Birth of the Kennel:
A lecture by Donna Haraway
Schirmacher: Donna is not just a professor this year, she’s one of my wish professors that I had when I envisioned this program. When I thought, if I had the chance to do a university the way it should be done, whom would I invite? Donna was first on my list for American professors. We know how easily American professors adapt to their environment, how easily they are happy when they just do something a little different. She never did anything like that, she was always different, always not like the others, she was the other in her program. She’s a genuine thinker, I would say. What I most like about her is not only that she crosses boundaries and does totally new stuff that nobody has ever thought about, but also that she kept her personal convictions. She’s still feminist, still Marxist, or at least leftist, but she could never be trusted by the doctrinaires of the field, they said This woman is a Marxist? No way!.
Haraway: It’s a great pleasure to be here, this is something I wanted to do and was not able to do last year so I’m very pleased that Wolfgang renewed the invitation. It’s been a lot of fun. The title of the lecture tonight, in honor of my debt to Michel Foucault, is Birth of the Kennel: Cyborgs, Dogs and Companion Species. It is in light of my debts as a child who grew up with the milk of Darwin, Freud, genetically engineered organisms, and transgenic elements such as plutonium. I read this lecture in terms of my family, my sibling set, the milk of my mothers, Darwin, Foucault and Onco-mouse. This is an inquiry into a term that I’m borrowing from Helen Veron, an Australian philosopher of science, who has recently written quite a wonderful book on African logics and science, particularly on number systems among Aruba-speaking schoolchildren. Helen is using the term "emergent ontologies" in ways I’m finding very fruitful for thinking about technoscience and about the kind of figures around which I organize my work. As a person cursed and blessed with a sacramental consciousness and the indelible mark of having grown up Irish-Catholic in the United States, I’m saddled with a kind of indelible understanding that the sign is the thing in itself. An implosion of sign and substance is part of living with a sacramental consciousness, the literalness of metaphor, the materiality of trope, the tropic quality of materiality, the implosion of semi-auticity and materiality always seemed the case about the world. As opposed to a particularly fancy theoretical insight or mistake, it simply seemed the air we breathe. Figuration is something also inherited out of that same tradition, as taking figures to be those who collect up and reflect back the hopes of a people. Figures are about collective yearning. Figurations somehow collect up and give back the sense of the possibility of fulfillment, the possibility of damnation, or the possibility of a collective inclusion in figures larger than that to which they explicitly refer. I borrowed for many years from Herr Auerbach’s work on mimesis, written of course during the conditions of the war without his library, which is itself a wonderful ironic commentary on the commentary on the history of literature. I always felt very indebted to Auerbach’s conception of mimesis and the turn in Western literature and philosophy whereby the figure and referent somehow become confused with each other in a way which has informed the history of our thought for several hundred years, and the difference of that from classical thought, either of Greek or Hebrew varieties. This has informed my genealogy of cyborgs as well as my post-cyborg entities that I’m calling companion species, otherwise known as dogs, in the vernacular. My genealogy includes this appreciation of figuration that I learned out of both literature and philosophy, as well as this history of growing up as a girl in the American Catholic Church. Now for better and for worse I got known for an article from the early eighties called The Cyborg Manifesto, after the Communist Manifesto. It was a joke, in a way. I was given five pages by the Socialist Review, along with a group of other socialist feminists, to write about what we thought the future of socialist feminism would be in the eighties, after the election of a right-wing president and the growing ascendancy of neo-liberalism, signed by Ronald Reagan and Thatcher and many others. The paper exceeded five pages by quite a bit and was loved by the West Coast Socialist Review collective, and hated by the East Coast Socialist Review collective, who really did not ever want to publish it. It’s had a distressing half-life, the cyborg figure, and has been used to mean almost anything about the join between human and machine, in some kind of deeply ahistorical way that I find maddening, so I want to remind me and us about the historical specificity of the cyborg figure, as well as the material project of the cyborg. Let me begin by a slide that’s particularly about this audience, because I’ve discovered that this audience is particularly savvy in computer-mediated communication practices, a lot of people here do film, video, web design, a lot of people here are involved in various kinds of inventing careers in the margins of and in the centers of various kind of commercial operations, interdigitating with academic work and deep philosophical inquiry, people here are inside the material semi-auticity of informatics, including a strong emphasis in visual culture. The first slide is to remind us of the historical specificity of the cyborg figure.
[Slide shows a monkey sitting in a specially designed space-flight cockpit, inundated with various technological apparatuses]
This creature is named Ham, it’s an acronym for Holoman Aeromedical facility, where Ham, a child captive out of Africa, is raised in the space program, specifically as a "surrogate for man in a race for space." Ham is one of the first advanced primates in space, he is telemetrically implanted and otherwise variously hooked-up and monitored entity. He literalizes the cyborg as the enhanced man-for-space project. That is the project for constructing a co-engineered human machine system based on communication, command and control. Ham is a cyborg figure in a very particular World War II and post-World War II, Cold War space-race configuration. The cyborg is not a figure for just any human-machine moment of connection, it’s not a figure for all of technology all of the time, but for a very particular historical moment. 1960 is the birth moment of the word "cyborg", out of a paper written for a U.S. Air Force aviation medicine conference, in which a psychiatrist and a systems engineer collaborate for arguing the importance of physiological enhancement of man in space, and that the next frontier will be space. The same systems engineer and psychiatrist are the very ones used by Marge Percy in her foundational feminist text, Woman on the Edge of Time, written in the 1970’s, that looks back onto the early cyborg research and its experimental organisms, such as human mental patients as well as the other primates. The first telemetrically implanted cyborg, like all of those who have gone before us in the great exploration narratives, is a rat. A telemetrically implanted rat goes first on the great ships of exploration and will colonize the islands of space just as the European rats colonized the Pacific, much to the detriment of flora and fauna all over the world. Those of you who saw the first rat on Star Trek on Deep Space Nine will know something about the symbolism of the rodent in space narrative. The next slide is a 1988 version of the cyborg, now in the domain of neo-liberalism and the New World Order Incorporated.
