wrote that “beauty everywhere is a welcome guest.”42 The beauty Piccinini hints at is embodied both by the peacock – which is famous for its beauty for beauty’s sake – and perhaps also the creature moving to embrace the child. Why, asks Piccinini, do we place utility over everything else when we create new creatures? If nature was satisfied with creating beings whose beauty trumps their efficiency or utility, like the peacock, why should we think differently when we engineer new creatures into the world?43 Yet the contrast in this sculpture between the peacock and the creature is stark. As with many of Piccinini’s other sculptures, it is possible to object that the creature is more repulsive than beautiful, more frightening than inviting. What kind of beauty is this? A recalibrated beauty of a new, engineered natureculture, perhaps, a beauty that fits the new continuum of hybrid humanimals that Piccinini is introducing. If we go beyond Goethe and look to the subject of the title, we encounter the “guest.” A guest is a non-permanent member of the household, one who comes to visit and then, at some point, leaves again.44 Who is the guest in whose bed here? The humanimal creature with its claw-clad arms stretched out in an embrace? It seems to take the human child in, and thus could be said to be doing the welcoming. Yet the bed is a human bed and thus presumably belongs to the child, making her the one who is welcoming the creature into her close quarters. Then again, we do not know what kind of sleeping arrangements the creature is used to; perhaps the bed could belong to it? If we consider a guiding thought for Piccinini’s work, namely, to portray our unexpected and unwanted others and ask, “how do we receive them? How do we treat them?,” we could go in a different direction: the creature is not unexpected, and, indeed, welcome, but it is not staying. It might stay for a while, but not forever. As such, it is not a companion in the sense of Haraway’s companion species, but someone who is coming by for a while to keep us company.

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The Young Family In The Young Family (Figures 4.7 and 4.8), a large animal is lying on its side. Its pink, gleaming skin has a light layer of hair on its legs, arms, and head, as well as down its slightly protruding spine. The fingers and toes are human-looking, the long, floppy ears and snout-like face hybridlooking. Perhaps it is part dog, part pig. Or perhaps it is something we cannot yet name, but that we somehow know already and recognize in its somewhat uncanny familiarity? Two of the three children are on their bellies like kittens or puppies, with tiny traces of tails, suckling at the creature’s abdominal teats, while the last kid is on its back, its head turned with a loving gaze toward its mother, playing with its own feet and baring genitals that are similar to those of a human female. When I show The Young Family to my students, they frequently express widely diverging reactions: sympathy, disgust, anxiety, joy, discomfort, curiosity. We discuss these reactions, and try to explain them like good Aristotelians. Yet for all the words we find – the creature is uncanny because it seems human, yet not quite; or its blue-veined skin folds reminds someone of their elderly grandparent; or someone sees their pet in a strange incarnation – we ultimately end up just looking on, in wonder. The words end; we stare, we feel. Piccinini invites us (back) into a forgotten world of wonders, to a genetically enhanced wunderkammer where we can look, but not touch, even if touching is one of the strongest impulses we get.45 We want to touch these hyper-real forms as if we have to feel them in order to get a tactile connection to comprehending our own forms differently. Following Pick’s argument about hybridity calling into question the human form itself, the affect elicited by the sculptures – the complex, many-faceted reaction of wonder that I delineate above (including fear, surprise, awe, curiosity) – indicates that the sculptures confront us with the possibility of the very breakdown of our own form. The Young Family is troubling not only for its visual countenance of hybridity itself, but also because we imagine how it came to be, and how many more of it might exist. What mode of reproduction did it take for this to exist? Bestial relations (if we are feeling early modern), unexpected outcomes of a human or animal gestation process, genetic engineering, cloning-gone-wrong, or perhaps another still unknown form of reproduction? Both older and younger theories of human-nonhuman animal reproduction are possible to read into the sculpture. With Piccinini’s own background to the creature, where she envisages it as bred for organ donation, the issue of reproduction takes on a utilitarian,

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Figures 4.7–8   Patricia Piccinini, The Young Family, 2002, silicone, fiberglass, leather, human hair, plywood, 85 cm high × 150 cm long × 120 cm wide approx. (Photographer Graham Baring, courtesy of the artist, Tolarno Galleries, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.)

Figure 4.8

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unsentimental (if not brutal) character matched only by the loving gaze of the child at its mother. Again, we may trace the notion of ambivalence into Piccinini’s work. It is not an uncritical portrayal of a creature whose misty eyes appeal to our compassion and whom we can “save.” Rather, it portrays a situation where another being, a humanimal, has been created so as to relieve humans of suffering by donating its organs, presumably at the cost of its own life.46 That complicates the encounter and makes our ethical stance toward the creature more problematic: do we care for it only so that it can ultimately sacrifice itself for us?

Wonder and the possibility for ethical engagement A salient feature of the appeal of the humanimal hybridity in these three examples is some form of wonder: whether it is the ominous kind of wonder on par with “marvels” and “prodigies” in the sixteenth century, or the category of various performing “wonders” (boneless, armless) of the world in the nineteenth century.47 If we look at the variety of sources in the OED entry on “wonder,” wonder both as a noun and a verb was a common trait in reactions to the surprising, astonishing, and special – the wonder-full. In religious treatises, natural philosophy, travel writing, and popular ballads from the early modern period, words like “wonder,” “admiration,” “fear,” and “marvel” turn up in conjunction with each other, indicating that reactions to hybrid apparitions were complex and often composed of feelings a modern audience might see as contradictory. Such mixed feelings rose in response to an equally heterogeneous range of objects. According to Caroline Walker Bynum, wonder in the early modern context was “induced by the beautiful, the horrible, and the skillfully made, by the bizarre and rare, by that which challenges or suddenly illuminates our expectations, by the range of difference, even the order and regularity, found in the world.”48 This stands in contrast to wonder as it is presented in the Aristotelian tradition, in which it was generated by a problem one encountered, which proceeded to dissipate once the solution to that problem was found.49 Aristotle’s version of wonder was seen to petrify the spectator, but simultaneously demand an explanation. With this explanation, “emotion subsides and order prevails.”50 This narrative always ended with the containment of the original discomfort generated by the wonder-full thing at hand, thereby making it subservient to and conquerable by curiosity and methodical explanation. From the delineation of these two different types of wonder, two types of wondrous attitudes, or reaction patterns, can be drawn. The

­98     Sara E. S. Orning Aristotelian attitude involves attempting to explain and categorize the hybrid, thus divesting the hybrid body of its capacity to stun and amaze. The other adopts a less clear-cut process in its encounter with wondrous things, one where seemingly conflicting emotions operate simultaneously, such as curiosity, fear, and astonishment. The experience of wonder was here seen as valuable in itself, and not just to be bypassed on the speedy road to taming the marvel by explaining it. The latter dominates the early modern context while the former comes to play a more decisive role three hundred years later. Making the distinction between wonder as a response to something that could be fantastic, attractive, and terrifying alike, and wonder as an emotional reaction to something that was initially inexplicable, but then explained and thus defused, hence plays an important role when we consider both the humanimal hybrid’s trajectory from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and how wonder turns up again in the twenty-first century in the work of Patricia Piccinini. Wonder is connected to engagement when we update its terms of exhibition to the twenty-first century. The knowledge of existing species and the experimentation with their classificatory potential that we saw in the context of nineteenth-century sideshow humanimals is recast in Piccinini’s sculptures. She plays on our knowledge of existing species in order to create new ones that throw us off – uncanny, they almost look like something we know, but only almost. She shows us the familiar while introducing the unknown by way of the bodies of her sculptures. The unfamiliar familiarity of the sculptures invites a voyeurism that may be kindred to the one accompanying humanimal hybrids staged in the sideshows 150 years ago, yet it is staged radically differently and arguably opens up for new potential engagement with – and not just objectification of – the hybrid body. As we let ourselves stare at The Young Family, The Welcome Guest, or The Embrace, we may question how this fascination, ambivalence, and wonder connect to the ethical framework that Piccinini sets up for us. To begin with, it is worth considering the act of staring as one that creates a situation with many possible outcomes. In her book on staring, Garland-Thomson describes the beginning of this situation thus: “The eyes hang on, working to recognize what seems illegible, order what seems unruly, know what seems strange. Staring begins as an impulse that curiosity can carry forward into engagement.”51 Extraordinary bodies are Garland-Thomson’s starting point for her interrogation, bodies that confound our expectations in terms of shape or behavior. When we encounter such bodies, she writes, staring “offers an occasion

Staging Humanimality     99

to rethink the status quo. Who we are can shift into focus by staring at who we think we are not.”52 As such, we can see this as a continuation of the role of freak performers, who, as we saw above, could both provide an opportunity for “anxious identification” and assure the viewers of their own normalcy. Thus, ambivalence is still a key component in the act of staring as Garland-Thomson outlines it; it could entail objectification and distance, or it could facilitate connections and identifications otherwise repudiated. In other words, staring does not automatically lead only to insight and transformation. That goes for staring at Piccinini’s sculptures, too: despite the pleading gaze of the mother in The Young Family and the beatific smile of the creature in The Welcome Guest, we cannot assume that everyone is taken in. Resistance could arise from the creatures’ unusual, sometimes grotesque countenances; it could question their existence and purpose. After all, these are creatures created for our use, abuse, amusement, play, and protection, among other purposes. How do we know they will go along with our plan and remain our companions? How do we know they will refrain from hurting us when they find out our plans and reasons for creating them? In short, how do we know they will not all be the monsters to our Dr. Frankensteins? The answer to these questions is, of course, that we cannot know, and that is also part of Piccinini’s point. What Garland-Thomson’s situation of staring opens up, however, is the possibility of going beyond just staring as an act of intense looking and into an engagement with the nonhuman or human animal one is staring at. This is where the position of the spectator changes in relation to the exhibits in the Victorian sideshow and Piccinini’s sculptures respectively. The sideshow humanimal hybrid was staged for the wonder of the audience, to make them feel normal, to pique their curiosity and desire, and to invite ambivalent identification. The complicated and often exploitative conditions of the human performers, many of whom were born with disabilities that were then dressed up as humanimal hybridity, made the spectator complicit in their construction through the act of observation – and objectification – at a distance. Piccinini’s humanimal hybrids pique our curiosity about what it means to be human as well, but because the human is also staged in the scene of hybridity, the spectator’s detachment and objectifying gaze are made more difficult to sustain. Even if we do not know the outcomes of the encounters in, for example, The Embrace and The Welcome Guest, the human is staged with the nonhuman animal, which makes for a relational scene that resists objectification and opens up for engagement. Piccinini’s work is rife with ambivalent possibilities to be repulsed or

­100     Sara E. S. Orning engaged. She sets up humanimal encounters that serve to expand the scope of both the human and nonhuman animal form, and that throw the boundaries between the two into question. It makes us aware of continually having to renegotiate the boundaries between ourselves and others; or, increasingly, as animal and animality studies and medical research have shown, how those boundaries have been constructed around particular concerns for domination. By confronting us with her visions of a not impossible, and definitely wondrous, future, Piccinini is urging us to engage with both human and nonhuman animals in our present.

Notes   1. I am grateful to Michael Lundblad and the other contributors to this book, as well as Carla Freccero, for feedback and suggestions to earlier drafts of this chapter.   2. Anat Pick, Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).   3. As such, an analysis of Piccinini’s work could also address posthumanism. See, for example, Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013).   4. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Staring: How We Look (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).  5. Erica Fudge, Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern British Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 1. It is of course not only animals that have been constructed as others to the category of “human.” As Claire Jean Kim remarks, intersectionality in animal studies is needed not least because certain groups of humans have “participated very unevenly in the status and benefits of being ‘human’” (Claire Jean Kim and Carla Freccero, “Introduction: A Dialogue,” American Quarterly, 65: 3 (2013), 470). The necessity of examining the positions of animals in relation to those of race, class, gender, and sexuality has been well argued by Neel Ahuja, “Postcolonial Critique in a Multispecies World,” PMLA, 124: 2 (2009), 556–63; Michael Lundblad, The Birth of a Jungle: Animality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).   6. Michael Lundblad and Marianne DeKoven, “Introduction: Animality and Advocacy,” in Marianne DeKoven and Michael Lundblad (eds.), Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 1–16, 3.  7. Fudge, Perceiving Animals, 4.  8. See, for example, Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010); Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003); Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008).

Staging Humanimality     101   9. Vanita Seth, “Difference With a Difference: Wild Men, Gods, and Other Protagonists,” Parallax, 9: 4 (2003), 75–87, 78. 10. Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), ix. 11. Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (New York: Random House, 2003). 12. “monster, n., adv., and adj.,” OED Online (Oxford University Press, December 2012), available at (last accessed 1 December 2012). 13. In Ambroise Paré’s On Monsters and Marvels ([1573] Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), examples ranging from women who give birth to multiple children, to giraffes, allegorical creatures invented for political gain, and children with physical disabilities all fall under the description “monster.” 14. For an account of the transformation of the monster from being defined with recourse to mental instead of physical traits, see Michel Foucault, Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France 1974–75 (London: Verso, 2003). 15. “freak, n.1,” OED Online (Oxford University Press, December 2015), available at (last accessed 15 December 2015). 16. “lusus naturae, n.,” OED Online (Oxford University Press, December 2015), available at (last accessed 15 December 2015). 17. See Sara Orning, “Fleshly Embodiments: Early Modern Monsters, Victorian Freaks, and Twentieth-Century Affective Spectatorship,” PhD dissertation (University of California, Santa Cruz, 2012) for more on this. 18. “hybrid, n. and adj.,” OED Online (Oxford University Press, November 2015), available at (last accessed 13 November 2015). 19. If we look to early modern Europe, for example, we find several types of monsters, not all of which include humanimal hybridity. Paré distinguishes between different kinds of monstrosity according to their provenance and composition. 20. In fact, hybrids now exist all around us in various shapes and forms. This goes for technology (hybrid cars), plants (several rose species are hybrids), and people (nonhuman animal parts are used in transplants), amongst other examples. 21. Benjamin Reiss and David Serlin, Keywords for Disability Studies (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 85. 22. One prominent example is the reactions to Joseph Vacanti’s “earmouse” in the 1990s, frequently described as “grotesque.” See Suzanne Anker, “Cultural Imaginaries and Laboratories of the Real,” in Paul Atkinson, Peter Glasner, and Margaret Lock (eds.), The Handbook of Genetics and Society: Mapping the New Genomic Era (New York: Routledge, 2009). It is also worth noting that then President George W. Bush addressed fears surrounding species intermingling in his 2006 State of the Union Address, where he asked for “legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of

­102     Sara E. S. Orning medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos” since this would challenge the powers of “our Creator” to create human life (“State of the Union Address by the President,” 31 January 2006, The White House Archives, available at , last accessed 22 November 2016). 23. Think of the twentieth-century tradition of cinematic horror and sciencefiction fantasies of humanimal hybridity in films like Cat People (1942, remade in 1982), Species (1995), and Splice (2012); novels like The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells (1896); and artwork by artists like Orlan, Stelarc, Ionat Zurr, and Oron Catts. 24. Examples range from The Humanimal Entertainment Act, a U.K. company offering performers dressed as “half man, half animal” characters to events, to The Humanimal Trust, a U.K. charity that promotes research into diseases common to both human and nonhuman animals; Humanimals pet care in New Zealand; and Humanimalia, an online journal of human/ animal interface studies based at DePauw University in the United States. 25. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life ([1874] Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1980); Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow ([1971] London: Penguin, 1984), 76–100. Foucault emphasizes that “genealogy does not oppose itself to history . . . on the contrary, it rejects the metahistorical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies” (ibid. 77). Thus genealogy presents another method that might provide us with different solutions by cutting across the linearity of time and creating an alternative, discontinuous countermemory based on emergence rather than origins. Foucault argued that “no one is responsible for an emergence; no one can glory in it, since it always occurs in the interstice” (ibid. 85). His idea of genealogy, then, means asking questions about a topic like “how did it emerge?” and “what happened to make it emerge?” 26. Lundblad, Birth of a Jungle, 2. 27. Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 83. 28. Ibid. 83. 29. Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto, 10. 30. See Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (London: Routledge, 1990). 31. Pick, Creaturely Poetics, 83. 32. Ibid. 83. 33. Patricia Piccinini: “Artist Statement, The Young Family, 2002,” artist’s website, available at (last accessed 22 November 2016). 34. Harriet Ritvo, “Border Trouble: Shifting the Line Between People and Other Animals,” Social Research, 62: 3 (1995), 481–500, 484. 35. Timothy Neil, “White Wings and Six-Legged Muttons: The Freakish Animal,” in Marlene Tromp (ed.), Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in Britain (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2009), 60–76. 36. Ibid. 63. 37. Ibid. 64–5.

Staging Humanimality     103 38. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, “Introduction: From Wonder to Error – A Genealogy of Freak Discourse in Modernity,” in Rosemarie Garland Thomson (ed.), Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 1–19, 11. 39. Ibid. 11. 40. In other shows, there are only the pods on the wall, but in the same mix of closed, open with creatures, and open and empty pods respectively. 41. Laura Fernandez Orgaz and Patricia Piccinini, “The Naturally Artificial World,” interview, exhibition catalogue, Artium, artist’s website, available at (last accessed 22 November 2016). 42. Patricia Piccinini, “Artist statement, The Welcome Guest, 2011,” artist’s website, available at (last accessed 22 November 2016). 43. Ibid. 44. “guest, n.,” OED Online (Oxford University Press, December 2015), available at (last accessed 14 December 2015). 45. Anitra Goriss-Hunter notes that the frequent dips to touch Piccinini’s sculptures at the exhibitions the author attended bore witness to “the tactile sensuousness of the creatures” (Anitra Goriss-Hunter, “Slippery Mutants Perform and Wink at Maternal Insurrections: Patricia Piccinini’s Monstrous Cute,” Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 18: 4 (2004), 541–53, 543). A similar sensory engagement and urge to touch is explored by Anne Cranny-Francis with reference to Ron Mueck’s work in “Sculpture as Deconstruction: The Aesthetic Practice of Ron Mueck,” Visual Communication, 12: 1 (2012), 3–25. 46. We find a similar scenario in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go (New York: Knopf, 2005), albeit with humans being bred for organ donation to other humans. 47. “wonder, n.,” OED Online (Oxford University Press, December 2014), available at (last accessed 5 March 2015). 48. Carolyn Walker Bynum, Metamorphosis and Identity (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 69. 49. Peter G. Platt, Wonders, Marvels, and Monsters in Early Modern Culture (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1999), 15. 50. J. V. Cunningham, qtd. in ibid. 15. 51. Garland-Thomson, Staring, 3. 52. Ibid. 6.

Chapter 5

“Sparks Would Fly”: Electricity and the Spectacle of Animality Anat Pick

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I’m stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers – goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut- smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.   I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.1

So begins Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar (1963). Its rather flippant opening – “they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York” – that equates the seriousness of Cold War politics and national security with petty girlhood tribulations is, in fact, a triumph of literary compression. The Rosenbergs’ electrocution, it will turn out, has everything to do with the novel’s narrator and main character Esther Greenwood’s own fate, hospitalized in a number of psychiatric institutions to undergo a series of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments. From ECT to electrical execution, electricity exudes ambivalent powers: visible and imperceptible, life giving and lethal, healing and punitive. In his cultural history of electricity in America, David Nye claimed that “despite its ubiquity, electricity seemed to defy definition, and remained a mystery to the citizenry that saw it every day in the street.”2 Electricity is also thoroughly modern: “After the Russian Revolution Lenin proclaimed that only when the Soviet Union had been completely electrified could full socialism be attained.”3 In the free world, Darius Rejali has shown how, as an instrument of stealthy bodily control, electricity is characteristically democratic: it suits open societies in which public scrutiny provides legitimacy to power under the auspices of human rights discourse. Under conditions of scrutiny and accountability, electricity is an ideal torturing tool because it leaves few traces on the bodies of victims:4

“Sparks Would Fly”     105 In the 1910s and 1920s, when electricity was new, several police forces used electric devices to get confessions from prisoners. In Seattle from about 1922 to 1925 there was a cell in the downtown prison with an electrified mat. The [prisoners] would be forced to walk on it, then the electricity would be turned on, and the prisoners would hop and skip and sparks would fly until [they] confessed. The great thing about that was that electricity didn’t leave marks.5

“In no society,” open or closed, Nye asserts, “was electrification a ‘natural’ or ‘neutral’ process; everywhere it was shaped by complex social, political, technical, and ideological interactions.”6 The ambivalent and highly politicized history of electricity is poignantly embodied by one of its most famous proponents, Thomas Edison. Edison played a key role in the commercial electrification of the United States as well as in the development of motion picture technology and the electric chair, all of which intersected in interesting ways, not least in their use of animals as vital subjects of experimentation and display. Though Edison opposed capital punishment, he campaigned vigorously for electrical execution in the State of New York, and while he famously proclaimed the importance of compassion for animals, his New Jersey laboratory hosted numerous animal experiments on dogs, calves, and horses conducted by Harold P. Brown as part of Edison’s bid against alternating current (AC) promoted by his rival George Westinghouse. Although Edison’s direct current (DC) system finally lost the “war of the currents,” New York inaugurated electrical killing with the execution of William Kemmler on 6 August 1890. The electric chair combined the deadliness of AC with the supposed humaneness of electrical killing. Animals are also at the origin of ECT technology, pioneered in 1938 by the Italian psychiatrists Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini.7 Cerletti witnessed the electrical stunning of pigs in a Roman slaughterhouse, which induced convulsions in the animals; it was the seizures rather than the electricity that Cerletti and Bini saw as beneficial for the treatment of severe psychosis.8 The origins of the technique in animal slaughter continue to haunt ECT’s controversial status. A 1979 New York Times Magazine article by Maggie Scarf portrayed Cerletti as “a caring physician whose slaughterhouse investigation represented his attempt to test the effect of electrical current without endangering human life,” while anti-­psychiatry advocate and vocal opponent of ECT, Dr. John Friedberg, “alleged that Cerletti’s visit to the pig slaughterhouse gave him the inspiration to treat humans as pigs by shocking them. . . . Cerletti’s relationship with the pigs was presented to illustrate [Friedberg’s] assumptions about the power relationships in ECT.”9 Cerletti would experiment on pigs a decade later in order to study the brain-curing properties of emulsions produced in the pigs as a result of electroshocks.10 Considering the

­106     Anat Pick question of how to display the Bini–Cerletti electroshock machine in the contemporary setting of the museum, Alessandro Aruta asks: how can such an object be represented in an historically honest way? This is the problem, for while we might be true to the context of its emergence, within that context (of Fascist Italy) the Bini–Cerletti apparatus was at one and the same time a blessing, a hope, a lie, and a profitable commercial product.11

Once again, ambiguities abound. This chapter traces the scorched intersections of discipline and punish that govern the treatment of delinquents and beasts: from Greenwood/ Plath’s crazed female, through the pair of Jewish communist spies, and before them, the man-killing, crooked-tailed elephant Topsy, whose death by electrocution in 1903 at Coney Island was filmed by Edison in the early actuality Electrocuting an Elephant (1903).12 Topsy finds herself at the center of different derivations of electrical power that course through the bodies of animals and humans and confuse neat delineations of species. The film gave rise to multiple afterlives – as YouTube videos, in fiction, historical journalism, and film theory. Several important readings of the film as symptomatic of cinematic death, and cinematic animal death, stress the film’s inconclusiveness aided and abetted by electricity’s fictitious immediacy. As uniquely generative, Electrocuting an Elephant could be declared the “ground zero” of animal cinema. It combines the prowess of the cinematic apparatus, the ambivalence of electricity as an animating and lethal agent, and the spectacle of the vulnerable animal body that arouses both compassion and cruelty. As the building blocks of cinema, power, spectacle, and the susceptible living body are integrated by electricity whose historical iterations as killer (execution), torturer (electrocution), and healer (ECT) reveal the fundamental tensions of the medium. The strange persistence of Edison’s film can be attributed to the formal and ethical questions it raises about cinema’s violent capturing of living subjects. My argument is twofold: that the injunction against visible cruelty in so-called humane societies makes electricity a preferred instrument of violence in film and beyond, and that what counts as visible in turn becomes difficult to determine. Electrocuting an Elephant is a prime example of the indeterminate visibility of violence meted out by electricity as a profoundly ambivalent agent. With Plath and Rejali, Edison’s film reveals the technological and cultural collusions that exert their power over the bodies of women and animals as the objects of permissible semi-visible violence. “The desire to avoid cruelty,” writes Michael

“Sparks Would Fly”     107

Lundblad of Electrocuting an Elephant, “to provide an animal with a ‘humane’ death, is a significant aspect of this event.”13 Claims of the supposed painlessness of electrical death are both strengthened and undermined by the invisibility of the precise moment of death. For, as Electrocuting an Elephant makes clear, the terminal moment of animal death is imperceptible and perhaps also unknowable. At the heart of the absent moment of onscreen death and the invisibility of electricity is the physicality and historical specificity of the individual animal that electrocution coerces, scorches, and kills. This curious duality partly ensures Topsy’s enduring presence in discussions of cinematic animality. Her fate illustrates that cinema is not simply a representational medium but an apparatus for controlling animal life alongside the farm, the laboratory, and the circus, albeit an apparatus that hovers between the moment and the process of dying as between the stillness and motion of the animal image.

1903: Edison’s dying elephant Electrocuting an Elephant is one minute long. It was shot on location in front of Coney Island’s Luna Park, on the very spot of cinema’s birthplace of the fairground. The film is an example of early actuality, which Tom Gunning called the “cinema of attractions.”14 Between 1895 and 1906 films were not governed by the conventions of narrative storytelling. Instead, they foregrounded spectacle and technological novelty in an effort to shock, excite, and surprise. Storytelling as the mainstay of American cinema arrived shortly after, dispersing the cinema of attractions and relegating it to the quarters of the avant-garde. The renewed interest in films from the first half-decade of cinema since Gunning’s challenge to the essential narrativity of the medium has yielded fascinating scholarship on early film. Electrocuting an Elephant features centrally in these studies as a case in point of cinema’s ambition to capture movement and shape time – the harnessing of life and death. Although Topsy is not the first to die on film – this would be Edison’s 1895 The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots – Electrocuting an Elephant is an early real execution captured on film and it affects us as a shocking and perverse spectacle even today. Execution films belonged to a long tradition of lurid attractions, “enlivened,” as it were, by the arrival of the electric chair. As a highly ambivalent trope that both kills and reanimates, electricity becomes a euphemism for film, itself a type of intervention that both halts and brings back to life. Topsy was born circa 1875 and arrived to the United States as a baby

­108     Anat Pick in 1876, probably from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), via Hamburg.15 She was sold to P. T. Barnum’s rival show, the Adam Forepaugh Circus, that had initially claimed her as the first American-born elephant. Named after a slave girl in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Topsy would end up at Thompson & Dundy at Coney Island’s Luna Park.16 While still a child, Topsy was so badly beaten by Forepaugh’s son Addie that her tail broke. She came to be known as Crooked-Tail Topsy.17 It was standard practice for performing elephants to be beaten, stabbed, choked, shot, or burned. Physical and mental torture in addition to a life of extreme confinement was routine in both circuses and zoos, and some elephants fought back. The history of cruel and unusual treatment of performing elephants in the United States is not yet over.18 After years of abuse, the usually kind Topsy retaliated and killed three people, one of whom tried to feed her a lit cigarette. Elephant executions (as well as deaths accidentally resulting from maltreatment) were not uncommon; from the very first elephant brought to America in 1796 on a ship christened America (the elephant, too, was literally named, The Elephant), circus elephants suffered premature and violent deaths.19 As hanging was deemed impractical for such a large animal (though not impossible – a number of elephants before and after Topsy were hanged), Edison offered to electrocute Topsy and film the event. A crowd of 1,500 was present at Topsy’s electrocution, and countless others have since watched her dying on film. Elsewhere, I have written about the affinity between scientific experimentation and the cinematic spectacle of the vulnerable animal that is Electrocuting an Elephant. Edison’s film renders Topsy’s body as the site at which something called “life” is – and yet is not – visualized through the joint rituals of cinematography and science, whose subject is the criminal animal.20 My concern here is with the role of electricity in the bizarre ceremony that constructs animality as criminally or pathologically deviant and purports to redress this pathology through the use of progressive technology. Topsy’s execution, claims Lundblad, occurs at a moment at which “key constructions of both humanity and animality are in flux . . . in part through a new willingness to extend the rhetoric of ‘humane’ reform not only to working animals but also to working people.”21 According to Lundblad, Topsy’s killing can be understood as an allegory of and warning to the United States’ working masses at the turn of the twentieth century. Beyond the cinema of attractions, then, Electrocuting an Elephant spawns narratives about animality, moral and political agency, conformity, and the technologies that support or distort them. Before turning to Topsy’s afterlives, I want to look at the role that Edison’s film plays in film theory. Two of the most detailed and attentive

“Sparks Would Fly”     109

readings of the film appear in Mary Ann Doane’s The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (2002) and C. Scott Combs’s Deathwatch: American Film, Technology, and the End of Life (2014).22 While neither Doane nor Combs is interested in animality per se, both acknowledge the animal as constitutive of cinema’s realistic credentials, especially the reality of death. Doane’s concern is with cinema’s “technological promise to capture time”23 in the face of the frenzied and contingent experience of modernity. Thus cinema is a medium that negotiates and structures contingency. Doane posits the concept of the “event” as oscillating between contingency and structure. The tension between contingency and structure, she claims, lends specificity to the early formations of cinematic temporality.24 The cinema of attractions “seemed to be preoccupied with the minute examination of the realm of the contingent, persistently displaying the camera’s aptitude for recording.”25 As the contingent event par excellence, death is one of cinema’s prime “objects” of fascination and recording. Doane’s close reading of Electrocuting an Elephant demonstrates the film’s desire to delineate the event of Topsy’s death as closely as possible. There are two shots in Electrocuting an Elephant, separated by an undisguised cut, whose function is to create a continuous depiction of the execution. Between Topsy being led to the place of her execution (shot 1) and her collapsing onto her side engulfed by smoke (shot 2) are extraneous “non-events”: Topsy being strapped into place, fitted with a wooden frame wired to the generator in preparation for the administration of 6,600 volts of electricity. The cut excises the “dead time” between the two main actions of Topsy’s arrival at the gallows and the execution itself. The clearly discernible cut removes any excess material and configures the event more clearly. Doane calls this strategy a “denial of process” that “ensures the spectators’ experience of continuous time.”26 And yet despite its best attempts to isolate the authentic moment of death, the film’s aspiration to convey the “real time” of the event is only ever that – an aspiration – despite its claim to be grounded in the technological specificity of the medium. Even without cuts or camera stoppages of any sort, the actuality is destined to produce only the sign of time.27

Doane compares Electrocuting an Elephant to Edison’s earlier Execution of Czolgosz, With a Panorama of Auburn Prison (1901). She writes: The event which these execution films seek to represent could be defined as one of the most intractable contingencies – death. Although each of these

­110     Anat Pick films clings to a referential event, a historically specific moment, what they demonstrate above all is the indeterminacy, the instability and imprecision of cinematic time.28

While “Death would seem to mark the insistence and intractability of the real in representation,”29 the moment of death is unknowable and, as it were, “unseeable.” In political terms, however, the denial of process in Electrocuting an Elephant becomes something more than an act of temporal compression. Its function is censorious, and it works to reinforce certain ontological assumptions about animal life (and death). The cut does not merely secure, however failingly, the experience of continuous time but defines what we should or should not perceive as an event in the first place – what counts as “happening” on screen.30 The decision is ideological in two ways. First, as Combs points out, the film seems to present as instantaneous what in reality was “an unwieldy process” since the “voltage needed to secure instantaneity was (and is) largely theoretical and subject to horrific miscalculation.”31 The elision, for Doane sutures the temporal integrity of the event, suppresses the truth that, despite the prevailing myth of instantaneous electrical death, Topsy’s execution would have been anything but.32 In another sense, the cut ratifies certain ideas about animality. By eliminating particular actions, movements, and durations as superfluous to the death of an animal – denying the process of Topsy being strapped into place, and the time it took before throwing the switch – the film deems these moments as insignificant. The process that is thus denied is far from “extraneous.” But who knows what these absent moments might have yielded? A clue is provided by Topsy’s visible shuffling of her front right foot, trying in vain to shake off the electrode. This tiny gesture that could not be excised tells us something about Topsy’s disposition in the seconds before her death. Had the entire process – including Topsy’s refusal to proceed to the intended site of her execution – been caught on film, it would have amounted to something like “famous last words,” communicated the sheer horror of her murder, and expanded the meaning of the cinematic event.33 The idea that she (or “it”) cannot speak runs counter to Topsy’s being held responsible for her criminal acts, a point I shall return to later when discussing the use of ECT. Suffice it now to say that the animalization of criminals and the criminalization of animals, coupled with electrical execution’s demand for instantaneity, dictated the excision of process. In Edison’s case, it is not only the time that passes between Topsy’s arrival and death, but also what came next that is omitted from the film:

“Sparks Would Fly”     111 Topsy was measured and it was recorded that she was ten feet tall and ten feet, eleven inches long. The autopsy was then performed on the spot. The heart and stomach were removed for the biology department at Princeton University. The taxidermist Hubert Vogelsang began skinning her. Some of the hide would be used to cover Thompson’s office chair and two of the legs would be fashioned into umbrella holders. . . . The head was buried in a remote, unmarked patch behind the stables.34

In Kemmler’s execution, and those that followed, the hidden process includes the legal battle and judicial procedures that preceded his final dispatching after a long stay on death row. And like Topsy, Kemmler’s body was dissected.35 These durations and contexts are lost when cinematic attention is focused solely on the alleged instantaneity of the electrocution.36 “During the 1880s,” Combs writes, “animal experiments in the United States employed an invisible agent – electricity – to induce a theoretically instantaneous death on living subjects.”37 If real electrocution was theoretically, but not actually, instantaneous, cinematic death too is the mirage of immediacy. In Deathwatch, Combs pushes further Doane’s deconstruction of the cinematic instant of death: those in front of and behind the camera have tried to figure out whether it has a moment, if there is a way to visualize it as one instant or many, and, if many, how to prioritize one over others, and if so, which one to privilege – in short . . . the act of dying is an object . . . with no certain culmination or boundary.38

There is no death, but dying, and one dies more than once. In a Zenolike move of infinite divisibility, Combs identifies more than a single cut in Electrocuting an Elephant. The film becomes a proliferation of cuts that undermine any attempt to fix a single moment of death: Looking closely at Topsy’s throes, we can see more stoppages where the camera was turned off, then back on again, then back off – as if the operator were unsure whether her convulsion had concluded or, indeed, what might constitute a conclusion. The elephant’s death appears unruly even for a camera complicit with electrocution.39

In fact, whether or not Topsy died of electrocution is inconclusive for before being shocked she was fed carrots laced with potassium cyanide. And, Once the motion picture camera stopped filming, the donkey engine was set to work, cinching the noose tight around Topsy’s neck and holding it tight for a full ten minutes. Only then, when she had been triply killed and there was not the slightest chance that she was alive, did the three veterinary surgeons approach and pronounce her dead.40

­112     Anat Pick For Combs, Topsy’s death remains a non-event: it cannot be pictured or confirmed cinematically, only dying can. Electrocuting an Elephant is an unfinished film because it lacks the moment Combs calls “registration,” where a third party, or “registrant,” confirms the death of the subject. No such registration occurs in Edison’s film. Rather than compressing and suturing time, as Doane sees it, the cuts in the film “multiply the observable death moment” and deny “punctual death.”41 The film’s endlessness does not guarantee its dying subject’s immortality, but quite the opposite: “Unable to invoke a clear sign of death’s difference, and without a registrant to produce such a gesture, the footage comes up short of eternal life. Eternal repetition doesn’t keep the elephant alive; it keeps her dying.”42 Combs’s remarks reference Akira Lippit’s important study of cinematic animality that distinguishes between human and animal death. As Lippit explains, via Heidegger, since animals have no language, they cannot comprehend their own death. Animals can only perish but not die.43 But this view of the animal’s “serial existence in its unknowingness of death”44 overstates the ontological distinction between humans and animals. Recent research shows that animals, especially elephants, do have a conception of death, and engage in mourning and grieving. The serial nature of cinematic dying that Combs associates with animality does not seem to hinge on species divisions. I am thinking, for example, of another elephant film, Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989), which proceeds serially from one human execution to another in the depiction of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.45 After each shooting, the camera lingers on the bodies of the anonymous victims, but never verifies their death. For Combs, dying replaces death in film. The moment of death, and in a sense, death’s facticity, gives way to multiple deaths that belie a single event. In the political arena, however, death is not multiple or ineffable. Death happens, and happens only once. When it happens might be a matter of definition and debate, but that it happens is not. Though eternal life is denied to the ever-dying animal, Topsy endures in different media platforms. Lydia Millet’s irreverent collection of short stories Love in Infant Monkeys (2009) imagines different encounters between famous figures and animals.46 “Thomas Edison and Vasil Golakov” precedes “Tesla and Wife,” invoking the rivalry between Edison and Nikola Tesla, whose AC system was licensed by Westinghouse and used in Topsy’s execution. The story finds Edison a haunted man, replaying the grisly footage of Topsy’s killing night after night and conducting elaborate conversations with the dying elephant. Its unreliable narrator is Edison’s valet, I. Vasil Golakov, whose letters recount Edison’s increasingly heated exchanges with Topsy:

“Sparks Would Fly”     113 How many times have you died? A thousand times you have died, a thousand and a thousand. I have seen it, like the millions of stars in the sky. And still you speak to me: You hold me in your dead eyes.47

Topsy has become an irascible Christ figure: Yes: yes: yes. You are the Savior. But I see now that you do not forgive me . . . what did you say to me? . . . I hear you. You say. You say: I do not forgive. You say: This is my gift to you: I will never forgive: Now and forever, you are not forgiven.48

The fictional voice may be Edison’s, or it might be Golakov’s. Either way, Topsy’s killing is a wound that refuses to heal. In 1904, a Coney Island laborer named Anthony Pucciani claimed he was visited by Topsy’s ghost: “the big astral form stood over him with her feet set wide apart, sparks issuing from her trunk, her eyes glowing brightly like blown coals.”49 Two other workers said they too saw the dead elephant. In 1905, a visiting herd of elephants performed at Luna Park. They became agitated when approaching a rear corner of the park, by the stables. It turned out to be the spot in which Topsy’s head was buried; the skull was duly dug up and removed and the elephants were quiet again.50 If Electrocuting an Elephant perseveres as an indictment of the ingenious cruelties of electrocution and film, this is partly because, as Millet notes early on in the story, the war of the currents had been decided in Westinghouse’s favor in 1896. Topsy’s execution with AC, therefore, served no immediate purpose.51 In its apparent purposelessness Electrocuting an Elephant throws a light on Edison and Harold P. Brown’s 1880s animal electrocutions in their pure experimentalism, beyond their role in the war of the currents or the passing of the Electrical Execution Act in June 1888. Why, then, did Edison make the film? Daly’s psychological explanation is concomitant with Millet’s: “maybe this execution that his crew was filming for all the world to see was for him the culmination of an intensively personal and private drama,”52 “akin more to the rage that caused Forepaugh to leave Topsy with a crooked tail years before.”53 A more compelling explanation is offered in Lewis S. Feuer’s monumental study The Scientific Intellectual, first published (like The Bell Jar) in 1963.54 Feuer’s book is a psychological and sociological portrait of the men who led the scientific revolution as adherents to a “hedonistlibertarian ethics”55 – rationalist, liberal, and non-sectarian. Feuer set out to refute Max Weber’s claim that the rise of modern science was the result of the Protestant ethics of asceticism. For Feuer, the ascendency of science in the seventeenth century confirmed the triumph of a liberal

­114     Anat Pick and optimistic worldview. Asceticism and frugality were logical coping mechanisms in the days of the early colonies. As economic prosperity increased, the Calvinist ethic lost its purpose and was superseded by the hedonist-libertarian one. Feuer clearly admires the advent of the Enlightenment and the sheer joyfulness that animated scientific inquiry. “During our generation, however,” Feuer laments in the Epilogue, “science has become the bearer of a death wish. A scientific counterrevolution has been taking place.”56 The dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945 reveals the “thanatistic conception of knowledge . . . operative in the scientific unconscious.”57 Yet the development and use of nuclear weapons was construed optimistically as the weapon to end all war. In its 1992 edition, The Scientific Intellectual included a new introductory section on Edison. Edison’s antipathy to puritanical asceticism earns him the title of the “Anti-Ascetic Inventor”: “In the person of Thomas Alva Edison, American civilization found its supreme exemplar of the knack for technological improvisation that the freshseeing de Tocqueville regarded as among its chief democratic attributes.”58 Edison’s “genius” differed from that of the British inventors of the industrial revolution in that it “showed itself above all in the pioneering of novel modes for advancing human enjoyments.”59 Rather than being concerned with efficiency of production, Edison’s inventions pertained to consumerism and the pursuit of happiness. But while the punishing spirit of Calvinism made possible a host of cruelties, masochistic and sadistic alike, the free spirit of scientific experimentalism breeds its own moral uninhibitedness. Feuer does not suggest if and how Edison’s involvement with the invention and introduction of the electric chair fits into the hedonist-libertarian ethics, though the electric chair marks the “start of the modern era of capital punishment.”60 Still, there seems to me no strict contradiction between Edison’s secular ethics of modern enjoyment and the bleakness of electrical death. Nor is this simply an instance of “bad” use of modern technology for the chair was conceived as the height of progressivism.61 The energetic, freethinking experimentalism that contests Weber’s Puritanical asceticism is consistent with both cruel and benign applications. That Edison seemed prone to the more egregious uses of the technology suggests some of the dangers of the hedonist-­libertarian ethic, not least its entanglements with powerful economic and financial interests.62 “Ethic” here means work ethic, not imposed from the outside by God, but the vehicle of human enthusiasm and pleasure. The dual charge of enjoyment and power (in the sense of electricity and domination) highlights the fallibility of the self-reliant, humanist ethic.

