Thursday, June 11, 2009

Donna Haraway's When Species Meet is a strange and frustrating book

The biopolitics of Michael Pollan and Donna Haraway
from Critical Animal by Scu
Most of you, by now, have seen this blog, which asks the question, Michael Pollan or Michel Foucault?

Michael Pollan goes on to contend that without humans eating animals, many domesticated species would die out. So, at the level of the population, we now have a moral imperative to eat and kill animals so that the population does not die. We have to kill in order to make life live (to steal a phrase from Michael Dillon and Julian Reid). However, one might be willing to let Pollan off the hook. He isn't a trained philosopher, and he probably couldn't care less about the question of the biopolitical. Let us turn our attention, now, to someone who should know better.

Donna Haraway's book When Species Meet is a strange and frustrating book for anyone who is serious about questions of animal ethics. It also contains several remarkable similarities to Pollan's An Omnivore's Dilemma (my brother likes to point out that the books end in exactly the same way, with a bunch of professors roasting a pig in California). It is exactly to this pig roast I would now like to turn. Before turning there, I guess I should stay that until her specific turn to discuss animals, Donna Haraway was an essential and keystone philosopher for much of my early theory days. I even sent her a fanboy email once. And I want to say, I still find her writing and style intoxicating.

Even so, let us look at her position on flesh eating in the "parting bites" of WSM. She describes how her friend Gary Lease is a hunter who is incredibly concerned with hunting in ecologically sustainable ways. She further describes "[h]is approach is resolutely tuned to ecological discourses, and he seems tone deaf to the demands individual animals might make as ventriloquized in rights idioms" (pp. 296-297).

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