[Slide shows an advertisement for Dupont featuring a mouse ascending a staircase]
It’s the world in which better things for better living come to life, the world of DuPont. Some of you have read that this is the figure Onco-mouse, which I regard as a re-telling of the allegory of the cave, moving out to the light out of the depths of the cave, out of the hysteria, that we have a kind of enlightenment figure, a techno-science post-Enlightenment figure, perhaps, again we have a surrogate for a particular figuration of what it means to be human, and we have the convergence of the market and the university, and the medical domain of cancer research. This is one of the products of Nixon’s war on cancer. It’s also one of the harbingers of the future of genetically engineered entities. This organism is the first organism in the world where a major nation-state’s patent trademark office patented not the process by which the organism is produced but the organism itself, so that a very interesting statement is made. The self-moving organism itself is property, but this by itself isn’t new, the history of slavery alone is enough to illustrate that, one needn’t go to other species to see it. I think the patent on this organism signals the sense in which the evolutionary niche, the place of the coming-to-being of species is now the join of the market and university. Patent trademark and copyright law was at the foundation of the U.S. constitution. It’s one of the important subjects that Thomas Jefferson paid attention to, the understanding of the attribution of ownership and authorship. What counts as property and what counts as author is understood to be at the origin of liberty, and at the origin of what counts as a citizen. In some sense these mythic narratives which are also merely mundane facts are stories about civic virtue and civic existence. The cyborg stories are always stories about what counts as civic virtue. The next slide is the feminist artist Lynn Randolph’s version of the story of Onco-mouse, written as the passion of Onco-mouse.
[Slide shows Randolph’s depiction of "The Passion of Onco-mouse"]
She has literally taken the sacrifice of the laboratory animal and produced here a Christ figure, who is a white female rat with breasts and a crown of thorns, in a peep-show, a kind of observation chamber, in a modern neo-liberal air pump chamber like the air-pump of the seventeenth century that figures the material, literary and social technologies that establish matters of fact. Onco-mouse is also a figure of the barely secularized salvation narrative of the barely repressed Christian technoscientific narrative. I argue that certainly in the United States technoscientific narrative makes heavy use of Christian salvation narrative materials.
[Slide shows a ceramic coffee cup emblazoned with the logo for the Washington University Technology Center, of a Native American bird-figure consuming a computer chip and DNA helix]
This is a personal coffee cup, which I’ve made it a point of honor to drink from for a few years. It feels like a kind of a reminder of where I am in the world. We have figured on here one of the major trickster figures of North American cultures, the raven figure, a crucial figure in myth systems all over the North American Pacific temperate rainforest climate areas. The trickster figure figures shape-shifting. The power of the trickster is as an intervener in and disturber of the ordinary. Not a particularly nice figure, the trickster is always a figure of danger, of risk-taking, and of course feeding our trickster figure, our indigenous symbol appropriated for leading-edge technology, that particular constant rip-off for the global universal. That oxymoronic global indigene that raven has become. Its nutrients include an integrated circuit and a double helix, the only thing missing is a dollar sign.
[Slide shows a cartoon of a woman on a cloud contemplating the image of a fetus on a computer screen]
This next slide comes out of a Swedish feminist magazine, I call it "the Creation of Adam", and of course so did Michaelanglo, we have a whole series of reversals in this ectopic pregnancy that goes off-screen, literally. We have the female Adam, specifically not Eve reaching her finger to the interface with God, the computer and the keyboard, is the figure of God the fetus, or is that the Eve, that God is embracing, is that God or what? The one thing we know about that fetus is that its fate is not to be born, at best to be downloaded, it’s very likely she"s aiming for the delete key, or perhaps simply editing the file, or any number of operations which certainly do not include birth. The relationship of that fetus to that female body is highly problematic, but we know we are at some moment of touch, from this today forward I hereby predict that you will not move a day through technoscience, that chronotrope in which we now live, without seeing some iconic reproduction of Michaelanglo’s touch of God with Adam. It is everywhere in contemporary technoscientific iconography. There is a small set of images, from Da Vinci, Michaelanglo, and so on, used to figure "genius, science, and me", elements that are used in the remarkable arrogance of technoscientific advertising. Now I’ve just shown you a series of slides I’m not talking about. The slides that you’ve seen up till now fit the cyborg paradigm rather well, in terms of the lineage of offspring from that 1960s moment. The next few slides sort of fit it, but we’re moving into the kennel, and I’m going to be moving us away from cyborg figuration and now I’m into companion species figuration. I want to start it at the cyborg end of things.