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Nowhere is technology as a vessel of mass pleasure more evident than in the cinema. By 1903, Edison had turned his attention to film, but electrocution was still bound up with this project. Topsy’s filmed execution and the other execution films of the period, as well as Brown’s animal experiments, do not undermine the hedonist-libertarian ethics. Electrical violence is part of this story. In an essay entitled “Cut: Execution, Editing, and the Instant of Death,” Combs writes of the “remarkable pre-cinematic quality to Brown’s experiments,”63 reminiscent of contemporary slashers like the Saw franchise: Substitute the horse with a thief, the electrical cord with a helmet of knives, Brown with another sadistic scientist/torturer, and move the scene from Edison’s lab to a not-clearly-accessible torture chamber, and you get Saw IV, or something awfully close.64

Torture is the prolonging and multiplication of the instant of pain, and the stretching out of the moment of death. In this sense, Brown’s experiments as well as Edison’s Electrocuting an Elephant should be seen as cases of electrotorture, the flagship technique of modern democracies.

1963: Zap! Electrotorture, ECT, and the chair By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me. I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet. The nights snapped out of sight like a lizard’s eyelid: A world of bald white days in a shadeless socket. A vulturous boredom pinned me in this tree. If he were I, he would do what I did.65

In the 1880s electricity’s invisible hand propelled it to become the primary method of execution, a position it held for three-quarters of a century even as the grisly experiments and botched human executions attested that electrical death was complicated. Darius Rejali traces the affinities between the electric chair, ECT, and electrotorture, all of which pertain to electrocution as a “clean” technique of bodily coercion.66 The cleanliness of electricity is undermined initially by electricity’s reliance on fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) that originate from prehistoric animal bodies and plants. Electricity and living organisms are therefore connected by “dirty” cycles of decomposition and sedimentation. The supposed cleanliness of electrical killing is undermined in a different way

­116     Anat Pick by the mise-en-scène of Edison’s film, with smoke billowing from two chimneys at the back of the frame. Smoke also rises from Topsy’s feet, a visual reminder of death by burning at the stake – hardly invisible or painless. Interweaved into the evolution and implementation of apparently clean techniques are the twin discourses of humaneness and humanism. Invisibility and cleanliness make electricity compatible with the principles of transparency, accountability, and human rights precisely because its effects are unseen (even when this invisibility is not established in fact but only discursively). Electricity’s scientific character further endows it with progressive prestige. We might say that electricity belongs to a particular order of violence because the pain and damage it causes are harder to verify.67 This ambivalence extends well into the present moment, following the murder by white policeman Michael Slager of African American Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina (on 4 April 2015). Scott was shot at least five times while fleeing from Slager during a traffic stop. Eyewitness Feidin Santana, who filmed the incident on his mobile phone, claimed that Slager had first used a stun gun on Scott before Scott ran away. As with Rodney King in 1991, police use of electroshock on suspects is not easily visible, either on the victim’s body or in the footage itself. It is the apparent invisibility of the Tommy A. Swift Electric Rifle (or T.A.S.E.R.) that renders it a weapon of choice of law enforcement in poor communities of color. Rejali writes: A democratic public may be outraged by violence it can see, but how likely is it that we will get outraged about violence like this, that may or may not leave traces, violence that we can hardly be sure took place at all?68

The use of deadly force against unarmed civilians has come under increased scrutiny since the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which gave rise to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Clean methods, what Rejali calls “covert violence,”69 are closely tied to institutional legitimacy. The turn to clean techniques of covert torture ensures the continued legitimacy of the torturing regimes. Chief among these methods was the use of electrotorture. Contrary to common assumptions, Rejali’s study shows, electrotorture did not originate in Nazi Germany, but in the United States and French Algeria.70 Similar struggles over legitimacy and public sanctioning occur in relation to nonhuman animals used for meat, clothing, research, or entertainment. Since the 1820s, visible cruelty to animals has become less acceptable (and even the meat itself should remain unmarked as a sign of clean processing). The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

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occasioned a shift in visual culture relating to animals that removed them from public view and turned to methods of covert violence – like electrical stunning – that secrete violence in the act.71 The effect of these shifts in visual codes and techniques is a destabilization of the para­ meters of seeing in general, a destabilization to which cinema, too, bears witness and which it amply exploits. Rejali proposes a “monitoring hypothesis” according to which “public monitoring shapes how police and military interrogators behave. It predicts that where public monitoring is present, torturers favor covert coercion.”72 He explains: To the extent that public monitoring is not only greater in democracies, but that public monitoring of human rights is a core value in modern democracies, it is the case that where we find democracies torturing, we are also likely to find stealth torture.73

In the twofold meaning of monitor – as public overseer and as screen – lies the relationship between seeing and not seeing in technologically advanced societies such as the one that gave rise to Electrocuting an Elephant, a Gilded Age film that invites us to witness extreme yet covert violence. Rejali’s definition of torture is specific. He avoids conflating torture with other forms of bodily coercion (like experimentation or war). Though he considers the practice of torture on humans alone, his analysis tells us something about the instrumental use of violence against nonhuman beings, to reduce security risks (like “culling” or “destruction” of so-called dangerous animals) or to extract vital information (vivisection). In a section called “Remembering the Animals,” Rejali writes: The story of shock, medical and judicial, began as an animal story. Men electrified dogs, cows, horses, pigs, and even an elephant. It is also a story about the public’s growing appetite for meat. The picana eléctrica [modelled on the electric cattle prod used in slaughterhouses] comes directly out of Argentina’s burgeoning beef industry. The ECT machine would not have existed “except for this fortuitous and fortunate circumstance of pigs’ pseudo-electrical butchery” in Rome.74

Rejali’s close attention to human electrotorture in particular draws certain parallels with the treatment of animals, if only because animals are often the sources and always the test subjects in the development of these techniques: one can trace three chains of transmission between 1888 and 1945. On the police chain, devices move from animals (experimental devices) to m ­ urderers

­118     Anat Pick (the electric chair) and then to prisoners (modified chairs, live wires). On the medical chain, devices move from animals (experimental devices) to shell-shocked soldiers . . . A third chain begins with devices from the commercial meat industry that move either to police interrogation (cattle prods in Argentina) or to medical treatment (ECT machines for schizophrenics and shell-shocked soldiers). This was the chain that mattered, yielding devices that are still widely used and abused around the world today.75

But as Topsy, Greenwood/Plath, and the many anonymous human and animal victims of electrocution indicate, the interloping discourses of humanity and animality – overlaid with the registers of race, species, gender, and class – play a part in the selection process of suitable candidates for electrocution. As soon as they arrived in the United States, elephants were recognized as intelligent, complex beings with rich interior lives. This did not stop trainers, owners, or passers-by subjecting the creatures to violent treatment. Contradiction in the perception and portrayal of the animals was the one consistent aspect of elephants’ history in Europe and the United States. The attribution of subjectivity contributed to the identification of some elephants as intentionally malicious, similarly to humans: “An elephant who turned violent was considered an aberration, a rogue, bad, regardless of what may have triggered the rage. There were no bad cats, but there were bad elephants just as there were bad people.”76 Supposed kinship with humans privileged elephants for better or worse. It also made for bankable drama when elephants broke bad. Not only were some elephants considered plotters and criminals, their brain itself was imagined as the site of criminality. In 1894, a longsuffering zoo elephant called Tip attacked his keeper William Snyder, an attack that the New York Times described as “treacherous.”77 Tip was to be killed with poison, but he repeatedly refused the laced carrots and apples his killers handed him. It took some ten hours to kill Tip, and after his death men with long knives worked through the night skinning the corpse for the museum. The eyes went to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. The University of Chicago sought the whole brain but settled for half, “to examine the cause of the wickedness which made the killing of the animal necessary.”78

Tip proved a useful commodity post-mortem. The violence he met with in life continued unabated after his death. Not unlike Ulrike Meinhof, member of the West German urban guerrilla group the Red Army Faction, Tip’s brain was deemed a site of inherent and decipherable criminality.79 Whereas “criminal” elephants like Topsy sustained violence that

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inadvertently humanized them, the real Meinhof and the fictional Greenwood were subjected to scientific procedures that animalized them. Steven Gould Axelrod has discussed some of Plath’s most famous poems, like “Lady Lazarus” and “The Jailer,” as “torture texts”80 and while The Bell Jar does not make use of the same psychic theatre of torture as the poems, the novel’s descriptions of ECT return us to Rejali’s studies of the subtleties of electrocution and provide a glimpse into “the bewildering roles that aggression, suffering and death play in our fantasies and in our lives.”81 In The Bell Jar, the aloof male psychiatrist Dr. Gordon carries out Esther’s first electroconvulsive treatment: Doctor Gordon was fitting two metal plates on either side of my head. He buckled them into place with a strap that dented my forehead, and gave me a wire to bite.   I shut my eyes.   There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath.   Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.   I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done.82

Esther undergoes her second ECT treatment, this time with anesthetic, under the supervision of the female psychiatrist Dr. Nolan. When Dr. Nolan fails to inform Esther of the upcoming treatment, she feels betrayed: If she had told me the night before I would have lain awake all night, of course, full of dread and foreboding, but by morning I would have been composed and ready. I would have gone down the hall . . . with dignity, like a person coolly resigned to execution.83

Although her second experience is less painful than the first, its description is similarly negative: the nurse “set something on my tongue and in panic I bit down, and darkness wiped me out like chalk on a blackboard.”84 Dr. Nolan presents ECT treatments as humane. She goes as far as telling Esther that “some people even like them.”85 But though less spectacular than the first treatment Esther describes – no blue flashes, jolting, or noise – both experiences recall the perceived coercive and punitive elements of ECT, and the second references the Rosenbergs’ execution with which the novel began. ECT has been in use in the United States since the 1940s. It was initially received enthusiastically, playing up the life-giving properties of electricity. In the 1970s, ECT’s public image shifted drastically with the

­120     Anat Pick rise of the anti-psychiatry movement. The Bell Jar invokes the problematic power dynamics and gender politics inherent in the treatment, both in its contemporary Cold War context and historically, in ECT’s use of unwilling participants, mainly schizophrenics. But the power dynamics is nonetheless complex. With standards of normalcy and conformity increasingly classified and medicalized, it might be safe to assume that ECT replaced the humanistic “talking cures” of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis concomitant with the rise of biological determinism. In reality, “While shock treatments came to prominence in America at the same time that psychoanalysis was gaining wider acceptance . . . there was no necessary conflict between the two types of treatments for either psychiatrists or the public.”86 In Topsy’s case, the presupposing of animal agency justifies the administering of a lethal dose of electroshock, while in the case of ECT, pathological discourse seeks to restore patients’ agency and choice. One would expect that the opposite were true: that ECT would be on the rise where the “talking cure” fails, approaching human patients as biological systems that doctors “reboot.” ECT’s antihumanism does not merely rest in denying patients’ freedom and agency, not, that is, only in the ever-present risk of coercion, but in the belief that language falls short. Not so, as Hirshbein and Sarvananda show: not only was ECT not in conflict with the talking cure, it was seen to positively restore speech for patients with a severe stutter.87 In both the human and the elephant case, then, something counter-intuitive is taking place: Topsy is humanized by her electrocution, while ECT patients are not simply dehumanized. This is not to say that coercion and violence, rooted in acts of species and gender profiling, do not take place in Electrocuting an Elephant and The Bell Jar, only that oversimplified tropes of “dehumanization” and “animalization” fail to capture the complexity of the intricate systems that discipline, or kill, women and animals. Electrocuting an Elephant and its afterlives reveal the technological and cultural collusions that exert their power over the bodies of women and animals and as the objects of permissible, semi-visible violence. As I hope to have shown, electricity is a treacherous double agent. As ideologically entangled, electricity, the engine of the visual medium of cinema, functions as what both reveals and conceals from sight. The multiple stoppages in Edison’s film horrify precisely in the absence of a definitive spectacle of death. The animal, the film itself, and its viewers tremor and shake at the administering of an almighty yet invisible shock.

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In the 1880s, as electrocution was embraced as the preferred method of state-sanctioned killing, electricity itself was perceived as a natural gift – a testament to humanity’s ability to discipline nature, which, in turn, becomes a force of societal disciplining. As Jürgen Martschukat explains, the medical and technological experts interviewed by the death penalty commission “praised the power of nature, which was thought to have been absorbed and taken under control.”88 In this way, execution could be celebrated, in the words of Alfred P. Southwick, as the “art of killing by electricity.”89 In 1890s New York, electrocution literally meant a “state of the art” killing technique. In 1881, Southwick, who would later serve on the death penalty commission he lobbied to set up, conducted sadistic experiments on stray dogs in Buffalo. He killed “twenty-eight dogs using a zinc-lined wood box, with one electric wire running to an inch of water at the bottom, the other to a metal muzzle.”90 The “art” Southwick so avowedly praised was that of the fictitious instant of death. Plath knows better. In “Lady Lazarus,” Plath’s fiendish, tormented speaker sees art not in the imaginary moment of death but in the ongoing practice of dying: “Dying,” Plath writes, “is an art, like everything else.”91

Notes   1. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), 1.   2. David E. Nye, Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880–1940 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), 138.   3. Ibid. 138.  4. Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).   5. Robin Lindley, “Torture in Democratic Societies: Interview with Darius Rejali,” available at (last accessed 20 April 2015).  6. Nye, Electrifying America, 138–9.  7. Norman S. Endler, “The Origins of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT),” Convulsive Therapy, 4: 1 (1988), 5–23.   8. Ibid. 8.  9. Laura Hirshbein and Sharmalie Sarvananda, “History, Power, and Electricity: American Popular Magazine Accounts of Electroconvulsive Therapy, 1940–2005,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 44: 1 (2008), 1–18, 9. 10. Alessandro Aruta, “Shocking Waves at the Museum: The Bini–Cerletti Electro-shock Apparatus,” Medical History, 55 (2011), 407–12, 412. 11. Ibid. 407–8. 12. Electrocuting an Elephant, film, directed by Edwin S. Porter (U.S.A.: Edison

­122     Anat Pick Manufacturing Company, 1903), available at (last accessed 12 December 2016). 13. Michael Lundblad, The Birth of a Jungle: Animality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 94. 14. Tom Gunning, “The Cinema of Attraction[s]: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde,” in Wanda Strauven (ed.), The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2006), 381–8. 15. Michael Daly, Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013), 16. 16. Frederic Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy opened Luna Park, one of the three big amusement parks in Coney Island, in 1903. The sign that announces the park’s opening can be seen in the background in Electrocuting an Elephant. The park was largely destroyed in a fire in 1944, and closed two years later. 17. Daly, Topsy, 132. 18. On 5 March 2015, Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, announced they would phase out elephant shows by 2018. The forty-three elephants owned by the company at that date would reportedly move to Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. The center is not a sanctuary. It operates as a breeding, training, and research facility and is not open to the public. The fate of the retired elephants, twenty-nine of whom are already at the center, is unclear. The Dodo reports that “while the majority of the public focus on Ringling has been on its world famous traveling circus act, there are a host of animal abuse complaints regarding the treatment of the elephants at the Conservation Center as well” (Katie Shearer, “What’s Next for Ringling Bros. Elephant Conservation Center?,” The Dodo, 5 March 2015, available at (last accessed 22 November 2016)). Ringling Bros. may continue to breed elephants. It will also continue to use animals including tigers, lions, horses, dogs, and camels in the traveling circus. See “Feld Entertainment Announces Unprecedented Changes to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” Feld Entertainment press release, available at (last accessed 22 November 2016). 19. For the grim succession of elephant stories, see Daly, Topsy. “The ultimate fate of this first elephant,” writes Daly “is unclear, though she did not likely live the fifty to seventy years typical in the wild. A captive probably would not have survived much more than half that time as stress and lack of exercise and poor diet took their toll” (ibid. 24). 20. See Anat Pick, “Executing Species: Animal Attractions in Thomas Edison and Douglas Gordon,” in Michael Hauskeller, Thomas D. Philbeck, and Curtis D. Carbonell (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Posthumanism in Film and Television (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 311–20. 21. Lundblad, Birth of a Jungle, 96. 22. Mary Ann Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,

“Sparks Would Fly”     123 2002); C. Scott Combs, Deathwatch: American Film, Technology, and the End of Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). 23. Doane, Emergence of Cinematic Time, 2. 24. Ibid. 141. 25. Ibid. 142. 26. Ibid. 159. 27. Ibid. 159. 28. Ibid. 28. 29. Ibid. 45. 30. Films in which supposedly “nothing happens” are, of course, a challenge to our habituated perception of reality. They have the potential to reconfigure perception in transformative ways. A seminal example is Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (France: Paradise Films, 1975), but there are many others. 31. Combs, Deathwatch, 50. 32. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision that the death penalty does not violate the Eighth Amendment that forbids cruel and unusual punishment, most if not all executions are non-instantaneous and thus botched. In the introduction to The Executioner’s Current, Richard Moran recounts his experience witnessing an execution by lethal injection, the method that superseded electrocution as the most quick and humane. Moran’s horror at what he was seeing suggests that the process was anything but clean and compassionate. The same is true of the electric chair, which in 1888 replaced hanging and narrowly defeated lethal injection. After 1976, lethal injection widely replaced electrocution. Today, eight states still authorize electrocution but use lethal injection as their primary method. Tennessee is the only state to impose electrocution if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained. See Richard Moran, The Executioner’s Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and the Invention of the Electric Chair, Kindle edn. (New York: Vintage, 2002). See also Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), available at (last accessed 22 November 2016). 33. Daly describes how, despite repeated coaxing, Topsy refused to walk to the designated spot across the bridge to the lagoon: “Twenty feet from the bridge leading across the lagoon, Topsy suddenly stopped. Some selfproclaimed experts would later say that elephants are leery of bridges, but in her circus travels Topsy had crossed hundreds if not thousands of them, many no doubt frailer than this one” (Daly, Topsy, 321). 34. Ibid. 325. 35. See Richard Moran, “‘William, It Is Time,’” in Executioner’s Current, 3–35. The New York Herald’s description in its 7 August 1890 edition details Kemmler’s prolonged execution and subsequent autopsy, available at (last accessed 22 November 2016). 36. Kemmler’s story, or “process,” is recuperated in vivid detail in Moran, Executioner’s Current. 37. Combs, Deathwatch, 42–3. 38. Ibid. 13–14. 39. Ibid. 55.

­124     Anat Pick 40. Daly, Topsy, 324 (my emphasis). 41. Combs, Deathwatch, 57, 58. 42. Ibid. 59. 43. Akira Lippit, Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000). 44. Combs, Deathwatch, 56. 45. Elephant, TV short, directed by Alan Clarke (U.K.: BBC Northern Ireland, 1989). 46. Lydia Millet, Love in Infant Monkeys (Berkeley: Soft Skull Press, 2009). 47. Ibid. 69. 48. Ibid. 69. 49. Daly, Topsy, 335. 50. Ibid. 336–7. 51. Darius Rejali understands the film’s purpose literally as Edison’s promotion of electrocution through film. See Rejali, Torture and Democracy, 126. 52. Daly, Topsy, 320. 53. Ibid. 319. 54. Lewis S. Feuer, The Scientific Intellectual: The Psychological and Sociological Origins of Modern Science (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1992). 55. Ibid. 11. 56. Ibid. 394. 57. Ibid. 394. 58. Ibid. xxv. 59. Ibid. xxxvi. 60. Jürgen Martschukat, review of Edison and the Electric Chair by Mark Essig, Technology and Culture, 46: 4 (October 2005), 870–1. 61. On the progressive nature of electrical death, see Jürgen Martschukat, “‘The Art of Killing by Electricity’: The Sublime and the Electric Chair,” The Journal of American History, 89: 3 (2002), 900–21. 62. Beyond Edison’s own financial incentives, Daly writes that “the wires [used in Topsy’s execution] stretched from what everybody called the Edison plant, which was operated by the Edison company but had nothing to do with Edison himself and was in fact owned by speculators” (Daly, Topsy, 320). 63. Scott Combs, “Cut: Execution, Editing, and the Instant of Death,” Spectator, 28: 2 (Fall 2008), 31–41, 38. 64. Ibid. 38. 65. Sylvia Plath, “The Hanging Man,” in Ariel (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 65. 66. Rejali, Torture and Democracy, 4. 67. In an opinion piece written for the New York Times, former animal experimenter Paul Gazda describes experiments in punishment research he conducted on pigeons and rats. The experiments used electroshock as the method of punishment. On accidentally touching one of the live wires, Gazda “was amazed that, according to my professor, the shock level was the correct one to use for pigeons. I told myself that pigeons must not feel pain as much as I did” (Paul Gazda, “I Was an Animal Experimenter,” New York Times, 18 April 2015, available at (last accessed 12 December 2016)), Seemingly innocuous, electrocution masks its violence as clean, efficient, and immediate. Because of these occlusions, electrocution is less successful in generating empathy. 68. Rejali, Torture and Democracy, 2. 69. Ibid. 2. 70. On the pioneering use of electrotorture by the United States and France, see Rejali, Torture and Democracy, chs. 7, 8. 71. “One of the inspirations behind the formation of the RSPCA in 1824 was the sight of animals being driven to Smithfields Market in London. The issue of visual order was an important factor in increasing control exercised over all sorts of different domains of animal-related practice – i­ncluding bear baiting, vivisection, slaughter, or the clearing of the city streets of strays” (Jonathan Burt, “The Illumination of the Animal Kingdom: The Role of Light and Electricity in Animal Representation,” Society & Animals, 9: 3 (2001), 203–28, 208). 72. Rejali, Torture and Democracy, 11. 73. Ibid. 194. 74. Ibid. 141, quoting Cerletti. 75. Ibid. 138. 76. Daly, Topsy, 65. 77. Cited in ibid. 254. 78. Ibid. 259. 79. Meinhof was a member of the Marxist urban guerrilla group the Red Army Faction (also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang). She died in a German prison in 1976, and, without her family’s consent, her brain was removed and preserved for future scientific study to uncover its alleged abnormalities. Meinhof, like Plath (and like Ethel Rosenberg), was labelled a “bad mother.” Like Tip, and other “militant” elephants, Meinhof’s path from protest to resistance, culminating in violent retaliation against the West German state, became the subject of pathology, not politics. See, for example, Amanda Third, “Imprisonment and Excessive Femininity: Reading Ulrike Meinhof’s Brain,” Parallax, 16: 4 (2010), 83–100. See also Dominic Fox, “The Brain of Ulrike Meinhof,” in Cold World: The Aesthetics of Dejection and the Politics of Militant Dysphoria (London: Zero Books, 2009), 57–70. 80. Steven Gould Axelrod, “Plath and Torture: Cultural Contexts for Plath’s Imagery of the Holocaust,” in Sally Bayley and Tracey Brain (eds.), Representing Sylvia Plath (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 67–87, 67. 81. Ibid. 73. 82. Plath, The Bell Jar, 138. 83. Ibid. 203 (my emphasis). 84. Ibid. 205. 85. Ibid. 182. 86. Hirshbein and Sarvananda, “History, Power, and Electricity,” 4. 87. Ibid. 4. 88. Martschukat, “The Art of Killing by Electricity,” 913. 89. Southwick, a dentist from Buffalo, conceived the idea of death by

­126     Anat Pick e­ lectrocution. He was reported to have used the phrase the “art of killing by electricity” in the New York Times, 8 July 1891 (Martschukat, “The Art of Killing by Electricity,” 901). 90. Daly, Topsy, 189. 91. Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus,” in The Collected Poems, ed. Ted Hughes (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 244–7, 245.

Chapter 6

The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer: Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge and When Women Were Birds Michael Lundblad What would you do if you were diagnosed with terminal cancer?1 Or, what are you doing right now if you have it already? Or, what are you thinking if you know someone facing it, or you are currently caring for them? Are you fighting it? Do you have a positive attitude? Or, to the contrary, are you accepting it: acknowledging that you cannot win so you might as well not resist? Are these the only choices? Your answers probably depend upon age, and circumstance, and where you are from. What do you think are the right narratives or metaphors to help you explain what looks like the end of life, for however long it might last? Some people run marathons or race for the cure. Some people write books. Terry Tempest Williams has written two memoirs about the illness and death of her mother Diane at the age of fifty-four. Williams continues to look to the natural world, to birds in particular, in order to try to come to terms with loss and life at its end. From the publication of Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place in 1991 to When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice in 2012, Williams has inhabited the metaphor of women as birds and nature as a guide to both life and death. These two memoirs are, for me, both inspiring and infuriating. My wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of thirty-one. We chose to engage with chemotherapy as far as it would go. When she died, less than six months later, our daughter was only nine months old. I, too, have tried to come to terms, if not blows, with terminal cancer. I have run marathons and written a book, although it is not a memoir. I am drawn to Williams’s writing, to her advocacy, to her passion for speaking out, for her willingness to keep on resisting when it comes to working for environmental protection and an end to human suffering on a global scale, while the U.S. government continues to wage war on

­128     Michael Lundblad “terror.” I, too, do not quite know what to make of the writing that Williams’s mother Diane chose not to do: her decision to maintain the Mormon tradition of a family journal, but then not to write anything in it. When Women Were Birds is an attempt to come to terms – not blows – with that silence, rather than speaking out, while living within patriarchal family and social structures: silent resistance within the appearance of compliance, perhaps, and yet seemingly at odds with Williams’s insistence elsewhere on the need to speak out against injustice and inequality. How might we make sense of this puzzle, of her mother’s decision to leave three full shelves of (blank) journals to her daughter while making her promise that she would not look at them until after she was gone? How might it make sense to connect that refusal to write with Diane’s decision to refuse chemotherapy at the end of her life, as Williams recounts in Refuge? I am drawn to the “animalities” explored in these memoirs.2 But I think there is more to explore here in terms of the desire to explain life and illness and death through animals, through what is considered to be natural, through the metaphor of women as birds in particular. This chapter is not about me, but my experience inevitably shapes my response to Williams’s memoirs, with a desire to work on these kinds of puzzles for both personal and political reasons. I want to emphasize, though, that my purpose here is not to criticize Williams in a way that might seem more appropriate if she had written manifestos, rather than the powerfully reflective, questioning, inconsistent, and even ambivalent narratives that she creates. There are significant differences between Williams and her mother in terms of their age, their generation, and their thinking about resistance and activism, as well as changes in thinking over the course of their lives, such as Diane undergoing chemotherapy when she was first diagnosed at a younger age but opting against it once her cancer becomes terminal. As much as these differences bring to mind incredibly difficult decisions from own experience, they are also connected to broader discourses, to strong currents in U.S. culture about the nature of cancer, women, and birds. Those connections are why it makes sense to explore her memoirs as representative, to some extent, of other contemporary U.S. nature writers who advocate for nonhuman animals and environments. While her earlier work in particular has been previously explored by ecocritics, it is perhaps lesser known to others in the fields of human-animal studies, animality studies, and posthumanism,3 as well as illness studies broadly conceived. These fields might find overlapping interests, however, in the move to see animals as a way to explain human illness and suffering and death. This chapter generally emphasizes an animality-studies approach to this question. But there are

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two key puzzles running through Refuge and When Women Were Birds that will be my focus here, both of which revolve around the same question: when is it okay not to fight or resist? The central puzzle in Refuge for Williams is the apparent coincidence of her mother’s terminal cancer and the flooding of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge by the rising Great Salt Lake in Utah. How might these two stories be connected? Why might it make sense to weave them together in a memoir, aside from the fact that Williams is a life-long birder with passionate connections to her home bioregion? Each of the chapters in Refuge is titled after a particular bird species, with the level of the lake given at the beginning of each chapter as well. Woven throughout, then, is the narrative of her mother’s illness and eventual death, along with Williams’s own experiences connecting with birds and the land. In the chapter titled “Great Blue Heron” (lake level: 4207.05”), for example, Williams watches a heron standing “on the edge of the lake, solitary and serene. The wind shinnies up her back, raising a few feathers, but her focus remains steady. . . . Throughout the high water and now its retreat, the true blue heron has stayed home.”4 Characteristically, then, Williams reveals how she “would like to wade along the edges with her, this great blue heron. . . . But then this is another paradox of mine – wanting to be a bird when I am human” (R, 266). The threat of the rising lake is the potential destruction of this habitat for birds, while Williams’s own life seems threatened by the looming terminal illness of her mother. In When Women Were Birds, Williams reveals her own skepticism back when she was trying to connect these two threads in Refuge, describing at one point how she resorted to making two lists on an easel, one about the lake and the bird refuge, and the other about her mother, her family, and the Mormon Church: I circled both lists. Nothing connected them. And then I realized what brought these seemingly unrelated worlds together was the narrator. So I wrote “TTW” below, circled it, and then drew two lines from each of the two circles above, connecting them all together. I stood back and stared. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t crazy. Before me was a map of the female reproductive system.5

She then resolves to balance the two circles by shuffling the pages from the two interwoven narratives, thus bringing the focus not only to her but also to women more generally. This move is echoed in much of Williams’s work in terms of advocating for women’s rights and equality – however essentialist it might be – including recounting her mother’s resistance to patriarchal Mormon

­130     Michael Lundblad family norms and her own refusal to have children.6 But it does not yet solve the puzzle of why it might make sense for her mother not to fight cancer with the “weapons” of chemotherapy once it is terminal, or why Williams herself might be able to come to terms with that kind of approach. The answers, for Williams, can eventually be found through her understanding of the natural world, through animals who supposedly do not rail against the unfairness of death, and birds who can thus model a more “natural” way of accepting the end of life. Williams clearly identifies with birds throughout Refuge, in a variety of ways, but she also spends considerable time constructing them on their own terms, as in tune with natural cycles, living for the moment, not worrying about death, institutionalized religion, or the meaning of existence. In Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” which is reprinted as an epigraph to the text, we are given what seems to be a similar desire to learn from animals: You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. (qtd. in R, ix)

Like wild geese who belong to what Oliver calls “the family of things,” Williams suggests throughout her text that humans can and should be more animal-like, since “we” are “animals” too.7 At another point Williams writes about reading Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things” to her mother, with a similar thought in mind: When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. . . . (qtd. in R, 215)

These poems, along with Williams’s own writing, echo Walt Whitman’s famous reflection on animals in “Song of Myself” (although not cited explicitly by Williams): They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer     131 Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.8

The logic here is that if we do not lie awake worrying about death, or illness, or sin, or religion – like the animals, supposedly – then we can live more happily in the moment and our deaths need not be something to fear or resist. When Williams writes a story for her dying mother, just days before her death, she describes a “silver-haired woman on a silver-stained log. Driftwood. You could say they both had become driftwood” (R, 224). As this woman wonders whether she is actually looking at stones rather than crows near her, she herself slowly becomes indistinguishable from the natural world, to the point that two men who later walk past her on the beach only see the crows. This woman thus enacts what is presumed to be an ideal death in which the female body merges with what is “natural,” rather than standing out, rather than resisting the process of one’s body returning to the earth. This thread that connects Williams with Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Walt Whitman, and other contemporary nature writers insists upon a construction of wild animals that is also a critique of humans fearing death (often for religious reasons); animals do not worry about sin, we are told, or where they might go in an afterlife, or how long they might have before they will die. They are amoral, in other words, with no existential awareness of approaching death and no corresponding fear of it when they are at the end of life. Some ecocritics seem to accept and reinforce this formulation as well. In his reading of Refuge in Refiguring the Map of Sorrow: Nature Writing and Autobiography, Mark Allister, for example, affirms the human/animal divide suggested by Berry’s poem: The speaker, in this despairing moment, desires to lose one quality that defines us as human, but that can be maddening – the imagining of future grief. . . . Animals model a totally “present” mode of being that lessens the haunting, and so the speaker goes down to his pond to watch a wood drake swimming and a great heron feeding, as Williams goes to the Great Salt Lake or the Bear River Refuge to learn from “her” birds.9

But these kinds of supposedly fundamental and absolute differences between human and nonhuman animals (regardless of whether the humans are religious or not) have been critiqued from a variety of critical traditions. As Donna Haraway writes in When Species Meet, “The Great Divides of animal/human, nature/culture, organic/technical, and wild/domestic flatten into mundane differences – the kinds that have consequences and demand respect and response – rather than rising to sublime and final ends.”10 This kind of more nuanced consideration of

­132     Michael Lundblad difference echoes the influential work of Jacques Derrida in The Animal That Therefore I Am, in which he rejects a simple and singular rupture between “the human” and all other nonhuman animals who can supposedly be categorized as “the animal.” In his exploration of major philosophical assumptions and attempts to explore the fundamental definition of the human, primarily through various understandings of language and reason, Derrida reveals how the logic inevitably deconstructs itself from Descartes to Kant, Levinas, Lacan, and Heidegger, leaving no rigorous grounds for maintaining an absolute distinction. But he ends with a focus on Heidegger’s theory that animals are “poor in world” while humans are “world-forming.” According to Heidegger, animals are not aware of the world “as such” and the same can be said of their awareness of death “as such.” This theory would seem to resonate with Williams and other nature writers, along with many ecocritics. But for Derrida, while there might be differences between various kinds of living beings, “these differences cannot properly be seen as those between ‘as such’ and ‘not as such.’”11 Ultimately, he calls for a new way of thinking: the strategy in question would consist in pluralizing and varying the “as such,” and, instead of simply giving speech back to the animal, or giving to the animal what the human deprives it of, as it were, in marking that the human is, in a way, similarly “deprived,” by means of a privation that is not a privation, and that there is no pure and simple “as such.”12

It is not so much that we now need to recognize that all animals can experience death “as such,” in other words, but that this distinction no longer holds as a categorical divide between the human and the animal, and that it might not make sense to think of all humans experiencing death “as such” either. As a result, it makes no sense to assume that there must be a fundamental difference between the way all humans experience death and the way that all other animals experience it. Nature writers like Williams and many of her readers might not be very likely to read Derrida on “the question of the animal.”13 They might be more persuaded by animal ethologists who have also made it increasingly difficult to maintain that all nonhuman animals are categorically different from humans when it comes to experiencing emotions, for example, or other behaviors typically thought to be exclusively human.14 While Williams celebrates – rather than denigrates – the presumed difference between human and nonhuman animals when it comes to thinking about death, we can see that a hierarchy is suggested in which humans are the only animals with the choice to act “like an animal” or not. The result can be seen as a kind of Orientalized animal,

The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer     133

romanticized for its blissfully ignorant way of being in the world. Despite the desire to valorize animals in this construction, the category of “the human” remains firmly in place and in control. For those readers who want to problematize anthropocentrism, this formulation can thus become problematic, despite its good intentions.15 What is interesting to note as well is the way that the animal has the potential to be invoked to justify rather different kinds of behaviors, from an all-out battle in which only the fittest survive to a willingness to accept illness and death, without an anguished search for the meaning of suffering in either philosophical or religious terms. The first approach might be used to justify chemotherapy and a “War on Cancer,” while the second might be used to justify the rejection of chemotherapy and a desire instead to “live in the moment.” But either way, the animal is constructed as the stable model for explaining how to approach human terminal cancer. It is important to be specific about which animals we are talking about, though, and to point out that Williams tends to identify with various bird species and, specifically, female birds.16 She can be seen as constructing female birds as the model of acceptance when she writes about the death of her mother Diane in Refuge. Rather than “fighting” cancer with chemical or chemotherapy “weapons,” her mother decides to accept it, once it is clear that it is terminal, and to focus on it as a “natural” and even “beautiful” experience. As her mother puts it, “It feels good to finally be able to embrace my cancer. It’s almost like a friend” (R, 156). And later: “It’s not that I am giving up . . . I am just going with it. It’s as if I am moving into another channel of life that lets everything in. Suddenly, there is nothing more to fight” (R, 165). Williams’s own response, as she learns to think similarly, or at least to question these issues deeply, is to ask, “How can I advocate fighting for life when I am in the tutelage of a woman who is teaching me how to let go?” (R, 165). In the meantime, though, her mother argues for focusing on the present: “It doesn’t matter how much time I have left. All we have is now . . . to keep hoping for life in the midst of letting go is to rob me of the moment I am in” (R, 161). At the end of life, she remains at home, rather than in the hospital; she refuses chemotherapy; and she focuses on the present, rather than focusing on risky or unlikely cures. Her approach to death is constructed as “natural,” in other words, even if the cause of her cancer eventually turns out to be “unnatural.” Williams comes to see death, for example, as “earthy like birth, like sex, full of smells and sounds and bodily fluids” (R, 219). At the last minute, Diane’s husband, Terry’s father, “walks into the room. Mother turns to him. Their eyes meet. She smiles. And she goes” (R, 231). A good death, then, is the judgment that the reader is supposed to make.17 To return

­134     Michael Lundblad to the driving question I am following in this chapter, the conclusion is that death is not supposed to be something to resist; it can be just as natural as the flooding of the bird refuge that Williams has learned to accept as well. But here, for me, is where the question of blame comes up. In the case of the Great Salt Lake rising, Williams tells us, There is no one to blame, nothing to fight. No developer with a dream of condominiums. No toxic waste dump that would threaten the birds. Not even a single dam on the Bear River to oppose. Only a simple natural phenomenon: the rise of the Great Salt Lake. (R, 140)

Today, we might be less likely to see or be comfortable with rising water levels as an example of a “simple natural phenomenon” in light of human-driven climate change. But it remains clear that for Williams the answer to the question of when not to resist, whether it is a flooding lake or terminal cancer, lies with the determination of what is supposedly natural. This question, though, leads to what seems like another difficulty in Refuge: what if there is something more tangible to blame for Diane’s cancer? The epilogue to Refuge (a book which is subtitled An Unnatural History of Family and Place) raises this question rather dramatically. It was first published as a separate essay in 1990, a year before the publication of Refuge, and it has been subsequently reprinted on its own in many different anthologies.18 Titled “The Clan of One-Breasted Women,” the epilogue drops a bomb, almost literally, on the rest of the memoir; it reveals that the cause of all the cancer in Williams’s family might well have been exposure to the U.S. government’s atomic testing program in Nevada in the 1950s. While Williams chronicles and reflects upon her mother’s lived experience and eventual death from cancer throughout the text, she does not suggest that the cause of that cancer might be “unnatural” until the epilogue. At that point, Williams links speaking out against atomic and nuclear testing with a decision to speak out against the patriarchal gender codes of the Mormon family in which she was raised. Williams’s decision to speak out against “obedience” in this context leads to political activism as well, as in the final pages she describes participating in a peaceful nuclear protest, a gathering of women – representing the “clan of one-breasted women” – whose bodies are connected intimately with the desert, with the animals, with all things supposedly “natural.” The text as a whole could thus be read as an attempt to model or re-enact this movement toward politics, toward activism, and away from just “accepting” problematic practices and discourses.

