June 15, 2017
Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human
by Alexander G. Weheliye
Staying with the Trouble:
Making Kin in the Chthulucene
by Donna Haraway
These texts coexist on my shelf. In a way, both explore what it would mean to “claim monstrosity of the flesh as a site for freedom beyond the world of Man..”
Haraway’s text productively counters popular academic concepts of the anthropocene which place the human (even at the outset with “anthropo”) tiresomely at the center. Haraway calls for “tentacular thinking,” across lines of species in order to build interactive and deeply imaginative networks of kin. Weheliye thinks carefully about how race is culturally inscribed rather than biologically given, describing human-animal bodies as relational assemblages. Weheliye’s phrase, "hieroglyphics of the flesh,” is succinct.
Both are deeply engaged with the idea that Man is overrepresented and this is partially due to racist and misogynistic histories of humanistic scholarship working in tandem with capital. In her chapter on estrogen production, Haraway traces the chains that link us to our non-human kin. Throughout, Wheliye examines how bio-political discourse (like white feminism) has largely neglected race.
And this is why they are heady weights that balance out my bookshelf: Haraway does not contend with race as a central factor in her scholarship yet she does effectively (or as effectively as I’ve witnessed within the confines of human language) decentralize the human. Weheliye brings race to the fore, while keeping the human-animal at the center.
Importantly, both call for a re-examination of bio-political work. They think through connectivity, linkages, assemblages, kinship. They both call for movements beyond categories and isms that confine us and our non-human kin. They imagine the “corporeal pleasures of becoming-with,” as a path to exciting and necessary trans-species freedoms. Both make it clear that we do not yet know how to embody these freedoms but the possibilities are generative. These works energize me in how they conceptualize ways to “disfigure Man,” to make way for new, emergent beings invested in the propagation of a more “habitable, flourishing world.”