[Slide shows an advertisement featuring a terrier wearing an electronic monitor collar]
This is a lovely little Yorkshire terrier, it’s modeling the latest in reproductive technology for the kennel, which is marketed to monitor the pregnancy of a particular kind of dog whose head is too large to permit a so-called natural birth through the birth canal. If the puppies are born through the uterine canal, they will break their necks. There is an obligatory cesarean section for this particular breed of dog, whose recent evolutionary history has regarded selection for traits that don’t permit non-technologically mediated birthing. Now it’s possible to tell the evolution of the dog story in terms of dog-initiated use of human-provided resources, co-extensive with a history of the human species. Dog-wannabe wolves making use of human garbage, human wastes, dumps of various kinds, selecting themselves for shorter and shorter tolerance distances to human encampments, these kinds of stories are widely told these days about evolution of so-called domesticated dogs. Reversing the order of invention, humans didn’t invent dogs, dogs invented themselves and adopted humans as part of their reproductive strategy. The way of telling the technology story is not that technology invades nature once again, but that dogs have scored another coup, and now have appropriated high reproductive technology for their own reproductive strategy. That is of course a generous reading of this device here, which is actually a practice that offends me on many levels. It does permit more than one reading, which is one of the lessons I want to leave with this.
[Slide shows an advertisement for a camera device intended to be used by dog breeders to monitor their animals]
The next slide is straight out of black helicopters, conspiracy theories, dark areas of the map, secret cartels, and surveillance technology. Whoever designed the canine surveillance camera had a very strange sense of humor, or no sense of humor at all, which is far more likely. The Canine-cam is a little mini-television set you can place in your kennel, so if you’re a dog breeder you can keep track of what’s happening with your pooches, it’s easy to install, weather resistant, connects to TV or VCR, use it in your room or office, you can watch your dogs on TV, the camera is taking care of it. The kind of seeing-eye Foucauldian opticon imagery here is unmistakable. Still staying within the dogs-emerging-out-of cyborgs figuration and materialization, I want to tell you something about the project to clone pet dogs. Once upon a time in California there lives a dog named Missy, who is a mutt and who happens to be the dog of a woman named Canada. Canada is a woman in her sixties who has a second identity, we don’t know, maybe she was in the Weather Underground, maybe the Witness Protection Program, all we really know is that Canada wasn’t always Canada and can’t tell anybody who she used to be. Missy is presently the subject of a cloning project funded by Canada’s lover, a man in his seventies whose name is never revealed but who is writing a book about the self-made CEO. Naturally. This is pure American "self made-up by the bootstraps" stuff. We also know he was a funder of the biosphere projects. We know that he’s really interested in high-tech and that she’s really low-tech, and that the dog Missy, accompanied by about two and a half million dollars, was flown to Texas A&M to begin a dog cloning project. Dog reproductive physiology is less well-known than our own, it’s technically more challenging to clone a dog than it is to clone us. The people doing the Missyplicity project are arguing that if they started cloning Homo sapiens they’d be through by now, but two years on dogs is hardly enough to time get started. Check out the website, including the bioethics page, which is a bioethics page to die for. It’s like a very fine parody of the very best bioethics departments all over the technoscientific world. Every possible wrinkle of bioethics behavior has been covered in this list. But it’s not parody, it’s rules for practice, as it should be. The Missyplicity cloning project is fronted by a publicity guy who happens to be Canada’s son, Lou Hawthorne, who has also founding a company called Genetic Savings and Clone near Texas A&M, which is a cryo-preservation, freezing preservation system for companion animals. There are at least two other cryo-preservation companies, Lazaron Biotechnologies, which had in its advertisement in "Dog World" magazine this amazing quote, urging you to take a swab from the cheek of your dog and rush it down to the company and get it frozen for a couple thousand dollars. By cryo-preserving a small skin sample of your pet, you will save its genetic life. Now the right to life has done a lot of things to us, but so far we have been spared the ethical injunction to save a genetic life. This is really a wonderful wrinkle on a particularly fetishized life discourse, the supposed ethical obligation to be "pro-life." Now apparently I have the ethical obligation to save the genetic life of my dogs. I haven’t told them yet, we have enough trouble getting around the idea of brushing their teeth. I’m joking about something that actually I think of as a very serious matter. What we’re concerned with here is a particular cross-species relationship, not between animal and human, anymore than the cyborg is about human and machine in some ahistorical all-the-time everywhere way. We’re interested in the specific historical circumstances of contemporary companion animal culture in the cyborgized, heavily informatics and biologics-saturated world. In the world where biologics and informatics have imploded into popular culture and technical culture on so many levels, how does this cross-species relationship constitute both of the partners out of the kind of relationality in question? If I’m committed to the notion of "emergent technologies", and "ontological choreography", a term I’m indebted to my colleague Karis Thompson Cousins for, who studied in-vitro fertilization clinics in San Diego, and who was particularly interested as a feminist theorist in not doing a scolding critique of alienating reproductive technologies invading the body of woman in yet one more way, refusing that kind of cheap and dirty, caricatured feminist theory. She instead argues about the intricate kinds of ontological choreography going on among all the many actors, including women in various kinds of relationships of yearning, success, failure, wealth, run-out resources, various kinds of machines and body parts, the moving of body parts from room to room and their ontological transformation in the movement, and the way the translations of body parts and their reintroduction transforms senses of self. As an ethnographer Karis has a wonderful ear for hearing the way people narrate their relationship to variously distributed parts that are and are not parts of themselves. She talks about ontological choreography, the dance of being as a verb, a verb that is irreducibly historically specific and semiotically material. It is not all the time everywhere. It is about these relationalities as they constitute the actors in their very action, so that the actors are a product of the relationality, and don’t simply enter into relationships with boundaries more or less intact at the end of the day. That’s the kind of imagination that Karis