Academic journal article Nebula

Companion Species under Fire: A Defense of Donna Haraway's the Companion Species Manifesto

Academic journal article Nebula

Companion Species under Fire: A Defense of Donna Haraway's the Companion Species Manifesto

Article excerpt

According to Marianne Dekoven, Donna Haraway's "A Manifesto for Cyborgs," published in 1985, "signals the end of utopian feminist theory.... and the inception of postmodern feminist theory" (1694). Haraway argues that technology constantly challenges gender binaries and in a world of continuous technological advancement, "we become unable to think of ourselves according to these categories or even as merely biological beings" (Richter 1966). She states, "[c]yborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves" (Haraway, "Manifesto for Cyborgs" 601). Haraway does not argue that all organisms possess fixed or containable identities, but rather that all organisms are always in a process of identification. She not only challenges and destabilizes dualistic arguments pertaining to gender, but also "offers the opportunity of dismantling hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and location" (Dekoven 1694). More recently, however, Haraway has left the cyborg behind, stating that she "ha[s] come to see cyborgs as junior siblings in the much bigger, queer family of companion species" (Companion Species Manifesto 11). Despite this shift in direction, Haraway's understanding of companion species shares some intimate connections with cyborgs. She argues that companion species function, like cyborgs, to bridge gaps between binary categories:

   Cyborgs and companion species each bring together the human and
   non-human, the organic and technological, carbon and silicon,
   freedom and structure, history and myth, the rich and the poor, the
   state and the subject, diversity and depletion, modernity and
   postmodernity, and nature and culture in unexpected ways. (Haraway,
   Companion Species Manifesto 4)

Although cyborgs and companion species function similarly, Haraway writes, "by 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" (Companion Species Manifesto 4). And so, she has set aside arguments pertaining to hybrids of organic and mechanical matter and has turned to dogs instead.

In The Companion Species Manifesto, Haraway explores how "an ethics and politics committed to the flourishing of significant otherness [might] be learned from taking dog-human relationships seriously; and ... how ... stories about dog-human worlds [might] finally convince ... people ... that history matters in nature cultures" (3). While Haraway's focus is on dogs, "companion species" also refers to a range of human and non-human animal relationships where humans and non-human animals have co-constitutively evolved alongside one another. Joseph Schneider interprets from Haraway's argument that "any history of dogs needs to be told as inextricably entwined with the history of Homo sapiens" (Schneider 82). Similar to the cyborg, the significance of companion species is neither fixed nor containable, but instead, is always shifting, changing, and incomplete. Haraway explicitly states that the history and understanding of companion species is "permanently in progress, in principle" (Companion Species Manifesto 3). While companion species are always contingent upon one another, they are as much compatible as they are irreconcilable. The complex relationship between human and non-human animal companionship leads Haraway to draw from the work of Marilyn Strathern, which emphasizes a theory of "partial connections." In Haraway's words, "[p]arts don't add up to wholes in this manifesto--or in life in nature cultures. I am looking for.... the counter-intuitive geometries and incongruent translations necessary in getting on together" (Companion Species Manifesto 25). Haraway wants to tell stories about the interconnections between dogs and people and does so, through the concept of "metaplasm," which is, in her words, "the remodeling of dog and human flesh, remolding the codes of life, in the history of companion-species relating" (Companion Species Manifesto 20). …

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