Academic journal article Intertexts

The Jeremiad's Promise: Cyborg Wetlands and Vampiric Practices

Academic journal article Intertexts

The Jeremiad's Promise: Cyborg Wetlands and Vampiric Practices

Article excerpt

Often promoted within the academy, interdisciplinarity remains a rarity. Normally there is little communication between faculty in the natural sciences and in the social sciences or humanities. However, as faculty members in a Department of Women's Studies--a biologist/ecologist, a political theorist, and a rhetorical critic--we have an important opportunity to pursue an interdisciplinary analysis of Donna Haraway's work. Working together to unravel Haraway's texts we have discovered that it helps to have three different doctorates when reading her latest book, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan [C]_Meets_OncoMouse [TM]: Feminism and Technoscience--not because it is so obtuse, but because it is so rich. This richness is especially reflected in one particular episode of our mutual reading--her use of the word stigmata. To a plant biologist the word refers to the sticky surface of the pistil, the female organ of a flower. To the non-biologist stigmata are the bloody wounds of Christ. This stunning momen t clarifies the differences between disciplines, and yet all of our conceptions worked in the particular passage, reinforcing our appreciation of the need for a decidediy interdisciplinary focus on Haraway's work. The separate nodes of disciplinary discourse are distinct, making the disciplines relative to each other, but the interactions among us as readers and colleagues are dynamic, making them relational. This relative-relational theme is consistent throughout our analysis.

Postmodern Jeremiad

We frame our paper as a postmodern jeremiad. Borrowing its name from the biblical prophet Jeremiah, the jeremiad is a public lament that foretells cultural downfall. Sacvan Bercovitch explains the idea of an American jeremiad: "The American jeremiad was born in an effort to impose metaphor on reality. It was nourished by an imagination at once defiant of history and profoundly attuned to the historical forces that were shaping the community" (62). Like the American jeremiad, Donna Haraway's work is a litany of hope and concern that attempts to impose metaphors--promising monsters--that are at once articulated by, attuned to, and defiant of the historical forces that shape oppression in a postmodern world. 'Whereas the American jeremiad is associated with the themes of modernization (the founding myths of manifest destiny, industrialization, and progress), the postmodern jeremiad is associated with postindustrial society, in which founding myths are forced through the "acid tools" of postmodernism (Haraway, "M anifesto" 75).

The jeremiad is a hybrid discourse that blends political agendas with religious motivations. Where the Old Testament jeremiad anticipates the urgency of the New Testament Rapture, the postmodern jereimad contains millennial panic over the imploding sign, the irreality of the hyperreal, and the collapse of space and time. Haraway's postmodern jeremiad makes a distinction between emergency and apocalypse. Whereas apocalypse is debilitating, emergency entails a call to action ("FemaleMan"). The jeremiad is political missionary work, a call to action premised on religious beliefs, in this case, the faith in responsibility and coalition. Like the traditional jeremiad, the postmodern jeremiad is not simply a heady theorization distant from the real world, but an engaged commitment to battle and to real world politics.

A central rhetorical feature of Haraway's work is an attempt to shape figures or representatives for theoretical categories, while recognizing that both the category and whatever icon she finds adequate is fictional and fleeting. In other words, an adequate figurehead is really only an inadequate but necessary fiction. The final irony permeating all of Haraway's work is the taxed relationship between literal and figurative, between material and metaphorical. No metaphor or category is created ex nihilo, but is always already a product of the existing "real world" conditions in which, particularly, women live their everyday lives and therefore is always materially constrained. …

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