is trying to develop as an ethnographer of technoscience, and I’m plagiarizing from her ruthlessly in thinking about companion species. It informs my thinking about the cross-species relationship, which is also mediated by our entire cultural apparatus, most certainly including these various kinds of enterprised-up relationships to biomedicine, veterinary practice, reproductive technologies, and to pedagogical doctrines. I learned that my godson in Montessori school was subject to the very same pedagogical doctrines I was learning in obedience training with my dog. Then I learned that the history of pedagogical doctrines runs parallel with animals and children for a long time, this was not news! How could I not have known, that the training of dolphins for sea-life and for the navy had a whole lot to do with how my godson was being taught how to integrate his sensory motive systems in achieving self-control of his temper. How could I not have known that he was being trained as a perfectly good dolphin for Sea World? And that my dog too would someday be worthy of Montessori school! She was properly enterprised-up as a perfectly good feminist yuppie dog, an alpha bitch worthy of her species. All of this is of course funny, I find research funny most of the time, it’s that serious joking relationship anyone with a sacramental consciousness has to reality, "this can’t possibly be what they mean and yet it appears to be." The fundamental impulse of critical theory is that outrageous but nonetheless true scandal of what is. That’s my relationship to this stuff, but it’s also a gentler relationship, it’s about finding the creativities, the interesting cross-talks, these ontological choreographies that are making lives worth living, that are producing a going-on-together that is less committed to death-defying heroics, more committed to mundane dailiness, more about the ordinary ethical accountabilities about life in these worlds which aren’t all the time everywhere. Out of these worlds I’m finding absolutely wonderful practices of mundane dailiness, the inquiry into the kind of ethical and epistemological worlds that we are coming into and bringing about. So I’m not finding a scolding consciousness as a particularly useful guide into dog cultures, for example. I use the term "companion species" neither to scold or edify, but as a kind of interrogative term for this sort of historical emergent of animals who are not meat animals, are not lab animals, are not wilderness animals, not war dogs, not vermin, not pariah dogs, but who are part of a very particular historical relationship. This is not "dog" and "man". With that in mind let me tell you something about the dog genome projects which are going on. One of the genome projects is in France, the canine radiation hybrid mapping project, which involves a multinational collaboration to produce a dog genetic map by using a certain set of technologies not being used by the other projects. The second project involves a collaboration among the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UC Berkeley, Cornell and Rolsten-Purina Dog Food, a very important mover and shaker, they want niche diets, they want to be able to market metabolically favorable foods to dogs who can afford that kind of nutrition. Rolsten-Purina is one of the great modernizers of the human-dog pet relationship; Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and Rolsten-Purina will get you a long way in this story. Still another project is being run out of a multinational collaboration of over twenty-one countries, European, American and Asian, it’s the International Society of Animal Genetics, working on a project called Dog Map. In all of these somewhat competing projects, part of what’s at stake, as is what’s at stake in the human genome project, is whether the genetic markers and genes mapped and identified will be in the public domain or will be owned as property, with proprietary rights attached to it. The ISAG is the only one of these three projects committed to putting all of its data in the public domain, attempting to resist the rather complete market logic of the enclosure of the commons of the genome, which is by and large the rule in the genome enterprise. There’s a range of companies that I just want to name in companion species culture, all of them have the spliced names that we’ve gotten used to in biotechnology in general. VetGen, which is a startup company bringing together geneticists from University of Michigan, Michigan State University and others, putting out several hundred markers, all trademarked and under proprietary protection, there is PE-So-Gen, which is a spin-off of Perkin-Selmer, a very big transnational mover and shaker, the same company that spun off Solara Genomics, the company that published the human genome, ImGen, and immunological biogenetics corporation, OptiGen, for eye diseases, as dogs turn out to be models of eye diseases of interesting kinds, also the dog breed culture has considerable interest in these specific diseases, and then the various cryo-preservation banks that I named earlier. Now, in that context of the ecology of the dog genome, I want to move my talk along by referring to dog internet culture, and the interactions between dog breeders and scientists as different communities of expertise as they come together in three internet-mediated social sites. One of them is the Canine Diversity Project website, which is a kind of pedagogical effort by a geneticist at the University of Ottawa, John Armstrong. It sets up a whole range of linkage sites for following dog genetic health issues, but begins the website with an extremely interesting link which connects the whole story of companion animals to species survival plans and endangered species discourse. Virtually the first site you’re lead to move to the rest of the website through puts you in the company of endangered tigers of South Asia and the species survival plans that are put together out of an international consortia of experts including Pedigree software designers, various kinds of zoological and aquarium groups, various international bodies for the monitoring of endangered species protection, MGOs of various types. You see the development of plans to produce, under the rubric of "emergent ontologies", a certain kind of technoscientific population that has not existed on this planet before, the protected population that is composed of all of the collectable genetic diversity of a species or subspecies, gathered and preserved through breeding practices in such a way as to allow an agreed-upon percent of available genetic diversity to exist one or two hundred years. It’s an extremely interesting selection practice. If Onco-mouse emerges out of a selection practice in the laboratory that makes the laboratory its natural habitat, the scene of birth of the endangered species is this scene of interdisciplinary cross-talk among various communities of practice that define a population according to selection criteria that could not exist in any other ecology. They aim to collect together and propagate x-percentage of all available genetic heterogeneity in extant populations for such-and-such a length of time, not for health, not for function, not for beauty, only for the preservation of diversity itself. I think of diversity as like the gold standard of the nineteenth century, it’s understood that diversity is the