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But such a reading would need to ignore the tremendous amount of narrative energy spent constructing the central analogy of the text: comparing the growing terminal cancer in her mother’s body with the rising flood of the Great Salt Lake and its threat to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Despite thinking about proposals and plans to dam the waters or prevent the lake from rising further, Williams comes to the conclusion that she must accept both the flooding of the bird refuge and her mother’s looming cancer as “natural.” Apparently the source – and blame – for that cancer can be distinguished from accepting death itself as natural. But I, for one, am uncomfortable, to say the least, with this kind of distinction. In Refuge, there is no bitterness or outrage woven into the chronicling of a cancer that was presumably caused by exposure to radiation from atomic testing. There is no retrospective commentary inserted back into the description of Diane’s cancer in the text. Cheryll Glotfelty has argued that Refuge has more of a “novelistic construction”: “Williams has carefully shaped and paced the material to resemble the plot of a novel and to reproduce a novel’s emotional impact.”19 While Glotfelty does not explicitly comment upon why the cause of the cancer is not given until the epilogue, her argument about the book’s novelistic elements might suggest one explanation. It seems to me that Refuge wants to prioritize a construction of cancer as a kind of lesson that can be given to another person, rather than something to fight. This kind of thinking is articulated as part of Williams’s desire to “rethink cancer”; she asks, “Can we be at war with ourselves and still find peace?” (R, 43). She wants to reject the “military metaphors: the fight, the battle, enemy infiltration, and defense strategies,” as well as “this kind of aggression waged against our own bodies . . . ” (R, 43). Perhaps this resistance to war and war metaphors can help to explain how Williams comes to justify not “fighting” death with chemotherapy at the end of life. That kind of military rhetoric has been perhaps most famously critiqued and historicized by Susan Sontag in Illness as Metaphor (1978). Sontag’s argument there is that an illness such as cancer can and should be separated from all metaphorical thinking in general. Sontag argues that “the most truthful way of regarding illness – and the healthiest way of being ill – is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking.”20 Her study is therefore dedicated to a “liberation” from the “lurid metaphors” that have “landscaped” what she describes as the “kingdom of the ill.”21 This is of course a metaphor too, although Sontag later claims in AIDS and Its Metaphors (1988) that the “kingdom of the ill” was meant as a parody of metaphor.22 It is perhaps ironic, then, that Sontag’s own death, as chronicled in her son David Rieff’s bestselling memoir, Swimming in a Sea of Death (2008),

­136     Michael Lundblad would be constructed as the epitome of “fighting” her own cancer until the bitter end, modeling a willingness to endure excruciating medical procedures and treatments with very low odds of curing or controlling her cancer.23 Sontag’s death, in other words, at least according to Rieff in his memoir, can be seen as the antithesis of the “good death” exemplified by Williams’s mother in Refuge. Part of the difficulty for Williams, I believe, comes from the assumption that an anti-war activist must also be opposed to chemotherapy and radiation and other “unnatural” treatments at the end of life. But we can also reject the “war” metaphor (which is deployed in the rhetoric of the “War on Cancer” writ large) without necessarily rejecting a model of resisting up until the very end, which does not necessarily need to rely upon a denial of the possibility (or even certainty) of death. Instead, from my perspective, it might make sense – for some – to resist cancer and resist death, whether with chemotherapy or through other means, as a way to exemplify a commitment to resistance more generally, including opposition to atomic testing and many other sources of oppression and suffering. For Williams, though, the stance against nukes is not mobilized explicitly until the epilogue, when she decides to protest at the Nevada Test Site. At that point, when she dreams of uniting “women from all over the world” who “hold the moon in their bellies and wax and wane with its phases” (R, 287), women who “would reclaim the desert for the sake of their children, for the sake of the land” (R, 287), she mobilizes essentialist and heteronormative constructions of women once again. These “mothers” look to animals other than just birds to explain what is natural; they take “their cues from coyote, kit fox, antelope squirrel, and quail” (R, 288). But they become the “Clan of One-Breasted Women” (R, 290), inspired by – if not also romanticized as – “Shoshone grandmothers” (R, 287), who are at home in the desert and willing to stand up and resist the “unnatural” forces that threaten all of its inhabitants. Could not cancer caused by “unnatural” weapons testing, though, fall into this category as well? In addition, as much as I might support the resistance to nuclear testing and war, I remain wary of Williams’s grounding of it in a construction of women naturalized through animality. Williams echoes this gendered basis for activism in her later book The Open Space of Democracy, which began as a commencement address at the University of Utah in May 2003. She recounts another protest, this time in response to the imminent threat of a U.S. invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush. Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March 2003, Williams joins “thousands of women and children gathered in Washington, D.C., for a Code Pink rally in the name of peace.”24

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According to a New York Times article the following day titled “With Passion and a Dash of Pink, Women Gather to Protest War”: The protesters, many wearing pink as a symbol of opposition among women to a war, carried placards and sang and chanted slogans in a low-key demonstration organized by a group called Code Pink, a play on the national colorcoded security alert system.25

CODEPINK, according to its website, “is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs.”26 While they claim that they are “not exclusively women,”27 the organization generally seems to match up with Williams’s tendency to ground her activism within essentialist assumptions about women, signaled perhaps with the color chosen to represent the group. In her account of this protest, Williams highlights the names of other prominent women arrested with her, including Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, Susan Griffin, Amy Goodman, and Medea Benjamin, one of the cofounders of CODEPINK.28 For Williams, the “open space of democracy” is necessary to defend, not only against militarism and imperialism but also against environmental destruction, which includes habitats for birds and other animals. She later connects the things she sees as calling for resistance: Since George W. Bush took the office of President of the United States I have been sick at heart, unable to stomach or abide by this administration’s aggressive policies directed against the environment, education, social services, healthcare, and our civil liberties . . .29

She recounts field visits and vigorous efforts to defend wilderness areas in Utah and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while reaffirming her intimate and passionate connection with the natural world. At one point she sits under a juniper tree near her home and describes how a “throbbing intelligence passes from this tree into my bloodstream,” while remembering her “animal body that has evolved alongside my consciousness as a human being.”30 For me, this kind of distinction between the human and the animal remains difficult to defend, as Derrida among many others has shown, even if it is deployed in the service of environmental activism that I might support. For Williams, though, the important point is to express these passions: I used to be embarrassed to speak of these things, my private correspondences with trees and birds and deer, for fear of seeming mad. But now, it seems mad not to speak of these things – our unspoken intimacies with Other [sic].31

­138     Michael Lundblad Much of The Open Space of Democracy is indeed devoted to the need for speaking out. Williams repeats the same key line three times throughout her book: “Question. Stand. Speak. Act.”32 The point is to resist threats to free speech, the open exchange of ideas, and democracy: “When minds close, democracy begins to close. Fear creeps in; silence overtakes speech.”33 Williams argues that we need to ask “how fear can be transferred into courage, silence transformed into honest expression, and spiritual isolation quelled through a sense of community.”34 The result is an inspiring call to speak out, to resist the forces of oppression, to articulate passionate defenses of the humans and animals and environments that we want to save or protect. This call to speak out, though, returns me to the other central puzzle that Williams takes on in When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice. Despite her mother’s resistance to patriarchal norms, Diane ultimately refuses to speak out, even in the somewhat private form of a family journal. Instead, she leaves three shelves of blank journals for Williams to somehow interpret. When is it not necessary (if not crucial) to resist or speak out? Like Refuge, I would argue, this more recent memoir looks once again to nature and to birds in particular to make sense of this question. The title of When Women Were Birds, we are told, comes to Williams in a dream when she herself is fifty-four, the same age her mother was when she died twenty-two years earlier. The words and image do not come with an explanation in her dream, but Williams asks, “Were we? Are we still?” (W, 129): “‘I am a woman with wings,’ I once wrote and will revise these words again. ‘I am a woman with wings dancing with other women with wings.’ In a voiced community, we all flourish” (W, 129). But what are we to make of Diane’s “voice” in relation to her blank journals? Williams writes fifty-four brief meditations reflecting upon the possible meanings of those journals, speculating in free-flowing directions. Early on, she writes: I do not know why my mother bought journal after journal, year after year, and never wrote in one of them and passed them on to me. I will never know. The blow of her blank journals became a second death. (W, 15)

But we are given a glimpse of a potential explanation that then recurs throughout the text: that Diane’s decision not to write could have been a way of claiming space for herself, in silent opposition to the assumption that a mother exists only for her children and husband: “It is the province of mothers to preserve the myth that we are unburdened with our own problems” (W, 15). But, according to Williams,

The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer     139 When women were birds, we knew otherwise. We knew our greatest freedom was in taking flight at night, when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of stars and the constellations of our own making in the delight and terror of our uncertainty. (W, 16)

The blank journals can then be seen as corresponding to the times when women could steal some time for themselves, when they could fly away without anyone realizing they were gone. The birds in this metaphor are grounded once again in what is constructed as the natural world, which is explicitly gendered, from Williams’s perspective. She later refers, for example, to “Earth. Mother. Goddess. In every culture the voice of the Feminine emerges from the land itself” (W, 92). We can see, then, that Williams’s own understanding of gender seems to float mostly on the second wave of feminism: “We are born from what is fluid, not fixed. Water is essential. A mother is essential. The ocean as mother is mesmerizing in her power, a creative force that can both comfort and destroy” (W, 20). She cites Cixous’s claim that “We must learn to speak the language women speak when there is no one there to correct us” (qtd. in W, 172), and states herself that “Women have always written in code as a way to protect themselves” (W, 172).35 Even if we might want to wait for the next wave or two of feminism, it seems useful to think about the idea that Williams’s mother could have chosen not to write in her journal in order to resist patriarchy without calling attention to her refusal. That sort of refusal would seem to fit with the ways that Williams describes her mother resisting the patriarchal norms of the Mormon Church in more private ways. In response to debates over whether women should be allowed to become priests – after the prohibition against African Americans was finally lifted in 1978 – Diane says, “The men can have their priesthood. Who wants it? Women have their own power, and it doesn’t have to be codified” (W, 48). She does not want the Church to be criticized in her own home in front of her children, but Williams believes that “My mother’s prison was her prescribed role” (W, 208) even though, at the same time, “My mother refused her roles” (W, 210) and had a “refusal to be known” (W, 210). Williams quotes the address her mother gave to her Relief Society in which she argues, “One of the good things to come out of Women’s Rights Movements around the world over the years is the intellectual awakening that has come to women themselves. The degree of our aliveness depends on the degree of our awareness . . .” (W, 208–9). This form of advocacy is focused on individual awareness, urging women to ask questions like the ones Diane asks: “Do you ever wonder sometimes if your family thinks of you as a series of functions rather than a person . . .?” Or, “Do I have

­140     Michael Lundblad my own identity besides being someone’s wife and someone’s mother?” (W, 209). But claiming time and space for oneself, as crucial as it certainly can be, is a different form of advocacy than publicly calling for change. Williams herself grounds her activism at the end of Refuge upon threats to the female body, but it is also an example of how she tends to focus on speaking out publicly: My mother, [my grandmother] Mimi, and my maternal grandmother, Lettie, all died within months of one another. Cancer: breast, ovarian, cervical. Cut, mutilated, expelled. The female body ravaged. What I feared most, happened. Their deaths were a summons: Speak or die. (W, 127)

When Williams is arrested for protesting at the Nevada Test Site, and asked about the “pen and a pad of paper tucked inside [her] left boot,” she calls them “Weapons” (R, 290). Not speaking out against atomic testing at that point becomes no longer acceptable: The price of obedience has become too high. The fear and inability to question authority that ultimately killed rural communities in Utah during atmospheric testing of atomic weapons is the same fear I saw in my mother’s body. . . . Tolerating blind obedience in the name of patriotism or religion ultimately takes our lives. (R, 286)

Williams is certainly willing to speak out against other injustices in When Women Were Birds, such as when she argues: America’s War on Terror has silenced us, turned us into sleepwalkers, not only unable to speak, but afraid to speak out. In times of war we can use our voices as a stay against those who are suffering. In times of war, survival depends on listening to that suffering. (W, 65)

But perhaps there is a desire to position Diane, like the birds that Williams loves and seeks to emulate, as one of the “voiceless” – those who cannot speak for themselves but must be spoken for. While this kind of logic has long been debated among postcolonial theorists, among others, it has also been questioned by ecocritics exploring calls to listen to the “voice” of nature or nonhuman animals.36 Certainly, we need to be aware of how “speaking for” an other is also a form of constructing that other, as part of a discourse supposedly grounded in natural history, for example, or ecology, or anti-colonialism, even if we want to advocate for those others. In When Women Were Birds, however, Williams continues to connect herself to birds as “natural” creatures on several occasions, assuming she can speak for them or understand what they are saying, so

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to speak. She tells us that “Birds remain my compass points. Wherever I am, the winged ones orient me: a red-winged blackbird in a marsh; a willet on a beach; a kestrel hovering in a field” (W, 69). And once again, she visualizes herself as a bird, such as when she describes her mother coming to visit her in New York when she was younger: “we transformed ourselves into doves cooing and coddling each other as we walked and talked in the park for hours” (W, 105). Williams invokes the metaphor of women as caged birds for herself when she recounts her own difficulties with Mormon norms once she gets married but does not want to have children: “I felt like Henrietta, the caged canary we had as kids who was constantly shredding and shedding her yellow feathers by flying into the bars of the cage, trying to escape” (W, 89). The question she asks herself is, “Did I have the courage to forge a path contrary to the way I had been raised and break with the traditional roles of women?” (W, 90). While she struggles to come to terms with her own feminism in relation to Mormonism, she comes back to the question of voice. She suggests at one point that “Mother gave me my voice by withholding hers, both in life and in death” (W, 163). But toward the end of the memoir she moves in a different direction, suggesting that “Not everything is meant for all to hear” (W, 197). And we are introduced opaquely to someone named Louis Gakumba, the twenty-four-year-old son of a Congolese prince who served as a translator for Williams in Rwanda (W, 184). Williams describes “a loss of self through love – naively, willingly, obsessively. It has been my spiritual annihilation through fate. And it has been physical . . . Here is what I will tell you:” (W, 184), followed by a blank page. Williams thus echoes her mother’s silence, refusing to write more about her relationship with Louis. But questions remain, for me at least, about the way that Williams attempts to reconcile her own outspoken advocacy with her mother’s refusal to write in her journals. Not surprisingly, she looks once again to birds as models, but by the end of her book, birds have become symbols of beauty and celebrations of life’s mysteries. After Williams experiences a scare with what turns out to be a benign brain tumor or hemangioma, she decides to refuse the risk of optional surgery, opting instead to leave it alone, “to go on living, appreciating my condition as a vulnerable human being in a vulnerable world, guided by the songs of birds” (W, 224). To her own question of “How shall we live?” Williams responds Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated. (W, 225)

­142     Michael Lundblad Just like birds, then, we should apparently focus on individual joy and individual awareness, which is why Williams can ultimately conclude, “My Mother’s Journals are to be celebrated” (W, 226). But the key distinction she makes for what needs to be said or not is supposedly between what is private and what is public. She thus seems to backtrack on her calls elsewhere for women to speak out: I thought I was writing a book about voice. I thought I would proclaim as a woman that we must speak the truth of our lives at all costs. But what I realize with Louis walking behind me is that I will never be able to say what is in my heart, because words fail us, because it is in our nature to protect, because there are times when what is public and what is private must be discerned. (W, 228; my emphasis)

Her own silence about Louis is thus lined up with whatever her mother might have been thinking or experiencing but chose not to write about. But once again she resorts to what she considers to be “natural” to justify when it is okay not to speak out. The bigger question I have about this conclusion, though, is how it resorts to the same kind of emphasis on individual awareness that Diane exhibits in her refusal to speak out more strongly against patriarchal norms. For Williams, it seems as if the private can be distinguished not only from the public but also from the political, even if she might be ambivalent elsewhere about when to reveal private or intimate details. But here, at least, the private is constructed as a category of exception, rather than a contradiction, to Williams’s passionate calls for speaking out elsewhere. She tells us that There is comfort in keeping what is sacred inside us not as a secret, but as a prayer. The world is already split open, and it is in our destiny to heal it, each in our own way, each in our own time, with the gifts that are ours. (W, 228)

Certainly this can be read as a call for each of us to resist oppressive discourses and everyday suffering in whichever ways we might best be able to. But it seems politically suspect to me to avoid acknowledging the profound privilege enabling this kind of conclusion; only those of us unwilling to see – or able to avoid in our own lives – the constant threat of suffering or oppression or death can try to maintain a fundamental difference between what is private and what is political. Williams’s final lines then shift the understanding of voice from political potential into flights of imagination: “The men leave. The women stay, and together we lie down on the salt desert, facing each other, our ears on the Earth, listening. I hear my mother’s voice” (W, 228). And the conclusion about her mother’s journals is that they are “another

The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer     143

paradox, journals without words that create a narrative of the imagination. My mother’s gift is the Mystery. Each day I begin with the empty page” (W, 228). I, too, want to celebrate mystery, to head out on the open road, to puzzle out the joys and pleasures I might have the privilege to experience. I, too, wonder how birds might help to make sense of the world, including the illness and death that I have experienced. But I am left with further questions. What if the “private” experiences of birds are the ones we most need to hear? What if we cannot hear them if they are only seen as pieces of a puzzle that come together to form a picture called “evolution” or “natural selection”? Which other puzzles, which other boxes might it make sense to put them in as well? That is not to say that they do not fit within natural history, but only to suggest that there are good reasons to be wary of the box labeled “all natural.” If we prioritize that box for the birds, we must see other parts of the same picture: women who are subjected to a singular idea of what it means to be a woman; men who use biological justifications for patriarchy (and other intersectional oppressive discourses); nations who see imperialism and torture and collateral damage as “survival of the fittest”; and animals who suffer and die as the result of the human species expanding its territory, consuming everything on the planet, and reducing all nonhuman creatures to the impoverished (or, to the contrary, glorified) state of only living for the moment, without awareness of who is to blame for suffering and death in the world. My own paradox is my belief that we must continue to resist suffering and death, for ourselves and others, even if we know we will never ultimately succeed, even if there is no cure for what I would call “terminal injustice.” There might be different forms of effective advocacy and productive debates about how to solve these puzzles. But I, for one, continue to be both inspired and infuriated every time I open these boxes. If we want to insist that those being oppressed can fit into less problematic boxes as well, should we not also be willing to rethink the way we construct birds? Although the full scope of that question is beyond the reach of this chapter, recent work from a variety of sources has pointed toward how interesting and complicated the lives of birds can be.37 Irene Pepperberg’s work with the grey parrot Alex has challenged many of the ways that language has been thought to be the fundamental dividing line between humans and birds, while many others have explored the complicated nature of birdsong.38 In Why Birds Sing: A Journey into the Mystery of Bird Song, David Rothenberg begins with that apparently simple question: why do birds sing? According to Rothenberg, for some, there seems to be

­144     Michael Lundblad an easy answer: birds sing for the sheer joy of it, because they can. Others may believe birdsong to be fully explained by science: birds sing to attract mates, to prove their genetic fitness with exhausting displays of virtuosity, or defend their territory with angry sounds.39

For Rothenberg, the desire to go beyond what I would call “natural” explanations leads to his own musical and philosophical attempts to listen and respond to birds in perhaps mysterious ways. These kinds of nuanced attempts to understand birds, beyond any kind of simple anthropomorphism, can complicate the question that seems so central for Terry Tempest Williams: how can birds help us to understand when it is okay for humans not to resist either death or oppression? But I want to conclude with different questions. Who are we to say, for example, that the “angry sounds” of birds might not indicate signs of protest that go beyond territory disputes and into other kinds of resistance? And, ultimately, who are we to say that some birds – along with some humans – should not be raging: raging against the dying of the light?

Notes  1. My thanks to Scott Slovic for his thoughtful review of this chapter, as well as for the interesting subsequent discussions about Terry Tempest Williams’s work that it inspired.   2. My Introduction to this volume explains how “animalities” might be seen as a unifying concept explored by other chapters as well.   3. For more on distinctions between these various fields, and why I believe they should no longer be subsumed under the umbrella of “animal studies,” see the Introduction to this volume.  4. Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place ([1991] New York: Vintage, 1992), 266. All subsequent citations are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as R.   5. Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice (New York: Picador, 2012), 135. All subsequent citations are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as W.   6. Ecocritics have long drawn attention to Williams’s essentialist tendencies, while some have also sought to complicate that assessment of her work. See, for example, Cassandra Kircher, “Rethinking Dichotomies in Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge,” in Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy (eds.), Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 158–71; Cheryll Glotfelty, “Flooding the Boundaries of Form: Terry Tempest Williams’s Unnatural History,” in Laurence Coupe (ed.), The Green Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 2000), 293–8; Karla Armbruster, “Rewriting a Genealogy With the Earth: Women and Nature in the Works of Terry Tempest Williams,” Southwestern American Literature, 21: 1 (1995), 209–20; Mark Allister,

The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer     145 Refiguring the Map of Sorrow: Nature Writing and Autobiography (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 2001), 58–80.   7. My previous work has sought to complicate this kind of formulation of humans as animals because of its history of being used as a way to naturalize problematic discourses related to heterosexuality, labor exploitation, racism, imperialism, sexism, and so on. See Michael Lundblad, The Birth of a Jungle: Animality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).  8. The complete text of the 1892 edition of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” conveniently can be found online through the Poetry Foundation, available at (last accessed 23 November 2016).  9. Allister, Refiguring the Map of Sorrow, 79. 10. Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 15. For a range of approaches within what might previously have been labeled “animal studies,” see Marianne DeKoven and Michael Lundblad (eds.), Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012). The collection includes contributions from Haraway, Carol J. Adams, Paola Cavalieri, Frans de Waal, Temple Grandin, Michael Lundblad, Martha Nussbaum, and Cary Wolfe. 11. Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 159. 12. Ibid. 160. For more on Heidegger in relation to animal studies broadly conceived, see Matthew Calarco, Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). 13. This is not to say, however, that ecocritics – as opposed to less academic audiences – are not in dialog with animal studies as it has been broadly conceived, at least more recently. See, for example, Scott Slovic, “Introduction: Animality and Ecocriticism,” Forum for World Literature Studies, 6: 1 (2014), 1–5, which introduces a special issue on the topic. See also Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai, Shiuhhuah Serena Chou, and Guy Redmer (eds.), Key Readings in Ecocriticism (Taipei: Bookman, 2015). 14. See, for example, Frans de Waal, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (New York: W. W. Norton, 2016); Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (New York: Henry Holt, 2015); Marc Bekoff, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2013); Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2007); Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals (New York: Delacorte Press, 1995). 15. Cary Wolfe has argued along similar lines that animal rights discourse can end up reinforcing species hierarchies and anthropocentrism. See Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 21–43. 16. In The Animal That Therefore I Am, Derrida reveals the problem of reducing all nonhumans to “The Animal”: “Confined within this catchall concept, within this vast encampment of the animal, in this general

­146     Michael Lundblad s­ ingular, within the strict enclosure of this definite article (‘the Animal’ and not ‘animals’), as in a virgin forest, a zoo, a hunting or fishing ground, a paddock or an abattoir, a space of domestication, are all the living things that man does not recognize as his fellows, his neighbors, or his brothers. And that is so in spite of the infinite space that separates the lizard from the dog, the protozoon from the dolphin, the shark from the lamb, the parrot from the chimpanzee, the camel from the eagle, the squirrel from the tiger, the elephant from the cat, the ant from the silkworm, or the hedgehog from the echidna. I interrupt my nomenclature and call upon Noah to help insure that no one gets left on the ark” (Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, 34). 17. For more on the discourse of a good death and its implications, see Michael Lundblad, “Humanimal Relations in Contemporary U.S. Literature: Biopolitics and Terminal Illness in Mark Doty’s Dog Years,” Forum for World Literature Studies, 6: 1 (2014), 41–9. 18. See, for example, Robert Finch and John Elder (eds.), The Norton Book of Nature Writing (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002), 1091–8; Lorraine Anderson, Scott Slovic, and John P. O’Grady (eds.), Literature and the Environment: A Reader on Nature and Culture (New York: Longman, 1999), 347–52; Melissa Walker (ed.), Reading the Environment (New York: W. W. Norton, 1994), 381–7; Chris Anderson and Lex Runciman (eds.), A Forest of Voices: Conversations in Ecology (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 2000), 569–76. 19. Glotfelty, “Flooding the Boundaries of Form,” 295. 20. Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors (New York: Picador, 1990), 3. 21. Ibid. 4. 22. In AIDS and Its Metaphors, Sontag claims that she “prefaced the polemic against metaphors of illness I wrote ten years ago with a brief, hectic flourish of metaphor, in mock exorcism of the seductiveness of metaphorical thinking.” She goes on to say, though, that “Of course, one cannot think without metaphors. But that does not mean there aren’t some metaphors we might well abstain from or try to retire” (ibid. 93). 23. See David Rieff, Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son’s Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009). 24. Terry Tempest Williams, The Open Space of Democracy (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2004), 11. 25. “THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE OPPOSITION; With Passion and a Dash of Pink, Women Gather to Protest War,” New York Times, 9 March 2003, available at (last accessed 23 November 2016). 26. “What Is CODEPINK?,” CODEPINK, 2015, available at (last accessed 23 November 2016). 27. Ibid. 28. Williams, Open Space, 94n.5. 29. Ibid. 17–18. 30. Ibid. 75. 31. Ibid. 76.

The Nature of Birds, Women, and Cancer     147 32. Ibid. 10, 12, 85. 33. Ibid. 9. 34. Ibid. 23. 35. Hélène Cixous has a piece titled “Birds, Women and Writing” that is reprinted in the useful volume by Peter Atterton and Matthew Calarco (eds.), Animal Philosophy: Essential Reading in Continental Thought (London: Continuum, 2004), 167–73. This volume also includes excerpts related to animality in the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bataille, Levinas, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Ferry, and Irigaray, along with brief commentaries about each excerpt. 36. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s classic and influential intervention is, of course, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” On connections between postcolonial and ecocritical theory on “voice,” see Michael Lundblad, “Malignant and Beneficent Fictions: Constructing Nature in Ecocriticism and Achebe’s Arrow of God,” West Africa Review, 3: 1 (2001), available at (last accessed 23 November 2016). 37. See, for example, Jennifer Ackerman, The Genius of Birds (New York: Penguin, 2016); Bernd Heinrich, One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2016). 38. See, for example, Irene M. Pepperberg, Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence – and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process (New York: HarperCollins, 2008); Irene M. Pepperberg, The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1999); Peter Marler and Hans Slabbekoorn, Nature’s Music: The Science of Birdsong (Boston: Academic Press, 2004); Donald Kroodsma, The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005). 39. David Rothenberg, Why Birds Sing: A Journey into the Mystery of Bird Song (New York: Basic Books, 2006), ix.

Chapter 7

Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai

In the contemporary Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, which is inspired by the German Romantic poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies, a character named Nirmal keeps a personal notebook in the hope that his cousin Kanai can redeem his past.1 In this novel, Nirmal quotes Rilke’s poetry extensively, and this type of mutually implicated and cross-fertilized intertext not only points to a historical sense of place forgotten in the present, but also puts both authors into dialogue with each other.2 Among the twelve major quotes from Poulin’s translation of Rilke’s poetry, such thematics as the poetic heir, the historical massacre, Umwelt, and the animal question are brought to bear on each other. Hailed as a “green postcolonial novel,”3 The Hungry Tide is set in the Sundarbans – the tide country – which covers “2,300 square miles in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal” with lush mangroves,4 representing “the intersection of vernacular culture, place-based behavior, and community.”5 Etymologically, the word “Sundarbans” is associated with “a common species of mangrove,” meaning “the beautiful forest.”6 In “Folly in the Sundarbans,” Ghosh points out that due to global warming, this region is devastated by “storm surges,” and “The mangrove forests have historically absorbed the first shock of incoming cyclones,” thus functioning as “the barrier that protects the hinterland.”7 As a tide country, this (bio)region does not have a fixed entity; rather, it is like a palimpsest ready for metamorphosis. Albeit an area of “mud flats and mangrove islands” – “no ‘pristine beaches’” and “coral gardens”8 – the Sundarbans is anything but a land of “emptiness” or “illusion”: the tide country’s jungle was an emptiness, a place where time stood still. I [Nirmal] saw now that this was an illusion, that exactly the opposite was true. What was happening here, I realized, was that the wheel of time was spinning too fast to be seen. In other places it took decades, even centuries,

Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt     149 for a river to change course; it took an epoch for an island to appear. But here in the tide country, transformation is the rule of life: rivers stray from week to week, and islands are made and unmade in days.9

Nirmal’s notebook betrays the fact that people living here are the dispossessed, and their lives are left untouched by time and devoid of history. His negative epiphany avers that “the opposite was true”: “What was happening here [. . .] was that the wheel of time was spinning too fast to be seen.” Here, Nirmal’s observation of time is similar to that of Benjamin’s “dialectics at a standstill,” meaning that history should be understood both as the being of becoming and the becoming of being. Historically, the Sundarbans was regarded as a Conradian “area of darkness” and “wilderness.” However, the region became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, and in 2001, it was designated a “Biosphere Reserve for the Royal Bengal Tiger.” Ghosh’s novel ironically digs deep into the buried past to situate the Sundarbans as an evental site for the historical Morichjhãpi massacre in the name of animal preservation. In other words, behind the noble animal-saving project lies a story long forgotten, and it awaits rehistorying. In an interview with John Hawley, Ghosh expresses his predilection for Subaltern Studies and an interest in exploring “the voice of the anonymous individual, the typical person who is unrecorded in ‘history.’”10 In UN Chronicle, Ghosh even confesses his advocation of Subaltern Studies in conjunction with the environmental justice movement in India.11 By restorying the past, Ghosh presents the Sundarbans as a sublime tide country with a natural history in which the human, the animal, and the cetaceans are knotted together and under which biopolitics and ecological sovereignty are at work. In The Hungry Tide, Ghosh begins with his ecocritical explorations of the bioregionalism in the Sundarbans. By excavating the hidden history of the massacre of the local people in the name of wilderness preservation and the protection of the endangered dolphins, Ghosh then steers away from the binary opposition between the local and the metropolitan, insider and outsider, and nature and history. In this section, I first scrutinize The Hungry Tide in terms of the cross-fertilization between history and nature, showing that the royal Bengal tiger reserve is well intentioned but imperialist, and that there is always an internal schism between anthropocentrism and biocentrism. As a novel set in the Sundarbans in postcolonial India, The Hungry Tide provides an ecocritical bridge connecting two seemingly unrelated fields of exploration undertaken by Kanai and Piya: one is a metropolitan cultural translator who once described Canning as “a horrible, muddy little town,”12 the

­150     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai other a cetologist pursuing objective scientific research on endangered Orcaella (dolphins). Though both are of Indian origin, their quests reveal the unspeakable past about the Morichjhãpi massacre. In Mick Smith’s term, the massacre is indicative of “ecological sovereignty,”13 and Ghosh’s treatment of the animal is related to the cultural “categories of human identity as a site for critical analysis.”14 Thus, the animal question is no longer limited to the nonhuman animal; it also pertains to the question of “human cultural politics” revolving around “human and nonhuman animality at various historical and cultural moments.”15 Then, I move on to the discussion of another kind of “animality” studies – the ethological study of animal behavior. While demonstrating how Ghosh tries to use two “actual” animals – the tiger and the dolphin – as his speaking examples to problematize the “universal” advocacy theory of animal studies, I also attempt to bring Uexküll’s Umwelt and Ghosh’s ethico-bioregionalism to bear on animality studies, with a special focus on the characters’ political struggle, potential transformation, and the will to live as the foundation of life, using the examples of Kusum and her son, Fokir. In conclusion, I argue for an ethico-political enaction or ethico-bioregional reinhabitation between subjects and their environment in spite of the fact that “we’re not comfortably at home in our translated world.”16

In other wor(l)ds: restorying history The Hungry Tide consists of two major narrative threads: life in the present as seen by Kanai Dutt and Piya Roy, and the historical notebook as narrated by Nirmal, both supplementing each other and enabling the possibility of a sea change in their attitude toward the animals, the cetaceans, and the subalterns. Upon receiving a phone call from his aunt, Nilima Bose, that his uncle, Nirmal, “had left some writings” for him, Kanai eventually fulfills a promise to visit and finds to his amazement when he arrives at Canning that the Sundarbans are still a “mud” country. On the train, he befriends Piya, an American cetologist whose return journey displays her enthusiasm about two species of river dolphin: the Gangetic dolphin and the Irrawaddy dolphin. Though the purpose of their return journey is seemingly different, their destination has finally converged: both find themselves gradually hooked by the Sundarbans. To give the tide country a history requires an account of a historical sense of place. In Ghosh’s hands, the Sundarbans, albeit subject to tidal change, still has its own culture. As the island’s main village with

Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt     151

a maidan (square), a marketplace, and a school, Lusibari is named after Lucy McKay Hamilton, niece of the Scottish Marxist Sir Daniel MacKinnon Hamilton. The cultivation of a new sense of place has shocked Kanai to an awareness that the Sundarbans is a cultural nexus of diasporic origins: Everyone who has ever taken the eastern route into the Gangetic heartland has had to pass through it – the Arakanese, the Khmer, the Javanese, the Dutch, the Malays, the Chinese, the Portuguese, the English. It is common knowledge that almost every island in the tide country has been inhabited at some time or another.17

Moreover, the aquatic ecosystem of the Sundarbans has a rhizomatic structure: “The waters of river and sea did not intermingle evenly [. . .]; rather, they interpenetrated each other, creating hundreds of different ecological niches.”18 The complexity of the bioregional ecosystem with a plethora of microenvironments is also a mind-opener to Piya due to the dazzling “universe of possibilities.”19 For both Kanai and Piya, the journey motif hints at a rediscovery of the human in dynamic interactions with the nonhuman. From the start, the Sundarbans was planned as a utopia with a land of ten thousand acres in the tide country purchased by Sir Daniel Hamilton in the late nineteenth century from the British Sarkar to accommodate the poor, the dispossessed, and the immigrants so that they could work in the Sundarbans because “there would be no Brahmins or Untouchables, no Bengalis and no Oriyas” and “Everyone would have to live and work together.”20 According to Nirmal, this is really Sir Daniel’s noble dream: What he [Sir Daniel] wanted was no different from what dreamers have always wanted. He wanted to build a place where no one would exploit anyone and people would live together without petty social distinctions and differences. He dreamed of a place where men and women could be farmers in the morning, poets in the afternoon and carpenters in the evening.21

When he first started living here, Sir Daniel subscribed to the vision that this place could bring him a large fortune; however, the Sundarbans has remained uncannily the same for four decades since the time he first planned such a town center in 1938: Nothing was familiar; everything was new. What little they knew of rural life was derived from the villages of the plains: the realities of the tide country were of a strangeness beyond reckoning. [. . .] Where was the gold that was to have been distilled from the tide country’s mud?22

­152     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai The fact is that the Sundarbans seems uninhabitable to humans: Many died of drowning, and many more were picked off by crocodiles and estuarine sharks. Nor did the mangroves offer much of immediate value to human beings – yet thousands risked death in order to collect meager quantities of honey, wax, firewood and the sour fruit of the kewra tree. No day seemed to pass without news of someone being killed by a tiger, a snake or a crocodile.23

Instead of the zoo, here the animals live in the open; they are neighbors to the humans. Each is food for the other, and consequently “there often seemed to be no one who was not a widow” in the tide country.24 Thus The Hungry Tide invites the reader to encounter the human other – the subalterns – and the nonhuman other, the tigers and the cetaceans. Through the openness to the wild, Ghosh reconstructs the past by kneading historical fragments together so as to suggest a possible communication between humans and animals.25 In The Hungry Tide, nature is interwoven with history, and the rhythm of life here indicates a perennial struggle between ebbs and flows, subjects and the environment, self and other, humans and animals, water and land, life and death, history and nature, fresh water and salt water. Everything is open, always in the process of becoming. In the Sundarbans, people are living a bare life. Notable among them are Kusum and her son, Fokir. In spite of that fact that the role of people living in the Sundarbans is unscripted – a part without a part – Kusum nevertheless lives in Nirmal’s notebook. She is his poetic muse. In the notebook, he intends to find an heir so that both Kusum and the insignificant subalterns can find a voice: I do not know how much time I have [. . .] All I need say for the time being is that this is not my story. It concerns, rather, the only friend you made when you were here in Lusibari: Kusum.26

Kanai is a would-be writer. He first paid Kusum a visit in 1970, and later learned Kusum has lived a despicable life: she experienced a failed rape attempt by her drunk father-in-law, her biological father’s death while foraging for firewood, and her mother’s being forced to prostitute herself in Bombay. Not only Kusum but also her son, Fokir, believes in the folk myth of Bon Bibi, the protector of the forest. For Fokir, only a man with a pure heart can stay away from danger in the forest. He once asks Kanai, “Are you a clean man, Kanai-babu?,” leaving him alone in the jungle at night, exposed to the danger of attack by tigers and other animals, which makes Kanai very indignant.27 Obviously, this is a test he learns

Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt     153

from his mother. One day, Piya stood by and watched as Fokir and his son, Tutul, were “perform[ing] a little ceremony.”28 Although illiterate, Fokir is still equipped with local knowledge about navigation on the river. Fokir’s mother, Kusum, who died shortly after the Morichjhãpi massacre, is the heroine in Nirmal’s notebook. She does not live a life in reality, but she can enjoy an afterlife in Ghosh’s life-writing. To express the inhumanity of her existence, the massacre, and the Indian government, Ghosh cum Nirmal gives her a face.29 However, to give the dispossessed a face is still insufficient: We still need to explore the unique form of life they live. Ghosh’s language of ethics accuses the Indian government of committing violence by silencing the people living in the Sundarbans. Here the Indian government not only creates political sovereignty but also reduces the colonials to docile subjects. By laying bare the discourse of the law and the discourse of politics, Ghosh draws our attention to the fact that Kusum’s family is a victim in the state of exception; it is the very embodiment of the state of exception. For Ghosh, the Indian government as a form of sovereign violence “opens a zone of indistinction between law and nature, outside and inside, violence and law.”30 The “zone of indistinction” puts the poor, the marginalized groups, and the immigrants into the state of “exclusive inclusion,” the part that does not have a part. The political event and Kusum’s story stage an unresolved tug of war between human and nonhuman: Whether to protect humans or nonhumans? Of humans and animals, once the life of nonhuman species “becomes the object of political preservation and thus of immunization, one conclusion is inevitable: that life can be preserved only at the cost of killing other life.”31 Here Ghosh’s complaint is similar to Esposito’s because the Indian government “represents the most virulent autoimmunitary disease of modernity”: It activates “the autoimmunitary killing of life” in the name of preserving the nonhuman life, such as the Bengal tigers; hence, the massacre.32 The site of this event is Morichjhãpi. In mid-May 1979, a political event occurred when the government tried to annihilate the poor, the weak, and the marginal in the name of ecology. The government called it “resettlement,” says Nilima, “but people say it was more like a concentration camp, or a prison. The refugees were surrounded by security forces and forbidden to leave. Those who tried to get away were hunted down.”33 Ghosh here aims to take account of the historically and culturally marginalized people struggling for their bare life in the Sundarbans. According to Nilima:

­154     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai Morichjhãpi [. . .] was a tide country island a couple of hours from Lusibari by boat. It fell within a part of the Sundarbans reserved for tiger conservation, but unlike many such islands it was relatively easily accessible from the mainland. In 1978 a great number of people suddenly appeared on Morichjhãpi. In this place where there had been no inhabitants before there were now thousands, almost overnight. Within a matter of weeks they had cleared the mangroves, built bãdhs and put up huts. It happened so quickly that in the beginning no one even knew who these people were. But in time it came to be learned that they were refugees, originally from Bangladesh. Some had come to India after Partition, while others had trickled over later. In Bangladesh they had been among the poorest of rural people, oppressed and exploited both by Muslim communalists and by Hindus of the upper castes.34

Nirmal’s progressive sense of place resembles that of Doreen Massey’s: The uniqueness of a place [. . .] is constructed out of particular interactions and mutual articulations of social relations, social processes, experiences and understanding, in a situation of co-presence [. . .] And this in turn allows a sense of place which is extraverted, which includes a consciousness of its links with the wider world, which integrates in a positive way the global and the local.35

Therefore, the subalterns draw strength from the sharing of Sir Daniel’s utopian idea that the Indian (West Bengal) government should not marginalize or exploit them or even sacrifice them for the sake of tigers. Though history does not present itself as “a solution to the problems,”36 it still functions as an emancipatory force to fight against ecological sovereignty: Their aims were quite straight-forward. They just wanted a little land to settle on. But for that they were willing to pit themselves against the government. They were prepared to resist until the end. That was enough. This was the closest Nirmal would ever come to a revolutionary moment.37

To quote Badiou, their gathering “point[s] to the urgency of a reformulated ideological proposal, a powerful idea, a pivotal hypothesis, so that the energy they release and the individuals they engage can give rise, in and beyond the mass movement and the reawakening of History.”38 As a mass movement, the Morichjhãpi event is “obviously an urgent demand from liberation.”39 Here the historical site plays a decisive role on the grounds that these people before did not exist, but now they exist in Nirmal’s diary, in Kanai’s retelling of history. In other words, Kusum is the catalyst, and the Morichjhãpi event gives birth to the history of the Sundarbans. Serving as a fragment of the past, Nirmal’s notebook bears witness to the historical massacre of the powerless rioters: But it was not from Bangladesh that these refugees were fleeing when they came to Morichjhãpi; it was from a government resettlement camp in central

Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt     155 India. In the years after Partition the authorities had removed the refugees to a place called Dandakaranva, deep in the forests of Madhya Pradesh.40

In “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique,” Ramachandra Guha argues against deep ecology in that its overemphasis on wilderness preservation such as “the Tiger Project” without an adequate consideration for the people living there is to be perceived as a form of neo-colonialism and neo-­ imperialism.41 For her as well as for William Cronon,42 deep ecology seems erroneously to “equate environmental protection with the protection of wilderness.”43 Speaking as a third worldist, Guha finds it inadequate and unacceptable to apply a Western model of environmentalism to the third world. Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley also follow Guha’s observation that the deep ecological principle of biocentrism betrays a “lack of concern with inequalities within human society,” dehistoricising nature and disregarding current “pressing environmental issues.”44 According to Mick Smith, such a Tiger Project or the massacre in the Sundarbans is to be seen as a type of radical environmentalism, itself a form of “ecological sovereignty”45 in total control of the biological life of the people living in the Morichjhãpi, ironically rendering the living landscape of the poor an “uninhabited wilderness”46 of tiger reserves.

