Animal - - From Post-Human to Post-Animal Posthuman

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  © L   S   -          N.  ,   (II) - L              97  Articoli/2  From Post-Human to Post-Animal  Posthumanism and the ‘Animal Turn’ Carlo Salzani  Articolo sottoposto a  peer review.  Ricevuto il 15/07/2016. Accettato il 24/11/2016   The so-called ‘animal turn’ of the past couple of decades brought about a new focus on animals and animality that traverses the whole spectrum of the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Certainly part of a wider cultural phenomenon – the crisis of humanism in late twentieth century –, it has in turn influenced and transformed posthumanist thought itself, not only enabling it to probe the boundaries of the ‘human’, but also partially reorienting it towards questions of immanence, embodiment, affects, and providing a more marked ethical and political impulse. On the other hand, the encounter with posthumanism brought to the new discipline of Animal Studies the awareness of the limits of the traditional, still very humanist approaches to animal ethics, and of the necessity of an overcoming of the humanist paradigm, of a new theoretical and methodological approach. *** 1. The Animal Turn In the past few decades, it has become an academic fashion to name – or rather ‘brand’ – any new development in the humanities and the social sciences as a ‘turn’: from the ‘theological turn’ to the ‘speculative turn’ to the ‘empirical turn’, just to name a few. This fashion easily leads to what Richard Grusin (while presenting yet another ‘turn’) has called «turn fatigue», a «weariness […] and  wariness» towards an all too easy and ultimately superficial form of academic branding, finally running (or ‘turning’) idle 1 . An authentic turn should mark in fact a true change of direction, a qualitative and quantitative shift of attention, interest and concern towards a new critical paradigm. This appears to be the case for the so-called ‘animal turn’.Unlike for most of the other ‘turns’, the srcins of this phrase seem to be known: Philip Armstrong and Laurence Simmons report that it was coined in December 2003 by American anthropologist Sarah Franklin, who used it in 1   R. Grusin, Introduction , in The Nonhuman Turn , ed. by R. Grusin, Minneapolis 2015, p. ix.  © L   S   -          N.  ,   (II) - L              98 conversation during the annual conference of the Cultural Studies Association of  Australasia  2 . The phrase was then popularized by historian Harriet Ritvo 3  and has entered academic parlance to name and explain a true flood of publications, conferences, syllabi and a general renewed interest in nonhuman animals and their relations to humans (and the Humanities) that challenge many a sacred cow of Western tradition. ‘Scientific’ and ‘philosophic’ interest in animals dates back of course at least to Aristotle (or even Pythagoras), but what changes in current debates – and therefore amounts to a critical ‘turn’ – are the «relationships between scholars and their subjects [… and the] understandings of the role of animals in the past and at present» 4 . This constitutes a change in kind  , which «establishes a new research paradigm with its own distinct set of methods and theories» 5  and, according to Armstrong and Simmons, is comparable in significance to the ‘linguistic turn’ of mid-twentieth century  6 . An analysis of the historical, cultural and philosophical causes of this turn goes beyond the scope of this article 7 . What interests me here are rather its links and connections with the wider cultural phenomenon of the crisis of traditional humanism and the consequent decentring of ‘the human’, which at the end of the twentieth century translated philosophically and academically into the umbrella term ‘posthumanism’. In a sense, the animal turn is directly a consequence of this crisis, and Cary Wolfe is right when he states that «the ‘animal question’ is part of the larger question of posthumanism» 8 . The crisis of the human, Rosi Braidotti writes, opened an «ontological gap», and in this gap «other species [came] galloping in»: Once the centrality of anthropos   is challenged, a number of boundaries between ‘Man’ and his others go tumbling down, in a cascade effect that opens up unexpected perspectives. Thus, if the crisis of Humanism inaugurates the posthuman by empowering the sexualized and racialized human ‘others’ to emancipate themselves from the dialectics of master-slave relations, the crisis of anthropos   relinquishes the demonic forces of the naturalized others. Animals, insects, plants and the environment, in fact the planet and the cosmos as a whole, are called into play  9 . 2   P. Armstrong and L. Simmons, Bestiary: An Introduction , in Knowing Animals  , ed. by L. Sim-mons and P. Armstrong, Leiden 2007, p. 1n1. 3   H. Ritvo, On the Animal Turn , «Dedalus», CXXXVI, 2007, 4, pp. 118-122. 4   Ivi, p. 119. 5   H. Pedersen, Knowledge Production in the ‘Animal Turn’: Multiplying the Image of Thought, Empathy, and Justice  , in Exploring the Animal Turn: Human-Animal Relations in Science, Society and Culture  , ed. by E. Andersson Cederholm et al., Lund 2014, p. 13. 6   P. Armstrong and L. Simmons, Bestiary: An Introduction , cit., p. 1. 7   The literature on this is very rich; compact (and, necessarily, partial) explanations can be found for example in C. Wolfe, Introduction , in  Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal  , ed. by C. Wolfe, Minneapolis 2003, pp. ix-xxiii; or M. Calarco,  Zoographies: The Question of the  Animal from Heidegger to Derrida  , New York 2008; for a short overview of the animal turn in academia, see J. McDonell, Literary Studies, The Animal Turn, and the Academy  , «Social Alter-natives», XXXII, 2013, 4, pp. 6-14. 8   C. Wolfe, What is Posthumanism?  , Minneapolis 2010, p. xxii. 9   R. Braidotti, The Posthuman , Cambridge 2013, pp. 67, 65-66.  © L   S   -          N.  ,   (II) - L              99 It is precisely here that the paradigmatic ‘turn’ takes place: if, as Wolfe again notes, the animal has signified the repressed Other of the subject/identity/ logos  /etc. throughout the history of philosophy, and if in certain fringes of twentieth-century Poststructuralism, Postmodernism and cultural studies it has been almost a vehicle or symptom for some other, deeper (and human) problematic (such as race, gender, class or even nationality), today instead it asserts itself on its own terms, as a philosophical and academic issue in its own right 10 .On the other hand, however, posthumanism itself (or certain ‘modes’ of it) has been in turn influenced and transformed by the animal turn, so much so that Pramod Nayar can claim that posthumanist theory has drawn «inspiration [,] theoretical rigour, but also its politics» from Animal Studies 11 : not only have  Animal Studies enabled posthumanism to probe the boundaries of the human and of its ‘construction’, but they have also (partially) reoriented it towards questions of immanence, affects, embodiment, etc., providing thereby also a more marked ethical and political impulse. The point I want to make in this article is thus that the relation between posthumanist theory and Animal Studies is one of reciprocal influence that led, in a sense, to the ‘coming of age’ of both schools of thought.That the animal question has been, from the very beginning, an integral part of posthumanist theory, albeit in a minor and understated mode, can be gauged by scrutinizing Donna Haraway’s thought. Indeed, a quick look at the development of her philosophy can help giving a feel for the transformative effects of the animal turn within posthumanism. The animal question was already important in Primate Visions  , for example in the analysis of Harry Harlow’s «sado-humanism» 12 ; however, it is in  A Cyborg Manifesto that it becomes a central axis of her revolutionary proposal. The first of the three «boundary breakdowns» she names as characterizing our posthuman time is, in fact, that between human and animal (the other two being those between organism and machine and between physical and non-physical): The last beachheads of uniqueness have been polluted if not turned into amusement parks – language, tool use, social behaviour, mental events, nothing really convincingly settles the separation of human and animal. And many people no longer feel the need for such a separation […]. The cyborg appears in myth precisely where the boundary between human and animal is transgressed. Far from signalling a walling off of people from other living beings, cyborgs signal disturbingly and pleasurably tight coupling. Bestiality has a new status in this cycle of marriage exchange 13 . 10   C. Wolfe, Introduction , cit., p. x; C. Wolfe,  Moving Forward, Kicking Back: The Animal Turn , «Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies», II, 2011, 1, introduction to the issue on The Animal Turn , p. 2. 11   P. K. Nayar, Posthumanism , Cambridge 2014, p. 79 and ff. 12   D. J. Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science  , New  York 1989, especially pp. 231-243. 13   D. J. Haraway,  A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century  , in Id., Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature  ,   New York 1991, pp. 151-152. The boundary is identified as a structure of domination in Western cul-  © L   S   -          N.  ,   (II) - L              100 These claims were made well before the ‘animal turn’ or even the emergence of Animal Studies as a discipline, and did certainly influence the development of posthumanist thought; in a sense, Nayar argues, here Haraway «summarizes in advance the posthumanist project: of interrogating the regimes of classification […] that consign the animal to a lesser form of life» 14 .However, Haraway progressively distanced herself from certain trends of posthumanism, and from the term itself. In a famous 2006 interview, despite recognizing that «[a]ll kinds of interesting stuff is going on under the prefixes post- and trans-», she says she has stopped using the term ‘posthumanism’: it is much too easily appropriated by the blissed-out, ‘Let’s all be posthumanists and find our next teleological evolutionary stage in some kind of transhumanist technoenhancement’. Posthumanism is too easily appropriated to those kinds of projects for my taste. Lots of people doing posthumanist thinking, though, don’t do it that way. The reason I go to companion species is to get away from posthumanism 15 . The development of certain currents of posthumanism towards (hyperhumanist) techno-utopia appeared to Haraway «too restrictive», and therefore «misleading» 16 ; this led her to tone down certain traits of her thought (the cyborg) and ‘go’ to companion species, that is, to focus more on the inter-species continuum. In The Companion Species Manifesto , she states in fact that «[b]y the end of the millennium, cyborgs could no longer do the work of a proper herding dog to gather up the threads needed for critical inquiry», and therefore she came «to see cyborgs as junior siblings in the much bigger, queer family of companion species» 17 . Moving her focus from cyborgs to companion species entailed a reconsideration of the whole posthumanist project, so that in When Species Meet she finally states: «I am not a posthumanist; I am who I become with companion species, who and which make a mess out of categories in the making of kin and kind», and opts rather for the term «nonhumanism» 18 . ture: «Certain dualisms have been persistent in Western traditions; they have all been systemic to the logics and practices of domination of women, people of colour, nature, workers, animals – in short, domination of all constituted as others, whose task is to mirror the self» (ivi, p. 177). This boundary breakdown is a recurrent topic also in her subsequent work; see for example the discussion of transgenic organisms in Id,  Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©- Meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience  , New York 1997, pp. 55-69. 14   P. K. Nayar, Posthumanism , cit., p. 82. 15 N.  Gane, When We Have Never Been Human, What Is to Be Done? Interview with Donna Haraway  , «Theory, Culture & Society», XXIII, 2006, 7-8, pp. 137, 140. She reiterates these statements in various works and interviews, not last the recent conversation with Cary Wolfe, Companions in Conversation , in D. J. Haraway,  Manifestly Haraway  , with a preface by and a conversation with C. Wolfe, Minneapolis 2016, pp. 254, 261. 16 D.  J. Haraway in N. Gane, When We Have Never Been Human, What Is to Be Done?  , cit., p. 140. 17 D.  J. Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness  , Chicago 2003, pp. 4, 11. 18 D.  J. Haraway, When Species Meet  , Minneapolis 2008, pp. 19, 92. As an aside, we can note that other thinkers have moved away from the term ‘posthumanism’ towards ‘nonhumanism’,
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