motor of wealth and that which must be proliferated and distributed. It’s understood that diversity accumulation is the name of the game in contemporary capital. I think of species survival plans and the discourses of endangered species as being very much within that idiom, and within that idiom, the materialization of that diversity, for example in the form of endangered species, is an extremely interesting material semiotic act. Dogs, then, refer to endangered breeds, the specific dog breeds protected by the Kennel Clubs. The breeding practices of the specialized dog breeds, referred to the breeding practices of endangered species, produces a very interesting ontological move as to who dogs are, not as pets but as endangered species, preserved and propagated for diversity itself as the value. The second area I want to call your attention to is the online distancing learning course on canine genetics offered by Cornell University Veterinary School, which I took last summer both as a student and ethnographer. It was a wonderful course. The level of passion from the laybreeders, many of them with thirty years’ experience in breeding Wheaton terriers, twenty-five years in breeding livestock guardian dogs, and the veterinarian geneticists. John Pollack also consults with seeing-eye dog breeders for maintaining genetic health in the very heavy selection criteria of seeing-eye dogs, so that more puppies are successful in seeing-eye dog education. This becomes an issue for service dogs, search and rescue dog, dogs are finding jobs of many kinds, so not only are you obliged to save your dog’s genetic life, it is also incumbent on you to fulfill the species potential of your companion animal. You need to provide those sorts of activities which would allow full coming-into-being. Aristotle would be very happy. I think of Aristotle as being the funder of the Missyplicity project, that’s why his name can’t be revealed. The third internet site is CanGen-L, a list where the pedagogical model of both the website and the online course breaks down. I found fascinating cross talk and interaction between different communities of expertise, usually called "scientific" and "lay", such as challenges to each others’ standards of evidence, what counts as a fact, is a "line" a "population", the way words appear to mean the same thing but don’t as you watch them in practice, the way the word "population" means different things to different users. At the list site all of it is truly up for grabs in the interesting ways that net sociality is being studied in several domains. We see contestations of what counts as a fact, debates about standards of evidence. What kind of credibility is managed by whom? Who can manage who else’s credibility? What kinds of posts get picked up and by whom? You can watch, as other people who have done quasi-ethnographic work on net sociality, the emergence of discursive communities of considerable complexity over a period of time. I want to end with another set of illustrations from contemporary companion species culture, to pay attention to what I’m calling "Alpha Bitchs On-Line." It is a term of great respect to call someone an "alpha bitch" in the dog world. A human being of any of the available genders can become an alpha bitch, although I think there is a greater access to that label of persons of the female persuasion. Truly the dog world is full of formidable women, I’ve never felt so unable to cope in the face of these quite scary people. I dare a dog to misbehave in the presence of these women. The cultures I have been looking at, much to my surprise, have been heavily populated by women over fifty. A very interesting age-gender breakdown, plenty of other people there, but there’s a strong kind of leadership core by women of certain age, which I’m pleased by because that is not typical of communities of authoritative practice that we’re used to describing. So there are two women I want to talk about in a contrastive way to illustrate the sorts of lay-action that both incorporates and challenges what counts as "good-enough" science. One of the women in the Australian Shepherd breed is C.A. Sharp, she got her BA in RTF, has no formal genetics education, works as an accountant, was a breeder of Australian Shepherds who have nothing to do with Australia, they’re actually Western U.S. ranch dogs, they’re only called Australian through the Basque Sheep herders who immigrated to Australia during the same period. Sharp is an activist in the breed, and as a lay-activist publishes the Double Helix Network News, which organizes the breed interest in genetic health and disease issues. She and a friend organized a series of test-breedings around a certain eye disease which she was quite certain Australian Shepherds were subject to but which vets and geneticists denied. They designed an excellent data set to prove a point and then solicited a scientist to publish it under his name so that it could become a fact in the literature. There is a very savvy manipulation of scientific credibility in this story. It was also very clear that to make a fact a fact in an effective way, that is to say something that people will act on, requires also the emotional support system that would allow a breeder the chance not to feel stigmatized by the genetic disease of his or her dog. Thus, the emotional economy of the stabilization of a fact was also quite deliberately engaged as part of the work of doing genetics in this breed. It’s a complex sociality: the research design, the mating design, the alliance with veterinary opthamologists, with biochemical geneticists, with people who will form support groups, the alliance with the breed group movers and shakers to get a certain degree of openness. I was fascinated by the management of the material culture of making a fact whole, namely that these dogs are subject to this eye anomaly and that an action has to be taken. The kind of everyday story of what constitutes a fact, its literary material and social technologies is in Sharp’s practice in an extremely interesting way. The contrastive person is a woman named Linda Wiser, about sixty years old, who has bred Great Pyrenees, livestock guardian dogs, for over thirty years, and who has been involved in the introduction of these Basque livestock guardian dogs in the American ranch in connection with wolf reintroduction programs so that the livestock guardian dogs might minimize the amount of shooting and poisoning that goes on in the reintroduction of wolves who will utilize the fringes of the national park territories where they are reintroduced, but who will also raid the ranches. The use of these dogs as wolf-predator repelling organisms is a very interesting issue. She also manages the working-dog people in the breed, the pet-dog people in the breed, the rescue operations for mistreatment, and the health and genetics databases. There’s a very strong ethical police force among these movers and shakers in the breed, around what constitutes proper training. She runs a library of information on how to educate people in owning one of these one-hundred and twenty pound dogs in a proper and appropriate way. It makes a really interesting contrast with the terrorism stories of the so-called "dog holocausts", the stories out of Hamburg, and the yellow press use of the term "holocaust" without any historical consciousness. With the last slide I will conclude this.