Animality and Umwelt In addition to the historical massacre, Ghosh also finds himself interested in the environment of the cetaceans. In this novel, two aspects of “animality” studies are juxtaposed: (1) animality studies with an emphasis on the history of animality in relation to the genocide of the subalterns, as illustrated above; and (2) Merleau-Ponty’s notion of “animality” as “the study of animal behavior,” which will be discussed with respect to Piya’s study of the endangered dolphins. The former touches on questions of violence, exploitation, and speciesism, whereas the latter explores how animal/cetacean behaviors or activities are “oriented toward an Umwelt.”47 The term “Umwelt” was coined by the Estonian biologist Jakob von Uexküll who first brought it to public attention. In Nature, MerleauPonty appropriates the term to discuss the relationship between animals and their inner environment. Thanks to Uexküll’s contribution to biology and ecology, Merleau-Ponty is able to develop a theory of the chiasmatic relationship between organisms and their environment. In

­156     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai The Structure of Behavior, Merleau-Ponty, like Uexküll, argues against “the theory of reflex and conditioned reflex.”48 For Merleau-Ponty, mechanistic scientific naturalism based on a stimulus–response pattern of behavior ignores the complex yet meaningful interactions between the organism and its environment, which not only give “sense” but also introduce a “form” to relate the whole to the parts. Like Uexküll, Ghosh’s depiction of the cetaceans (such as the Orcaella dolphins) is also an invitation to unknown worlds, or to the worlds of the nonhuman others. In “An Introduction to Umwelt,” Uexküll delights in exploring worlds that are “unknown” and “invisible” to man,49 hence in a non-anthropological approach to the study of living organisms, including humans and animals. Uexküll comments that “No animal will ever leave its Umwelt space, the center of which is the animal itself,” which resembles “heliotropism” in a “heliocentric universe.”50 For Uexküll, living beings are subjects; the Umwelt of all living beings implies a unique “phenomenal world” or “self-world” embracing each individual in the world of an animal/human, like a “soap bubble.”51 This indicates that there is a propinquity between subjects and their subjective environment (Umwelt). Writing in an intellectual milieu that is anti-physiological, Uexküll takes his theoretical biology a step further beyond the physiologist’s investigation of stimulus–response causalities with a view to finding a Kantian law that governs the interactions and interrelationships between species.52 Hence, he comes up with the theory of Umwelt that records the systemic interaction between the subjective experience and the world.53 Uexküll’s second-order biological observation purports to open up “new vistas that advance our knowledge” and “form-shaping” rules.54 In The Hungry Tide, Ghosh creates countless individual characters and their life-worlds which are like different bubbles that help shape a heterogenetic world (“The individual organism is always actively creating its individual Umwelt and this creative process is related to meanings determined by the animal’s internal states, needs, design . . .”55). For Ghosh, the Umwelt or the soap bubble is mainly about the others, including the animals and other living organisms. To give the other a face is well intentioned, but their forms of life merit further exploration in terms of the dialectical relationship between history and nature. Ghosh’s work is concerned with environmental issues in the Sundarbans. Historically, Aristotle is noted for his “denial of reason to animals.” The Stoics, such as Seneca, privilege rational beings over animals and plants. Descartes claims that animals will not suffer when they are hurt: they are basically machines.56 Heidegger even joins the debates by pushing the animal question a bit further from its biological

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insufficiency, pointing out that animals are “poor in the world.”57 For Heidegger, the animal’s world is claustrophobic and resistant to the opening or shining out of the truth only native to the human Dasein. It is humans, for Heidegger, not the animals, who alone have logos, the language to speak the truth. These philosophers apply anthropocentric criteria to philosophize the animal. In recent critical animal studies, Derrida encourages us to go beyond “phonocentrism” and “logocentrism” that “always trusts in a simple and oppositional limit between Man and the Animal.” For Derrida, the question of animality represents a “limit” so as to “delimit” what is human, including the crime against humanity, ethics, politics and so on.58 As Michael Lundblad suggests, the question of the animal is thus a question more of animality studies in that animal studies is a “limiting” concept that can be “easily mistaken for a unified call for universal advocacy for nonhuman animals.”59 The relationship between animal studies and animality studies, in effect, is likened to that of lived experience and pure experience: the former could be real or actual (“first-order” observation) while the latter could be speculative and theoretical (“second-order” observation): both are mutually implicated. In a similar vein, Cary Wolfe argues that “we need to understand that the ethical and philosophical urgency of confronting the institution of speciesism and crafting a posthumanist theory of the subject has nothing to do with whether you like animals.”60 As an environmental writer, Ghosh criticizes the government of India for reclaiming the Sundarbans as a land of preservation without even the slightest idea about the exiled or diasporic people coming from all corners of India and Pakistan. However, the Indian government uses the anthropological machine to generate rules of inclusion and exclusion. As mentioned above, the establishment of Lusibari was based on Sir Daniel Hamilton’s utopian dream of establishing a classless society when he first bought land in the Sundarbans, a dream destroyed by the Morichjhãpi massacre. Luckily, Piya and Kanai are likely to redeem Nirmal’s past. Piya is an Indian-born American who moved to Puget Sound in Seattle when she was two. As one of a tiny handful of Orcaella specialists, the object a of her return journey is to find out whether or not any Orcaella she found there would be of the coastal variety: this seemed only logical, considering how salty the waters were in this region. But what she had seen today made her wonder if she hadn’t made a mistake. If these were coastal Orcaella what were they doing congregating in a pool? That was out of character for them – only their river-dwelling kin did that. But these could not be river dolphins either. The water was too salty. And anyway, riverine Orcaella didn’t leave their pools in the middle of the day; they spent

­158     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai a whole season in them. So what kind of animal was this and what did this odd behavior mean?61

After a second thought, Piya comes to the conclusion that: The waters of river and sea did not intermingle evenly in this part of the delta; rather, they interpenetrated each other, creating hundreds of different ecological niches, with streams of fresh water running along the floors of some channels, creating variations of salinity and turbidity. These microenvironments were like balloons suspended in the water, and they had their own patterns of flow. They changed position constantly, sometimes floating into midstream and then wafting back toward the shore, at times being carried well out to sea and at others retreating deep inland. Each balloon was a floating biodome filled with endemic fauna and flora, and as they made their way through the waters, strings of predators followed, trailing in their wake. This proliferation of environments was responsible for creating and sustaining a dazzling variety of aquatic life forms – from gargantuan crocodiles to microscopic fish.62

Piya’s observation of the “balloon” as “a floating biodome” resembles that of Uexküll’s. In A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, Uexküll first invites us to go beyond anthropological thinking so that we can observe those unfamiliar worlds; worlds strange to us but known to other creatures, manifold and varied as the animals themselves. [. . .] To do so, we must first blow, in fancy, a soap bubble around each creature to represent its own world, filled with the perceptions which it alone knows. When we ourselves then step into one of these bubbles, the familiar meadow is transformed. [. . .] A new world comes into being[;] [. . .] the world as it appears to the animals themselves, not as it appears to us.63

As a cetologist, Piya tries to save the endangered species from the destruction of the habitats and helps with the stranded dolphins. For her, the clandestine trade in wildlife and cetaceans as a commodity leads to species extinction: Back in Phnom Penh there was much concern in the small wildlife community. The Orcaella population of the Mekong was known to be declining rapidly and was expected soon to fall below sustainable levels. The Mekong Orcaella had shared Cambodia’s misfortunes: in the 1970s they had suffered the ravages of indiscriminate American carpet bombing. Later they too had been massacred by Khmer Rouge cadres, who had hit upon the idea of using dolphin oil to supplement their dwindling supplies of petroleum. The once abundant population of Orcaella in the Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s great fresh-water lake, had been reduced almost to extinction. These dolphins were hunted with rifles and explosives and their carcasses were hung up in the sun so their fat would drip into buckets. This oil was then used to run boats and motorcycles.64

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The afterlife of bare life: “life is lived in transformation” Kanai feels himself superior as a metropolitan person at the outset. Being an interpreter and translator by trade, and “more of a businessman than anything else,”65 Kanai does not cultivate any sense of place about the Sundarbans, as he confesses that: The first time I went there was in 1970, when Nirmal and Nilima brought me to Lusibari. I was disgusted by the place – I thought it was a horrible, muddy little town. [. . .] Nirmal was outraged. He shouted at me, “A place is what you make of it.”66

After the encounter with Piya, Fokir, and others, especially after the reading of Nirmal’s notebook, he undergoes a sea change in his character. His uncle, Nirmal, is a Marxist activist, a historical materialist, a revolutionary, and a nonconformist second-order observer. Unlike Kanai, he comes up with a strong sense of place. For him: everything which existed was interconnected: the trees, the sky, the weather, people, poetry, science, nature. He hunted down facts in the way a magpie collects shiny things. Yet when he strung them all together, somehow they did become stories – of a kind.67

Nirmal’s mindset is etched by the bioregional imagination based on a unique observation of “plants, animals, geology, climate and water features.” In other words, it refers to “a geographical terrain and a terrain of consciousness . . . a place and the ideas that have developed about how to live in that place.”68 In the 1970s, activists, critics, and writers such as Peter Berg, Raymond Dasmann, Gary Snyder, and Stephanie Mills, began to write on bioregionalism.69 Robert L. Thayer Jr. defines a bioregion as “a life-place,” meaning: a unique region definable by natural [. . .] boundaries with a geographic, climatic, hydrological, and ecological character capable of supporting unique human communities. [. . .] Most importantly, the bioregion is emerging as the most logical locus and scale for a sustainable, regenerative community to take root and to take place.70

Bioregionalism expresses an emergent “new localism” whose identity “may be constituted by our residence in a larger community of natural beings – our local bioregion.”71 Even though the people in the tiger reserve are dispossessed, Ghosh looks at this place as the rebirth of history. For my part, this new type of bioregionalism intended to redeem the past can best be termed “critical bioregionalism.”

­160     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai In Ghosh’s hands, the Sundarbans is anti-pastoral, anti-romantic, and anti-idealistic. The sublime aspect of nature resists human symbolization or any cute response. Crocodiles, Bengal tigers, bacteria, and parasites are rampant in this area, and villagers get killed all the time. Piya cares much more about the endangered animals, whereas Kanai is more concerned with the death of local people: “That tiger had killed two people, Piya,” Kanai said. “And that was just in one village. It happens every week that people are killed by tigers. How about the horror of that? If there were killings on that scale anywhere else on earth it would be called a genocide, and yet here it goes almost unremarked: these killings are never reported, never written about in the papers. And the reason is just that these people are too poor to matter. We all know it, but we choose not to see it. Isn’t that a horror too – that we can feel the suffering of an animal, but not of human beings?”72

Kanai is anthropocentric while Piya is ecocentric. To counter Kanai’s argument, Piya argues: “just ask yourself whether this would be allowed to happen anywhere else. There are more tigers living in America, in captivity, than there are in all of India – what do you think would happen if they started killing human beings?”73 Kanai and Piya regard the tide country differently; however, their encounter with the dispossessed other engenders a notion of compassion: Kanai begins to understand the importance of natural beauty, while Piya, because of Fokir’s death for her, gradually understands the ethical bonds between self and other. This chiasmic relationship between humans and animals, self and other, has finally become ouroboros in the novel. Between Kanai and Piya stands Fokir. There is a tension between Kanai and Fokir: insider vs. outsider. Prior to Fokir’s death, this cock fight is performed in greater detail because Kanai is very proud of his own cosmopolitan background in comparison with Fokir’s “rusticness”: His anger came welling up with an atavistic explosiveness, rising from sources whose very existence he would have denied: the master’s suspicion of the menial; the pride of caste; the townsman’s mistrust of the rustic; the city’s antagonism toward the village. He had thought he had cleansed himself of these sediments of the past, but the violence with which they spewed out of him now suggested that they had only been compacted into an explosive and highly volatile reserve.74

Fokir, son of Kusum, knew Garjontola and the dolphins well through his mother.75 After Majeda, he takes up the job as Piya’s guide. However, Fokir challenges Kanai and wants him to prove himself a “clean man” with a good heart; if that is the case, Kanai will be unharmed when encountering a tiger. Due to personal envy, a similar scenario appears

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when Kanai reminds Piya to be cautious about cultural differences between Fokir and her: “You shouldn’t deceive yourself, Piya: there wasn’t anything in common between you then and there isn’t now. Nothing. He’s [Fokir’s] a fisherman and you’re a scientist. What you see as fauna he sees as food. He’s never sat in a chair, for heaven’s sake. Can you imagine what he’d do if he was taken on a plane?” Kanai burst out laughing at the thought of Fokir walking down the aisle of a jet in his lungi and vest. “Piya, there’s nothing in common between you at all. You’re from different worlds, different planets. If you were about to be struck by a bolt of lightning, he’d have no way of letting you know.”76

He even “had a vision of Fokir travelling to Seattle with Piya.”77 In addition, Kanai confesses to Piya in a letter that he does not have as strong a sense of place as Fokir does: “At Garjontola I learnt how little I know of myself and of the world,”78 despite his caliber in multilingual translation. In here, he is out of place: “many of the cantos that comprise a tide country legend: the story of Bon Bibi, the forest’s protectress”79 are, in effect, untranslatables. For Ghosh, there exists a rift between Kanai and Fokir: land and water, local and metropolitan. However, Ghosh seems to suggest going beyond binary thinking based on cultural stereotypes: boundary-crossing provides a future hope for a space of an ethical mutual understanding. Like Kanai, Piya finds herself parochial in her mind, and now it is time for her to have a renewed sense of her calling: “She would have to acquire a working knowledge of a whole range of subjects – hydraulics, sedimentation geology, water chemistry, climatology [. . .] there was no horizon to the work that lay ahead [. . .]. [It] was the work of a lifetime.”80 In other words, in order to be a good researcher, she should not be a visitor, or a sojourner, or an outsider. She needs to “reinhabit” this place. Thus, the pairing of Piya and Fokir is intriguing: Piya is “a highly educated scientist,”81 while Fokir is an illiterate person who alone can help Piya locate those fresh-water dolphins in that “the river is in his veins.”82 Albeit from “different worlds” and “different planets,”83 they work together as a team that really leaves Kanai flabbergasted: What he wanted was to build a new society, a new kind of country. It would be a country run by cooperatives, he said. Here people wouldn’t exploit each other and everyone would have a share in the land. S’Daniel spoke with Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Thakur and many other bujuwa nationalists. The bourgeoisie all agreed with S’Daniel that this place could be a model for all of India; it could be a new kind of country.84

Sir Daniel Hamilton’s idea of and hope for “a new kind of country” echoes Rilke’s “life is lived in transformation.”85 Nirmal subscribes to

­162     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai it, and so does Kanai, who finally realizes that “what Kusum stood for was the embodiment of Rilke’s idea of transformation.”86 For Kanai, Marxism and poetry can stand hand in hand through “historical materialism”: “But those contradictions were typical of his generation. Nirmal was perhaps the least materialistic person I’ve ever known. But it was very important for him to believe that he was a historical materialist.”87

Conclusion In “The Idea of Natural History,” Adorno refers to natural history not as the history of nature but as the nature-like history left untouched or unexamined.88 As a research protocol, it helps retrieve the devalued past so that the past can become “criticizable.” To fight against historical amnesia and oblivion, Benjamin shares that history is not to be controlled by the victor in the class struggle. Kusum, as a victim or loser, is the carrier of history. Through Nirmal’s notebook, her past becomes “citable,” a document full of “barbarism.” In Benjamin’s term, the elements of history preserved in Nirmal’s journal pave the way to redemption, endowing the local people with “a weak Messianic power.”89 As a historical materialist, Nirmal, like Benjamin, “regards it as his task to brush history against the grain” in part because he is aware of “this most inconspicuous of all transformations” and “revolutionary potentials” in the past.90 Through an ethico-political “enaction” between subjects and their environment, Ghosh depicts the actors in the novel as agentic: tigers and dolphins that are the “crossing” point of nature and history; Sir Daniel’s utopian vision of the future in the Sundarbans is disrupted by ecological sovereignty; Kusum makes possible the arise of the inexistent; Fokir’s empathy and sacrifice for an outsider has moved Piya; Kanai’s internalization of Fokir’s place-based imagination and local knowledge engenders his ethics of care for the other; and Piya reimagines the unhomely as the homely in the end. Though Nirmal regards the environment as fragile “soap bubbles,” he nonetheless envisions a ­syncretic worldview of cultural diversity, like the multichanneled rivers, the multi­ layered histories, the routes that provide an ethics of the real and the passion for the real. Ghosh thus tries to weave together history, animality, Umwelt, and bare life so as to recreate a critical bioregional ecology. In The Hungry Tide, Ghosh’s ecological unthought is revealing and transformative. It is not a book on nature advocacy, nor is it a book about animal advocacy. Rather, it goes beyond ecological naivety by reintroducing history to nature so as to “restory” the complex relationship between the human and the nonhuman. Shying away from

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ecological sovereignty, Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide records the predicaments of the other, human and nonhuman: It gives the (nonhuman) animal a face, along with “the [human] animal that carves out a territory and builds a house”91 – a subjective Umwelt that resonates with what Rilke suggests: “[The animals] / already know by instinct / we’re not comfortably at home in our translated world.”92

Notes   1. Here I want to thank Michael Lundblad for his insightful suggestions at the Animalities Conference hosted at the University of Oslo on 17 November 2014.  2. Shao-Pin Luo, “Intertextuality in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide,” in Chitra Sankaran (ed.), History, Narrative, and Testimony in Amitav Ghosh’s Fiction (New York: State University of New York Press, 2012), 145–70.   3. Julia Hoydis, “Tackling the Morality of History”: Ethics and Storytelling in the Works of Amitav Ghosh (Heidelberg: Anglistische Forschungen, 2011), 295.  4. Alexa Weik, “The Home, the Tide, and the World: Eco-cosmopolitan Encounter in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide,” Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, 13: 2–14: 1 (2006–7), 120.   5. Tom Lynch, Cheryll Glotfelty, and Karla Armbruster, “Introduction,” in Tom Lynch, Cheryll Glotfelty, and Karla Armbruster (eds.), The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 1–29, 3.   6. Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 8.  7. Amitav Ghosh, “Folly in the Sundarbans,” November 2004, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016).  8. Ibid.  9. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 224. 10. John C. Hawley, Amitav Ghosh (Delhi: Foundation Books, 2008), 16. In “Diasporic Predicaments,” Ghosh supplements that “History itself is . . . in a novel . . . not very interesting, except in as much as it forms the background of an individual’s predicaments.” Chitra Sankaran, “Diasporic Predicaments: An Interview with Amitav Ghosh,” in Sankaran, History, Narrative, and Testimony, 1–16, 1. 11. Amitav Ghosh, “The Hungry Tide,” UN Chronicle, 42: 4 (2005), 48–52. 12. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 283. 13. Mick Smith, Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), xi, 193–218. 14. Marianne DeKoven and Michael Lundblad (eds.), Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 1. 15. Ibid. 1, 12.

­164     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai 16. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 206. 17. Ibid. 50. 18. Ibid. 125. 19. Ibid. 125. 20. Ibid. 51. 21. Ibid. 53. 22. Ibid. 79. 23. Ibid. 79. 24. Ibid. 80. 25. In an interview with Chitra Sankaran, Ghosh notes that “this whole issue of writing about marginalization and so on is that I’m not interested in victimhood even though I’m drawn to people who are on the margins of things.” Sankaran, “Diasporic Predicaments,” 14. 26. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 69. 27. Ibid. 323. 28. “First they [Kanai and Fokir] fetched some leaves and flowers and placed them in front of the images. Then, standing before the shrine, Fokir began to recite some kind of chant, with his head bowed and his hands joined in an attitude of prayer . . . . What Fokir was performing looked very much like her mother’s Hindu pujas – and yet the words seemed to suggest otherwise” (ibid. 152). 29. “It was just that he [Nirmal] had thought to create some space for her [Kusum]; it was as if he had chosen to include her in some simple, practiced family ritual, found a way to let her know that despite the inescapable muteness of their exchange, she was a person to him and not, as it were, a representative of a species, a faceless, tongueless foreigner” (ibid. 71). 30. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 64. 31. Roberto Esposito, Terms of the Political: Community, Immunity, Biopolitics (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), 6–7. 32. Ibid. 6–7. 33. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 118. 34. Ibid. 118. 35. Doreen Massey, “Power-geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place,” in Jon Bird, Barry Curtis, Tim Putnam, George Robertson, and Lisa Tickner (eds.), Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change (New York: Routledge, 1993), 60–70, 66. 36. Alain Badiou, The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings, trans. Gregory Elliot (London: Verso, 2012), 42. 37. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 119. 38. Badiou, The Rebirth of History, 42. 39. Alain Badiou, The Birth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings, trans. Gregory Elliot (London: Verso, 2012), 49. 40. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 118. 41. Ramachandra Guha, “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique,” Environmental Ethics, 11 (1989), 103–5. 42. In “The Trouble with Wilderness,” William Cronon criticizes the wilderness discourse for its preoccupation with nostalgia, the flight from history,

Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt     165 and the avoidance of race, gender, and class issues. (William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” in William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), 69–90.) 43. Guha, “Radical American Environmentalism,” 79. 44. Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley, Postcolonial Ecologies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 21. 45. Smith, Against Ecological Sovereignty, xi, 193–218. 46. Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness,” 79. 47. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Nature, trans. Robert Vallier (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2003), 167. 48. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, qtd. in Ted Toadvine, Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Nature (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2009), 25. For Ted Toadvine, Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of nature is one of “gestalt” ontology. 49. Jacob von Uexküll, “An Introduction to Umwelt,” Semiotica, 134: 1 (2001), 107–10, 107. 50. Ibid. 107–10. 51. Torsten Rüting, “History and Significance of Jakob von Uexküll and of His Institute in Hamburg,” Sign Systems Studies, 32: 1–2 (2004), 35–57, 50. For Ruyer, Umwelt means “vital domain”: it refers to “the world of perception being adjusted to the world of action, and the animal perceiving objects only as signals, props of instinctive ‘gnoses’ and evocative of corresponding ‘praxia’” (Raymond Ruyer, “The Vital Domain of Animals and the Religious World of Man,” Diogenes, 5: 35 (1957), 35–46, 37). Deleuze and Guattari, like Ruyer, subscribe to the concept that “Man goes beyond his animal umwelt” and thus “deterritorializes” himself (ibid. 38). 52. Von Uexküll, A Foray, 43. 53. Rüting, “History and Significance,” 50. 54. Jacob von Uexküll, “The Theory of Meaning,” Semiotica, 42: 1 (1982), 1–87, 39, 43. 55. Rüting, “History and Significance,” 50. 56. For a critique of Aristotle and Descartes, see Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald (eds.), The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings (Oxford: Berg, 2007), 3, 59. 57. Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 201. 58. Jacques Derrida, “Violence Against Animals,” in Jacques Derrida and Elisabeth Roudinesco, For What Tomorrow . . .: A Dialogue, trans. Jeff Fort (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 62–76, 63. 59. Michael Lundblad, The Birth of a Jungle: Animality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 11–12. 60. Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 7. See also Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 99–126; Lundblad, Birth of a Jungle, 11–16. 61. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 124. 62. Ibid. 125.

­166     Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai 63. Von Uexküll, A Foray, 5 64. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 305. 65. Kanai introduces himself: “I started a company some years ago when I discovered a shortage of language professionals in New Delhi. Now I provide translators for all kinds of organizations: businesses, embassies, the media, aid workers, charitable organizations, multinational companies and the like” (ibid. 20). 66. Ibid. 283. 67. Ibid. 282. 68. Peter Berg and Raymond Dasmann’s definition of a “bioregion,” quoted in Lynch et al., “Introduction,” 11. 69. Ibid. 2. 70. Robert L. Thayer, LifePlace: Bioregional Thought and Practice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 3. 71. Lynch et al., “Introduction,” 4. 72. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 300. 73. Ibid. 301. 74. Ibid. 326. 75. In a special issue of Tamkang Review, “Cetacean Nations” edited by Michael Lundblad, Neel Ahuja argues that Nirmal’s environmental ethic “is embodied by the indigenous fisherman Forkir, who is subjected to surveillance by the corrupt conservationist state” and that “Fokir is able to read the movements and trials of the river dolphins, who face both environmental threats and environmental disasters such as hurricanes that render all species in the Sunderbans vulnerable” (Neel Ahuja, “Species in a Planetary Frame: Eco-cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and The Cove,” Tamkang Review, 42: 2 (2012), 13–32, 28–9). Here, I also concur with Ahuja’s insightful suggestion that Ghosh’s “valorization of subaltern environmental knowledges” is not to be regarded as “a simple orientalization or primitivization of the indigene who is romantically incorporated into an environmental ethic”; conversely, his strategic essentialism aims at critiquing “both state violence and speciated violence” (ibid. 29). 76. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 268. 77. Ibid. 320. 78. Ibid. 353. 79. Ibid. 354. 80. Ibid. 106. 81. Ibid. 211. 82. Ibid. 245. 83. Ibid. 268. 84. Ibid. 52. 85. Ibid. 282. 86. Ibid. 225. 87. Ibid. 282. 88. Theodor W. Adorno, “The Idea of Natural History,” Telos, 60 (1984), 111–24, 121. 89. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, trans. Harry Zohn, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken, 1968), 254. 90. Ibid. 257.

Animality, Biopolitics, and Umwelt     167 91. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 183. 92. Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, 206.

Chapter 8

Looking the Beast in the Eye: Re-animating Meat in Nordic and British Food Culture Karen Lykke Syse

Introduction A square-jawed man with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and a five-o’clock shadow stares up from the magazine page. It is a chunky publication, with thick pages made of recycled paper and the surprisingly unpleasant chemical smell one associates with organic ink. He looks tough but charming, and poses just like James Dean or Marlon Brando did a couple of generations ago. He is handsome, he is macho, and he is a chef.1 When even Norwegian foresters and farmers suffer from obesity and bad backs, and athletes occasionally are charged with using both steroids and other drugs, young men might seek their authentic heroes elsewhere. Does the new hipster kitchen offer an alternative venue for certain ideas of heterosexual masculinity? According to this magazine and many others like it, in some kitchens, and in celebrity chefs’ kitchens in particular, there are men who know the anatomy of the beast; they can dismember, disjoint, and transform any animal into any meal in no time. These men deal with whole animal carcasses rather than bits of fillet wrapped in polystyrene foam. Devouring meat has always been linked to power and strength.2 Power, because in a historical context, levels of meat consumption have always been linked to levels of wealth and subjugation. Strength, because meat and protein stemming from meat are physiologically linked to muscles and culturally linked to masculinity. Even within Hinduism meat consumption is referred to as a necessary part of the diet among members of the warrior caste. That meat consumption is an important part of being a heterosexual man in Western society is old news for anyone interested in gender and animal studies. But how is meat consumption projected in the present popular discourse in the Nordic countries? The magazine cover described above is an example

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of an ongoing and maybe accelerating trend, and is part of a contemporary discourse in the Anglophone world as well.3 According to Joanne Hollows, in the U.K., kitchen heroes like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver can be linked to dominant cultural norms of masculinity.4 They play the leading role in what they consider conscious cooking in the kitchens of their own shows. But they are not alone in the way they convey conscious cooking and masculinity, and TV is not the only projection venue. By close reading a selection of Nordic5 and U.K. cookbooks, TV shows, and food magazines, this chapter will explore how celebrity chefs – some well known to an international readership and some less well known – convey modern lifestyle ideals to their audiences. The analysis will be expanded from gender to the context of modernity to question whether more is at stake than ideas of manhood, if behind the performance of stereotypical gender roles there lurks a more substantial critique of industrialized meat production, and a making-visible of the animal other.

The New Nordic Kitchen In 2004, twelve well-known Nordic chefs got together to write a manifesto. This manifesto had already been drafted by the Danish chef and restaurateur, Claus Meyer, partner in NOMA, named the world’s best restaurant in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. Using Scandinavian dogma film as an inspiration, Meyer’s manifesto was further edited and then signed. Pure, light, and simple became the three core adjectives and values of the New Nordic Kitchen, which became a true concept in 2004 – the “New Kitchen Manifesto.” Interestingly, in connection with the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD19) in 2011, the Nordic Council of Ministers decided to promote the concept of New Nordic Food. Accordingly, food and food culture mattered enough for UN ministers to adopt and promote its associated values. The chefs who signed were Hans Välimäki from Finland, Leif Sørensen and Gunndur Fossdal from the Faroe Islands, Mathias Dahlgren and Michael Björklund from Sweden, Roger Malmin and Eyvind Hellstrøm from Norway, René Redzepi and Erwin Lauterbach from Denmark, Hákan Örvarsson and Fredrik Sigurdsson from Iceland, and Rune Collin from Greenland. The names on the list were all those of men.6 The food magazine NORD specializes in conveying “the new Nordic cuisine” to its Nordic readers. It provides readers with articles containing both recipes and general food prose. As the introduction to this chapter conveys, it also showcases the Nordic interpretation of

­170     Karen Lykke Syse current masculine ideals: Real men are concerned with local food and good organic ingredients, and eat parts of the animal most other eaters tend to avoid. “In restaurant Bror, the chefs rescue fish heads, animal heads, entrails and genitals from a fate in the garbage containers,” says an article in NORD’s 2014 winter issue.7 Chefs with a professional background from NOMA cut bull testicles in mouth-sized pieces while gastronomes all over the world hold their breath in anticipation. In the same article the Swedish chef Viktor Wågman explains how he hunts for fish heads, lamb heads, and bull penises, and how he and his companion Sam Nutter [sic] feel they are part of the ecological cycle by creating delicious meals using these animal parts. Ought we to admire the chefs’ ecological responsibility or their heroism in devouring these animal parts? An article in the same issue asks rhetorically: What made the Nordic people Vikings? According to the author, in part, it was about seamanship in beautifully engineered ships; but also that “we swore and screamed, raped, drank, fornicated and sang about tough sea journeys, shagging women, and of brave, bearded kings.”8 These words, which admittedly are written with irony and humor, are part of an article about salted cod as a key ingredient for Nordic traditional and nouvelle cuisine. What is also interesting about that particular article is that it can be used to explore the connections between modern food communication and modern masculinity. As many as thirteen out of fifteen articles in that issue are about men, and the two examples I quote from are typical, conveying the idea that in the Nordic kitchen – as well as in the various arenas leading in to this kitchen – men can most definitely be stereotyped as wearing an apron. Northern heroes brew beer, they hunt, and they go fishing. They are projected as part of a natural cycle, foraging for mushrooms, berries, and edible leaves, and their undisputable masculinity is conveyed through unshaven jaws, bulging tattooed biceps, and muscular chests under starched white chef jackets. With a passionate longing for nature and authenticity, they kick open the kitchen door and strike their pose.9 Nordic food is nonsense free, and unshaven Nordic men can beat their tattooed chests and even rescue ecosystems while preparing bull testicles they have harvested by themselves.10 A book representing another take on the tough guy in the kitchen genre is Tøff mat (tough food) by the Norwegian celebrity chef Jan Vardøen, published in 2009. The front cover of this book shows the author with a cigar posing in front of a barbeque. The book’s main culinary emphasis is beer and sausages. Barbequed chicken using a beer can inserted into the chicken’s cavity to distribute heat and flavor is an example of a beer recipe, and the subtitle to this beer-can chicken is “fun, easy and very tasty – man-food at its best.”11 Interestingly, the

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illustration for this recipe is shown a certain favoritism by someone in the publisher’s production team as it is used three times, on pages 96, 97, and 104: the chicken is balancing in a roasting tray, with the cylindrical beer can pressed up and between the chickens legs in a somewhat disturbing manner. The culinary idea is that the beer evaporates and steams the chicken from the inside; a recipe the author believes was invented by men with three elements at hand: fire, alcohol, and too much spare time.12 The main bulk of the recipes in the book, however, are on sausages, and it celebrates how to make your own sausages using guts from goats and pigs. Jan Vardøen explains that the reason why one ought to make one’s own sausages is because it is fun, cheap, nutritious, and an easy way to create a variety of flavors. He also says that making your own sausages gives you a great “Neanderthal” feeling once you have a coil of them in your hand. “Making your own meat products is something basic, and provides a kind of connection to the past, when men were men and it was unsafe to be a mammoth.”13 The write-up on the book’s back cover explains that this book is a celebration of DIY culture and men’s interest in no-nonsense food and drink. What is at stake here? Why all this emphasis on nose-to-tail eating, and why are readers given these direct (although maybe tongue-in-cheek) references to masculine kitchen culture? Although the examples above convey a Scandinavian take on the genre, these ideas are certainly not simply Nordic oddities.

Meat nostalgia in Britain Jamie Oliver is a celebrity chef known far beyond the U.K., and he is also recognized as a chef with a mission. He has used his celebrity status to draw attention to various food-related problems like the poor quality of school meals, as well as obesity as a worldwide problem. He also wants to reacquaint the general public with the facts of life, or the facts of carnivorism, to be more specific. The section on meat in his book Jamie’s Italy, first published in 2005, starts with a picture of a weatherbeaten old man in ragged clothes standing next to a lamb lying with its throat slit on a worktable. Its blood has colored the white fleece around its neck scarlet and it is bleeding into a big bucket on the ground:14 I’m highly aware that the picture opposite is both graphic and gruesome, so I’m going to explain why I decided to use it in the book and also why this whole chapter is quite visually gritty. This was an incredibly normal sight in Italy. I feel strongly about using it because I found that when I spoke to Italians about their meat, most of the time they would tell me about the

­172     Karen Lykke Syse natural surroundings in which the animal had lived and what it had eaten throughout its life, foraging for lovely herbs and chestnuts and fruits, and about how it was treated. All this before they’d even slaughtered it or thought about cooking it for themselves.15

He goes on to explain how, unlike the British, Italians seem to understand that some animals are for food and are certainly not kept as pets. And he explains how in Italy, the concept of humane treatment covers the animal’s whole life from birth to slaughter, rather than just what goes on through its slaughter. The reason why he wants to convey this is because far too many people in Britain choose to close the door on these uncomfortable aspects of eating meat. And for me, therein lies the problem. Because the majority of people don’t want to see the dead animal that their cut of meat is coming from, big corporations have jumped to solve the problem: out of sight, out of mind. Animals are battery farmed in disturbing conditions and pumped full of antibiotics.16

This text is a precursor of more to come, and Oliver explains that respecting animal welfare is an issue he feels very strongly about. He hopes that the graphic and gruesome images interspaced with cooking recipes and a text that explains his choice of images will somehow change the way his readers feel. Another particularly unusual image in the book shows what looks like DIY pig slaughter. The main focus of the photo is the butchered carcass of a pig hanging by a rope. A green toddler’s paddling pool is placed under the carcass, and it is filled almost to the brim with entrails, innards, and blood. A little girl dressed in pink with a pacifier in her mouth looks into the pool, maybe looking at the meat cleaver resting on the pile of guts. Two men stand next to her, an old man to the left and a middle-aged man to the right. Jamie Oliver’s text reads: This young girl was really excited when her dad was preparing the wild boar which he had caught. She knew that the animal had to be cleaned, skinned and gutted before it could be cooked, but what shocked me was how normal it was for all the kids who were playing nearby. Can you imagine if this was happening in Britain? And as for the use of the paddling pool . . . ?17

Other pictures (in addition to the abundance of meals displayed) include whole pigs being dressed and roasted. According to Jamie Oliver, most Italians have an extremely proud relationship with their pigs. The pigs are loved, respected, and celebrated. This respect is shown by using every morsel of the pig. Even the head “is usually deboned, cured, seasoned with orange zest and turned into coppa di testa, using the

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tongue, the cheeks, everything. But, in essence, not one part of the pig is disrespected.”18 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is another celebrity chef with a mission. In 2001 he published The River Cottage Cookbook, which quickly became a hit around the world. In many ways the book is one part manifesto, one part guidebook, and one part cookbook. How do you grow food in the garden and store that food, what do you do with meat butchered from prize animals, and what are the benefits of fishing or foraging? Fearnley-Whittingstall writes with wit and clarity, and not only provides his readers with recipes for what he calls simple, superior food; he also has strong ideas about supporting local economies, taking care of the environment, and acting responsibly in terms of animal welfare. In fact, The River Cottage Cookbook is perhaps the most important contribution to the trend of re-animating meat and nose-to-tail eating.19 All the examples mentioned above aim more or less explicitly to reacquaint consumers with the animal source of their food. Often situated as critiques of industrially produced meat, these contributions argue for a need to reintroduce the animal into our cultural consciousness. While Oliver has a very strong message, other food writers re-animate cookbooks without much of a textual message, apart from humorous photos – like Glynn Purnell’s book Cracking Yolks and Pig Tales. This book mainly uses images to remind the reader that there is a link between farm and fork – on page 2 there is a picture that shows a black pot filled with plastic toy farm animals, and another image is a close-up of a sow’s ear studded with a pearl earring, juxtaposing the heading of the chapter “Hoof, Horn, Snout and Tail.”20 But why do these chefs and authors find it necessary to reacquaint readers with the animal source of meat? And precisely what has nose-to-tail eating got to do with this?

Modernizing Norwegian food production Giving a geographical and historical summary of all the Nordic countries is far beyond the scope of this chapter, as they differ substantially. Even so, Norway will be used as an example and starting point to convey a cultural and agricultural background context, although it may present an extreme example, in many ways. The title of the fourth volume of a thoroughly researched and encompassing history of Norwegian agriculture is From a Society of Farmers to Bioindustry21 and it covers the period from 1920 to 2000.22 The previous three volumes of this agricultural history demonstrate how in the past, everything in Norway was limited and naturally anchored to utilizing its primary sources. Although

­174     Karen Lykke Syse both fishing and forestry were of indisputable importance to the Norwegian economy (and particularly its international exports before the oil age), Norway was a country of smallholders and farmers. Some demographical and geographical facts will provide a background to the reader unfamiliar with the geography of Norway: It is a country with an elongated shape, it has one of the longest and most rugged coastlines in the world, and some 50,000 islands lie along its very indented coastline. The country is characterized by high plateaus and rugged mountains broken by fertile valleys and small, scattered plains. Norway has numerous glaciers, and in the higher mountain areas and the interior of Finnmark county the ground is frozen throughout the year. Only 3.2 percent of the land is arable, while as much as 38 percent is forested, out of which all of 22 percent is productive. The rest of the land consists of mountains and rocks.23 The title From a Society of Farmers to Bioindustry quoted above might seem an exaggeration under these geographical circumstances. It suggests a parallel with Thomas Hardy’s Wessex tales of industrialization, with their visions of a country mainly consisting of fertile fields with hordes of agricultural laborers suddenly being chased into the city while the countryside is taken over by a Luddite’s nightmare – large agricultural machines and capitalism leading to an agricultural situation well known in Britain and most other industrialized countries. But the situation in Norway was (and still is) somewhat different. Its agriculture varies considerably within the country itself, and the length of the growing season is one of its many bottlenecks. The heat stemming from the Gulf Stream makes agriculture possible even in the areas of the far north. The “society of farmers” in the report title above is justifiable, mirroring the situation in the 1920s. During that period, the Norwegian population managed to scrape a living from an otherwise fairly hostile environment. There are many exceptions to this generalization; for instance, there were some large – by Norwegian standards – and wealthy farms in certain areas. However, in general terms, costal Norway was a society in which small-scale pastoral agriculture was combined with fishing, while in forested areas, small-scale pastoral agriculture was combined with forestry. In short, the small patchwork of fields could give yields because animals grazed in mountains, in forests, and on islands, and because fodder for the same animals was harvested in the same places. The term “pastoral” is key: like in other mountainous areas like the Alps and the Dolomites, animals, their valuable manure, and their output in terms of dairy products and wool were not only important but fundamental to traditional Norwegian agriculture. With this eco-historical geography as a backdrop, it is interesting to

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look at the fairly recent changes within Norwegian agriculture using statistics from 1969 and 2009. Within this forty-year period, the number of smallholdings with an acreage of between 0.5 and 49 hectares declined from about 88,500 to 6,500. These farms are the typical coastal or inland smallholdings referred to above. The total number of holdings (disregarding the farms’ acreage) was about 155,000 in 1969 and 48,000 in 2009. In short, two out of three Norwegian farms disappeared in forty years, and from 2009 to 2015, 1,000 farms disappeared annually. To illustrate the massive change in the agricultural sector, it is interesting to go even further back in time. In 1949, a year many Norwegians still remember, there were 213,441 farms in Norway; in 2015, there were 41,846.24 Why is this information relevant? Although the demography has changed, and the number of Norwegians has increased from just over 3 million in 1950 to about 5.2 million in 2015, the statistics show that in 195025 there were about fifteen people per farm, and in 2015 there were about 214 people per farm. Had this been an article in an agricultural history journal, more time could have been spent problematizing these numbers, as there are many reasons to be cautious about using statistics carelessly. Immigration rates and a number of other reservations ought to be taken into account. Even so, the number-crunching above illustrates how within less than two generations, the number of Norwegians who had a relationship with a farm fell radically. According to Statistics Norway, no fewer than 350,000 people were employed in the agricultural sector in 1950, while in 2005 the corresponding figure was 60,000. Between 1990 and 2005, 40,000 people who used to work in agriculture had found work elsewhere. The chances of a person having a farmer in the family, or knowing someone with a farm, or simply living near a farm declined rapidly in that period. As a result of specialization, only some farms have animals. We are not a society of farmers any more, and in fact Reidar Almås, the author of Norges Landbrukshistorie’s fourth volume, claims that we are now bioindustrialists. The term “bioindustrialists” can be nuanced by comparing Norway with the United States. According to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report, there are approximately 186 egg-producing companies in the United States today, with flocks of 75,000 hens or more, representing about 99 percent of all hens in the United States.26 In Norway, it is illegal to have a flock of hens exceeding 7,500. The average flock size in 2014 was 2,210 but in 2000 it was only 851. Similar comparisons may be carried out for all farmed animal species in Norway. The average herd of milk cows numbers 25. No, a zero is not missing, yet the number was only 14 in 2000. The average herd (for both milk and meat) numbered

­176     Karen Lykke Syse 58 in 2014 and 35 in 2000.27 Growth hormones and the regular use of antibiotics are illegal. Norway’s agricultural sector uses the least amount of antibiotics in Europe.28 Norwegian eggs are salmonella free, just like the eggs of our neighbors, Sweden and Finland.29 All dairy cows are entitled to graze for at least eight weeks per year. If the cows spend the cold winter months in old-fashioned pens rather than free-range cattle sheds, they are entitled to enjoy at least sixteen weeks of outdoor grazing during summer. The standard of animal welfare is good in Norway, and we are privileged to have some of the healthiest livestock in the world. Although animal welfare campaigners might disagree, the numbers still say a lot. They convey the size of Norway’s fairly small-scale agriculture, but they also show that even if the herds are small, they have doubled in size in fifteen years. To allow for this doubling, Norway’s agriculture is mechanized, and heavily reliant on fodder import rather than grazing. In the next section, some results of this process will be set in a wider context.

