When Species Meet Hardcover – Dec 7 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
This eclectic, semi-academic volume is one part philosophical treatise, one part rambling memoir and one part affectionate look at a singular Australian sheepdog named Cayenne ("It's hard to be grumpy myself in the morning watching this kind of joyful doggish beginning!"). With intellectual precision and obvious enthusiasm, author and "posthumanities" professor Haraway (The Companion Species Manifesto) delves into topics as diverse as the rigors of breeding purebreds, the ethics of using animals in laboratories and the grand leaps of anthropomorphism people use to justify thousands of dollars in medical care for a pet. A professor in the History of Consciousness program at U.C. Santa Cruz, Haraway's prose is rigorous but readable, her ideas backed up with generally clear examples; she can, however, veer into abstract academic language ("People and animals in intra-action do not admit of preset taxonomic calculation") and gratuitous digression (as in a distracting chapter on her sportscaster father). These complaints aside, Haraway's serious, challenging approach to the human-animal relationship web should prove a novel, gratifying read for animal-owning science and philosophy buffs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
While those familiar with Haraway’s oeuvre will find numerous connections to her earlier work, she does an excellent job of narrating how she came to the questions at the heart of When Species Meet and (perhaps most importantly) what is at stake for her in these questions, politically and otherwise. Of particular interest to philosophy buffs are Haraway’s gratifying critiques of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s well-known writing on “becoming-animal”; these critiques arise as part of Haraway’s overall challenge to the boundaries between “wild” or “domestic” creatures. Similarly, her response to Jacques Derrida’s ruminations on animals reveals the provocations that can arise from work that pokes holes in conventional disciplinary engagements with any given topic. Haraway’s willingness to take on both biology and philosophy, to cite only two of her resources, results in suggestive insights on a number of issues, but especially (with Derrida, et. al.) regarding the question of what it means to take animals seriously.
I found Haraway’s considerable enthusiasm and knowledge in When Species Meet to be invigorating. This book should appeal to a broad audience including animal lovers, scientists and their allies, theorists, and people who love random and little known information (e.g., the history of imported North American gray wolves during South African apartheid). While Haraway emphasizes that her desire to look more carefully at companion species, those “who eat and break bread together but not without some indigestion,” does not come with any guarantees, she infectiously believes that there is a good deal at stake in the mundane and extraordinary details of the co-shaping species she documents across these pages. Given her hope for the worldly orientations, such as curiosity and respect, that might be cultivated by looking at companion species differently, it is appropriate that she begins and ends the text by reminding us that “[t]here is no assured happy or unhappy ending — socially, ecologically, or scientifically. There is only the chance for getting on together with some grace.”
Review by Marie Draz, Feminist Review Blog
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book is brilliant and deals with animal issues that have yet to be addressed. It thoroughly changed the way I conceptualize the body in my scholarship, and the way that I conceptualize the difference and dichotomy between humans and non-humans. The crux of her argument is that humans are always in a state of becoming with animals.
While some of the professional reviews of this book suggest that it is highly accessible (and, compared to the dense impenetrable thicket of metaphors that overran her previous works such as Primate Visions, it is) do not be fooled. She is NOT writing for a general audience. Indeed, in all her writing, Haraway gives the distinct impression that she is indifferent to the experience of her readers with her work. The professional critics quoted on this website are correct that Primate Visions has a refreshing exuberance in its prose, but the exuberance is all Haraway having fun with herself (not with you) and her own delirious love of words and metaphors for the sake of words and metaphors. She's too busy listening to herself write to notice whether you the reader might be getting lost in the thicket of her ideas, digressions, metaphors. It's not egotistical on Haraway's part (or even narcissistic exactly) she's simply off on another plane of existence, a linguistic/metaphoric plane of co-constructed beings who never leave the realm of the mind to try to engage with the real world.
All of which is quite ironic, since one of her many motifs that thrills her so much is the idea of "co-production" of knowledge and the metaphor of the "knot" - the relationship and "becoming with" that occurs as two "things" have an "encounter." Yet what emerges so clearly from her work is that she is not at all interested in her readers' encounters with her work. Which ultimately leaves this work considerably lacking (although certainly a step up from her previous writing).
Bottom line - she is quite a formidable thinker and there are some interesting gems and nuggets to be found in Haraway's work that makes her a good read for academics in animal studies, ecofeminism, history and philosophy of science, etc. But even those finally amount to an ethical philosophy of wanting people to live in the "knot" and the "encounter" and to move away from thinking about individuals as distinct, separate beings (such as human vs. non-human animal). While that may be academically interesting, it doesn't translate very far into an ethical framework that is workable/livable for the average person today. So it sounds good in the world of the academy, but I ultimately don't know how far it will go towards making a difference in the real world.
If you're a non-academic (no matter how serious a reader you are), don't waste your time on Haraway. She'll reward you with page after page of digression and metaphor atop metaphor and you'll get a hardy dose of her as subject/character/voice/narrator without feeling as if you had really gained much from the encounter.
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