[Slide shows a cartoon sketch of several wolves in a forest, one is wearing tracking equipment]
The telemetrically-equipped wolf is being introduced to the wild pack by her mentor, the mentor is saying We found her wandering at the edge of the forest. She was raised by scientists. This is my figure of ethnographic practice, of the companion animal species, of the relationship of the human raised by wolves, the wolf raised by humans, that kind of replay of the wolf-boy story. "Don’t worry, she was raised by scientists, she’ll be a little strange for a while, not to worry." This is another illustration of companion culture, I think biodiversity requires that kind of technology for its definition and management, just as I think diversity is the name of the game in capital accumulation, biodiversity, the market and technology are joined at the hip. It’s not news, biodiversity as a word is very recent and is involved in this kind of sociality very deeply.
[Slide shows a sheep chasing a small group of border collies into a pen]
I think engaging in the study of technoscience involves a number of important reversals. Border collies win all the dog performance contests, they’re used to run birds off runways at major international airports, they’re overachievers. Border collies can work under very close command or they can operate independently up to several miles away from the handler to round up recalcitrant sheep. On the whole they are too good to believe. They also, as one border collie fancier puts it, "have obsessive-compulsive disorder" and make very poor pets. A collie that makes a good pet is not a border collie, ordinary people should not have border collies, it’s a bad mistake. They require a kind of job that most people can’t provide. Now for a sheep to pen the border collies at the sheep trials is the kind of reversal which I think of as a kind of epistemological whiplash that the study of technoscience always produces. You think you know what you’re going to find but in fact what happens is this kind of ontological or epistemological reversal. The last slide is another joke on the all-the-time everywhere mistake that those of us who do scholarly work regularly make when we don’t really intend to.
[Slide shows a cartoon of a dog in place of Da Vinci’s "Vitruvian Man"]
Now we’re at a great moment of historical mutation, whoever we are. There is something happening globally that is changing the name of the game of life and death for billions of people. There are mutations in life ways going on that we try to name inadequately by "globalization" and other really anemic terms. "Technoscience" is another term that tries to name these mutations in chances of life and death for all the organisms on the planet. In the Renaissance, another figure of technoscience culture, Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the man of perfect proportions, is a favorite iconographic figure of the Man, Genius, Machine, Art and Science convergence. I like much better the cartoon of the dog of perfect proportions, because of the joke it makes on the mistake of both relativism and universalism, the mistakes that are so built into our philosophical discourse that we don’t know how to do inquiry without remaking those mistakes. Perhaps our best hope is that we will remake those mistakes in interesting ways. Thank you.
Schirmacher: Yes, thank you very much! Now you see what makes her unique among thinkers: she pay attention to the details and that’s because she was raised as a scientist, and cannot believe in her own assumptions without giving a lot of proof. I could go with your thesis only with one percent of that — Just one of the examples would be totally enough for me! The real challenge is not to challenge you in terms of your material, because you have been in the dog house for so long that there is no way that we can really compete with you, but rather I would like to ask, what does it mean, what can we do with this kind of specific material? Not in general, I know it’s the typical question and that I think it happened to your cyborg as well, I understand that you said "I made it as a particular historical thing and you can’t understand it properly if you don’t understand the detail." Yes, the detail, but it took on a life on its own — I became one of your fans not because I cared so much about your historical stuff, but because of this cyborg metaphor, which I understood to be very important in discussing the relation of man and machine in a different way, not as a "who is dominating whom", but as an opportunity to evolve. You know in classes like in my class at NYU we use you to attack science, by saying "she says that science is something we made up in a historical way", but why not, because both your cyborg and your critical science just prove that what we call humans have to create their life in an artificial way. There is no natural way for humans, we have the responsibility to make up our environment and what you bring to it is only to say that it is not a creation ex nihilo, but instead something I call a generation. That means that we need the material at hand, we need the technology. And now you prove, if I understand you right …
Haraway: We need the other organisms.
Schirmacher: Right — that the other organisms are not just material for us, they influence us as much we influence them — you prove, as I read it, that dogs educate us. The dogs educate us now, is that what you mean?
Haraway: In a relation of deep bonding.
Schirmacher: Of deep bonding. And so, but the real good news about that is that we can now look at humanities and that is actually our interest. We don’t want to know who the dogs are, we just want to know who we are.
Haraway: Who is this we?
Schirmacher: We, you and me.
Haraway: I want to know about the dogs.
Schirmacher: Not really.
Haraway: Honest, really true.
Schirmacher: You do the same thing that Heidegger once advised: If you want to know about humanity look away from humanity.
Haraway: That’s all well and good but I also want to know about the dogs.
Schirmacher: You want to know about the dogs but you cannot escape that you are a human being, there is no way that you can ever leave your anthropomorphic view-point. That is the only thing I mean. You don’t have to be anthropocentric, that means, "only for my own world". You certainly can ask other people, but you will always have an anthropomorphic view-point, that whatever you do will be done for yourself. Anyway, my question to you is really for when you stay away from your actual research and ask the big question, what is the ontological nature of the social relationship between the human agent and the machine?