Representing meat Changes in how meat and meat animals are represented have arguably been driven by a series of agro-technological, industrial, and commercial transformations; an intensification of agriculture that has been quantified in the Norwegian example above. The agricultural revolution was, and still is, the central precondition for the development of modern societies. Had it not been for these changes in how our society produces its food, most of the other societal developments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries could not have taken place. Although the technological, sociological, and commercial aspects of this process have long been the focus of research,30 the cultural aspects have not. As an outcome of occupational diversification that the agricultural revolution arguably made possible in the first place, today almost no one in the Western world except farmers has daily contact with meat animals, except through representations of animals in the cultural sphere. As large groups of the population are distanced, both geographically and occupationally, from the animals they eat, the old implicit contract between meat animals and humans – in which humans cared for animals, in exchange for the right to consume them in the end – is broken.31 The animals we eat are, in general, nowhere to be seen; they are not in pastures, not on farms, not in slaughterhouses, not in transport, not in cookbooks or advertisements, and not in the supermarket. In physical terms, they are, of course, in all of those places, but culturally, in the

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everyday experience of the Western consumer, an awareness of where our meat comes from is becoming rare. The industrial agricultural system of production, consumption, and display seems to demand mechanisms of denial that work toward concealing the connection between animal and meat. In Animal to Edible (1994), the French philosopher and anthropologist Noëlie Vialles describes how, in modern French slaughterhouses, the act of killing an animal is compartmentalized, each operation performed by a separate, designated worker, in a separate part of the chain within the slaughterhouse – so that, in the end, one cannot really tell who actually does the killing. In About Looking, John Berger (1980) discusses how animals disappeared out of sight under the industrial regime: A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and not by a but.32

When Berger wrote this, he used it to illustrate the alienation from rural life and lack of understanding from which many urban people suffered. Animals are “good to think” with, according to Lévi-Strauss,33 and good to exemplify the sense of loss and distance that people felt from a rural past, according to Berger. This assumed closeness of humananimal relations in peasant farming is symbolic, for Berger, of a more “authentic” lifestyle. In his classic essay “Why Look at Animals?” John Berger argues that in industrial capitalist modernity, humans have become estranged from all things natural and are now “a species which has at last been isolated.”34 He underscores that this estrangement leads, among other things, to an ideology of domination. Although it would be naive to state that domination of animals is a new thing, the industrialization of modern agriculture has facilitated an intensification of meat production that one can claim is currently at its peak. In 1980, Berger wrote that animals could be “treated as raw material” and “processed like manufactured commodities.”35 Berger’s labelling of animals as manufactured commodities dates, at the time of writing, to thirty-five years ago, and the world’s meat production and consumption has more than doubled since 1980.36 In order to accommodate and justify the dramatic technological changes in agricultural production during the last century, both consumers and producers have had to accept changes within human-animal relations. Some of these changes are structural, some cultural, and some emotional. A consequence of the intensification of animal husbandry is that the act of eating animals is contested, and has become something to be concealed, criticized, or justified.37 While meat became an increasingly common component in meals

­178     Karen Lykke Syse served throughout the Western world during the course of the twentieth century,38 the origins of meat – the meat animal – disappeared from the daily sphere of consumers. While meat consumption exploded, awareness of what one was eating receded into the background.39 In his book Animals and Modern Cultures, sociologist Adrian Franklin provides an ambitious attempt to grasp the long lines and deep structures of humananimal relationships in postmodern societies. He acknowledges that we witnessed an “increasingly contentious and conflictual nature of humananimal relations across a number of sites in the twentieth century.”40 The main tendency in human-animal relations, he argues, is toward increasing sentimentalism and romanticism. We are increasingly willing to consider animals as morally considerable beings. Synthesizing the work of leading sociologists, like Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck, David Harvey, John Urry, and Scott Lash, Franklin explains this tendency by three factors that characterize contemporary society: misanthropy, risk, and ontological uncertainty.41 “As the modern project collapsed, so also did the sanguine view of humanity,” and instead, “a generalized misanthropy has set in.”42 This “dethroning” of humans meant that the strongly drawn human-animal distinction, which in the past served to justify meat-eating and other animal uses, is now being blurred or even erased. It follows that this blurring of the human-animal distinction makes meat-eating a moral problem. When it is less obvious what the difference between humans and animals really is, the line between carnivorism and cannibalism is worn increasingly thin.43 We can understand more of our current tensions toward animals if we recognize that anthropocentrism, slowly and across multiple sites, is giving way to biocentrism. Paradoxically, in the same period we have not only kept producing and eating animals, but have increased and intensified our use of them greatly. The period that Franklin thinks was marked by growing sentimentalism is precisely the period in which animals became, according to John Berger, “raw materials” and “manufactured commodities.”44 Several separate logics are thus in play with which we can order and make sense of our relationship to animals.

Turning meat into mere protein While Berger acknowledges that animals still occupy space in contemporary cultures, he laments the disappearance of the integrated, mutually dependent lives that humans previously lived with animals, where their respective roles were clearly designated and justified. If animals were removed from their designated role during the industrialization of

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agriculture, what did this mean in concrete terms and how can such an argument be supported and illustrated through the culture of everyday life? The most obvious shift that led to animals vanishing was on a demographic and structural level. As has been demonstrated by the Norwegian example above, fewer people actually lived in the countryside – or in other words, a further urbanization took place.45 Furthermore, the sales outlets for meat changed: We went from butcher shops and markets to supermarkets. In the same period, more women entered the workforce, and convenience food became increasingly popular. This changed the way we cooked: Parts of meat that required many hours of slow simmering to tenderize them became less popular, and products that could be made into a quick, convenient meal became more popular. This transition in Scandinavia is illustrated by a study that explores how a Norwegian cookbook changed its content and imagery through a series of new editions between 1955 and 2002.46 In the first few editions of the book, there was no doubt about the animals’ presence. Not only was a butcher responsible for the facts in the introduction to the meat chapter, but this same butcher’s definition of meat included the whole animal, not only muscle but offal, too. Color plates were used to show animals’ carcasses and various innards, while at the same time the vast majority of recipes in the book were simply illustrated with small black-and-white images or not illustrated at all. Much of the emphasis in the recipes was on the process of turning an animal – through slaughter – into a meal. The reader would be given instructions on how old and what gender the animal should be, and even what it ought to have been fed. Instructions would differ – about cooking a young hen versus an old cock, for instance, or using milk-fed veal for weak and sick people. The animals’ presence in the book was particularly easy to detect in the recipes for game and fowl, which was probably the most common encounter with a dead animal for an average Norwegian cook in 1955, for example. Hunting and shooting of small game was – and still is – accessible across social strata and not perceived as elitist in the way it is in the U.K.47 Stepby-step instructions for how to skin a hare were illustrated by a photo of a hare hanging from peg on a wall, its coat still in place, in earlier editions. In the 2002 edition of the book, vivid images of dead animals have disappeared. Rather than expensive color photographs being used to show carcasses and offal, they are now used to depict minced meat. Arguably, the animal has disappeared, and mince is referred to as an ingredient and a source of protein. Mince can come from any part of the carcass – it has lost its direct connection to the animal. A leg of lamb or a shoulder of pork has more obvious associations with the body. The same study shows how the wording of the cookbook changed in

­180     Karen Lykke Syse the period from 1955 to 2002. Words that were associated with the live animal were removed, and muscles were given new names. For instance, the term “chicken breast,” which is easily associated with the chicken’s body, has been renamed “chicken fillet.” The word “fillet,” that used to be associated with the muscle running alongside a mammal’s spine, has changed its meaning, and is now used for any strip of meat (or fish) free from bone, fat, or tendons. In short: Meat has been disassociated from the animal itself, and has become a nutritious, protein-rich ingredient. Although referring to the United States, food scholar Warren Belasco claims that the meat industry has deliberately tried to protect consumers against the reality of meat – that its production is “the disassembly of warm-blooded mammals into refrigerated, plastic wrapped chops and patties.”48 In a 1999 report, the U.K. Agricultural Ministry advises against reminding consumers of the link between meat and animals.49 This is not altogether a new trend – the historian Keith Thomas demonstrates how there has been a tendency to hide the evidence of slaughtering animals since the end of the eighteenth century in England. Killing an animal to eat it became something people felt increasingly uneasy about doing themselves. These feelings have accelerated toward the present time, thus leading to “a growing conflict between the new sensibilities and the material foundations of human society.”50 In France, Noëlie Vialles explores similar questions about meat-eating and the relationship of people with animals in her book Le sang et la chair: les abattoirs des pays de l’Adour (1987).51 She argues that in modern French society, two different and perhaps opposing views on meat consumption exists. One group of meateaters identify with the animal, and consequently refuse to recognize the presence of the beast in the meat they eat. This group prefer to eat boneless cuts or processed meat such as hamburgers, food that cannot be directly associated with the animal. The other group recognize the animal in the meat, because to them, animals are by definition food.52 Although fashion, social factors, and lifestyle may also in part explain this divide between consumers who eat animals and consumers who eat “disassociated” meat, when even governmental advice is to conceal the link between animals and meat to consumers, it is no surprise that meat is separated from animals in most consumers’ consciousness. Let us now examine in more detail the group that eat the animal rather than its disassociated flesh.

Masculinity, meat nostalgia, or ethics? As the close reading of Scandinavian and U.K. food prose above shows, an apparent reaction to the concealment of meat production is visible.

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Through food magazines, books, and lifestyle TV shows, chefs with an agenda aim more or less explicitly to reacquaint the meat-eating consumer with the animal source.53 Jamie Oliver even went to the length of slaughtering a chicken on his TV program to show his viewers where real meat comes from.54 Often situated as critiques of industrially produced meat, these contributions argue for a need to reintroduce the meat animal into our cultural consciousness. To use Berger’s metaphor: They are starting to look into the animal’s eyes once again. However, is whatever was lost in the relationship between humans and the animals they consume retrievable, or is this just postmodern nostalgia? In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author and journalist Michael Pollan points out that our relation to food has changed so dramatically in the last few decades that we find ourselves in a state of collective eating disorder. This, he argues, “would never have happened in a culture in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating.”55 Rather than simply being caricatures or stereotypical postures of heteronormative masculinity, can these recent turns toward “nostalgia” portrayed by celebrity chefs and food writers rather be understood as a quest for authenticity and a retreat from alienation from nature – as a genuine way of reinventing traditions to heal modernity’s collective eating disorder? What of the apparent recuperation of pre-industrial gender roles that seems to go alongside pre-industrial human-animal relations? The anthropologist Nick Fiddes notes that “there is more to meat than protein,”56 and maybe this is why we are looking over our shoulders to try to make sense of meat-eating. Meat is a symbol of virility, power, and strength. Jovian Parry is one of many scholars who have questioned meat nostalgia because it trivializes emotional concern for animals and conveys a problematic interpretation of masculinity.57 Animal killing retains machismo in Western societies,58 and perhaps celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver or food writers like Jan Vardøen simply represent the most recent way of performing hegemonic masculinity and male dominion over nature. Are such attempts to “re-animate” our culture to be understood as responses to the concealment of the meat production process, or just an insensitive way of performing retrograde heterosexual masculinity? As shown in the introduction to this chapter, tropes of masculinity are certainly being performed here. However, it might be worth asking what the protagonists’ own interpretation of their project is, to see whether their ideas coincide with the applied critique. Maybe their main project differs from the critique, maybe they are unaware of how they convey their gender, or maybe they, without much reflexivity, are simply riding the current bandwagon within food culture, whether it be nose-to-tail eating, ethical food consumption, or vegetarianism.

­182     Karen Lykke Syse For instance, two years after the publication of Tøff mat, the Norwegian chef Jan Vardøen wrote the following in the Norwegian broadsheet Aftenposten: On a normal day in 2011 I eat ham, herring, liver pâté and eggs for breakfast, chicken and bacon for lunch, fish, shellfish and a steak for supper and do not find this the least bit posh. [. . .] Meat production has become industrial and efficient, and being close to the animals is a thing of the past. Even chicken and fish is now sold in plastic containers, freed of skin and bones. The weight of a slice of salmon would be threefold if we add on the fish feed used to farm them. And it was fish that gave arch-vegetarian Paul McCartney a Damascus moment: On a fishing trip he looked his catch in the eyes and asked the question, “What is it that gives me the right to take your life?” [. . .] Now McCartney might not be the coolest beetle [sic], but he has some good points: Too much meat is bad for the environment; for fair food distribution; and for our health. McCartney runs a campaign called “Meat Free Monday,” where one abstains from meat one day per week. Not the most extreme proposal, but a good idea for those who are not of the radical kind and yet would want to start somewhere. I’m probably the last person that should point my finger, but I wonder if I should try McCartney’s suggestion: Perhaps St. Peter will look at me with more kindness if I do.59

If the chefs and food writers are ignorant of the machismo messages they are projecting, they are certainly not ignorant of the fact that they have a strong public voice. The message of buying organic food if possible is repeatedly conveyed in books, magazines, and TV shows. The focus on consuming sustainable meat from grazing animals rather than environmentally more problematic industrial beef production is also part and parcel of a recuperation of – seemingly – pre-industrial animal relations. And they are telling their readers to cut down on meat, not for reasons of animal welfare (seemingly, the animals they eat are all raised ethically before they are killed), but to comply with other concerns within food ethics. According to Tania Lewis, these kinds of popular culture “all emphasize the links between locality and food, often demonstrating a nostalgia for traditions of cooking that have become ‘endangered’ by the rise of industrial and globalized food practices.”60 Parallel critical movements abound – like the Italian Slow Food61 and the French cuisine de terroir – and a strong focus on meat that is sourced, prepared, and consumed within local communities and regions is projected as the answer to sustainable living. So is nose-to-tail eating. By devouring the whole animal rather than the choice bits, two messages are conveyed: the first is related to what an animal is, and the second is associated with an ecological interpretation of frugality. “Waste not, want not” points back to the days when it was considered almost sacrilege to throw food away.

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Knowing that as much as 30 percent of all food is wasted at the consumer end, and that meat consumption is the most resource-intensive way of producing food there is, this modern interpretation of frugality is a message worth considering. The second point is about animal ethics. If we only utilize the choicest pieces of an animal for food, and waste the rest, maybe this reflects on how we define animals. Are they unworthy waste? If so, maybe this is a justification of treating animals like commodities, something that is produced on an industrial scale for the purpose of satisfying human whims. By utilizing every part of the animal for food, the chefs say something about the environmental concerns they have, and they also say something about respecting the animal as something more than a commodity, in fact, as a sentient being. Animals are not waste, and their flesh should not be discarded. This is probably what Jamie Oliver is trying to convey in the quote given above, explaining how Italians use every bit of the pig they slaughter, and that this is about respect. When food writers and chefs feel a need to convey the fact that an animal has to die for us to eat meat, their conscious message is that meat is the flesh of a dead animal. When they suggest we eat pig’s trotters, kidneys, and cheeks and tell us how to cook these parts of the animal, their conscious message is that it is a shame to kill an animal for food and redefine most of the same animal as waste. Eating every morsel of the animal is a response to modern meat production methods, and even an answer to environmental concerns. In Jamie’s Italy, Oliver’s text next to the previously mentioned photo of an Italian rustic with a slaughtered lamb, its fleece stained red, bleeding into a bucket says: As you can tell, this issue is something I feel very strongly about. I also hope you look at this picture, and a couple of others in this chapter, slightly differently now from how you might have done before reading this. And after this, if you still want to be a vegetarian, I salute you. But if you want to eat good meat then I really do salute you! We’re on top of the food chain, after all.62

The first part of the message seems to be that it is important to face the fact that meat-eating involves killing an animal, and the second that if you are too lily-livered to face these facts of life and death, then you should face the consequences of this and become vegetarian. Jamie Oliver’s final justification and appraisal is that if you can stomach the killing that is part of meat consumption, you are worthy of his biggest salute. The first and second parts of the message coincide nicely with the return to an “authentic” way of eating – and a critique of industrial agriculture, a critique of consumerism, and a call to reconnect with nature and the food chain, somehow. However, the final part of Oliver’s message is confusing, and coincides with Jan Vardøen’s evolutionary

­184     Karen Lykke Syse and heteronormative statement, “when men were men and it was unsafe to be a mammoth.”63 Rather than leaving the discussion there, we must explore further some of the reasons behind this apparent (masculine?) need to reconnect the consumption of flesh with the animal itself.

Meat nostalgia It seems celebrity chefs and food writers try to do many things at the same time. When they question the expert systems and distance themselves from industrial agriculture they frame their identity and individualism through small-scale animal husbandry. Their choice of action takes their identity project one step further, by trying to make sense of meat-eating and seeking authenticity in a (maybe reconstructed) past, and by trying to anchor time and space again through meat. The lack of cohesion between time and space that can be exemplified in a typical frozen piece of meat contradicts ideas of authenticity and allows for alienation. Making slaughter visible and devouring the entire animal conveys the exact opposite of this, as it points toward an era in history that had a different ethic regarding animal husbandry. Looking to the past is a way to deal with the present. The American sociologist Fred Davis emphasizes that nostalgia is used to create security and stability in a changing world. Nostalgia is about building an identity or establishing who we are.64 The Norwegian ethnologist Ingun Klepp argues that despite the fact that nostalgia in many cases is applied as a critique, it can also be a positive force. Although nostalgia is about emotions, it can do more than cultivate feelings for their own sake. Strong feelings can be directed toward action; only when the heart beats for something, can commitment and effort be released – forces that may be used to bring change.65 The visibility of slaughter in popular culture has been critiqued and analyzed as a masculinity project. For instance, Jovian Parry describes Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver as displaying heteronormative masculinity while oppressing nonhuman animals, and in the same article he analyses the autobiography of Julie Powell’s Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marriage, and Obsession,66 which tells the story of how she taught herself butchery to become independent and reclaim her self-worth. The sexual undertones in this book are explicit.67 According to Parry, this and other “new Carnivore” texts “strive to convince us that meateating and the domination of animals are essential components to either hegemonic masculinity or empowered femininity.”68 Although Parry’s analysis might be apt in certain respects, he completely fails to nuance

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his conclusion by taking into account other so-called carnivorous female food writers and celebrity chefs whose cooking prose about authenticity and “real food” is not even close to being sexualized. Clarissa Dickson Wright from the U.K., Camilla Plum from Denmark, and Darina Allen from Ireland are good female examples of this genre.69 For instance, the farmer and celebrity chef Camilla Plum both writes books and hosts television shows. “Today’s program is about beef,” says Camilla Plum as she leads a heifer outside the farm in one show. “It’s difficult looking into her big brown eyes and thinking about how delicious she would taste in a casserole, but this is actually what it’s about.” Another program in the series begins with the sound of a bleating black lamb in Camilla Plum’s lap. She looks into the camera and says, “This lamb was born last night and will end up as lamb chops and leg of lamb, something that might be a bit difficult to accept right now. All in all, we have a complicated relationship with the fact that we kill animals.”70 It might be worth questioning whether meat nostalgia can be explained beyond gender stereotyping, and looking at how the modernization and industrialization of agriculture has triggered a quest for authenticity in a complex world, irrespective of the performance of gender roles.

Conclusion Meat nostalgia is about the need to find authenticity in a complex modern world. It is also occasionally used, unreflexively, to project heterosexual masculinity by chefs in the U.K. and in the Nordic countries. Based on some of the sources presented above, a claim could be made that some of the chefs and food writers quoted do their own cause a disservice through the evolutionary argumentation they use and machismo ideals they project. By attempting to reclaim the past through meat nostalgia, they inadvertently also reclaim outdated ideas of masculinity. This may undercut their articulated agenda, which is to focus on issues of sustainability, animal welfare, eating less but higher quality meat, and respecting the animals they kill by devouring every body part rather than wasting some parts. Although the majority of chefs try to reconnect the animal with its meat, this is not always the case, as has been mentioned above. What is, in the end, the driving force behind this movement to reanimate the slaughter and consumption of meat: simply a performance of clichéd masculinity, or a deep critique of industrial agriculture? And what kind of industrial agriculture are they criticizing? The maximum Norwegian chicken flock of 7,500, or the average U.S. flock of 75,000? The geography, the numbers, and the discourse all tend to get blurred,

­186     Karen Lykke Syse and it might seem like some of the critique by Norwegian food writers is directed at industrial food production on the large scale as well as their own fairly small-scale but still industrialized farming. We have food wars, according to Tim Lang and Michael Heasman,71 and these food writers and celebrity chefs are self-proclaimed food soldiers. Although one can criticize them for their carno-centrism, and for transferring heteronormative masculine ideals to the public, they also play an important role as public voices that critique and question industrial animal farming and unreflective meat-eating.

Notes  1. NORD, 6 (2014).   2. Nick Fiddes, Meat: A Natural Symbol (London: Taylor & Francis, 2004).   3. English is taught as a second language in Nordic schools from primary level onwards, and most Nordic peoples speak and read English well compared with many other Europeans. Anglophone films and TV shows are screened undubbed and subtitled, allowing for more linguistic and cultural exposure compared with the practice of dubbing in, for instance, France or Germany. Accordingly, Nordic people might also be influenced by trends conveyed through media screened in English.   4. Joanne Hollows, “Oliver’s Twist: Leisure, Labour and Domestic Masculinity in The Naked Chef,” International Journal of Cultural Studies, 6: 2 (2003), 229–48.   5. Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish are very similar languages and are mutually understood.   6. See “New Nordic Food – The Emergence of a New Nordic Food Culture,” Nordic Council of Ministers, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016).   7. Merete Helbæk, “Skjønnheten i udyret,” NORD, 6 (2014), 84–8, 85.   8. Martin Becker Rasmussen, “Elsk din fisk!,” NORD, 6 (2014), 99–108, 99.   9. For an interesting analysis on the extension of boundaries within femaledominated occupations, see Nnamdi O. Madichie, “Sex in the Kitchen: Changing Gender Roles in a Female-Dominated Occupation,” International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 18: 1 (2013), 90–102. 10. NORD, 6 (2014). 11. Jan Vardøen, Tøff mat: pølser og øl (Oslo: Cappelen Damm, 2009), 105. 12. Ibid. 109. 13. Ibid. 69. 14. Jamie Oliver, David Loftus, and Chris Terry, Jamie’s Italy (London: Michael Joseph, 2005), 211. 15. Ibid. 210. 16. Ibid. 210. 17. Ibid. 245. 18. Ibid. 46.

Looking the Beast in the Eye     187 19. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The River Cottage Cookbook (London: HarperCollins, 2011). 20. Glynn Purnell, Cracking Yolks and Pig Tales (London: Kyle Books, 2014), 95–6. 21. Author’s translation of Frå bondesamfunn til bioindustri. 22. Reidar Almås and Åsta Brenna, Frå bondesamfunn til bioindustri: 1920– 2000 (Oslo: Norske Samlaget, 2002). 23. Geir Thorsnæs, “Norges geografi,” 7 December 2015, Store norske leksikon, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016). 24. “Strukturen i jordbruket, 2015, førebelse tal,” Statistics Norway, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016). 25. Unfortunately, farms and people are not counted the same year, so I use statistics from 1951 when counting people and from 1949 when counting farms in this account. 26. World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report (WASDE), 529 (United States Department of Agriculture, May 2014), 33; American Egg Board, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016). 27. “Table 4: Gjennomsnittlig antall husdyr per bedrift. Kilde: SSB,” Landbruksbarometeret (Oslo: AgriAnalyse, 2015), 20, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016). 28. Martin Steinbakk et al., Antibiotikaresstens – kunnskapshull, utfordringer og aktuelle tiltak (Oslo: Folkehelseinstituttet, 2014). 29. B. T. Heier, H. Lange, K. Hauge, and M. Hofshagen, Zoonoserapporten 2014 (Oslo: Veterinærinstituttet, 2015). 30. Reidar Almås, Norges landbrukshistorie (Oslo: Samlaget, 2002). 31. Noëlie Vialles, Animal to Edible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). 32. John Berger, “Why Look at Animals?,” in About Looking (London: Pantheon Books, 1980), 3–30, 7. 33. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Totemism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 89. 34. Berger, “Why Look at Animals?,” 28. 35. Ibid. 11. 36. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The State of Food and Agriculture: Livestock in the Balance (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2009), available at (last accessed 13 February 2015). 37. See Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals (New York: Little, Brown, 2009); Adrian Franklin, Animals and Modern Cultures: A Sociology of Human-Animal Relations in Modernity (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1999). 38. Roger Horowitz, Putting Meat on the American Table: Taste, Technology, Transformation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). 39. Kristian Bjørkdahl and Karen Lykke Syse, “Death and Meateriality,” in Dorthe Refslund Christensen and Rane Willerslev (eds.), Taming Time, Timing Death: Social Technologies and Ritual (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013), 213–30.

­188     Karen Lykke Syse 40. Franklin, Animals and Modern Cultures, 2. 41. Ibid. 6. 42. Ibid. 3. 43. Bjørkdahl and Syse, “Death and Meateriality.” 44. Berger, “Why Look at Animals?,” 11. See also Franklin, Animals and Modern Cultures; Deborah Kay Fitzgerald, Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993); Daniel Imhoff, CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation): The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories (San Rafael, CA: Earth Aware, 2010). 45. See United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division for numbers, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016). 46. Bjørkdahl and Syse, “Death and Meateriality.” 47. During the 2015/16 season, 75,000 herded reindeer were slaughtered, and 31,131 elk, 33,763 red deer, 27,700 roe deer, and 6,599 wild reindeer were hunted. Altogether this is 174,193 deer, and presumably all were slaughtered and eaten. In addition, small game like ptarmigan, black game, capercaillie, hare, and duck amounted to 277,730 animals. Game covers about 3 percent of meat consumed per year in Norway (Statistisk sentralbyrå [Norwegian Statistics], and ; Landbruksdirektoratet [The Norwegian Agriculture Agency], (all last accessed 5 January 2016)). 48. Warren Belasco, Food: The Key Concepts (London: Bloomsbury, 2008), 4. 49. M. G. Mceachern and M. J. A. Schröder, “The Role of Livestock Production Ethics in Consumer Values Towards Meat,” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 15: 2 (2002), 221–7. 50. Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500–1800 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), 302. 51. Noëlie Vialles, Le sang et la chair: les abattoirs des pays de l’Adour (Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1987). 52. Noëlie Vialles, “Kjøttet eller dyret,” in Bjarne Rogan (ed.), Det nære og det fremmede: vindu mot fransk etnologi (Oslo: Novus Forlag, 1993), 145–70, 162. 53. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The River Cottage Meat Book (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008); Fearnley-Whittingstall, The River Cottage Cookbook; Oliver et al., Jamie’s Italy; Jamie Oliver, Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life (New York: Hyperion, 2007); Andreas Viestad and Mette Randem, Ekte mat (Oslo: Cappelen Damm, 2010); Camilla Plum, The Scandinavian Kitchen: Over 100 Essential Ingredients with 200 Authentic Recipes (Lanham, MD: Kyle Books, 2011). 54. Paul Revoir, “Jamie Oliver Electrocutes Chickens and Suffocates Chicks on TV to Expose Industry Brutality,” Mail Online, 9 January 2008, available at (last accessed 2 November 2016).

Looking the Beast in the Eye     189 55. Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), 1–2. 56. Fiddes, Meat, 42. 57. Jovian Parry, “Gender and Slaughter in Popular Gastronomy,” Feminism & Psychology, 20: 3 (2010), 381–96, 385. 58. Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum, 1990); Fiddes, Meat. 59. Jan Vardøen, Leader, part 2, Aftenposten Morgen, 4 April 2011, 2; my translation. 60. Tania Lewis, “Transforming Citizens? Green Politics and Ethical Consumption on Lifestyle Television,” Continuum, 22: 2 (2008), 227–40, 232. 61. Jonathan Murdoch and Mara Miele, “‘Back to Nature’: Changing ‘Worlds of Production’ in the Food Sector,” Sociologia Ruralis, 39: 4 (1999), 465–83. 62. Oliver et al., Jamie’s Italy, 210. 63. Vardøen, Tøff mat, 69. 64. Fred Davis, “Nostalgia, Identity and the Current Nostalgia Wave,” Journal of Popular Culture, 11: 2 (1977), 414–24, 420. 65. Ingun Grimstad Klepp, På stier mellom natur og kultur: turgåeres opplevelser av kulturlandskapet og deres synspunkter på vern, Acta humaniora, vol. 24 (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1998), 281. 66. Julie Powell, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession (London: Fig Tree, 2009). 67. Parry, “Gender and Slaughter,” 389. 68. Ibid. 393. 69. Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott, The Game Cookbook (London: Kyle Cathie, 2004); Camilla Plum, The Scandinavian Kitchen: Over 100 Essential Ingredients With 200 Authentic Recipes (London: Kyle Books, 2011); Darina Allen, Forgotten Skills of Cooking (London: Kyle Books, 2009). See Karen Lykke Syse, “Celebrity Chefs, Ethical Food Consumption and the Good Life,” in Karen Lykke Syse and Martin Lee Mueller (eds.), Sustainable Consumption and the Good Life: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2015), 165–82. 70. “Camilla Plum og den sorte gryde,” DVD. Denmark: Danmarks Radio, 2010. 71. Tim Lang and Michael Heasman, Food Wars: The Global Battle for Mouths, Minds and Markets (London: Earthscan, 2004).

Chapter 9

Love Triangle with Dog: Whym Chow, the “Michael Fields,” and the Poetic Potential of Human-Animal Bonds Colleen Glenney Boggs What kind of lover is a dog lover? The question pushes boundaries, animates taboos. We generally use “dog lover” in a way that is desexualized. Moreover, we designate a relationship between one human being and many animals, but we do not see that cross-species bond as involving other human beings. “Dog lover” reaffirms a notion of human subjectivity, singularity, and individuality, even as it allows “dog” to stand for one canine and for many or all canines simultaneously. “Lover” is an affect translated into a subjectivity, and one that cuts in one direction – it is an assertion of human emotion, not of canine feelings. It is the human affect of love that defines the dog lover’s subjectivity. The dog is the object of love, not himself the lover. What if we were to reopen the term to all its inappropriate, embarrassing, multidirectional, derogatory, and dangerous possibilities? More importantly: why would we do so? As Alice Kuzniar observes in Melancholia’s Dog (2006), “one of the most unutterable aspects of closeness with pets is the shamefulness about intimacy with them, as if it might be construed as bordering on bestiality or as if to love dogs betrayed an inability to love humans.”1 If Kuzniar is right, and one consequence of this shame is the melancholic disavowal of human attachment to animals, then what would the alternative look like? What would it mean to embrace human attachment to animals in joyful avowal? It is precisely this question that Michael Field addresses in Whym Chow (1914), a volume of poetry that reorients our understanding of the “biopolitics of everyday life” by exploring how affect that crosses species lines might open up queer models of subjectivity and kinship.2 When “he” published his first volume of poetry, Michael Field became an instant success. But shortly after, “his” friend Robert Browning revealed that Michael Field was a pseudonym for Katherine

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Bradley and Edith Cooper.3 The career of these two women – who were aunt and niece, lover and lover, co-writers even of diaries – never recovered from the revelation of their sex, even in the platonic sense.4 And yet, in reading their poetry, we see a more complicated picture than the one that emerges from biographies that categorized them “(perhaps sensationally) as a pair of incestuous lesbian Catholic converts blasphemously attached to their dogs.”5 Writing for increasingly smaller and privatized circles, they entered an experimental phase of composition that culminated in the privately published volume Whym Chow: Flame of Love (1914).6 Written at a time when they were confronting Edith’s diagnosis of breast cancer and undergoing a conversion to Catholicism, this volume of poems centers around their dog, a chow named Whym.7 Their dog had died in 1906, but the commemorative poems they wrote aimed to resurrect him. The posthumous dog becomes the figure of posthumanism – a complex term that Cary Wolfe uses to designate “cross-species relationships.”8 Drawing on religious iconography in conjunction with orientalist tropes, Whym Chow uses the conventions of the Western literary tradition. Yet the volume radically decenters the assumptions about subjectivity, affection, personhood, and propriety that tacitly underwrite so much of that tradition. It orients readers away from melancholic loss, and opens up Judith Butler’s sense that “grief contains the possibility of apprehending a mode of dispossession that is fundamental to who I am,” and which is tantamount to an “insurrection at the level of ontology.”9 Whym Chow offers a profound critical and theoretical intervention into current debates in the emerging field of animal studies or, as Michael Lundblad insists we call it, animality studies.10 Unlike animal studies, which assumes an advocacy model that risks reaffirming species distinctions, animality studies interrogates and unsettles the construction of species, as Lundblad and Marianne DeKoven have argued.11 This approach enables us to move beyond dichotomizing and singularizing “the” human and “the” animal, and to see animality itself as a discourse formation. That discourse formation is open to post-structuralist interventions into the construction of species – as Jacques Derrida made clear in his crucial reformulation of animals (animaux in French) as animots. A homophonic pun on animaux, Derrida’s neologism uses the plural of words (mots) to replace “the animal” in order to unsettle the linguistic construction of reductive singularity.12 Whym Chow uses poetry to rethink species boundaries, and to envision queer relationalities as affirmative acts of cross-species affect. Written at a time when, according to Lundblad, the “discourse of the jungle” was solidifying and naturalizing heterosexuality, Whym Chow

­192     Colleen Glenney Boggs offers an alternative epistemology and conceptualizes relational subjectivities across species lines.13 As we know from the work of Michel Foucault, discourse formations impact bodies; if there is, then, a history of animality that we have not yet accounted for in our histories of sexuality, Whym Chow locates us at their intersection. This chapter will analyze what Whym Chow tells us about the intersections and pitfalls of putting animal studies and queer studies in dialogue with each other, and the ways in which animality studies might broker that conversation. If Claude Lévi-Strauss stated generically that animals are good to think with, Whym Chow offers some insights into this volume’s more targeted questions by analyzing how affect locates and dislocates species affiliations. Yet this will require moving beyond some of the species-bound constraints of how we have conceptualized the field. As Tim Dean has pointed out, one of the real limitations of queer theory is that, although inspired by the first volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, it has tended to reduce the notion of “bodies and pleasures” to questions of specifically sexual pleasure, on one hand, or the death drive, on the other.14

Perhaps ironically, the dead dog Whym Chow pushes us beyond the death drive, and opens up a wider sense of “pleasure” than the specifically sexual. The Michael Fields offer some provocations for how we might rethink pleasure as a core mechanism of biopolitics – ­provocations that might challenge a field that, in its current configuration, has largely overlooked Foucault’s key insight into power’s enmeshment with pleasure, as Dean notes in his criticism of Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito. Whym Chow provides a model for reflecting on the way in which writing in general and poetry in particular can be a form of animality. Funny that we are anxious about dog lovers but not about art lovers. Is a dog lover similar to an art lover? The short answer is no. Even the possibilities of fetishism do not animate art in the way in which dogs are already animate regardless of our fetishism. The contrast is telling. The anxieties that resonate in the term “dog lover” and are absent from “art lover” indicate that we already know that dog and art are related yet different. The dog is animate regardless of our love, art is not. Further animating the dog fetishistically produces a double-animation and generates excess. That excess raises discomfort, but it also opens new possibilities of affect that shame forecloses. And yet the parallel with art might also gesture toward those possibilities: in experimental aesthetics, visual and verbal art becomes the space in which double animations and reanimations are affectively possible. Poems themselves become a form

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of animality that circumvents “the” human/animal divide and instead enables, to quote Donna Haraway, “the implosion of nature and culture in the relentlessly historically specific, joint lives of dogs and people, who are bonded in significant otherness.”15 Reclaiming dog love offers the possibility of claiming intimacies of alterity and of reconceptualizing poems as their space of possibility. As an affect, love is not bound to species. On the contrary, it is a practice of boundary crossing that challenges the notion that subjects are bounded.

Michael Field Michael Field has come to be more than a synonym for two women writers; it has become a synecdoche for scholarly interest in Victorian Queer. The “Michael Field revival,” or as Margaret Stetz calls it, the “burgeoning critical rediscovery,” began in the wake of feminist literary studies, and achieved full momentum with queer studies turning to the poets in the early years of the new millennium.16 Recent focus has shifted from sexuality per se to a focus on Michael Field’s queer literary aestheticism. Reviewing Marian Thain’s work on the poets, Hilary Fraser writes: I particularly like how the idea of Michael Field as “a created and creative space of lyric production” (1) is developed and the way in which the very marginality of these figures, their refusal to be bound by categories (sexually, textually, temporally, spiritually), makes them representative of their transitional and liminal cultural moment.17

This emphasis on the liminal and the category-crossing also shapes Fraser and Thrain’s reading of the Fields as being hesitant in “proclaiming a lesbian identity,” when in volumes such as Long Ago, they remain “ambivalent” about identity categories, “their invocation of Sappho a gesture to a presexological age before modern sexual categories existed.”18 For Francis O’Gorman, that approach has significant implications for the poetry. Arguing that “Michael Field” was not a shared pseudonym as much as a separate persona, he argues that this persona enabled the writers to reinvent lyric poetry. Defining lyric poetry as “the poetry of the confessing ‘I,’” O’Gorman argues that the Fields’ “‘I’ is refracted into popularity.”19 Reading Long Ago as a “sustained consideration of the meaning and costs of an artist’s life in posterity,” he argues that “it is a volume that in different ways inspects the role of deception in consolation and in memorializing the artist’s survival; it is imaginatively preoccupied with an idea of enduring through a persona.”20

­194     Colleen Glenney Boggs Whym Chow goes yet one step further, and pushes the persona beyond the boundaries of the human. Dogs had been significant for Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper before the chow they named Whym had entered their lives.21 As Emma Donoghue documents, Katherine had a falling out with her former mentor, John Ruskin, when she wrote to him in 1877 and declared that the only comfort she knew from the world’s evils was her Skye terrier.22 Responding in anger, Ruskin liberally availed himself of animal imagery when he replied that she was a “goose” and compared her to “a child who wanders off the safe road into a ditch and gets gored by wild pigs”; he wound up “his tirade by claiming that he loved dogs fifty times better than she did.”23 Ruskin’s diatribe against inappropriate dog love thus strangely ends with an act of one-upmanship that makes him the greater dog lover. The Michael Fields themselves drew on animal imagery to work out the terms of their affection for one another, as well as the affective subject positions they inhabited in their relationship. As Emma Donoghue documents, there were several animals among the terms of endearment they used for one another, such as “‘S’ (from Simiorg, a fabulous wise Eastern bird), ‘the all-wise bird or fowl’, and even (slightly tongue in cheek) ‘Master,’” a term that would convert their relationship into that between an animal pet and a pet “master.” Similarly, “Katherine called Edith ‘Field’, ‘the Blue Bird’, ‘The Persian’ (cat), ‘Puss’, ‘Pussie’, or ‘P’, . . . Cross-gendered and animal nicknames were not uncommon at this time; . . . But Katherine and Edith took it farther than most.”24 Tapping into a commonplace, they played out these tropes of sentimentality and affection in ways that called attention to their disconcertingly literal meanings. Animals were not just a sign of affection, but also tied to the restitutions of loss. The division between the living and dead, the animal and the human, the self and the other was fluid in the Michael Fields’ sense of transformation and incorporation. When Browning wrote to offer his sympathy on the death of Katherine’s sister and Edith’s mother Lissie, “Katherine made an odd response: ‘Ah, how good to have one’s dear ones not outside one any more.’”25 Not only did the dead become an integral part of the self, they also ceased being dead and became reanimated as part of a shared, internalized subjectivity. Yet they also maintained an external and independent presence, and did not simply symbolize loss or the persons lost. After Edith’s father disappeared in June 1897 and was found dead months later, her friends the Sturges gave her a chow puppy as a birthday present – and in a gesture that reveals a deep sense of personal identification and stands all familial relations on its head, Edith changed her own birthday to Whym

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Chow’s.26 After the dog’s untimely illness and bungled euthanasia eight years later, the Michael Fields composed a volume of poems about their dog. While pet poems were not unusual, this collection was; as Emma Donoghue points out, “any reader expecting sentimental Victorian pet poems will be unnerved by this collection.”27 Jill Ehenn has read other works of the Fields’ in ways that are useful here: she points out that their poems “expose what Judith Butler would call the ‘citationality’ of sex and gender, that is, the reiteration of a set of norms or laws that enforce sex/gender conventions but that ‘citational discursive practices might subvert,’ rather than reinforce.”28 As Carolyn Dever sums up, today “‘Michael Field’ serves as something of a poster child for challenges to the orthodoxies of late-Victorian ideological formations, especially the erotic and the literary.”29

Anthropomorphic aesthetics Aunt and niece, co-authors of poems and plays and diaries, lovers “closer married” than the Brownings, Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper were also dog lovers.30 We do not have a word to capture their relationship to Whym outside of ownership models (dog owner), and even when we turn to all the ambiguities of “dog lovers,” we do not approximate the layers of affect and relationship that Whym, their chow, captured for them. And yet, if language in its conventional sense is inadequate, the Michael Fields used poetry to capture and develop these different senses. That resort to language may itself seem anthropomorphizing, and to be privileging the human over the animal. Granted. However, there are two ways of complicating that assessment: one, the Michael Fields used language to inscribe the body as a literal and not just a symbolic presence in their art, and two, they developed strategies of ensuring that the body in art was irreducible to the taxonomizing gaze. To achieve the presence of the literal body in poetry, the Michael Fields repeatedly press language beyond its symbolic and abstract boundaries and tie it to bodily registers of expression. In this line of thinking, they had good company among their Victorian peers. Departing from Matthew Arnold’s emphasis on the objective experience of art, Walter Pater began to theorize the importance of its subjective experience. Intervening into this discussion, intellectuals began to reflect on the role of the sensory apparatus itself in the construction of aesthetic meaning. This concern was at the core of fin-de-siècle engagements with art, and especially explored in the larger orbit of the artistic friendships and partnerships in which the Michael Fields moved. As Hilary

­196     Colleen Glenney Boggs Fraser documents, “during a visit to a gallery in 1894, [Clementina ‘Kit’] Anstruther-Thomson became aware that her breathing was affected by the experience of looking at particular pictures.” Through a process of self-monitoring and recording physiological responses to art, she and her partner Vernon Lee developed an “Anthropomorphic Aesthetics” that was “corporeal and subjective.”31 The views expressed in “Anthropomorphic Aesthetics” were “close to [Bernard] Berenson’s theory of the importance of the tactile imagination and the stimulation of “muscular feelings of varying pressure and strain” in art . . ., and indeed he was to accuse them (unjustly) of plagiarising his ideas.”32 The Michael Fields did not just vaguely inhabit this cultural moment, but contributed to the discussions around “Anthropomorphic Aesthetics.” Edith Cooper developed an intense love of Bernard Berenson that at times strained her relationship with Katherine Bradley. That love revolved around the sense of a shared aesthetic project, as Martha Vicinus has documented.33 Yet if they shared an approach to art that emphasized its impression on the viewing subject, the Michael Fields developed strategies of ensuring that the body in art was irreducible to the taxonomizing and commodifying gaze. Krista Lysack has demonstrated for Sight and Song (1892), that the poems represent “female desire outside of the economy of a male gaze by deploying a discourse of consumption that eschews ownership.”34 For Lysack, this is possible because the poems function as “objects of scrutiny” that rehearse the ways in which the commodity is an object that is apparently severed from conditions of production to function as pure exchange value. What is interesting about Michael Field’s utilization of commodity forms is that gendered objects are not constituted in themselves, but through the nonpossessive viewing practices that are discursively deployed by Michael Field.35

Lysack’s argument can be extended beyond art objects, to Michael Field’s engagement with Whym Chow as a symbol for the nonreproductive circulation of meaning. Lysack draws on Jonathan Freedman’s claims that aesthetic practices pertain to objects and gain social meaning; they resemble Marx’s commodities in that “they circulate meanings apart from their means of production.”36 A good example of this use of language to inscribe the body as a literal presence in art, while resisting its commodification, occurs in “What Is the Other Name of Love?” The opening line seems to be asking for a pseudonym. But in using the word “name,” the line already asks about the process of subject formation inherent in language and multiplied by affect. Love may have a name, but it also raises the question of “the other name,” and of the other-than name. Naming is, after all, a key

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strategy of subject formation. The poem develops a register where the “Beloved” is celebrated physically: “in thy Dance / A worship; in thy light, a universe.” As Frederick Roden has argued, “if their ‘canine Catholicism’ seems comic at moments the two women found a means of fully embodying the female-centered Christianity that Christina Rossetti had hinted at.”37 The “Flame of Love” is an embodied expression of love, as the poem forcefully demonstrates when the following stanza answers the poem’s inaugural question: Response! O little Love, O little Chow! O Answer! What is Love’s most answering bliss? What is Love’s happiness alert but this To welcome? And thy rage of welcome how Should words tell dim – the bound, The dances round and round, As if the sun had come down carrying love Instead of light, with all his rays and power, With the wild spinning of his heart above, And in thy body had his hour Of cabriole and circle on the ground! What beating of fine, little Feet!