Haraway: That kind of question, obviously, is the sort of thing that anyone trying to do scholarship with some kind of joking seriousness is always asking. There is no final answer to that, but I do have a lot of answers, in a sense, to that kind of question. One of them is what I learn through my own inhabiting of the figure of the cyborg about the non-anthropomorphic agency and the liveliness of artifacts. The kind of sociality that joins humans and machines is a sociality that constitutes both, so if there is some kind of liveliness going on here it is both human and non-human. Who humans are ontologically is constituted out of that relationality. There is, in some non-trivial sense, not a pre-existing anthropomorphic point of view from which vision proceeds to the world, but instead that kind of being in the world, of kind of getting-on-together with the other inhabitants, most of which are not human and most of which are actors in the process of making what is. In some non-trivial way these interactions of humans and machines have produced both: It isn’t humans that produced machines in some unilateral action — the arrow does not move all in one way, even in those areas of direct human invention, much less in broader areas of what makes us happen in the world. I rely on a kind of relentless insistence on the non-transcendent, on the always being in media res, that life is a verb and that the actors aren’t all human. There are very important nodes of energy in non-human agency, non-human actions, and I think that human-machine interfaces and inter-digitality are particularly potent places to stay and work, think, mediate, try to describe. What one learns here is that humans are not the only actors and that such point of view is an important metaphor but a limited one for getting at all what is going on. So I am trying to find descriptive languages that name emergent ontologies. I am trying to do a descriptive practice out of a very particularly mundane, small place to pay attention to. The world is in the details. I am working from out of a very particular situation, but at the same time I am in fact making some extremely arrogant general claims, for example, the rigorous instance on a commitment to finitude, death and non-transcendence in the explanation of the history of technology and the nature of the scientific knowledge, the resistance to both universalism and relativism. We will find another way to name what is going on in knowledge practices than that deadly fraternal sibling rivalry of universalism and relativism, neither by realism nor social construction, because both supposed choices are false choices. There is another way in the descriptive practices which are emergent among us in part because of the cross-talk that we are being forced into by actual life practices. This cross-talk is partly the result of post-colonial practices, partly the result of reconfigurations of economic life, partly the result of intersections of feminist analyses of various kinds, and many other things. The actual rearranging of life and death is producing cross-talks that are forcing us to redescribe our philosophical inquiries, particularly to let go of extremely durable recurrent binaries. In the history of science you can’t miss the binary of universalism-relativism and realism-social constructionism. None of the above, thank you. So part of the reason that general relevance in the work I do is hard to name is because it is an argument against that kind of general relevance. It is an argument for, in the most simple-minded way possible, a kind of reveling in finitude, and that there is no way of doing ethical action outside of actual engagement, no way of listing of the conclusions of the bottom line outside these domains of practise, and that they must not be conceived in a relativist fashion, but instead in a way so that domains of practice make claims on each other, which at times results in partial translation and stuttering communication. It’s a kind of ongoing-ness that refuses the easy closing off of cultural relativism or social constructionism, that insists on making claims in the world and making claims on each other, that insists on a kind of taking-life-up-with-each-other because of an inhabiting of difference together, because you are not the same, and because translation is never perfect, or even close to perfect. That is why communication can take place, because translation is not perfect. That is not a barrier, it is the condition of signification. Surprise. The condition of language is troping. Troping is tripping. Etymologically, there is no making sense in general, there is only making sense in fact. Well, then the question comes to be: which questions matter? That is a serious problem, and it’s about taking other people’s dilemmas seriously, about putting forward what matters in non-arrogant ways and without the illusion of an equal playing field. It is about taking all those kinds of questions seriously, regarding the way that we inherit histories of trauma and violence, so we are not under the illusion of some kind of democratic playing field. It is about asking seriously what matters and to whom, and as a result, seeing what one is called upon to do.
Audience: Along the same lines you are talking about diversity being sort of the gold standard for now, can you elaborate a little more on how technoscience complicates the democratic notion of a diversity used to establish an equal playing field?
Haraway: Well, who is to say that diversity is to produce equality, what a strange illusion. What a remarkable idea. When I said that diversity is the name of the game of capital accumulation these days, I mean that as a kind of low-key descriptive statement. It is because of certain technoscientific endeavors which complicate the issues of diversity and political identity. I am looking around at where the action is, in the World Bank, in NGOs and major transnational corporations. I am looking around at the particular kinds of banking practices, genome banking practices, the particular sorts of library archiving and management practices and variation, I’m watching an extremely expensive elaborate set of practices that are bit like the great collecting expeditions of early modern Europe, where certainly collection and diversity were the name of the game. That is the history of modernity, in its colonial form. Surely at least one of the things that is going on these days is a contemporary version of that kind of proliferation, taxonomising and putting into action of variation. No wonder that new kinds of racial discourses are emerging in biomedical practices, and as a result it’s very hard to get a grip on how if one wants to be, for lack of a better word, a progressive person, an anti-racist person. How does one relate to the various new biomedical descriptions of populations, such as tissue-matching practices, blood banking, transfusion practices, or international police databases, that involve the relevance of ethnicities in a way that we thought we don’t have to pay attention to anymore? It is not "race" in the early 20th century way. How do we deal with what constitutes the population? There are various kinds of biologically-marked populations emerging in practice and knowledge production that we had better get the details on. We have the details on the mid-20th century stuff, we know how to perform the liberal population compromises that says there are more variations within populations and which say that there is no biological type to culture. We know how to win the last war but don’t have a clue what is going on now, as a broad, illiterate population, living inside a chronotrope which I call techno-science.
Audience: I think that the cyborg is such a landmark because for feminist and leftist theory in general it turned us away from our anti-technological attitudes of the late sixties, and now you have the companion species which seems to be at the same status of the cyborg in your genealogy. The figure of Onco-mouse seems to fall in-between those two, it doesn’t seem to have the same status in your work. Is that a fair statement?
Haraway: The genetically-modified organisms and the new forms of genetic property seem to me to possibly compose a third category because they are not the cyborgs of the NASA man and of space projects. I think the kind of materiality embodied by the genetically-modified organism would merit a kind of figural and analytic category that is neither companion species nor cyborg. Another way of putting it is that it is a strange family of familiars, a haunted family. The kinship system includes the companion species, the cyborg, the genetically modified organisms, and the various kinds of entities out of which entire ways of life explode. I tend to think in terms of kinship systems more than oppositions. It is a kinship system that does damage to our notions of nature, surely, but also to our notions of culture, so that neither nature nor culture emerges unscathed from our meditations on these modes of being. Nature-culture ends up being one word. Humans invented neither nature nor culture, therefore social constructionism as a strategy of analysis ends up being kind of anemic and nutritionally deficient.
Audience: I keep getting this image of the Louis-Thomas mitochondria symbiot, and the question if the technology becomes this symbiot that becomes less machine and more human. Does that enter into your analysis?
Haraway: Yes, it does absolutely and one of my favorite figurations of the nature of individuality for complex organisms is an entity called Mixotrixaparadoxa who lives in the South-Australian termite and is an entity of a complex cell of a nucleus and five obligatory symbiotic bacteria-like organisms that exist in about a million copies and that live in various degrees of integration with the thing with the nucleus. The whole thing counts as Mixotrixaparadoxa, that whole thing of million and one entities counts as one and you have a range obligatory symbiotic relationships of various degrees of integration short of mitochondria. The mitochondria is so integrated with the euchariotic cell that they no longer count as independent life forms. The various parts of the human genome that don’t seem to be coding for anything, including not any control functions, that might be the record of past infections and which just go on copying themselves are so integrated that they can’t count as somebody else anymore. Historically speaking they were probably somebody else. So we are in the most literal material sense the record of the many somebodies that are the condition of the possibility of this particular kind of oneness, that oneness which comes in many flavors.
Audience: The idea of the eternal chip is not so removed…
Haraway: Not really. In a non-trivial sense the organism is a kind of technology, a kind of techne, a kind of way of life. We belong to a set of cultures that regularly think of systems of production and reproduction, energetics and information, almost anything describable, as a technology, most certainly including ourselves. That idiom is an important, powerful idiom among us, but is also a very parochial one, not necessarily in a bad sense. We tend to think that it easily travels but of course it doesn’t as a descriptive practise.
Audience: In your work you’ve identified one fundamental characteristic of technoscience as being its lack of moral or ethical attachment. Can you elaborate more on that?
Haraway: We are in a dilemma for sure. I can elaborate but it’s not the same thing as getting any further. It’s a hard set of issues, because part of the way I work is through a barely controlled anger. The dilemma is actually rather similar to what I ended up having to think about in the "Cyborg Manifesto". There is no way out of the knowledge that the cyborg is a weapons project, it is about the production of the achievement of man as enhanced weapon system, as space explorer, as a Cold War project. It turns out, however, that the illegitimate offspring are perhaps more abundant than the legitimate ones, and that even in a valley of the monster one finds a great deal more, thank you, than the fantasies of totalitarianism. The fantasy of closed domination is just that: a fantasy. Which is not to say that systems of exploitation and profound, murderous injustice are built into contemporary genetics research, for example, as much as they are in weapons research and many other places. The perpetuation of new forms of inequality and exploitation as well as old ones are in these practices to be identified, to be struggled against, to be named, to be fought… but what I think I am relentlessly committed to doing is pointing out the closing of the door and saying: "That is what it is, a deathly fantasy". I made a joke in "Modest Witness" that was a triple integration from zero to infinity of all of nature commodified, times the integration from zero to infinity of all of culture fully commodified. Times the time from 1945 to Omega, the time of techno-scientific sacramental fulfillment in the final apocalypse of extinction, equals the closed and breathless space, the evacuated chamber of a New World Order Inc. I gave a kind of pseudo-psychoanalytic analysis of that mathematical joke as a neurotic symptom, a fantasy, a paralyzing fantasy of the world as hell, or the world as nothing but domination. It is the last biggest neurotic tic, the fantasy of domination everywhere you look, domination, domination everywhere not a place to move. Defeated before you start. Whereas it seems to me a rather more fruitful way to look at us as political people is a little bit like how my friend Katie King does, who argues for a lesbian feminist writing practices in science fiction. It’s more than you thought and less than it should be, in all of these practices there is always more creativity and places to enhance, places to move where we need to be, and less than there should be. In naming violation we have to be really careful not to reproduce the neurotic tic of the triple integration toward apocalypse. The endangered species discourse of the fathers. That is not easy to do in a barely secularised Christian salvation narrative because it is so oriented toward the apocalyptic discourse, particularly in North American culture. The line between crisis and apocalypse is a very thin one. You almost can’t do crisis talk without falling into apocalypse talk, from the city on the hill of the Puritans right through the hole in the ozone layer.