The opening lines set up a structure that turns call and response on its head: “O little Love, O little Chow!” is the “Response,” and “Answer!” to the question “What is the other name of Love?” The question is transformed into the “answering bliss,” that is, converted from a verbal to an affective and physical register. Having made “O little Love” and “O little Chow” synonymous with one another, “Love’s happiness” not only expresses a “welcome,” but a “rage of welcome” that words can only “dim.” The poem tries to enact the “dances round and round,” and to give a physical presence that reinstates the “rays” and turns the “body” from a symbol into a poetic presence, down to that most central of poetic devices, the “little Feet” which here are inseparably the feet of the poem and the feet of the dog. The poem makes those feet present as feet, refusing to see the poem’s feet as symbols of the dog’s feet, and on the contrary, indicating that the dog’s feet are physically present as a heightened register of meaning.38

Queer animalities And yet, if we trust the otherwise excellent scholarship on Michael Field, this point would seem trivial, and not easy to assimilate either into queer studies or into animal studies. For all the recent interest in the Michael

­198     Colleen Glenney Boggs Fields, “when Whym Chow has been read at all, usually in the context of biographies or notes, it has been in the form of passing comments on an oddity of the Fields’ career.”39 This hesitation is indicative of an ongoing resistance to think of “queer” as extending beyond species. Lee Edelman’s fourth chapter, eponymous with the book title, No Future, is symptomatic of how this hesitation extends even to some of the most cutting work in queer studies. In that chapter, Edelman discusses Hitchcock’s movie The Birds as a queer disruption of heteronormative, child-centered futurity, but ultimately fails to read the birds as birds and to think about the full potential of animals for retheorizing queerness.40 There are, of course, good reasons for that hesitation, as I have written elsewhere.41 But there is a danger in shying away from thinking about dog love as a serious affect, beyond the confines of cute sentimentality: we risk subsuming animals to precisely the conditions of reproductive futurity that Edelman sets out to critique. And we will remain unable to appreciate a work such as Whym Chow as the crucial textual intervention that it offers into the politics of subject formation. Even works in animal studies are culpable of this hesitation, as Christopher Peterson argues in his critical review of Alice Kuzniar’s work. Peterson impresses on use the urgency to ask farther reaching questions of how cross-species intimacy reshapes kinship formations: How might our relationship to the “radical alterity” of nonhuman animals contest, instead of simply reaffirm, our normative conceptions of intimacy? What might the alterity of nonhuman animals have to teach us about the alterity of those human animals with whom we imagine the most intimate kinship?42

Although Kuzniar herself critiques the work of Kathleen Kete, Harriet Ritvo, John Berger, Marc Shell, Yi-fu Tuan, and even Marjorie Garber for distancing itself “from the seriousness of pet love,”43 she herself seems so concerned with the shameful possibilities of pet love as to veer toward the Platonic: “those who have an ardor for dogs know that such passion is unavailable and inaccessible elsewhere: it opens up the subject in unique ways that, precisely because independent of gender and sexuality, are liberating.”44 Kuzniar’s wish to imagine the subject as opened up in ways that are “liberating” may bespeak the important concern that “we inevitably worry about pleasure being obtained at the less powerful person’s expense.”45 And yet from a feminist perspective, I am tempted to say more about the pitfalls of a fantasy by which it is “liberating” to be “independent of gender and sexuality.” Saving that discussion for another time, the presuppositions of this passage ring untrue when it comes to animal love, which certainly genders, and which seems

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to encode at least a sensual if not sexual message in the interaction with certain creatures as “pets” whose very designation refers to our physical interaction with them (in the somewhat tautological sense that a pet is a pet because we pet it). The sense of taboo that Kuzniar addresses elsewhere here seems to catch up with her own writing, and the act of setting aside the scientia sexualis seems to reinforce it. Strangely, Kuzniar sounds more Victorian in her “ardor” and “passion” than the Fields, who embrace the ability to understand a love of dogs as a way of rethinking and not circumventing gender and sexuality. As a physical object, the book Whym Chow brings petting to the foreground of the reader’s interaction with the text. The book insistently highlights the relationship to the pet: the cover is itself fur-like, and orange so as to resemble Whym Chow himself – or a taxidermied version. That preservation of death and restoration to an afterlife in taxidermy finds yet a further step in the text’s reanimation of the beloved dog. Love is reconfigured in this process, as the poem “Trinity” exemplifies. I did not love him for myself alone: I loved him that he loved my Dearest love. O God, no blasphemy It is to feel we loved in trinity, To tell Thee that I loved him as Thy Dove Is loved, and is Thy own, That comforted the moan Of Thy Beloved, when earth could give no balm And in Thy Presence makes His tenderest calm. So I possess this creature of Love’s flame So loving what I love he lives from me; Not white, a thing of fire, Of seraph-plumèd limbs and one desire, That is my heart’s own, and shall ever be: An animal – with aim Thy Dove avers the same . . . O symbol of our perfect union, strange Unconscious Bearer of Love’s interchange.

The poem posits love as working in two ways: it is aimed at the other as beloved. But the other is also a conduit to the love of an other. The layers of affection course through subjectivities. They find love objects and, in turn, convert them into conduits. Love is multilayered in this poem. This becomes evident from the very first line of the poem, which is oddly off: “I did not love him for myself alone” turns the focus away from an object of love. If a love object were the focus, the line would

­200     Colleen Glenney Boggs logically read “I did not love him for himself alone.” But instead, the line circles back, and replaces “himself” with “myself.” Love is object-­ oriented – it is a “love” of “him.” But that object-oriented love is expressed as a negation: “I did not love him.” The affirmation comes by moving away from love as object-oriented, to love as the creation of subjectivity: love constructs “myself” as a subjectivity that experiences affect without objectifying the beloved. Love becomes circular: “I loved him that he loved my dearest love.” This surplus opens up a dimension in the poetry for what Eric Santner has called the “creaturely.” For Santner, this signifies a “materiality of nature” that lies beyond our ability to integrate it into our symbolic universe. Where a piece of the human world presents itself as a surplus that both demands and resists symbolization, that is both inside and outside the “symbolic order” – for Benjamin, this is the unnerving point of departure of the allegorical imagination – that is where we find ourselves in the midst of “natural history.” What I am calling creaturely life is a dimension of human existence called into being at such natural historical fissures or caesuras in the space of meaning.46

From this line of argumentation, Santner concludes that “‘Creatureliness’ will thus signify less a dimension that traverses the boundaries of human and nonhuman forms of life than a specifically human way of finding oneself caught in the midst of antagonisms in and of the political field.”47 But “the Michael Fields” developed a decidedly different version of “creatureliness,” one that exceeds the “specifically human.” Importantly, they do not situate their poetry in life, but in an afterlife. From the conversion of the “dead” into the “loved,” they derive an ability to symbolize. It is as animal that desire can become symbolized, and vice versa, as symbol that desire can be animalized. The “creatureliness” they envision is not reducible to the human, but operates in the exchange – or to use the Fields’ term, the “interchange” – between the animal and its others. The Fields’ version approximates Anat Pick’s insistence that the creaturely is a mode of attention “to the bodily and the embodied . . ., whose sum as critical practice is the poetics I am calling creaturely.”48 That poetics has the radical potential to offset a biopolitics premised on constructions of animality as bare life, and to offer instead new forms of expressive physicality.49 The Michael Fields’ work reflects the fact that “reading through a creaturely prism consigns culture to contexts that are not exclusively human.”50 The human is never explicitly named in this poem. It is the occluded term in a poem that names the animal and “God.” The notion of the human as a subjectivity that incorporates the “creaturely” is offset by the fact that the animal is not merely the human “unconscious.” The animal

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is also the bearer of interchange. As a figure of mediacy and mediation, the animal is able to maintain a sense of otherness as animal without being reduced to a creatureliness that is subsumed to the human. For Santner, the creaturely subsumes man to “a distinctly political – or better, biopolitical – aspect; it names the threshold where life becomes a matter of politics and politics comes to inform the very matter and materiality of life.”51 The Michael Fields offset this version of the biopolitical with a view of the “interchange” that can span affective subjectivities and connect the human, animal, and divine around a bios that is abstracted as “Love’s flame” and accessible to all creatures while dominated by none. This reconception disrupts the link of the “creaturely with melancholia” that both Santner and Kuzniar note.52 As Santner himself points out, it is in regard to his ultimate adherence to anthropocentric frames that his work departs from that of Beatrice Hanssen. Whereas Santner emphasizes “the paradoxes of the ‘political theology’ of creaturely life as a distinctly human dimension,” Hanssen develops what she calls an “ethico-theological response to the creaturely.”53 For Hanssen, this response entails an openness to “infra-human” forms of life, and dismantles the boundaries between human and nonhuman. Hanssen argues that we need to recover Walter Benjamin’s engagement with a philosophy of history that is “no longer purely anthropocentric in nature or anchored only in the concerns of human subject.”54 For Benjamin, this “new ethical modality” was marked by an “extreme attentiveness (Aufmerksamkeit)” of “radical openness to the creaturely – that is, an alterity that surpassed the confines of the merely human.”55 This attentiveness presses beyond “ontological categories.”56 It also puts the Michael Fields – anachronistically – at the forefront of current attempts to recognize “that sacredness and spirituality are central themes that need to be taken more seriously in animal advocacy.”57 The “Michael Fields” work out a spirituality in excess of human subjectivity in the poem “It Is So Old and Deep a Thing”: It is so old and deep a thing The being fond of animals – so far It goes back to when earth was First beginning, Lay under forests dark as storm-clouds are, Or from its ice menaced frail breath and motion Of living creatures. . . . . . . man followed beast As foe; and out of hatred came a love For breath that feebly struggled as man’s breath,

­202     Colleen Glenney Boggs For loneliness of soul that could at least Be faithful to the Voice of one above, And listen for it through the woods till death, And listen for it through the icy flaw; Yea, come at last to worship at the door Where dwelt the Voice, and at its human hearth Find the one end to a world’s trackless path.

Here, the ontology of “being” is replaced by the affect of “being fond.” This “being fond” reaches to the originary moment of “earth,” to the “first beginning” which now is the moment of “being fond” rather than a moment of ontological “being.” In redescribing creation as the generation of affective bonds rather than ontological distinctions, the Michael Fields redescribe creation. Yet initially, this creation is not benevolent and affirmative, but one that “menaced” and was “frail.” Starting with a scene of hunting, when man “followed beast,” his position as “foe” did not just make him a hunter but also made him a “beast” in that he “followed.” This “beast” is converted by “breath,” that is not the breath of Adam, but the breath that connects the two. The line here is again ambiguous. The breath of the animal is compared to the breath of the man – there is a similarity implied in “as man’s breath.” But the breath also turns from being the beast’s breath to being the man’s breath in the course of that line. “Love” fosters a sense of shared vulnerability, and that shared vulnerability enables affect as well as subjectivity (as Judith Butler and Anat Pick have recently theorized).58 In their likeness, animal and man are distinguished in novel ways. That distinction and convergence is an end in itself. There is no utility or telos that underwrites the “human heart.” On the contrary, it forms “one end” of a “trackless path”: there is no longer one creature tracking the other along that path, which dissolves the path itself and leaves only “one end,” which is an aim as much as a terminal point. Ending at the human hearth reconfigures the domestic, and moves it outside the reach of reproductive futurity. This poetry, then, posits queer relationships that have become atemporal. While they have a past, they have no future. Of course, I am invoking Lee Edelman’s controversial argument in No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Edelman takes issue with the focus on children and futurity in constructions of the social, and argues that this emphasis forecloses queer, nonreproductive forms of living. The Michael Fields enact many of Edelman’s demands: giving up on the notion of a reproductive futurity that is heteronormative and compulsory, they find in their relationship with each other and their dog a queerness that turns the dead animal into the locus for a nonreproductive futurity.

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Yet the Michael Fields do not take Edelman’s additional step of seeing that queerness as the negation at the heart of the symbolic and the annihilation of subject positions. Falling subject perhaps to the liberalism of which Edelman accuses many queer activists and the political left as a whole, the Fields remain invested in subjectivity to the extent that some notion of it, however fluid, is necessary for thinking relationality. Edelman’s reading of children as tied to reproductive heteronormativity might already be privileging the products of heteronormativity. Mary Sanders Pollock and Catherine Rainwater observe that, “if the boundaries between human and animal are permeable or blurry in many cultural productions for or about children, and in gay or lesbian literature, such boundaries are more definitively drawn in most mainstream literature for adults.”59 There is the potential in queer literature to rethink reproductive futurity through the representation of children aligned with animals. That is precisely what Kathryn Stockton brilliantly does. What ultimately emerges in the Michael Fields’ work is an argument closer to Kathryn Stockton’s view of the queer child and of childhood as itself a queer state than to Edelman’s reification of children as objects of heteronormative futurism. Insisting on the importance of animals and especially dogs for queer girls, and for the queerness of childhood in general, Stockton argues that “the dog is a figure for the child herself, growing aside from the concept of a future together, since animals do not grow in human generations.”60 For Stockton, the dog and the child do not grow up, they grow sideways, making the dog “the child’s companion in queerness.”61 The “interchange” that the Michael Fields envision creates a possibility, by which the creaturely is defined as a companion in queerness. This refusal to subsume the one to the other is apparent in the volume’s second poem, “Introit,” which radically reconfigures notions of familiarity: The dead comes back again, the dead, our dead, Brought through the passage in! O Wonderment, extremity of dread! No child, nay, no of kin, No sovereign and no warrior: but instead Of these, the awe they win, O Chow, my little Love, thou art come home. O Chow, my little Love, thou art come home. No creature in more state Dead to the haunts of life hath ever come. And little Love, the great, And mighty Power, nay, mightier than the dome

­204     Colleen Glenney Boggs Beyond all stars, or than Time’s hoariest date, Or sea or the world’s rock hath brought thee home.

The verbal construction defamiliarizes the Lord’s Prayer, which invokes “Our father, who art in heaven.” The poem imagines a homecoming of the dead. Repeating the word “dead,” but alternating between a direct article (“the”) and the first person plural possessive (“our”), the dead/ our dead is a creature who defies conventional relationships. Neither child nor kin, this creature is not a sovereign or warrior, but instead, “my little Love.” The chow is diminutive in the lower case of “little,” yet capitalized as “Love.” This love has shifted the first person plural of “our dead” to the first person singular “my little love.” Pivoting between the collectivity of death and the singularity of love, the dead creature facilitates and structures intimate subjectivities. The alliterative “little Love” reconstitutes the familial outside of structures of reproduction (child) and kinship (kin), in giving rise to a home-coming that is also a home-creation. This is not just a return home; it is the creation of a home: the repeated line “thou art come home” is carefully crafted to suggest that the homecoming occurs in and as “art.” At the risk of stretching my reading, I want to suggest that we also read “art” as a reference to the arts. The line does not use art as a noun, and yet it seems to me that its repetition of art and its engagement with questions of art and artistry also make it worth puzzling over the role that art takes on in these lines. Art itself provides a place of love and homecoming for the dead. The poem experiments with reconfigurations of art. As Regenia Gagnier writes, since Theophile Gautier’s preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835), art for art’s sake was a critique of utility rather than a fetishism of art. In that famous preface, Gautier did not write about art but about pleasure, in fact about sexual pleasure as divorced from reproduction. Women, as compulsory reproducers of the relations of production, have long had reason to critique utility. Lesbianism in France was a figure for aestheticism because it represented nonreproductive pleasure, which was for Gautier what distinguished humankind from nonhuman animals. Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal (1857) was first entitled Les Lesbiennes. This rejection of utility in favour of the useless pleasures of art and sex . . . was by no means a rejection of form.62

The Michael Fields did this line of argumentation “one better,” in thinking about pleasure as something that did not erect yet another boundary – a distinction of “humankind from nonhuman animals.” On the contrary, for the Michael Fields, the nonhuman animal becomes the epitome of nonreproductive pleasure and art for art’s sake as a queer desire.

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One of the brilliant things about their work is that they reveal that this queerness is mainstream – and therein, perhaps, lies their real radicalism. When they suggest that the love of animals is an ancient, primal thing, and that a love of dogs is an accepted and socially foundational practice, they inscribe queerness at the very heart of social and especially bourgeois social formation. David Banash has argued that Whym Chow challenges “humanistic, identic thought” and argued that we should read the dog as a “condition of possibility” along the lines that Deleuze and Guattari propose when they conceptualize the “becominganimal.”63 Deleuze and Guattari insist that the animal as possibility is not the Oedipal, anthropomorphized pet, but a pack animal that defies individual subjectivity. This rejection of pets has garnered strong criticism, especially from Donna Haraway, who accuses Deleuze of an erasure of real animals. As the Deleuzian scholar Frida Beckman has demonstrated, Haraway’s critique itself re-establishes firm notions of species that Deleuzian philosophy tries to move beyond. And yet Beckman concedes that Deleuze himself is entrapped in his thinking on inter-species relations by notions of species in that his “writing about pleasure and orgasm is deeply entrenched in discourses of humanism.”64 As Cary Wolfe has lamented, even critiques of “-isms that are the stock-in-trade of cultural studies almost always remain locked within an unexamined framework of speciesism.”65 Even Deleuze falls into the pitfall of humanism that his work critiques because he is unable to move beyond his own anthropomorphic and androcentric versions of pleasure: as Beckman reveals, “both the concept of sexuality and the concept of the animal have been employed to construct distinctly human subjectivities” to which Deleuze himself remains indebted.66 The Michael Fields explore, on the contrary, how individual subjectivity is produced by shared affective responses. That sharing does not turn the animal into a mere conduit of human affection, and I disagree with Banash’s characterization that “it is through the dog that the speaker and beloved enact their relationship.”67 The dog is not merely a conduit; the dog is – ­paradoxically perhaps – also an equal partner. How much an animal can be an equal partner may be a question to give us pause and concern over projection or exploitation. Rilke writes in the Eighth Duino elegy: “With all its eyes the creature-world (Kreatur) beholds / the open. But our eyes, as though reverse / encircle it on every side.”68 The “interchange” that the Michael Fields envision creates a different possibility, by which the creaturely is not defined by the open in contradistinction from the human, but in conjunction with man. Dying of cancer, the Michael Fields were entering a time when, like the animal, they would have their dying already behind them. Entering

­206     Colleen Glenney Boggs a space that moved zoe beyond bios, and that envisioned a life and love after death, they established a way of thinking the human-animal in and as a beyond. That beyond for them is poetry. Reconfigured as itself an animate and post-animate force, poetry becomes the realm where the “paradoxical relationship that exists between the natural and the creaturely” is reconciled via “the uncanny artificiality of art.”69 The dog, for the Fields, is not melancholy. Rather than endlessly restaging the animal’s death and its unmourn-ability, the Michael Fields reconfigure death along Christian lines as ever-lasting life. Provocatively, they indicate that the “beyond” that Lee Edelman invokes is as theological as it is profane. For the Fields, it is the space where the social reproduction of child-oriented futurity can redirect itself, and produce the dog and poem as loci of nonreproductive eternity. Transforming both Christian iconography and the structure of the self, they allow their dog to exist in a way that is neither subservient to nor “separate from them, as animals symbolizing Christian saints were from their masters. Rather, Whym is the ‘very essence of the thing I am.’”70

Notes  1. Alice A. Kuzniar, Melancholia’s Dog (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 10.   2. Frances Bartkowski, Kissing Cousins: A New Kinship Bestiary (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 89.   3. They had shared their identities with Robert Browning, and worried that he had leaked the information to the Athenaeum. See Angela Leighton, Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart, Victorian Literature and Culture Series (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992), 202. For a discussion of this shared, male pseudonym, see Holly Laird, “The Co-Authored Pseudonym: Two Women Named Michael Field,” in Robert J. Griffin (ed.), The Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publication from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 193–209. For Wayne Koestenbaum, literary collaborations – at least among men – are a form of “metaphorical sexual intercourse” (Wayne Koestenbaum, Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary Collaboration (New York: Routledge, 1989), 3). Betty London takes up Koestenbaum’s work, and explains how same-sex literary collaboration between women takes on a different meaning because “stories told about women’s turn-of-the-century literary collaborations prove insistently double, producing dual authorship as simultaneously harmless (a species of literary curiosity) and transgressive (a site of sexual and textual aberrancy), simultaneously the place where the ‘other woman’ is materialized and where she is exorcised through prescriptive gender codings” (Bette London, Writing Double: Women’s Literary Partnerships (Ithaca, NY: Cornell

Love Triangle with Dog     207 University Press, 1999), 69). As Marion Thain points out, “the attention given to the duality of Field’s textual persona and authorship misses the significance of their investment in the trinity (pagan and holy) throughout their oeuvre and particularly in the later poetry . . . In the figure of the Trinity in Michael Field’s poetry, then, religious, sexual, and textual concerns are united and reconciled” (Marion Thain, “Michael Field”: Poetry, Aestheticism and the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 195–6).   4. Scholars disagree on whether and in what sense “lover” is an appropriate way to describe their relationship to one another: Lillian Faderman reads them as exemplifying the “romantic friendship” common in the Victorian era, whereas Chris White, Emma Donoghue, and Angela Leighton read their work to confirm that evidence exists for interpreting their relationship as sexual. Paradoxically, the avowals of chastity after their conversion to Catholicism would indicate that their relationship had previously been intimate. See Emma Donoghue, We Are Michael Field (Bath: Absolute, 1998); Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Frienship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: William Morrow, 1981); Leighton, Victorian Women Poets; Chris White, “The Tiresian Poet: Michael Field,” in Angela Leighton (ed.), Victorian Women Poets: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1996), 148–61.   5. Frederick S. Roden, Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 194.  6. Michael Field, Whym Chow: Flame of Love (London: Eragny Press, 1914). All quotes from this volume are taken from (last accessed 5 December 2016). Katharine Bradley (1846–1914) was born in Birmingham and educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. She became deeply attached to her elder sister’s daughter, her niece Edith Cooper (1862–1913). As Michael Field, “They produced more than twenty volumes of verse drama and poetry.” See Margaret Drabble, Jenny Stringer, and Daniel Hahn (eds.), The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature, 3rd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), available at (last accessed 5 December 2016). The Eragny Press mainly printed collections of poetry, including Diana White’s The Descent of Ishtar (1903), Some Poems by Robert Browning (1904), Laurence Binyon’s Dream Come True (1905), Songs by Ben Jonson (1906), John Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1906), and Verses by Christina Rossetti (1906). The last book from the Eragny Press was Whym Chow, Flame of Love (1914), which was published in an edition of only twenty-seven copies, although the general press run was about two hundred copies per title. See Ed Madden, “Michael Field (27 October 1846–26 September 1914,” in William B. Thesing (ed.), Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 240: Late Nineteenth- and Early TwentiethCentury British Women Poets (Detroit: Gale Group, 2001), 61–8, 66.   7. He was named for Edward Whymper. See Donoghue, We Are Michael Field, 96.

­208     Colleen Glenney Boggs   8. Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), xv.  9. Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2004), 28, 33. 10. Michael Lundblad, “From Animal to Animality Studies,” PMLA, 124: 2 (2009), 496–502. 11. Michael Lundblad and Marianne DeKoven, “Introduction: Animality and Advocacy,” in Marianne DeKoven and Michael Lundblad (eds.), Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 1–16, 3. 12. Jacques Derrida, “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow),” Critical Inquiry, 28: 2 (2002), 369–418, 415. 13. See Michael Lundblad, “Epistemology of the Jungle: Progressive-Era Sexuality and the Nature of the Beast,” American Literature, 81: 4 (2009), 747–83. 14. Tim Dean, “The Biopolitics of Pleasure,” South Atlantic Quarterly, 111: 3 (2012), 477–96, 479. 15. Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003), 16. 16. Margaret D. Stetz, “Review of Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture by Frederick S. Roden,” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, 23: 1 (2004), 139–41, 140. 17. Hilary Fraser, “Review of Marion Thain, ‘Michael Field’: Poetry, Aestheticism and the Fin de Siècle,” Modern Philology, 109: 2 (2011), E131–4, E132. 18. Ibid. E132. 19. Francis O’Gorman, “Michael Field and Sapphic Fame: ‘My Dark-Leaved Laurels Will Endure,’” Victorian Literature and Culture, 34: 2 (2006), 649–61, 658. 20. Ibid. 659. 21. Sharon Marcus points out that “the shared pet was a common trope of female marriages,” and that the Fields were “devoted to a trinity they formed with their dog Whym Chow, whom they saw as mediating their union” (Sharon Marcus, Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007), 303). For a fuller discussion of animals in women’s same-sex relations, see Ruth Vanita, Sappho and the Virgin Mary: SameSex Love and the English Literary Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). 22. Bradley and Cooper were not just pet owners, but also tireless supporters of the antivivisection movement and advocates for animal well-being. See David Banash, “To the Other: The Animal and Desire in Michael Field’s Whym Chow: Flame of Love,” in Mary Sanders Pollock and Catherine Rainwater (eds.), Figuring Animals: Essays on Animal Images in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Popular Culture (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 195–206, 195. 23. Donoghue, We Are Michael Field, 24. 24. Ibid. 37. 25. Ibid. 52–3.

Love Triangle with Dog     209 26. Martha Vicinus, Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778– 1928 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 102. 27. Donoghue, We Are Michael Field, 122. 28. Jill Ehnenn, “Looking Strategically: Feminist and Queer Aesthetics in Michael Field’s Sight and Song,” Victorian Poetry, 43: 1 (2005), 109–54, 110. 29. Carolyn Dever, “Strategic Aestheticism: A Response to Caroline Levine,” Victorian Studies, 49: 1 (2006), 94–9, 98. 30. The marriage trope sheds light on the “semantic tension between plural and singular emblematized in the statement ‘we are Michael Field,’ and recasts the central metaphor of Victorian marriage: the metaphor of two in one, by which two individuals are merged as a single – and male – subject” (Carolyn Dever, “Introduction: ‘Modern’ Love and the ProtoPost-Victorian,” PMLA, 124: 2 (2009), 370–4, 374). 31. Hilary Fraser, “A Visual Field: Michael Field and the Gaze,” Victorian Literature and Culture, 34: 2 (2006), 553–71, 562–3. 32. Ibid. 564, quoting Berenson. 33. Martha Vicinus, “‘Sister Souls’: Bernard Berenson and Michael Field (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper),” Nineteenth-Century Literature, 60: 3 (2005), 326–54; Martha Vicinus, “Faun Love: Michael Field and Bernard Berenson,” Women’s History, 18: 5 (2009), 753–64. 34. Krista Lysack, “Aesthetic Consumption and the Cultural Production of Michael Field’s Sight and Song,” Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900, 45: 4 (2005), 935–60, 936. 35. Ibid. 937. For a full theorization of the ways in which objects take on and transcend traits of the Marxist commodity, see ibid. 937. Animals play a particularly important role in this shift, as I argue in the final chapter of Colleen Glenney Boggs, Animalia Americana: Animal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 2013). 36. Lysack, “Aesthetic Consumption,” 937. 37. Roden, Same-Sex Desire, 198. 38. For a fuller discussion how this making-present of animals in poetry works, see Colleen Glenney Boggs, “Emily Dickinson’s Animal Pedagogies,” PMLA, 124: 2 (2009), 533–41. 39. Banash, “To the Other,” 196. 40. Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2004). 41. Colleen Glenney Boggs, “American Bestiality: Sex, Animals and the Construction of Subjectivity,” Cultural Critique, 76: 3 (2010), 98–125. 42. Christopher Peterson, “Of Canines and Queers: Review of Melancholia’s Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 15: 2 (2009), 352–4, 354. 43. Kuzniar, Melancholia’s Dog, 4. 44. Ibid. 109. 45. Dean, “The Biopolitics of Pleasure,” 481. 46. Eric L. Santner, On Creaturely Life: Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006), xv. 47. Ibid. xix.

­210     Colleen Glenney Boggs 48. Anat Pick, Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 5. 49. See Pick’s discussion of Marie Darrieussecq’s work in ibid. 91ff. 50. Ibid. 5. 51. Santner, On Creaturely Life, 12. 52. Ibid. 16. 53. Beatrice Hanssen, Walter Benjamin’s Other History: Of Stones, Animals, Human Beings, and Angels (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1998), 6. 54. Ibid. 1. 55. Ibid. 6. 56. Ibid. 7. 57. Kathy Rudy, Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), xix. 58. Butler, Precarious Life; Pick, Creaturely Poetics. 59. Mary Sanders Pollock and Catherine Rainwater, “Introduction,” in Mary Sanders Pollock and Catherine Rainwater (eds.), Figuring Animals: Essays on Animal Images in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Popular Culture (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 1–17, 11. 60. Kathryn Bond Stockton, The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 53. 61. Ibid. 90. 62. Regenia Gagnier, “Review of The Fin-de-Siècle Poem: English Literary Culture and the 1890s by Joseph Bristow,” Victorian Studies, 48: 4 (2006), 771–3, 772. 63. Banash, “To the Other,” 196; Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Becoming-Animal,” in Peter Atterton and Matthew Calarco (eds.), Animal Philosophy: Essential Reading in Continental Thought (London and New York: Continuum, 2004), 87–100. 64. Frida Beckman, Between Desire and Pleasure: A Deleuzian Theory of Sexuality (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 143. 65. Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 1. 66. Beckman, Between Desire and Pleasure, 13. 67. Banash, “To the Other,” 196. 68. Qtd. in Kuzniar, Melancholia’s Dog, 152. 69. Ibid. 155. 70. Roden, Same-Sex Desire, 200, quoting the Michael Fields.

Chapter 10

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals: Zoophilia in Law and Literature Greg Garrard

The death and resurrection of bestiality Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that forbids bestiality in the old-fashioned way: as a form of sodomy. Though forced by the European Court of Human Rights to decriminalize homosexuality in 1991, Ireland retains a sodomy law dating back to 1861 that provides a maximum term of life imprisonment for “the abominable crime of Buggery committed either with Mankind or with any Animal.”1 Just as ancient laws prohibiting rape protected male property rights vested in the fidelity and chastity of wives and daughters, rather than protecting women’s rights, sodomy laws were devised long before modern conceptions of animal welfare. Bestiality was a crime against God, not an offence against a sentient being. In fact, the “beast” in bestiality is not the animal involved but the human offender who has “lowered” himself to the level of his sexual partner. Liberal societies have seemingly moved on from such nonsense. In 1969, the German Bundestag, for example, passed two major reform acts that shifted the basis of laws governing sexual behavior from violation of moral norms to violation of rights. Among the sexual acts thereby legalized was bestiality, which could be prosecuted thereafter only if it caused “significant harm.” Germany was one of many Western nations in which the relationship of private sexual behavior and the law was revolutionized in this period. The other supposed “crimes against decency” that were taken off the books in those days – masturbation, adultery, homosexuality – have not only stayed legal, but have, in the case of same-sex marriage, been still further legitimized. It is curious to note, then, the rash of laws recriminalizing sexual relations with nonhuman animals since the turn of the millennium: France, 2004; Belgium, 2007; Norway,

­212     Greg Garrard 2008; Netherlands, 2010. In Germany, bestiality was recriminalized as a misdemeanor in 2012, with a law that prohibits “using an animal for personal sexual activities or making them available to third parties for sexual activities and thereby forcing them to behave in ways that are inappropriate to their species.”2 This time around, though, the law against bestiality was part of an animal welfare act, not a sodomy law, and was overtly supported by animal activists rather than conservative moralists. The German case made the news, unlike its predecessors in other European countries, because of vocal opposition.3 For one thing, opponents rejected the moralistic term “bestiality,” preferring the neutral, modern term “zoophilia.” Their pressure group, which took the name Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (acronym ZETA in German) as a deliberate allusion to the animal welfare group PETA, pointed out that since German law already banned sexual cruelty and harm to animals, by definition only harmless sexual relations would be newly criminalized. Michael Kiok of ZETA told the BBC: It is unthinkable that any sexual act with an animal is punished without proof that the animal has come to any harm. . . . We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification. We don’t force them to do anything. Animals are much easier to understand than women.4

While activists supporting the law cited the inability of animals to consent to sex as grounds for a ban even in the absence of physical harm, zoophiles pointed out that consent is not sought for other, far more widespread, activities involving animals, such as factory farming and vivisection. The German law exempts masturbating a pig for the purpose of artificial insemination, for instance, but bans arousing a horse for the purpose of anal penetration, even though neither seems more or less “inappropriate to their species.” Far from seeking to eliminate what PETA Germany calls “animal rape,” ZETA claims it is a “moral law,” in violation of Germany’s secular constitution.5 Still more recently, Sweden banned zoophilia with a law that came into effect on 1 January 2014. The Rural Affairs [sic] minister who put forward the bill, Eskil Erlandsson, dismayed fellow parliamentarians in 2008 with a speech musing on the difficulties of defining unacceptable zoophilic behavior: Is it, and should it be, legal to spread something on the genitalia that might smell or taste nice to a dog, in order to allow the dog to lick off whatever is spread on the genitalia? Should it be permitted to stroke a bitch’s teats with love, or should it be classified as animal sexual abuse?6

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One MP commented that his speech “was distasteful. It sunk to a horrendously low level. . . . He mixed up people’s sexuality with animals’ sexuality.”7 In this response we hear echoes of the old language of abomination, of crimes against nature, as well as a clear indication that zoophilia challenges more than our sense of decency. In any case Erlandsson must later have calmed his questioning conscience, stating in 2013 after the passage of the law, “There should be no doubt whatsoever that bestiality is unacceptable.”8 According to a Swedish news report, though, a cattle farmer who caught a man having sex with his cows was unimpressed, claiming that the law would have little effect: “Some of us like girls, others boys, some like cows.”9 There has been lively debate among animal activists, too. Peter Singer, the rationalists’ rationalist, suggested in 2001 that what he calls “speciesism” explains the still-active taboo against bestiality: The taboo on sex with animals may . . . have originated as part of a broader rejection of non-reproductive sex. But the vehemence with which this prohibition continues to be held, its persistence while other non-reproductive sexual acts have become acceptable, suggests that there is another powerful force at work: our desire to differentiate ourselves, erotically and in every other way, from animals.10

As long as it is not cruel, Singer concludes, zoophilia is not wrong. In this argument, right wing and Christian opponents found one more reason to loathe Singer, whilst responding in ways that demonstrated he was right to highlight their anxious concern to preserve species boundaries. On the other hand, Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, initially conveyed a more measured response: “If a girl gets sexual pleasure from riding a horse, does the horse suffer? If not, who cares? . . . We believe all exploitation and abuse is wrong. If it isn’t exploitation and abuse, it may not be wrong.”11 Soon afterwards, though, much like Mr. Erlandsson, she disavowed these “philosophical musings” and asserted that “Bestiality is cruelty to animals and PETA pushes for laws to outlaw it and prosecution when it occurs.”12 Singer had, of course, specifically excluded physically harmful sexual relations from his moral indulgence, just as did existing animal welfare laws before the new wave of prohibitions. Singer’s main contention is that it is manifestly hypocritical to ban zoophilia whilst permitting factory farming. Karen Davis, writing on abolitionist website United Poultry Concerns, agrees on this point, but disputes the conclusion that zoophilia without cruelty is therefore justifiable. Davis asks “whether the consent of a domestic animal [in captivity] is ever possible under any circumstances, desire notwithstanding.”13 One

­214     Greg Garrard interpretation of this is that Davis is suggesting animal sexual partners should somehow manifest consent in addition to desire in order that what Singer calls “mutually satisfying activities” might also be considered morally acceptable. Given that such “consent” seems impossible to convey over and above the signs of sexual interest that committed zoophiles claim to receive, we might instead read Davis’s suggestion as a variation on Andrea Dworkin’s claim that sex within marriage is (or was, under legal conditions that applied when she said it) rape: My point was that as long as the law allows statutory exemption for a husband from rape charges, no married woman has legal protection from rape. I also argued, based on a reading of our laws, that marriage mandated intercourse – it was compulsory, part of the marriage contract. Under the circumstances, I said, it was impossible to view sexual intercourse in marriage as the free act of a free woman.14

For Davis, as for Dworkin, desire is irrelevant: under conditions of captivity, the consent of farm animals and married women can neither be withheld nor, therefore, meaningfully given. Condemnation of zoophilia, she observes, should have far wider implications than is normally assumed: “From animal agriculture to zoos, the core of our relationship with the animals we use is our invasion of their sexual privacy and our physical manipulation of their sex, reproductive, and family lives.”15 On this view, a ban on zoophilia is a necessary part of a complete abolitionist program. However, Davis’s position relates to unmistakably abusive, often deadly, sexual relations with poultry, whereas, according to the only large-scale systematic study of zoophiles to date, they overwhelmingly prefer dogs and horses as sexual partners.16 While just 4 percent of the study’s sample of 78 men claimed to be sexually attracted to “fowls,” 87 percent of male zoophiles were attracted to dogs (both sexes) and 81 percent found horses sexually exciting. Among the female respondents, all 11 reported attraction to dogs and 73 percent to horses (mainly males).17 If the sexual cooperation, even enthusiasm, of canine or equine partners, to which zoophiles attest, is discounted on grounds of their “captivity,” we have to discount likewise all the other emotions and responses we discern in them toward ourselves. “Domestication” is a form of symbiosis resulting from co-evolution, not a mere condition of captivity, although it also has developmental aspects.18 In dogs, in particular, co-evolution has included semiotic convergence, allowing a remarkable degree of reliable communication between species.19 An alternative hostile construction of zoophilia reads the analogy of animals and women in terms of objectification, rather than captivity.

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     215

Carol J. Adams describes the “sexual politics of meat” in terms of a superficially persuasive chiasmus: “The woman, animalized; the animal, sexualized.”20 I have discussed the limitations of Adams’s evidence elsewhere;21 here it is only necessary to emphasize the extent to which she posits both animals and women solely as sexual victims, never agents. Indeed, as Hilary Malatino points out, in Adams’s texts, the term “sexualize” always implies victimization, through the violence she sees as inherent in representation:22 rather than a plurality of desiring bodies and multiple sexualities, [Adams] offers us a whittled understanding of sexuality and visuality that presumes only male subjects gaze at “pornographic” images of women, and that all images of women engaged in sexual acts are necessarily pornographic, always violent, always harmful, always reductive.23

Strangely, considering the assiduousness with which Adams collects tasteless adverts that sexualize meat as well as carefully selected examples of pornography that “animalizes” women,24 she does not consider bestiality porn, which, as we will see, animalizes animals.

The stallion/gelding complex In the second half of this chapter, we will be exploring some examples of literary zoophilia. First, though, we need to clarify the relationship between our concepts of sexuality and animality, which are as rhetorically entangled as they are morally divorced by taboos and laws against zoophilia. As we have seen, arguments for and against zoophilia embody assumptions about animal and human sexuality that are seldom articulated or defended. For example, Adams’s claim that rape and meat-­eating are isomorphic is close kin to the idea that domestic animals deserve protection because, like children, they are sexually innocent. Animal activists frequently compare zoophilia to pedophilia, arguing that “Animals and children are both vulnerable to rapists who take pleasure in sadistically overpowering their defenseless victims.”25 It is clearly a powerful rhetorical gesture to recruit the moral panic in Western countries about pedophilia in support of an attack on zoophilia, despite the many differences between them. The analogy depends on the assumption that both children and animals are “defenseless” victims of adult, presumptively male, sexuality. Leaving aside the somewhat comical proposition that dogs and horses are inherently defenseless, this argument – which in various forms appears repeatedly in justifications for the new wave of zoophilia laws

­216     Greg Garrard – also suggests that, when it comes to sex, animals are liable to a version of the familiar Madonna/whore complex first identified by Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, this “most prevalent form of degradation in erotic life” compartmentalizes women into saintly, asexual motherfigures and despised, sexually available prostitutes. In Freud’s famous formulation, “Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.”26 The animal version, which I dub “the stallion/gelding complex,” is more a cultural than an individual pathology. The stallion is considered a hypersexual animal, complement to our own moralized, suppressed bodily substratum – the “Beast Within” ourselves;27 the gelding is the ideally sexless intimate of pony-mad daughters. The stallion/gelding complex implies that zoophiles’ equine sexual partners are either rapacious, or they are raped. Where the old sodomy laws sought to demonize and suppress the stallion, the new laws against zoophilia supposedly protect the innocence of the gelding. Broadly zoomorphic characterization of sexuality is ancient, suggesting that the complex has deep historical roots, but Michael Lundblad is no doubt correct to identify the fusion of Freudian and Darwinian conceptions of sexuality and animality in the early twentieth century as a turning point. If it is true that “Sexual desire is newly constructed in relation to ‘animal instinct’ rather than temptation or devilish impulse in a Protestant Christian framework”28 at this time, the stallion/gelding complex would correspondingly have attained a new level of refinement. In the last decade and a half, though, the stallion/gelding complex has come under threat as scientists and cultural theorists have acknowledged diverse sexualities throughout the animal kingdom, much of it cataloged in Bruce Bagemihl and Joan Roughgarden’s revolutionary tomes.29 These celebrations of sexual diversity in nature identify, and then decisively interrupt, the circuit in which heteronormative assumptions condition what biologists say they are seeing, and then the “natural heterosexuality” they report is read back into human society as a moral injunction. Nor is it only a matter of collating examples of homosexual animals: in this account, heterosexuality too is liberated from the relentless repronormativity that used to insist, in effect, no estrus, no sex. Stallions masturbate, on average, fourteen times a day, with geldings about half as keen to self-pleasure. One pig breeder who spoke on condition of anonymity to Temple Grandin shared his professional knowledge of boars’ individual kinks (e.g. anal tickling), knowledge of which was essential for semen collection.30 Scientific evidence of the prevalence of nonreproductive sexuality – of sexual excess over and above narrowly “Darwinian” imperatives – is now overwhelming.

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     217

Queer theorists’ responses to this revolution are at once celebratory and cautious: Stacy Alaimo acknowledges that “it is easy to see queer animals as countering the pernicious and persistent articulation of homosexuality with what is unnatural,” but she also acknowledges that “For many cultural critics, . . . any engagement with nature, science, or materiality is too perilous to pursue.”31 While some queer activists welcome the naturalization of homosexuality, queer theorists are more likely to share Bagemihl’s desire for “a radical rethinking of the way we view the natural world.”32 As Alaimo puts it: Rather than continuing to pose nature/culture dualisms that closet queer animals as well as animal cultures, and rather than attempting to locate the truth of human sexuality within the already written book of nature, we can think of queer desire as part of an emergent universe of a multitude of naturecultures.33

Whether we like it or not (and most people do not), those naturecultures include zoophilic sexual relations, be they physical, visual, or literary. The questions are then: where and how does zoophilic desire manifest in such “queered” interspecies forms? Not in bestial porn, according to Margret Grebowicz’s study, which deserves applause if only because she has gone there so that others need not. It is also remarkable for the boldness with which the author tests the anti-zoophile arguments of Catherine MacKinnon and Carol J. Adams against the (virtual) reality of online animal porn. Contrary to the Adams hypothesis of “animalized women” and “feminized animals,” which MacKinnon adopts, Grebowicz observes “an internally inconsistent kaleidoscope of constructs and norms.”34 Where we would expect images that eroticize (human) male dominance, what she mostly found was that, “gay” or “straight,” bestial porn is deeply invested in the imagined hypersexual virility of horses and dogs. Whereas Grebowicz suggests that such depictions anthropomorphize male animals as “men,” I would argue they animalize animals by narrowing and, perhaps, exaggerating the sexual characteristics for which they are known. In any case, her analysis is ambivalent about how to characterize the participation of such “stallion” figures: on one hand, she rightly criticizes Adams for assuming that “humans are the only actors in this practice”; on the other, she appears to discount the animals’ manifest desire by claiming that “intense anthropomorphism fuels these narratives.”35 Having acknowledged MacKinnon’s point that animals can and do “dissent from human hegemony,” though, Grebowicz asks:

­218     Greg Garrard So when exactly is it that “we cannot be sure” about their consent? It is when animals appear as willing participants in these acts that the question of consent becomes complicated. We know that they say no, but it is much less thinkable that they might say yes.36

Once she accepts the sexual agency of animals alongside the systemic cruelty to which we subject them, Grebowicz is left with some troubling questions: How might we begin to distinguish between the sexual agency we anthropomorphically project onto animals (in the production of porn, for instance) and their real sexual agency, the very thing which renders them rapeable (at least in human legal terms) in the first place? . . . And furthermore, what kind of account of agency is available in a post-Enlightenment world in which we have abandoned human exceptionalism, in which we take evolutionary biology seriously, but also in which we no longer conflate “nature” with “programming”? . . . And finally, does this starting point commit us to the progressive potential of bestiality?37

To which I would add: are there narrative forms in which such sexual agency might emerge, beyond the stallion/gelding complex?

Zoophilia and allegory: David Garnett’s Lady into Fox Literary zoophilia has not yet found its Lolita. Nevertheless, there are a couple of splendid novellas in which interspecies desire is a central theme. The earlier of the two, David Garnett’s Lady into Fox (1922), is a sly, witty, romantic story that rewrites Ovidian metamorphosis. Without ever overdoing the metanarrative reflexivity, moreover, it invites us to consider the narrator’s own relationship to Mr. and Mrs. Tebrick in ethical terms. While the sole moment of “bestial” sexual contact remains, appropriately for a novel of its era, discreetly veiled, the increasingly autonomous sexual agency of the “lady” who becomes a fox is centrally thematized: for Mr. Tebrick’s love to survive his wife’s transformation, he must renounce its socially sanctioned possessiveness, accepting completely her foxy ways. The opening pages are replete with the kind of protestations of truth and cod explanations of the inexplicable one would expect of a Gothic novel: “I will confine myself to an exact narrative of the event and all that followed on it.”38 Mr. Tebrick and his wife Sylvia (née Fox) are a newly married couple, “still at this time like lovers in their behaviour” (6), who are out walking when they hear a foxhunt in the distance. Mr. Tebrick loves to hunt and hurries to see it, but Mrs. Tebrick recoils from

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     219

the sound. At that moment, she is transformed: “Where his wife had been the moment before was a small fox, of a very bright red” (6). Since we have learned from Ovid to expect metamorphosis to be provoked by a moment of passion or transgression, such as Actaeon espying Diana bathing, we might assume that, in the erotically charged post-nuptial moment, the merest hint of interspecies violence is responsible for the change. Indeed, Mr. Tebrick worries that too much sex is to blame: “One fancy that came to him, he was so much more like a lover than a husband, was that it was his fault . . .” (7). He soon recovers from his initial horrified shock, though, and the couple set out to keep their marriage alive in spite of being man and vixen. Like Actaeon, Sylvia remains humanly alive behind the animal’s eyes, reassuring Mr. Tebrick that “she was still his wife, buried as it were in the carcass of a beast but with a woman’s soul” (14). Yet to other animals – Mr. Tebrick’s dogs, and the ducks on the pond – if it smells like a fox and barks like a fox, it is a fox, causing Tebrick unceasing anxiety that she will suffer Actaeon’s gruesome fate. As the couple struggles to maintain normality, propriety, and secrecy all at once, washing, brushing, and dressing Sylvia every morning, the story begs to be read as a delightfully nuanced allegorical satire of bourgeois values. When, for example, Mr. Tebrick is dismayed to discover his wife crunching the bones of a chicken wing at luncheon, the narrator indulges an ironically mournful reflection: On this account it may indeed be regretted that Mrs Tebrick had been so exactly well-bred, and in particular that her table manners had always been scrupulous. Had she been in the habit, like a continental princess I have dined with, of taking her leg of chicken by the drumstick and gnawing the flesh, it had been far better for him now. (21)

If only she had not been so English, her beastly metamorphosis would have gone easier for her. On the other hand, she is still just Englishwoman enough to enjoy her husband’s conversation, “better far than the oriental women who are kept in subjection can ever understand their masters unless they converse on the most trifling household topics” (22). Thank goodness that, as D. H. Lawrence wrote, the English are so nice. Not only is such an allegorical reading persuasive, it is, to an extent, inevitable: since women do not actually change into foxes, we are driven willy-nilly toward non-literal meanings. Moreover, overtly allegorical writing such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm or Albert Camus’s The Plague is possible only because all narrative is susceptible to allegorical reading. Academic criticism is an unending succession of such readings: feminist critics discovering latent feminist narratives; posthumanists

­220     Greg Garrard unearthing previously unsuspected posthumanist narratives, and so on unto the crack of doom. There is no preventing allegory, but there can be resistance to it, a contrary tug of the manifest against the presumed latent meaning, which in Lady into Fox emerges in and around the novel’s zoophilic moment. Sylvia has started to struggle against Mr. Tebrick’s efforts to keep her domesticated: dressing her for tea and playing picquet. At last, she tears off her clothes and runs out across the icy pond, excitedly chasing the ducks. The evident pleasure of his wife, now “a stark naked vixen” (29), persuades Mr. Tebrick finally to concede to her a more foxy lifestyle. Where Actaeon was only ever a man, masked beneath a stag’s body, Sylvia’s “humanity” is retreating by subtle degrees, drawing her husband after her. The pivotal encounter of bestial man and fox-lady occurs “offstage,” as it were, as the couple consummates their reconciliation: The long and the short of it is that by drinking he drowned all his sorrow; and then would be a beast too like his wife, though she was one through no fault of her own, and could not help it. To what lengths he went then in that drunken humour I shall not offend my readers by relating, but shall only say that he was so drunk and sottish that he had a very imperfect recollection of what had passed when he woke the next morning. (30)

The sardonic tone in which the narrator distinguishes between Sylvia, the “helpless” beast, and Mr. Tebrick, whose descent into immorality supposedly involves the exercise of human free will (even while blind drunk), brilliantly undermines the anthropocentric prejudice on which the old concept of “bestiality” is founded. Moreover, lest we suspect Mr. Tebrick of insisting on his conjugal rights at the expense of the animalized Sylvia, the narrator implies the reciprocal sexual agency of his wife in a couple of superb rhetorical questions: We know her husband was always trying to bring her back to be a woman, or at any rate to get her to act like one, may she not have been hoping to get him to be like a beast himself or to act like one? May she not have thought it easier to change him thus than ever to change herself back into being a woman? (32)

Although there is equivocation in both directions between “being” a human, or a fox, and “acting” like one, there is also a definite bias toward being, or acting like, a fox, at the levels of both Sylvia’s shifting characterization and the increasingly zoomorphic plot. But there is also a wonderfully suggestive indeterminacy about the sexual agency the narrator imputes to her: is this the residual “woman” consciously employing her “animal” wiles to get her vulpine way, or is it rather the emergent fox that seduces her human husband with her “womanly”

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charms? Gradually, inexorably, like an ebbing tide, the latter comes to predominate, though never entirely. The more foxy Sylvia becomes, the more difficult it is to sustain an allegorical reading. She loves grapes and raw meat; she starts to smell funky; she stays “huddled up and sullen, with her hair bristling on her neck and her ears laid back every time he touche[s] her” (43). At one point, she “plays dead” in an effort to escape, a tactic that can be read in three contradictory ways: first, it is uncharacteristic of his wife, who has “never told him as much as one white lie” (44); second, it seems too conscious a deception for a lady who is now almost merely fox; but third, Mr. Tebrick is a fool to expect anything else of a fox, which has “the same reputation for deceitfulness, craft, and cunning, in all countries, all ages, and amongst all races of mankind” (44). In truth, we are told, she is merely desperate to be free. The link between sexual desire and allegorizing notions of beasts within and without is so durable, though, that Garnett’s anti-allegorical treatment of interspecies love has, in the end, to transcend lust altogether. Mr. Tebrick releases Sylvia, only to spend months regretting, not the loss of his dear wife, but his “departed vixen” (51). By the time she comes back to see him, she has a litter of cubs sired by a dog fox, which forces him to confront and overcome the last shreds of his possessive desire. In the middle of the night, he reflects: “Were I to lust after a vixen, I were a criminal indeed. I can be happy in seeing my vixen, for I love her, but she does right to be happy according to the laws of her being” (57). Of course, he did lust after a vixen earlier in the novella, but as he becomes more beastly – going on all fours; learning to hunt with the foxes; sleeping outside – he transitions from (to use the terms zoophiles use of themselves) “bestial” desire to zoophile love. Most touching is his paternal care for another male’s cubs, which challenges the idea that, as Midgley has pointed out, “beastliness” can only ever denote those sexual and violent aspects of human nature from which we seek to disassociate ourselves.39 By narrating Sylvia’s womanly/ foxy desire indeterminately, Garnett sets the stallion/gelding complex oscillating because it is never clear whether Sylvia’s human nature is corrupting her vulpine one with desire, or the other way round. By narrating Mr. Tebrick’s most fulfilling experiences with Sylvia and her cubs as zoophilic but non-sexual, paternal but not repronormative, and bestial but not debased, Garnett explodes the stallion/gelding complex altogether.

­222     Greg Garrard

Representing taboo: Robinson Devor’s Zoo and Marian Engel’s Bear It is not surprising, given the way that both cultural anxieties and censorship laws in Western countries focus on genital (especially phallic) sexuality, that the most obvious characteristic of bestiality porn is also what is consistently excluded from zoophilic narratives: animals and people having sexual intercourse.40 We have noted how Garnett’s narrator discreetly veils Mr. Tebrick’s drunken sexual congress with his metamorphosed wife, and we will find that the other great novella of animal love, Marian Engel’s Bear (1976), resolves its zoophilic plot by averting bestiality. Still more striking is the treatment of phallic sexuality in Robinson Devor’s remarkable documentary Zoo (2007), which tells the story of the death of zoophile Kenneth Pinyan from peritonitis caused by anal penetration by a stallion. This exquisitely lyrical film conveys the constitution of zoophile communities and identities via the Internet, and the justifications for their “sexual orientation” they articulate thereby, in visually dark and morally troubling ways: the human characters, who are a mix of real people and actors playing real people, move in and out of chiaroscuro, while an asynchronous, frequently anonymized series of voiceovers provides commentaries from a range of perspectives. A stallion who is represented as one “tainted” by sex with Pinyan and his friends (it is not clear if it is the real horse or an actor) is shown being drugged and surgically gelded to save it (or us?) from its bestialized nature. Later, the same horse is seen carrying a child drearily in circles in a stable yard, recalling the lobotomized Mac wheeled back into the ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A nodding pointof-view shot encourages identification with the sometime sexual partner of zoophiles, now safely neutered. The sex act that actually killed Pinyan appears only obliquely, despite the fact that it was filmed digitally and went viral online, spawning a whole genre of “reaction” videos of people seeing the footage. Zoo, too, shows us just the reactions of an audience, not the notorious clip itself, as Kevin Ohi’s analysis explains: In this visually lavish film, which so often evokes the pleasures of sight, it is conspicuous that one thing cannot be seen: sex with horses. To the extent that such sex is shown, it is shown to be unwatchable: in an unintentionally comic scene, police detectives animated by obscure motives force elderly horseowners to watch their stallion have sex with the man they had hired to care for him. We hear the soundtrack and see ambiguous flashes of video; what the almost hysterically mobile camera shows us is the couple’s horrified effort

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     223 not to watch. If it is unclear why they’re horrified – it could be indignation at the treatment of the horse, or it could be a more strictly aesthetic revulsion – the moment makes explicit that sex with horses (after all, the central event of the film) cannot be shown.41

What the representational promiscuity of the Internet entertains, the rigor and propriety of the novella and theatrical documentary conversely exclude. As we have seen, zoophiles themselves map the zoophilia/bestiality distinction onto the more familiar dichotomy of love and lust. Genital sexual contact is not excluded from the first term in either case, of course, but, unlike the second term, does not define it exhaustively. The narrative ethics of zoophilia, on the other hand, seems to require the alignment of penetration exclusively with bestiality: Lady into Fox supersedes bestial sex with zoophilic love when Mr. Tebrick accepts Sylvia’s new vulpine relationship; Zoo legitimizes love of equines only by rendering horse-fucking unwatchable; and Bear, as we shall see, narrates zoophile lust with frank enthusiasm – right up to the threshold, as it were, of intercourse. Marian Engel’s novella is not only beautifully crafted, romantic, and compelling; it is also consistently hailed for being, in Coral Ann Howell’s words, “quintessentially Canadian,” or even “the best Canadian novel of all time.”42 Whereas the fantastical plot and self-consciously fictionalized authorial narrator of Lady into Fox positively demands allegorical reading, Bear’s heterodiegetic narrator tells the plausible story of an archivist dispatched to catalog the library of a heritage house in Northern Ontario using conventional realist techniques, albeit leavened with both pastoral and Gothic motifs.43 Despite the discouragements offered to allegorical reading, critics typically propose one of two kinds regardless: either they emphasize the eventual integration of heroine Lou’s alienated personality,44 or they read her emotional journey as a feminist allegory of some kind. In Margery Fee’s account, for instance, Bear allegorizes the necessary failure of any attempt to provide an individualistic resolution to problems stemming from male domination that are ultimately social in nature.45 Whether they read Bear’s conclusion as triumphantly integrative or subtly fractured, critics seem unable to resist recruiting the bear itself as a symbol – of the Wild, the Canadian North, the Romantic spirit, or masculinity – and sidelining its sexual agency. For example, Keeler claims, in her breathless review of a new edition, that “the thing about Bear is how trivial the actual bestial fornication is in the grander scheme of the novel.”46 She is quite wrong: while there is no doubting Lou’s transcendence, or relinquishment, of her zoophilic passion at the end of the novella, it occurs abruptly in the last pages,

­224     Greg Garrard leaving substantial stretches of the narrative to some extraordinarily graphic depictions of a sexual romance with a bear. Before she meets the bear, he is already the subject of hearsay: Lou’s local contact Homer Campbell relates the opinions of two “Indians” who looked after him: “You treat it like a dog, Joe said,” and “Lucy says he’s a good bear.”47 Lou’s own expectations are more literary in character, in that “the idea of the bear struck her as joyfully Elizabethan and exotic” (29). In the event, her first encounter is deflatingly prosaic: Bear. There. Staring. She stared back.   Everyone has once in his life to decide whether he is a Platonist or not, she thought. I am a woman sitting on a stoop eating bread and bacon. That is a bear. Not a toy bear, not a Pooh bear, not an airlines Koala bear. A real bear. (34)

Although he is “indubitably male,” he is also “matted with dirt” and looks “stupid and defeated” – hardly love at first sight. Having dispensed with some of the most crudely anthropomorphic delusions she had about bears, Lou goes on to think of him in terms of an overtly anthropomorphic metaphor: An unprepossessing creature, this bear, she decided. Not at all menacing. Not a creature of the wild, but a middle-aged woman defeated to the point of being daft, who had sat night after night waiting for her husband for so long that time had ceased to exist and there was only waiting. (36)

Although Lou admires, and comes to love, the bear’s more-than-human Otherness, she consistently refuses the available tropes of “Nature” or “the Wild.” By contrast with Grebowicz’s account of bestiality porn, she does not eroticize his animal virility either: even at the end of the novella, her characterizations are feminine as often as masculine. Moreover, as I have argued elsewhere, “while it might seem that anthropomorphism engenders kindness towards animals and acceptance of their agency, in its crude form it is really a way of not seeing animals in their own right at all.”48 Such is obviously the case with Pooh Bear and Qantas koalas. Since, by contrast, Lou’s analogy attempts to better understand the bear, albeit in necessarily human terms, it is an example of “critical anthropomorphism.”49 The most illuminating account of the novel to date resists, as I do, the allegorizing impulse that overwhelms most critics of Bear. Inspired by Lawrence Buell’s notion of the “dual accountability” of ecocriticism to the literal and the figurative levels of language, Paul Barrett sets out to explore a notion of textuality that is responsive to the literal without being, like Carol Adams, doggedly literalistic:

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     225 Such a notion of textuality simultaneously attends to the gesture toward literal representation, the impossibility of that literality, and the structuring of that impossibility within narrative as a representation of the human struggle to understand and relate to animal subjects and the environment.50

He gives a persuasive account of how Engel simultaneously emphasizes and problematizes the literal presence of the bear, notably through a series of metaphors and similes that render him sometimes as a subject who regards her, and other times as an object she appraises. As Barrett suggests, “Lou’s approximations and descriptions of Bear as a strange object-subject indicate his enigmatic quality and the failure of Lou’s language to fully account for his animal presence.”51 In particular, Barrett fruitfully explores the relationship between the third-person narrator and Lou as focalizer in this passage: “she had discovered she could paint any face on him that she wanted, while his actual range of expression was a mystery” (72). The use of free indirect discourse makes it impossible to be sure whether the thought is wholly Lou’s, or wholly conscious, while at the same time emphasizing the autonomy and inaccessibility of the bear’s emotions. Although he does not discuss it, a key aspect of narrative technique that contributes to the effect Barrett identifies is the repeated introduction of fragments of bear lore (italicized in the text) in the form of notes seemingly left throughout the library by its last owner, the androgynous Colonel Cary. At first, the fragments convey information from scientific treatises and taxonomies, but then gradually shift toward micronarratives from indigenous societies in which close kinship between humans and bears forms the mythic infrastructure for sacrificial practices. One of the last fragments explains: Among the Ainu of Japan, once, long ago, a bear cub was taken from its mother and raised at woman’s breast. It became a member of the village and was honoured with love and good. At the winter solstice when it was three years old, it was taken to the centre of the village, tied to a pole, and, after many ceremonies and apologies, garroted with pointed bamboo sticks. (115)

These fragments legitimize Lou’s physical intimacy with the bear, as well as counteracting our Western tendency to assign it to a dualistically conceived “Nature” or “Wild.” Lou herself responds to these as if they are addressed to her personally, crying out “Never” at the thought of sacrificing her bear. At the level of narrative, though, they add to the kaleidoscopic representation of the bear: we encounter his sheer physical, erotic presence as well as his species’ numerous historic and mythic entanglements with ours, while, at the same time, we are reminded that, as Barrett suggests, no representation exhausts or encompasses his being.

­226     Greg Garrard Barrett confronts the anthropocentric implication of the extant criticism that Bear cannot really be about a relationship with a bear, but he understates the extent to which it really is about a passionate sexual relationship with a bear. Lou’s breakthrough with the bear takes place after she takes the advice of the elderly native woman Lucy (who may have had similar relations with the bear) to shit with him in the morning. She takes the bear swimming and, in quick succession, he accidentally forces her under water, almost drowning her, and then, as she is panting on the shore, begins to “run his long, ridged tongue up and down her wet back” (64). Her terror recalls: a time when, in a fit of lonely desperation, she picked up a man in the street. She still shied away from the memory of how he had turned out not to be a good man. Surely the bear . . . no: it was fright that linked them, fright and flight. (64)

The narrative enacts Lou’s refusal to remember by declining to represent what was, presumably, a rape. At the same time, it implicitly distinguishes between that episode, which manifested the aspects of human male sexuality that are popularly zoomorphized as “bestial,” and the bear’s accidental, unwitting conjunction of sexual contact and terrifying physical threat. Their relationship develops as she takes him swimming, and he joins her in front of the fire in the library. One evening, as she is reflecting disconsolately on the unfulfilling “procedure” she has accepted at the Institute in Toronto, “where the Director fucked her weekly on her desk” (92), the bear joins in while she masturbates: The tongue that was muscular but also capable of lengthening itself like an eel found all her secret places. And like no human being she had ever known it persevered in her pleasure. When she came, she whimpered, and the bear licked away her tears. (93)

Although the first sexual encounter does not employ the most explicit language, it is naturalistic enough to defy allegory, and the bear’s enthusiastic participation is more reminiscent of zoophiles’ accounts of reciprocal pleasure than animal activists’ anecdotes of brutal sexual exploitation. He even seems to convey romantic acceptance of her orgasmic emotion, just as later she finds “her menstrual fever made him more assiduous” (111). She, in turn, caresses “his big, furry, asymmetrical balls,” but is unconcerned at his lack of sexual response: “I don’t care if I don’t turn you on, I just love you” (111). Read in isolation, her insouciance seems to support Frida Beckman’s assertion that the bear is merely an accessory to Lou’s narrative of sexual liberation: “The bear is not a

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bear so much as it is a supplement to a world of human sexual economy. As such, it is a cipher rather than a specific animal.”52 It is true that Bear is more of a 1970s feminist consciousness-raiser than a posthumanist fiction. However, Beckman’s reading pays insufficient attention to the narrative texture of the novella, as for example when she claims that the various intratexts function as an “ideological net cast over the bear to seize its power and incorporate it into human knowledge and definitions.”53 As I have suggested, the sheer diversity of representations, together with the shifting characterization of the bear itself, would suggest the opposite: that Engel wishes to draw attention to the elusiveness of the animal Other. Beckman’s determination to envision a verbally and physically deliquescent “Deleuzian” orgasm skews her understanding of the bear’s role in the narrative. Nevertheless, she is at least partly right about Lou’s redemptive character arc: her sex with a bear is not positioned as a development of her already active and perhaps alternative sexual orientation as much as it is presented as the means through which she can rediscover her essentially human and heterosexual self.54

Lou’s sexual journey conforms to the pattern of 1970s mainstream Women’s Lib in that it is unequivocally heteronormative, but it is not as anthropocentric as Beckman claims. In deliberate contrast to the moralistic assumption that sex with animals is “unclean,” the narrator provides a vivid account of the “clean passion” (118) Lou feels for the bear. An almost comical romantic scene where the couple plays flirtatiously in the stream (the zoophile equivalent of a Pretty Woman montage) is contrasted with a previous affair in which the man loved her only “when the food was exquisite and she was not menstruating; when the wine had not loosened her tongue, when the olive oil had not produced a crease in her belly” (118). The reciprocity of the bear and the woman is nigh unconditional: She loved the bear. She felt him to be wise and accepting. She felt sometimes that he was God. He served her. As long as she made her stool beside him in the morning, he was ready whenever she spread her legs to him. He was rough and tender, assiduous, patient, infinitely, it seemed to her, kind. (118–19)

It is a testament to Engel’s skill as a novelist that, although one perceives too well the risk of bathos, Margery Fee’s judgment still seems unduly harsh: “At one level it is still the ‘pornographic’ spoof that turns the bear into a female wish-fulfilment fantasy: a tame phallus.”55 If the bear in some ways resembles the hero of popular romantic fiction – passionate,

­228     Greg Garrard kind, skillful, yet finally unattainable – he is, the narrator seems to suggest, rather more plausible than such a chap. The summer love affair cannot last. It is brought to sudden conclusion at the moment when Lou tries for the second time to have intercourse with the bear. Her first attempt brought on a paroxysm of self-loathing, making her feel “empty and angry, a woman who stank of bestiality” (122). Although the bear has an erection the second time, prompting Lou to assume “the animal posture” before him, he suddenly strikes her with his claws, ripping the skin from her back. At first, she kicks him out of the house in terror, walking “as erectly as possible” (132), as if to reassert her human difference and superiority. Then she toys with self-hatred again: “He ripped me, she thought. That’s what I was after, wasn’t it, decadent little city tart?” (133). Her final scene, though, is unmistakably pastoral: Lapped in his fur, she was wrapped in a basket and caressed by little waves. The breath of kind beasts was upon her. She felt pain, but it was a dear, sweet pain that belonged not to mental suffering, but to the earth. She smelled moss and clean northern flowers. (136)

For the allegorizing critics, this is the moment at which her quest for psychological integration is achieved. Coral Ann Howells, though, seems too befuddled by the bear’s act to provide a conclusive interpretation: at first she declares it is “an indecipherable gesture which [Lou] is free to interpret as she pleases”; next, alarmed perhaps by the possibility of anthropomorphism, she describes the action as “neutral as a flood or a snowstorm”; and finally, she asserts that the “wounding . . . inscribes a natural taboo line and saves her from bestiality.”56 While the meaning of the swipe to the bear itself remains unknowable, it can hardly be “neutral” – the bear is animate and sentient, and has initiated sexual relations with Lou; he is not the purely instrumental “cipher” critiqued in Beckman’s account. Moreover, although the novella maintains the narrative taboo on genital intercourse, the moral taboo was violated many pages before. Howells’s claim that “what is written in blood is the line between the woman and the bear that cannot be crossed” is directly contradicted by a reflection on Lou’s part that disavows both anthropocentrism and the taboo that tropes “bestiality” as moral pollution: “She felt not that she was at last human, but that she was at last clean.”57 She is delivered into her new sense of spiritual and bodily purity by her zoophilic passion, rather than having to abandon her animal lover in order to achieve it. Gerry Turcotte’s interpretation of the ending is therefore more plausible: Engel may quite simply be rejecting the notion of phallic consummation, suggesting that “intercourse” between bear and woman has occurred – it is

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     229 not necessary for it to penetrate her in order for their coupling to be seen as consummated.58

Not only does the kaleidoscopic representation of the bear encompass and defuse the sexual polarities I have called the stallion/gelding complex, but Engel’s anti-anthropocentric pastoral design dares to narrate consummated zoophilic desire as redemptive.

Zoophilia and narrative ethics My concern here is neither to condone nor condemn real-life zoophiles. Even as their sexual lives are more widely circumscribed by the law, as detailed above, there is a proliferation of fictions exploring the full range of zoophilic relations, from chaste passion to sexual intercourse. In any case, my conception of the business of literary criticism precludes moral justification or indictment. At the same time, though, I acknowledge that literature itself frequently dramatizes moral issues as conflicts between characters or quandaries posed to them as plot development. Furthermore, according to narrative ethics, the techniques of storytelling – especially such matters as narrative point of view and focalization – have ethical import that might be distinct from, or even opposed to, the explicit moral positions assumed or debated within the storyworld.59 The most important difference between Lady into Fox and Bear is not the overt attitude toward zoophilia each conveys – in this respect they are both indulgent, at least – but the degree to which naturalistic or fantastical elements in the story resist or encourage allegorical reading, as we have seen. Where Garnett’s narrator averts his gaze from the “bestial” moment, Engel’s avoids it by resolving the plot at the very moment of genital contact. So much is predictable. What is much more surprising is the degree to which zoophilic passion is narrated in both texts in rich naturalistic detail.60 Even in Garnett’s self-consciously improbable tale, interspecies love asks to be taken literally. In Bear, Lou is the sole focalizer. The unnamed heterodiegetic narrator relates her despair and desire with intimate knowledge, much of it by means of free indirect discourse that equivocates between narrating subject and narrated object. At the same time, though, the externality of the narrator vindicates the lyricism of Lou’s reflections, which might seem forced or artificial even from an educated first-person narrator: she spent the afternoons . . . lazing in the sun with the bear, thinking of the things she would have to do if she were to stay with him all winter, thinking herself into a rugged, pastoral past that it was too late to grasp, remembering

­230     Greg Garrard the screeching taste of buttermilk, the warm milkiness of succotash and how one of her aunts made soap out of bacon grease and lye . . . (130)

Moreover, since telling is also a kind of looking and looking always involves the possibility of moral judgment,61 the narrator’s combination of intimacy and moral neutrality effectively condones Lou’s zoophilic relationship with the bear. The narrator of Lady into Fox, by contrast, adopts a distinctive voice from the outset: worldly, articulate, bemused, but basically sympathetic to the Tebricks’ unusual predicament. He craves our credence even as he admits his story will strain it, as when he wryly suggests that Sylvia’s sudden metamorphosis is somehow less probable than a child that gradually grows into an animal: But here we have something very different. A grown lady is changed straightway into a fox. There is no explaining that away by any natural philosophy. The materialism of our age will not help us here. It is indeed a miracle . . . which we are not prepared to encounter almost in our time, happening in Oxfordshire amongst our neighbours. (3–4)

The confiding “we” here is typical, as is the tone of mock astonishment and the anchoring localization in history and place. When we are finally introduced to the narrator in person, he turns out to be none other than “David Garnett” himself. In the course of a comment on our preference for elaborate gossip over the poverty of truth, the narrator permits himself this aside: In this way I met not long ago with someone who, after talking some little while and not knowing me or who I was, told me that David Garnett was dead, and died of being bitten by a cat after he had tormented it. He had long grown a nuisance to his friends as an exorbitant sponge upon them, and the world was well rid of him. (34)

Most obviously the anecdote recalls Mark Twain’s famous comment that “the report of my death was an exaggeration.” It also furnishes the occasion for the narrator to protest that he is a “true sceptic” who has provided only the “bare bones of the story” without “all the flowery embroideries” (35). More subtly, though, it also functions as a metanarrative reminder of the necessary distinction between the actual author of the novella and his ghostly, fictional double, the personalized narrator “David Garnett” who claims to know the whole story. For all their differences at the level of the “ethics of the told” – the moral quandaries mobilized and resolved within the storyworld – it is the “ethics of the telling” that most clearly distinguishes these novellas:62 Engel’s narrator risks intimate focalization of a woman in the

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     231

throes of a zoophilic love affair, whereas “David Garnett” maintains an amused ironic distance from Sylvia (on whom he seems to have a crush himself) and poor Mr. Tebrick. So, for all its sly parodic jabs at familiar Canadian literary tropes, Bear narrates the redemptive power of interspecies desire with ingenuous earnestness. For Lady into Fox, it is more important that love conquers all, ultimately, than that we worry too much about between whom that love occurs. According to Kathy Rudy, coming out as lesbian was “a piece of cake compared to coming out as – what?”63 In her discussion of the unnamability of loving animals, she never uses the word “zoophilia,” presumably because of its exclusive association with interspecies sexuality. Instead, she prefers the term – now become almost innocuous in friendly circumstances – “queer”: “Isn’t this queer? Those of us who have primary partnerships and intense bonds with nonhumans know about queerness. We’re the people who refused to evacuate a sinking city [New Orleans] because the Red Cross shelters wouldn’t take our pets.”64 Rudy’s avowedly subjective and affective approach to animal ethics contrasts with more familiar approaches founded on universal principles and more-or-less objective characteristics such sentience. She uses stories to convey her theory because “Although ethical methodologies are critical in setting certain kinds of agendas, moral living can best be displayed through narrative.”65 Attuned by my argument above to question the idea of “displaying” moral living, we can see that Rudy’s narratives are really parables; her good intentions always manifested allegorically. For me, though, the zoophile ethical moment occurs precisely when narratives refuse to display generalizable moral truths at all. As we have seen in the cases of Garnett and Engel, it is in resisting allegory that the inimitable, singular story of interspecies love can be told.

Notes   1. Seán Eoghan Quinn, Criminal Law in Ireland (Bray, Co. Wicklow: Irish Law Publishing, 2009), 757.   2. Chris Cottrell, “German Legislators Vote to Outlaw Bestiality,” New York Times, 1 February 2013.   3. These changes to European laws have had little impact in other respects, which seems to contradict Colleen Boggs’s dramatic claim that banning sex with animals is a “practice that is foundational of the social order itself, that is, the practice of constructing subjectivity by criminalizing bestiality” (Colleen Glenney Boggs, “American Bestiality: Sex, Animals, and the Construction of Subjectivity,” Cultural Critique, 76 (2010), 98–125, 98). If this is true, why has the European social order been so little affected by

­232     Greg Garrard the legalization and then recriminalization of zoophilia? Even if “bestiality” is extended to the cultural animalization of humans – notably in terms of gender and racial difference – as Boggs advocates, it would not articulate closely with the criminalization of sexual transgressions, which hinges on specifically humanistic conceptions of consent.  4. “Animal Welfare: Germany Moves to Ban Bestiality,” BBC News, 28 November 2012, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016).   5. “Zoophilia Lobbying in Europe,” The EU Bubble, 29 August 2014, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016).  6. “Swedish Bestiality Ring Exposed,” The Local, 11 November 2008, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016).   7. preciousjules1985, “Sweden Bans Bestiality,” Stop Animal Abuse, 14 June 2014, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016).   8. “Bestiality Now Illegal in Sweden,” The Local, 31 March 2014, available at

(last accessed 24 November 2016)  9. Ibid. 10. Peter Singer, “Heavy Petting,” Nerve, 2001, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016). 11. Sarah Boxer, “Yes, but Did Anyone Ask the Animals’ Opinion?,” New York Times, 9 June 2001. 12. Ingrid E. Newkirk, “Letter to the Editor,” Canada Free Press, 21 July 2005, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016). 13. Karen Davis, “Bestiality: Animal Liberation or Human License?,” United Poultry Concerns, 22 April 2001, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016). 14. Andrea Dworkin, Wikiquotes, available at (last accessed 19 December 2015). 15. Davis, “Bestiality.” 16. Hani Miletski, Understanding Bestiality and Zoophilia (Bethesda, MD: East-West Publishing, 2002). 17. Ibid. 137–8. 18. Greg Garrard, “Ferality Tales,” in Greg Garrard (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 241–59. 19. Adam Miklósi, Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 20. Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, 20th anniversary edn. (London: Bloomsbury, 2010), 4. 21. Greg Garrard, “Ecocriticism,” The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, 20 (2012), 229–31. 22. One of the other weaknesses of Adams’s theory is its inability to take figurative language properly into account. For Adams, metaphoric representation of women or animals is inherently euphemistic or morally

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     233 evasive. The treatment of literary sources in her work is commensurately literalistic. 23. Hilary Malatino, “The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory 20th Anniversary Edition,” review, Journal for Critical Animal Studies, 9: 3 (2011), 128–34, 132. 24. Carol J. Adams, The Pornography of Meat (London: Bloomsbury, 2004). 25. Keiko Olds, “Denmark, Stop Animal Brothels and Sexual Abuse,” 10 July 2014, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016). 26. Uwe Hartmann, “Sigmund Freud and His Impact on Our Understanding of Male Sexual Dysfunction,” Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6: 8 (2009), 2332–9, 2339. 27. Mary Midgley, The Essential Mary Midgley, ed. David Midgley, Kindle edn. (London: Routledge, 2005), loc. 1170. 28. Michael Lundblad, “From Animal to Animality Studies,” PMLA, 124: 2 (2009), 496–502, 498. 29. Bruce Bagemihl, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (New York: Macmillan, 1999); Joan Roughgarden, Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). 30. Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behaviour (London: Bloomsbury, 2005), 103. 31. Stacy Alaimo, “Eluding Capture: The Science, Culture, and Pleasure of ‘Queer’ Animals,” in Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson (eds.), Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire, Kindle edn. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), loc. 720. 32. Bagemihl, Biological Exuberance, 5. 33. Alaimo, “Eluding Capture,” loc. 820. 34. Margret Grebowicz, “When Species Meat: Confronting Bestiality Pornography,” Humanimalia, 1: 2 (2010), 2, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016). 35. Ibid. 10, 2. 36. Ibid. 7. 37. Ibid. 11. 38. David Garnett, Lady into Fox ([1922] London: Hesperus, 2008), 3. Additional page numbers in the text refer to this edition. 39. Midgley, Essential Mary Midgley, loc. 125. 40. In the course of writing and revising this chapter, I learned of many further zoophilic fictions. The most accomplished, as well as the most explicit, is Peter Goldsworthy’s Wish (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1995), which narrates a sexual relationship between a human sign language teacher and a genetically modified female gorilla. 41. Kevin Ohi, “‘The Consummation of the Swallow’s Wings’: A Zoo Story,” South Atlantic Quarterly, 110: 3 (2011), 715–43, 721. 42. Coral Ann Howells, “Marian Engel’s Bear: Pastoral, Porn, and Myth,” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 17: 4 (1984),

­234     Greg Garrard 105–14, 105; Emily M. Keeler, “Marian Engel’s Bear, Reviewed: The Best Canadian Novel of All Time,” National Post, 8 December 2014. 43. Howells, “Marian Engel’s Bear”; Gerry Turcotte, “Sexual Gothic: Marian Engel’s Bear and Elizabeth Jolley’s The Well,” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 26: 2 (1995), 65–91. 44. Donald S. Hair, “Marian Engel’s Bear,” Canadian Literature, 92 (1982), 14–45; Elspeth Cameron, “Midsummer Madness: Marian Engel’s Bear,” Journal of Canadian Fiction, 21 (1977), 83–94. 45. Margery Fee, “Articulating the Female Subject: The Example of Marian Engel’s Bear,” Atlantis, 14: 1 (1988), 20–6. 46. Keeler, “Marian Engel’s Bear, Reviewed.” 47. Marian Engel, Bear (London: Pandora Press, 1976), 27. Additional page numbers in the text refer to this edition. 48. Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism, New Critical Idiom series, 2nd edn. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011), 165. 49. Ibid. 157. 50. Paul Barrett, “‘Animal Tracks in the Margin’: Tracing the Absent Referent in Marian Engel’s Bear and J. M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals,” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 45: 3 (2014), 123–49, 126. 51. Ibid. 140. 52. Frida Beckman, Between Desire and Pleasure: A Deleuzian Theory of Sexuality (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 132. 53. Ibid. 134. 54. Ibid. 132. 55. Fee, “Articulating the Female Subject,” 25. 56. Howells, “Marian Engel’s Bear,” 107, 108, 111. 57. Ibid. 111, 137. 58. Turcotte, “Sexual Gothic,” 77. 59. See James Phelan, “Narrative Ethics,” The Living Handbook of Narratology, 9 December 2014, available at (last accessed 24 November 2016). 60. I have noticed a strikingly similar pattern in at least two other fictions of interspecies desire, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (1903) and J. R. Ackerley’s We Think the World of You (1960). Indeed, I am tempted to suggest that, if “bestiality” is, as Mary Midgley suggests, crudely and destructively anthropomorphic, the anti-allegorical nature of “zoophilia” at the level of narrative poses, at the same time, a profound challenge to such crude anthropomorphism. There is a tension in London’s novel, for instance, between the narrator’s diegetic endorsement of a brutal “law of club and fang” and the rich descriptions of Buck and John Thornton’s passionate relationship, which Lundblad reads “as gestures toward interspecies erotic desire, toward alternative constructions of love between human and nonhuman beings that resist the singular and reductive signifier of ‘bestiality’” (Lundblad, “From Animal to Animality Studies,” 500). 61. For an extraordinary account of literary witnessing and judgment informed by evolutionary psychology, see William Flesch, Comeuppance: Costly Signaling, Altruistic Punishment, and Other Biological Components of Fiction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). 62. Phelan, “Narrative Ethics.”

Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals     235 63. Kathy Rudy, Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy, Kindle edn. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), loc. 35. 64. Ibid. loc. 40. 65. Ibid. loc. 26.

Notes on Contributors

Neel Ahuja is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he is a core faculty member in the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program. He is the author of Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species (Duke University Press, 2016). Frida Beckman is Associate Professor at the Department of English, Stockholm University. She is the author of Culture Control Critique: Allegories of Reading the Present (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Between Desire and Pleasure: A Deleuzian Theory of Sexuality (Edinburgh University Press, 2013), and the editor of Deleuze and Sex (Edinburgh University Press, 2011). Colleen Glenney Boggs is Professor of English at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Animalia Americana: Animal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity (Columbia University Press, 2013), and Transnationalism and American Literature: Literary Translation 1773–1892 (Routledge, 2007). Greg Garrard is Sustainability Professor at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Ecocriticism (Routledge, 2004; 2nd edn., 2011) and the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism (Oxford University Press, 2014). Michael Lundblad is Professor of English-Language Literature in the Department of Literature, Area Studies, and European Languages at the University of Oslo. He is the author of The Birth of a Jungle: Animality in Progressive-Era U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford University Press, 2013), and the coeditor, with Marianne DeKoven, of Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (Columbia University Press, 2012). Sara E. S. Orning is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Oslo. She has research interests in feminist theory, monster studies, animal studies, and disability studies. Her work has been published in Excursions and Wuxia. Anat Pick is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. She is the author of Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film (Columbia University Press, 2011), and Maureen (Hen Press, 2016), a work of creative nonfiction. She is also the co-editor, with Guinevere Narraway, of Screening Nature: Cinema Beyond the Human (Berghahn, 2013).

Notes on Contributors     237 Karen Lykke Syse is Associate Professor and director for the research topic Nature and Culture at the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo. She is an agronomist and ethnologist and holds a PhD in cultural history. Her most recent book, co-edited with Martin Lee Mueller, is Sustainable Consumption and the Good Life (Routledge, 2015). Robin Chen-Hsing Tsai is a Professor in the English Department at Tamkang University and President of ASLE-Taiwan. His recent publications include two edited books, Introduction to Ecoliterature (Bookman, 2013) and Key Readings in Ecocriticism (Bookman, 2015). Cary Wolfe holds the Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Chair in English at Rice University, where he is Founding Director of 3CT: The Center for Critical and Cultural Theory. His books and edited collections include Animal Rites: American Culture, The Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (University of Chicago Press, 2003), Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), What Is Posthumanism? (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), and Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Index

Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations. 9/11 attacks, 13, 43–4, 48, 54 About Looking (Berger), 177 Ackerley, J. R., 234n Adam Forepaugh Circus, 108 Adams, Carol J., 7, 8, 214–15, 217, 224–5, 231n Adorno, Theodor, 162 adultery, 211 advocacy movements, 4, 11 Aesop, 63 aesthetics anthropomorphic, 196 experimental, 192 Agamben, Giorgio, 40–1n, 192 aggression, 9 agriculture, 53 intensification, 175–6, 185 in Norway, 174–5 and nostalgia for rural past, 177, 185 Ahuja, Neel, 10, 12–13, 100n, 166n AIDS and Its Metaphors (Sontag), 135, 146n Akerman, Chantal, 123n Alaimo, Stacy, 217 albatross, as metaphor, 71–2 Albus, Anita, 29 Algeria, 116 allegory, 63–4, 66, 71–4, 76, 101n, 219–20 Allen, Darina, 185 Allister, Mark, 131 Almås, Reidar, 175 al-Qaeda, 48 American Civil War, 90 Anderson, Warren, 57 animal experiments, 105–6, 111 Animal Farm (Orwell), 219

animal rights, 2, 4, 6–8, 71, 74, 145 animal studies, 1–4, 11, 19, 44, 54, 83–4, 144–5n, 150 and animality studies, 9–11, 157, 191 critical, 1–4, 137, 157 and human-animal studies, 1–9, 11, 19, 128 and posthumanism, 6–9, 19 and queer studies, 191–2 used as an umbrella term, 4, 7, 8, 144 The Animal That Therefore I am (Derrida), 132, 145n Animal to Edible (Vialles), 177 animal welfare, 2, 172, 185 in meat production, 175–6 and zoophilia, 211–13 animaliteststudier, 19 animalitet, 19 animaliteter, 19 animalities, 1–2, 7, 10–11, 19, 128, 144n animality studies, 1–2, 17, 61, 83–4, 100, 128, 150, 155, 157, 191–2 defining, 8–11, 19, 157 animals, nonhuman animalizing, 217 in circuses, 108, 122n domestication, 215 images and representations of, 8, 10, 62 lacking rationality, 156–7 liking, 7–8, 157 as the other, 14–15, 80, 83, 88, 100, 100n, 132, 152, 156, 169, 201, 224, 227 in pornography, 215, 217–18 raised for food, 172

Index     239 as raw materials, 177–8 sexual diversity in, 216 Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studies (Gross and Vallely), 5 Animals and Modern Cultures (Franklin), 178 Animal’s People (Sinha), 13, 56–7 animots, 191 Anstruther-Thomson, Clementina “Kit,” 196 Anthropocene, 12–13, 22, 44, 49–50, 53 as a racist biopolitical reality, 50–2 anthropocentrism, 133, 145n, 157, 160 anthropomorphism, 18, 56, 144, 205, 217, 224, 228, 234n antibiotics, in farming, 176 “Apocalypse” (Díaz), 51 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 137 Argentina, 117–18 Aristotle, 97–8, 156 arms industry, 51 Arnold, Matthew, 195 art for art’s sake, 204 artificial insemination, 212 Aruta, Alessandro, 106 asceticism, 113–14 atomic testing, 16, 134, 136, 140 Atwood, Margaret, 84 Audubon, John James, 12, 29 Aufmerksamkeit, 201 Axelrod, Steven Gould, 119 bacteria, 160 Badiou, Alain, 154 Bagemihil, Bruce, 216 Ballard, J. G., 13–14, 60–77 Banash, David, 205 Bangladesh, 148, 154 Barad, Karen, 5 Barnum & Bailey Circus, 122n Barrett, Paul, 224–6 Baudelaire, Charles, 204 Baudrillard, Jean, 48 Baxter, Jeanette, 68–9 Bear (Engel), 19, 222–31 Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, 129, 135 bears, and zoophilia, 223–9 The Beast and the Sovereign (Derrida), 33–4 Beck, Ulrich, 178 Beckman, Frida, 14, 205, 226–7 beer, 171 Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame (Wolfe), 9, 41n

Belasco, Warren, 180 Belgium, 211 The Bell Jar (Plath), 104, 106, 119–20 Benjamin, Medea, 137 Benjamin, Walter, 66, 73, 162, 200–1 Berenson, Bernard, 196 Berg, Peter, 159 Berger, John, 177–8, 181, 198 Berry, Wendell, 130–1 bestiality, 19, 95, 190, 211–12, 226; see also zoophilia Bhopal disaster, 55–6 Bierdstadt, Albert, 45 Bini, Lucio, 105–6 bioindustry, 175 biopolitics, 2, 17, 148–63, 190, 192, 200 bioregionalism, 149–50, 159 Bird in a Cage (Chin), 37–8 Bird Machine (Pestel), 26, 28 birding, 129 birds in Ballard’s fiction, 64, 67–8 birdsong, 143–4 eating, 74–5 extinction of, 25, 29–30 metaphor of women as, 127–8, 133, 140–1 see also pigeons, passenger The Birds (Hitchcock), 198 The Birth of a Jungle (Lundblad), 9 Björkland, Michael, 169 Black Lives Matter, 116 Boggs, Colleen Glenney, 18, 231n boundaries, 60–1 human-animal, 63, 66, 70, 86, 89–90, 95 Bradley, Katherine, 18, 190–1, 194, 195–6; see also Field, Michael Brooklyn Museum, 45 Brooks, Rosetta, 67–8 Brown, Harold P., 105, 113, 115 Brown, Michael, 116 Browning, Robert, 190, 194, 195, 206n Buell, Lawrence, 224 Bundestag, 211 Bush, George W., 101–2n, 136–7 butchers shops, 179 Butler, Judith, 9, 195, 202 Bynum, Caroline Walker, 97 Byrd, Jodi, 52 The Call of the Wild (London), 234n Calvinism, 114 Camus, Albert, 219 Canada, 223

­240     Index cancer, 127, 133–5, 140, 191, 205 fighting, 130, 133, 135–6 treatments, 135–6 see also chemotherapy cannibalism, 178 capital punishment, 115, 123n by electrocution, 104–6, 121 capitalism as the conduit for ecological violence, 50–2 as an environmental force, 55 carbon economy, 44, 48, 51–2 racial and geographical privileges, 51–2, 54 carnivorism see meat-eating category-crossing, 193 Catholicism, 191, 197, 207n cattle, 175 cattle prods, 117–18 Celan, Paul, 31, 41n celebrity chefs, 169, 181 Central Park (Rockman), 47 Cerletti, Ugo, 105–6 cetaceans see dolphins Chakrabarty, Dipesh, 13, 53–4 chastity, 211 chemotherapy, 127–8, 130, 133, 135–6 children, 203, 215 Chin, Mel, 37–8 Christianity, 63, 114, 197, 204, 206, 213, 216 Cincinnati Zoo, 23, 34 circuses, 108, 122n Cixous, Hélène, 139, 146n Clarke, Alan, 112 Clarke, Bruce, 62 class, 100n, 162, 165n Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marriage and Obsession (Powell), 184 climate change, 12–13, 43, 134 and human extinction, 45–8 universalising responsibility for, 44, 50–2 “The Climate of History: Four Theses” (Chakrabarty), 53–4 cloning, 88, 95, 101–2n Cocaine Nights (Ballard), 76 CODEPINK, 136–7 Cold War, 104 Cole, Thomas, 45, 47 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 71, 76 Collin, Rune, 169 colonialism, 44, 51 Combs, C. Scott, 109–11, 115 coming out, 231 commodification, 196, 209n Concrete Island (Ballard), 67

Coney Island, 107–8, 113, 122n consent, 218 and activities involving animals, 212–14 convenience foods, 179 cookbooks, 169 fewer references to animals, 179–80 cookery, 17–18, 169 Cooper, Edith, 18, 191, 194, 195–6; see also Field, Michael Cooper, James Fenimore, 12, 30–1 Copeland, Rita, 63 The Course of Empire (Cole), 45, 47 Cracking Yolks and Pig Tales (Purnell), 173 Cranny-Francis, Anne, 103n Crash (Ballard), 67 creation, 202 creatureliness, 200 critical animal studies, 1–2, 4, 137, 157 critical race theory, 53 crocodiles, 152, 160 Cronon, William, 155, 164–5n cruelty, 106–8, 116–17 and sexual behavior, 212–13 Crutzen, Paul, 53 The Crystal World (Ballard), 61, 65–6, 70 cuisine de terroir, 182 cultural studies, 7 “Cut: Execution, Editing, and the Instant of Death” (Combs), 115 Dahlgren, Mathias, 169 dairy herds, 175 Daly, Michael, 113, 122–4n Darrieussecq, Marie, 88 Darwinism, 9, 89, 216 Dasein, 41n, 157 Dasmann, Raymond, 159 Davis, Fred, 184 Davis, Karen, 213–14 The Day After Tomorrow (Emmerich), 13, 43 de Man, Paul, 73 de Tocqueville, Alexis, 114 Dean, Tim, 192 death, 194, 200, 203–4, 205 Derrida on, 22–3 fear of, 131 on film, 106–18 “good,” 133, 136, 146n “humane,” 107 narratives and metaphors around, 127 nonhuman animals’ experiences of, 131–2

Index     241 resisting, 143 understanding through animals and nature, 127–8, 130, 131, 133–4 death drive, 192 Deathwatch (Combs), 109, 111 deconstruction, 6, 41n deep ecology, 155 de-extinction, 35–6 dehumanization, 57n DeKoven, Marianne, 11, 83, 191 delay (concept of), 37–8 Deleuze, Gilles, 205 DeLoughrey, Elizabeth, 155 democracy, protecting, 137–8 Denmark, 169 Derrida, Jacques, 1, 6, 7, 12, 17, 31–5, 41n, 132, 137, 145–6n, 157, 191 on death, 22–3 Descartes, René, 63, 132, 156 desire, 196, 214, 221 queer, 204–5 Dever, Carol, 195 Devor, Robinson, 19, 222 Díaz, Junot, 13, 51, 55 Dickson Wright, Clarissa, 185 disability, 10, 14, 83, 85–6, 89 dissection, 111, 118 DNA, and de-extinction, 36 Doane, Mary Ann, 109, 111–12 dogs, 214 close relationships with, 194–5 “dog lovers,” 190, 192, 194, 195 as equal partners, 205 experiments on, 121 dolphins, 17, 149–50, 156, 158, 166n domestication, 214 Donoghue, Emma, 194–5, 207n The Drought (Ballard), 61, 65–6 The Drowned World (Ballard), 65 Duchamp, Marcel, 37–8 Duino Elegies (Rilke), 148 Dworkin, Andrea, 214 Dwyer, Jim, 74 dyrestudier, 19 eating disorders, 181 ecocentrism, 160 ecocriticism, 2, 8, 144–6n, 224 ecofeminism, 2, 74 and posthumanism, 7–10 ecological sovereignty, 155 ecology, without nature, 61–2, 64 Edelman, Lee, 18, 198, 202–3, 206 Edison, Thomas, 15, 105–8, 120 egg production see poultry Ehenn, Jill, 195

Eight Voices (Before Columbus) (Pestel), 34 electric chair, 115 Electrical Execution Act (1888), 113 electricity, 104–5 alternating (AC) and direct current (DC), 105, 112–13 and law enforcement, 116 used for torture, 115, 116 electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), 15, 104–5, 115, 117–18, 119–21 Electrocuting an Elephant (film), 106– 18, 120, 122n electrocution, 104–6, 113, 115 Elephant (Clarke), 112 elephants bad/criminal, 118–19 in circuses, 108, 122n electrocuting, 106–18 The Embrace (Piccinini), 91–4, 92–3, 98–9 The Emergence of Cinematic Time (Doane), 109 Emmerich, Roland, 13, 43 emotions, 132 endangered species, 75, 149–50, 153, 158 Engel, Marian, 19, 222–6, 229 Englishness, 219 environmental destruction, 16, 49; see also climate change environmental justice, 2, 10, 56, 149 environmentalism, 12–13, 50, 52, 74, 155 Erasure (Pestel), 26, 37 Erlandsson, Erik, 212–13 Ernst, Max, 63, 70 Esposito, Roberto, 192 essentialism, 129, 136–7 ethics, 5, 157 European Court of Human Rights, 211 evolution, 89, 143 execution see capital punishment Execution of Czolgosz, With a Panorama of Auburn Prison (film), 109 The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (film), 107 The Executioner’s Current (Moran), 123n exploitation, 155 extinction climate-driven, 44–5 de-extinction, 35–6 exact dates for, 31 of humans, 45–8, 53

­242     Index extinction (cont.) “natural” or not, 22 of the passenger pigeon, 23, 25–39 factory farming, 172 and consent, 212–13 Faderman, Lillian, 207n family norms, 130 Fanon, Frantz, 57n fantasy, 67, 198 farming see agriculture; factory farming Faroe Islands, 169 Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh, 173 Fee, Margery, 223, 227 Feld Entertainment, 122n feminism, 53 consciousness-raising, 227 and posthumanism, 7, 9 and science studies, 54 second-wave, 8, 139 see also ecofeminism Ferguson, James, 51 fetishization, 37, 204 Feuer, Lewis S., 113–14 Fiddes, Nick, 181 Field, Michael, 18, 190, 192–206 as a pseudonym, 206–7n fillets, 180 film, early actuality, 106–9 film theory, 108–9 Finland, 169, 176 fishing, 146n, 170, 174 Fleurs du Mal (Baudelaire), 204 Flügel (Catalog of Extinct Birds) (Pestel), 25–6, 27, 37 flying, 67–9 food, local and organic, 170 food culture, 17–18, 169 convenience foods, 179 food magazines, 169 food production, industrial, 18, 172, 212–13 food waste, 182–3 A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans (Uexküll), 158 forestry, 174 Fossdal, Gunndur, 169 fossil fuels, 115 Foucault, Michel, 86, 91, 102n, 192 foxes, 19, 63, 218–20, 223, 229–31 Fraiman, Susan, 7, 10 France, 211 Franklin, Adrian, 178 Fraser, Hilary, 193, 195–6 “freaks,” 80, 85–6, 89–90 Freedman, Jonathan, 196

Freud, Sigmund, 216 Freudianism, 9 Friedberg, John, 105 From a Society of Farmers to Bioindustry (Almås), 173–4 frugality, 182 Fudge, Erica, 83 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, 50 futures, precarious, 13, 53–4 Gaard, Greta, 7 Gagnier, Regina, 204 Gakumba, Louis, 141 Gandhi, Leela, 57n Garber, Marjorie, 198 Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie, 15, 83, 90–1, 98–9 Garnett, David, 19, 218–21, 229–31 Garrard, Greg, 19 Gasiorek, Andrzej, 76 Gautier, Theophile, 204 Gazda, Paul, 124n gaze, male, 196 gender, 100n, 165n as a basis for activism, 135–6 citationality of, 195 essentialist view, 136–7 gene splicing, 88 genealogy, 86, 102n genetic engineering, 88, 95 genetics, and de-extinction, 36 genomes, 87 Germany, 211–12 Ghosh, Amitav, 16, 148–63, 163–4n Giddens, Anthony, 178 global warming see climate change globalization, 53 Glotfelty, Cheryll, 135 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 94 Golakov, I. Vasil, 112–13 Goodman, Amy, 137 Goriss-Hunter, Anitra, 103n Grandin, Temple, 216 Great Salt Lake, 129, 134–5 Grebowicz, Margret, 217–18, 224 Greenland, 169 grievable lives, 9 Griffin, Susan, 137 Gross, Aaron, 5 “ground zero,” 48 Guattari, Felix, 205 Guha, Ramchandra, 155 Gulf States, 51 Gulf Stream, 43, 174 Gunning, Tom, 107

Index     243 habitat destruction, 129, 158 Haiti, 51, 55 2010 earthquake, 50, 51 Hamilton, Daniel, 151, 154, 157, 161–2 Handley, George B., 155 “The Hanging Man” (Plath), 115 Hanssen, Beatrice, 201 Haraway, Donna, 5, 7, 10, 85, 87, 94, 131, 193, 205 Harvey, David, 178 Hawley, John, 149, 163n Heasman, Michael, 186 Hegel, G. W. F., 22 Heidegger, Martin, 23, 41n, 132, 156–7 heliotropism, 156 Hellstrøm, Eyvind, 169 hemangioma, 141 herons, 129 heteronormativity, 10, 136, 181, 184, 186, 198, 202–3, 216, 227 heterosexuality, 191, 216, 168 High Rise (Ballard), 67 hirsutism, 89 History of Sexuality (Foucault), 192 Hollows, Joanne, 169 homosexuality, 231 decriminalization, 211 in nonhumans, 216–17 horses, 214 and zoophilia, 222–3 Howell, Coral Ann, 223, 228 Hudson River School, 45, 47 human rights, 211 human/animal binary, 83, 131–3, 157 and meat consumption, 178 human-animal studies, 1–2, 11, 17, 19, 128 definition, 5–6 as a distinct field, 4, 9 Marvin and McHugh on, 3–4 Humanimal Entertainment Act, 102n Humanimal Research Group, 20n humanimal studies, 1–2, 4–5 Humanimal Trust, 102n humanimalia, 102n humanimality see hybridity humanism, rejection of, 6 humans as animals, 2, 130, 145n boundaries of, 194 communication with other species, 214 not a universal, 50–2, 54 privileging, 54, 83–4 relationships with nonhuman

animals, 2–3, 130, 214; see also zoophilia The Hungry Tide (Ghosh), 148–63 hunting, 146n, 170, 179, 186n, 218 of passenger pigeons, 25, 29–30 Hurricane Katrina, 50 hybridity, 63, 80–3, 84–7, 89–90, 92–3, 95, 98, 101n hypertrichosis, 89 Iceland, 169 “The Idea of Natural History” (Adorno), 162 identity categories, 10 illness, metaphors relating to, 135–6, 146n illness, terminal, 127, 130 Illness as Metaphor (Sontag), 135, 146n illness studies, 128 immigration, 43 imperialism, 13 India, 55–6, 148–9, 157 indigenous populations, 49 and environmental activism, 50 industrialization, 177 International Women’s Day, 136 “An Introduction to Umwelt” (Uexküll), 156 “Introit” (Field), 203–4 Iraq, 136 Ireland, sodomy laws, 211 Ishiguro, Kazuo, 103n “It Is So Old and Deep a Thing” (Field), 201–2 Italy, attitudes to meat-eating, 172–3 “The Jailer” (Plath), 119 Jameson, Fredric, 65, 75, 77 Jamie’s Italy (Oliver), 171–3, 183 Japan, 51 Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080, Bruxelles (Akerman), 123n journals, 128, 138 Kafka, Franz, 63 Kant, Immanuel, 132 Keeler, Emily M., 223 Kemmler, William, 105, 111 Kete, Kathleen, 198 Kim, Claire Jean, 100n King, Rodney, 116 Kingdom Come (Ballard), 76 Kingston, Maxine Hong, 137 Kiok, Michael, 212 Klepp, Ingun, 184 koalas, 224

­244     Index Kuzniar, Alice, 18, 190, 198–9 Kyoto Protocol, 52 Lacan, Jacques, 132 Lady into Fox (Garnett), 19, 218–20, 223, 229–31 “Lady Lazarus” (Plath), 119, 121 Lang, Tim, 186 The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors) (Duchamp), 37 Lash, Scott, 178 Lauterbach, Erwin, 169 law enforcement, 116 Lawrence, D. H., 219 Le sang et le chair (Vialles), 180 Lee, Vernon, 196 Leighton, Angela, 207n Lenape, 48, 52 Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich, 104 lesbianism, 191, 231 Levinas, Emmanuel, 132 Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 177, 192 Lewis, Tania, 182 Linnaeus, Carl, 89 Lippit, Akira, 112 livestock, herd sizes, 175, 185 Lobster Boy, 87, 89 local food, 170, 182 logos, 157 London, Jack, 234n Long Ago (Field), 193 Lord’s Prayer, 204 love, object-oriented, 200 love, Platonic, 198 Love in Infant Monkeys (Millet), 112 Luhmann, Niklas, 6 Luna Park, 107–8, 122n Lundblad, Michael, 11, 16, 83, 87, 108, 157, 191, 216 Lysack, Krista, 196 McCartney, Paul, 182 McGann, Jerome, 30 McHugh, Susan, 3 MacKinnon, Catherine, 217 Mademoiselle de Maupin (Gautier), 204 Madichie, Nnamdi O., 186n Madonna/whore complex, 216 Malatino, Hilary, 214 Malmin, Roger, 169 Manifest Destiny (Rockman), 45–8, 46, 57 manufacturing industries, 51 Marcus, Sharon, 208n Marder, Michael, 34, 41n

marriage, 214, 209n same-sex, 211 Martha (passenger pigeon), 29–32, 30–5 Martha’s Peel (Pestel), 23, 24, 26, 33–9, 33 Martschukat, Jürgen, 121 Marvin, Garry, 3 Marxism, 53, 196 masculinity cultural norms, 169, 170 and meat consumption, 168–9, 181 Massey, Doreen, 153 masturbation, 211, 212, 216 Meat Free Mondays, 182 meat-eating, 17–18, 74, 186n awareness of meat’s origins, 172, 177, 179–81, 185 changes in terminology, 180 and female food writers, 184–5 isomorphic to rape, 215 linked to male heterosexuality, 168, 184 linked to power and strength, 168, 181 “new Carnivore” texts, 184 nose-to-tail eating, 172–3, 181–2, 185 offal and genitals, 170 packaging, 180 resource-intensive, 183 and respecting animals, 183 sexualized, 215 medical technologies, 88 medical terminology, Victorian, 85 Meinhof, Ulrike, 118–19, 125n Melancholia’s Dog (Kuzniar), 18, 190 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, notion of animality, 155–6 metamorphoses, 62–3, 68, 70, 218–21 The Metamorphosis (Kafka), 63 Metamorphosis (Ovid), 63 Meyer, Claus, 169 microbiomes, 54 Midgley, Mary, 234n military metaphors, 135 Millennium People (Ballard), 76 Millet, Lydia, 112, 113 Mills, Stephanie, 159 misanthropy, 178 monsters/monstrosity, 80, 84–5, 101n “Monstro” (Díaz), 13, 51, 55 Moore, Jason, 50 moral norms, 211 Moran, Richard, 123n Morichjhãpi massacre, 16, 149–50, 153–5, 157

Index     245 Mormon Church, 128, 129–30, 134, 139, 141 Morton, Timothy, 39n, 61–2, 64, 71–2, 75–7 motherhood, 125n, 130, 141 motion pictures, 105 multidisciplinarity, 8 Murphet, Julian, 34, 36, 38 Narraway, Guinevere, 4 natural history, 162 distinct from human history, 53 natural selection, 143 naturalism, 156 nature and the Anthropocene, 22 concept of “natural,” 134–5 crimes against, 213 as a guide to life and death, 127–8 images and representations of, 8 Morton’s understanding of, 61–2, 64, 75–7 as Other, 137 sexual diversity in, 216 Nature (Merleau-Ponty), 155 nature writing, 130–2 Nazi Germany, 116 neoliberalism, 51, 53 Netherlands, 212 Nevada, atomic testing, 134, 136, 140 New Nordic Food, 169 New York City, 104–5 9/11 attacks, 13, 43, 48, 54 posthuman, 44–8, 52, 57 Newkirk, Ingrid, 213 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 86 Nixon, Rob, 56 No Future (Edelman), 18, 198, 202 NOMA restaurant, 169, 170 NORD magazine, 169–70 Nordic Council of Ministers, 169 Nordic countries food culture, 169 influence of English language, 186n Norris, Margot, 70–1 Norway, 168–9, 173–6, 179, 185–6, 211 demographics, 174–5 food culture, 18 Norwegian, signifiers for animalities, 19 nostalgia, 65–6, 164n Nutter, Sam, 170 Nye, David, 104–5 obesity, 171 objectification, 214–15 Oerlemans, Onno, 63–4

O’Gorman, Francis, 193 Ohi, Kevin, 222–3 oil industry, 51 Oliver, Jamie, 169, 171–3, 181, 183–4 Oliver, Mary, 130–1 The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan), 181 On Rare Birds (Albus), 29 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 222 ontological uncertainty, 178 The Open Space of Democracy (Williams), 136–8 organ donation, 95, 103n organic food, 170, 182 orgasm, 226–7 Orientalism, 132 The Origin of the Species (Darwin), 89 Orning, Sara E. S., 14 Ornithological Biography (Audubon), 29 Örvarsson, Hákan, 169 Orwell, George, 219 the other, animal as, 14–15, 80, 83, 88, 100, 100n, 132, 152, 156, 169, 201, 224, 227 Ovid, 63 pack animals, 205 Pakistan, 157 parasites, 160 Paré, Ambroise, 101n Parry, Jovian, 184 Passenger (Pestel), 24, 25, 26 Pater, Walter, 195 patriarchy, 128, 130, 134, 138, 139 “The Peace of Wild Things” (Berry), 130 peacocks, 80 pedophilia, 215 Peel’s Foe (Pestel), 24, 25, 36, 39 Pepperberg, Irene, 143 perception, 123n permafrost, 43, 47 Pestel, Michael, 12, 23–9, 30–5 PETA, 212, 213 Peterson, Christopher, 198 pets, 190, 199, 215 anthropomorphized, 205 death of, 194–5 love of, 198 phonocentrism, 157 Piano Harps (Pestel), 26, 27 Piano Table (Pestel), 28 picana eléctrica, 117 Piccinini, Patricia, 14–15, 80–100 Pick, Anat, 4, 15, 80, 88, 95, 200, 202 Pig Tales (Darrieussecq), 88

­246     Index Pigeon 98 (Pestel), 26 pigeons, passenger, 12, 23, 25–39 pigs ECT experiments on, 105 semen collection, 212, 216 slaughtering, 172–3 Pinyan, Kenneth, 222 The Pioneers (Cooper), 30, 34 The Plague (Camus), 219 plant studies, 2 plants, 156 Plath, Sylvia, 15, 104, 106, 115, 118, 119, 125n descriptions of ECT, 119 Pleistocene age, 48 Pleistocene era, 57 Pliny the Elder, 85 Plum, Camilla, 185 Pokagon, 29 Pollan, Michael, 181 Pollock, Mary Sanders, 203 pornography, 215, 217–18, 222, 224 post-animal studies, 2, 5, 10 post-apocalyptic fiction, 60, 65 postcolonial theory, 53 posthumanism, 1–2, 4, 10, 44, 219– 20 and animal studies, 6–11, 19 Haraway’s objections to, 5 Potawatomi, 29 poultry, 175, 214 flock sizes, 175, 185 salmonella infections, 176 poverty, 49 Powell, Julie, 184 power, of and over (Derrida), 32 Pratt, Mary Louise, 51 precarity, 52, 53–4 ecological, 50, 52, 55 of life, 13, 45, 57 predator satiation, 29 priesthood, 139 process, denial of, 109–10 Protestantism, 216 Provincializing Europe (Chakrabarty), 54 psychiatry, 105 psychoanalysis, 67 psychosis, 105 Pucciani, Anthony, 113 Purnell, Glynn, 173 “Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals” (Fraiman), 7 queer, meaning of, 231 queer theory, 18, 53, 192, 197–8, 203, 217

race/racism, 13, 100n “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation” (Guha), 155 Rainwater, Catherine, 203 Ramsay, Gordon, 169, 184 rape, 211, 226 of animals, 212 isomorphic to meat-eating, 215 within marriage, 214 reality, perceptions of, 123n reason, 132 Red Army Faction, 118, 125n Redzepi, René, 169 Refiguring the Map of Sorrow (Allister), 131 reflex, conditioned, 156 Refuge (Williams), 16, 127–8, 131, 133–4, 138, 139–40 refugees, 153 from climate change, 43 Rejali, Darius, 104, 106, 115, 116– 17 reproductive technologies, 88 Requiem: Ectopistes Migratorius (Pestel), 12, 23–8, 39 resistance, 129 Rieff, David, 135 Rilke, Rainer Maria, 148, 163, 205 “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (Coleridge), 71–2 Ringling Bros., 122n Rio Earth Summit, 50 risk, 178 Ritvo, Harriet, 89, 198 The River Cottage Cookbook (Fearnley-Whittingstall), 173 Rockman, Alexis, 13, 45–8, 51, 56–7 Roden, Frederick, 197 Rosenberg, Julius and Ethel, 104, 106, 119, 125n Rossetti, Christina, 197 Rothenberg, David, 143–4 Roughgarden, Joan, 216 Routledge Handbook of HumanAnimal Studies (Marvin and McHugh), 3 Rozelle, Lee, 72 RSPCA, 125n Rudd, Kathy, 8 Rudy, Kathy, 231 Rushing to Paradise (Ballard), 14, 64, 71–6 Ruskin, John, 194 Ruyer, Raymond, 165n Rwanda, 141

Index     247 Saldanha, Arun, 50–1, 54 Salisbury, Joyce E., 63 Sankaran, Chitra, 164n Santana, Feidin, 116 Santner, Eric, 200–1 satire, 74 sausages, 170–1 Saw films, 115 Scarf, Maggie, 105 school meals, 171 science fiction, 53, 86, 102n The Scientific Intellectual (Feuer), 113–14 Scott, Walter, 116 Screening Nature: Cinema Beyond the Human (Pick and Narraway), 4 Seigel, Jerrold, 37–8 Seneca, 156 Seth, Vanita, 84 sex between humans and nonhumans, 9, 211–31 citationality of, 195 non-reproductive, 202, 213, 216 sexual abuse, of animals, 212–13 sexuality, 9–10, 67, 95, 100n forbidden, 60–1 genital, 222–3 rights-based approach, 211 and victimization, 215 see also zoophilia sharks, 152 Shell, Marc, 198 Sight and Song (Field), 196 Sigurdsson, Fredrik, 169 Singer, Peter, 213–14 Sinha, Indra, 13, 56–7 Slager, Michael, 116 slaughterhouses, 177, 180 Slow Food, 182 Smith, Mick, 150, 155 Smithfield Market, 125n Snyder, Gary, 159 Snyder, William, 118 sodomy, 211–12 “Song of Myself” (Whitman), 130–1 Sontag, Susan, 135, 146n death, 135–6 Sørensen, Leif, 169 Southwick, Alfred P., 121 sovereignty, 32, 40n species critique/species studies, 1–2, 10–11, 44 Species Matters: Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory (DeKoven and Lundblad), 11 speciesism, 10, 155, 205, 213

spirituality, 201 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 146n stallion/gelding complex, 216, 221, 229 staring, leading to engagement, 83 stem cells, 88 Stetz, Margaret, 193 stimulus-response, 156 Stockton, Kathryn, 203 Stoics, 156 Storm in the Rocky Mountains (Bierdstadt), 45 Struck, Peter T., 63 The Structure of Behavior (MerleauPonty), 156 subaltern, 146n, 149 subjectivity, 197 annihilation of, 202 humanist formulations of, 6 suckling, 95 Sundarbans, 16–17, 148–52, 156, 157, 160, 162 Super-Cannes (Ballard), 76 supermarkets, 179 survival, of the fittest, 9 sustainability, 74, 182 Sweden, 169, 176, 212–13 Swimming in a Sea of Death (Rieff), 135 Syse, Karen Lykke, 17–18 systems theory, 2, 6, 12, 17 taboos, 213, 215 T.A.S.E.R. (Tommy A. Swift Electric Rifle), 116 taxidermy, 111 taxonomy, 84 Taylor, Jonathan S., 65 technological boundaries, 60, 67, 88 territoriality, 9 Terror, War on, 16, 127–8 terrorism, 43 Tesla, Nikola, 112 Thain, Marian, 193, 207n Thayer, Robert L. Jr., 159 Third, Amanda, 125n Thomas, Keith, 180 Thompson, Frederic, 122n tigers, 16, 149–50, 152, 155, 160 killing people, 160 Tøff mat (Vardøen), 170–1, 182 Topsy (Daly), 122–4n torture, 104, 115 toxic waste, 49 transhumanism, 2 transplants, 95 using nonhuman cells, 89 “Trinity” (Field), 199–200

­248     Index Tsai, Robin Chen-Hsing, 16–17 tsunamis, 50 Tuan, Yi-fu, 198 Turcotte, Gerry, 228 Twain, Mark, 229 Uexküll, Jacob von, 17, 150, 155–6, 158 Umwelt, 16–17, 149–50, 155–6, 163, 165n UN Chronicle, 149 UN Commission on Sustainable Development, 169 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 149 Union Carbide, 55–7 United Kingdom, 180 attitudes to meat-eating, 172 United Poultry Concerns, 213 United States, 9 agriculture, 175 food culture, 18 settler narratives, 43–5 use of electrotorture, 116 The Unlimited Dream Company (Ballard), 14, 64, 67–71, 76 Unveiled (Pestel), 37 urbanization, 179 Urry, John, 178 Utah, 129, 137, 140 Vacanti mouse, 88 Välimäki, Hans, 169 Vallely, Anne, 5 Vardøen, Jan, 170–1, 181, 183–4 veganism, 4 vegetarianism, 181–2, 183 Vialles, Noëlie, 177, 180 Vicinus, Martha, 196 Vicki Hearne, 7 Victorian “freaks,” 80 Victorian Queer, 193 violence, 9, 155 covert, 116 towards animals, 116–17 vivisection, 124n, 208n, 212 Vogelsang, Hubert, 111 vulnerability, 13, 16, 17, 43, 44, 48, 49, 141, 202 Wågman, Viktor, 170 Walker, Alice, 137 war, anti-war activism, 136–7 war metaphors, 135–6 War on Terror, 16, 127–8 Warner, Marina, 63 We Think the World of You (Ackerley), 234n

weather, extreme events, 49 Weber, Max, 113–14 Weisman, Alan, 13, 47–8, 51, 55, 56–7 The Welcome Guest (Piccinini), 80, 81, 82, 84, 87, 94, 98–9 werewolves, 63 West Bengal, 148–9, 154 Westinghouse, George, 105, 112–13 What is Posthumanism? (Wolfe), 5, 6 “What is the Other Name of Love?” (Field), 196–7 When Species Meet (Haraway), 5, 10, 131 When Women Were Birds (Williams), 16, 127–31, 138–9, 140 White, Chris, 207n Whitman, Walt, 130–1 Why Birds Sing (Rothenberg), 143 Whym Chow: Flame of Love (Field), 18, 190–3 “Wild Geese” (Oliver), 130 wilderness, 155, 164n wildlife reserves, 149 Williams, Terry Tempest, 16, 127–44 essentialism, 129, 144n identification with birds, 129–30 Wilson, Fred (the Lobster Boy), 87, 89 Wolfe, Cary, 5, 12, 41n, 61, 157, 191, 205 as posthumanist, 5–11 women, 179, 227, 206n animalized, 215, 217 images of, 8 as male property, 211 as priests, 139 wonder, 97–8 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report, 175 The World Without Us (Weisman), 13, 48 wunderkammer, 95 xenotransplantation, 88 The Young Family (Piccinini), 95–7, 96, 98–9 Žižek, Slavoj, 22, 48 Zoo (Devor), 19, 222 Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (ZETA), 212 zoophilia, 19, 212–31, 234n and consent, 212–14, 218 laws relating to, 211–13, 229, 231–2n see also bestiality zoos, 146n, 214