Becominganimal Or Setting Out The Twentythird Bowl

The making each other available to events that is the dance of "becoming with" has no truck with the fantasy wolf-pack version of "becoming-animal" figured in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's famous section of A Thousand Plateaus, "1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible."36 Mundane, prosaic, living wolves have no truck with that kind of wolf pack, as we will see at the end of these introductions, when dogs, wolves, and people become available to one another in risky worldings. But first, I want to explain why writing in which I had hoped to find an ally for the tasks of companion species instead made me come as close as I get to announcing, "Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the enemy!"

I want to stay a while with "Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible," because it works so hard to get beyond the Great Divide between humans and other critters to find the rich multiplicities and topologies of a heterogeneously and nonteleologically connected world. I want to understand why Deleuze and Guattari here leave me so angry when what we want seems so similar. Despite much that I love in other work of Deleuze, here I find little but the two writers' scorn for all that is mundane and ordinary and the profound absence of curiosity about or respect for and with actual animals, even as innumerable references to diverse animals are invoked to figure the authors' anti-Oedipal and anticapitalist project. Derrida's actual little cat is decidedly not invited into this encounter. No earthly animal would look twice at these authors, at least not in their textual garb in this chapter.

A Thousand Plateaus is a part of the writers' sustained work against the monomaniacal, cyclopean, individuated Oedipal subject, who is riveted on daddy and lethal in culture, politics, and philosophy. Patrilineal thinking, which sees all the world as a tree of filiations ruled by genealogy and identity, wars with rhizomatic thinking, which is open to nonhierar-chical becomings and contagions. So far, so good. Deleuze and Guattari sketch a quick history of European ideas from eighteenth-century natural history (relations recognized through proportionality and resemblance, series and structure), through evolutionism (relations ordered through descent and filiation), to becomings (relations patterned through'sorcery" or alliance). "Becoming is always of a different order than filiation. It concerns alliance" (238). The normal and abnormal rule in evolutionism; the anomaly, which is outside rules, is freed in the lines of flight of becomings. "Molar unities" must give way to "molecular multiplicities." "The anomalous is neither individual nor species; it has only affects, infections, horror . . . a phenomenon of bordering" (244-45). And then, "We oppose epidemic to filiation, contagion to heredity, peopling by contagion to sexual reproduction, sexual production. Bands, human or animal, proliferate by contagion, epidemics, battlefields, and catastrophes. . . . All we are saying is that animals are packs, and packs form, develop, and are transformed by contagion. . . . Wherever there is multiplicity, you will find also an exceptional individual, and it is with that individual that an alliance must be made in order to become-animal" (241-42). This is a philosophy of the sublime, not the earthly, not the mud; becoming-animal is not an autre-mondialisation.

Earlier in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari conducted a smart, mean critique of Freud's analysis of the famous case of the Wolf-Man, in which their opposition of dog and wolf gave me the key to how D&G's associational web of anomalous becoming-animal feeds off a series of primary dichotomies figured by the opposition between the wild and the domestic. "That day the Wolf-Man rose from the couch particularly tired. He knew that Freud had a genius for brushing up against the truth and passing it by, and then filling the void with associations. He knew that Freud knew nothing about wolves, or anuses for that matter.

The only thing Freud understood was what a dog is, and a dog's tail" (26). This gibe is the first of a crowd of oppositions of dog and wolf in A Thousand Plateaus, which taken together are a symptomatic morass for how not to take earthly animals—wild or domestic—seriously. In honor of Freud's famously irascible chows, no doubt sleeping on the floor during the Wolf-Man's sessions, I brace myself to go on by studying the artist David Goines's Chinese Year of the Dog poster for 2006: one of the most gorgeous chow chows I have ever seen. Indifferent to the charms of a blue-purple tongue, D&G knew how to kick the psychoanalyst where it would hurt, but they had no eye for the elegant curve of a good chow's tail, much less the courage to look such a dog in the eye.

But the wolf/dog opposition is not funny. D&G express horror at the "individuated animals, family pets, sentimental Oedipal animals each with its own petty history" who invite only regression (240).37 All worthy animals are a pack; all the rest are either pets of the bourgeoisie or state animals symbolizing some kind of divine myth.38 The pack, or pure-affect animals, are intensive, not extensive, molecular and exceptional, not petty and molar—sublime wolf packs, in short. I don't think it needs comment that we will learn nothing about actual wolves in all this. I know that D&G set out to write not a biological treatise but rather a philosophical, psychoanalytic, and literary one requiring different reading habits for the always nonmimetic play of life and narrative. But no reading strategies can mute the scorn for the homely and the ordinary in this book. Leaving behind the traps of singularity and identity is possible without the lubrication of sublime ecstasy bordering on the intensive affect of the 1909 Futurist Manifesto. D&G continue, "Anyone who likes cats or dogs is a fool" (240, italics in original). I don't think Deleuze here is thinking of Dostoevsky's idiot, who slows things down and whom Deleuze loves. D&G go on: Freud knows only the "dog in the kennel, the analyst's bow wow." Never have I felt more loyal to Freud. D&G go even further in their disdain for the daily, the ordinary, the affectional rather than the sublime. The Unique, the one in a pact with a demon, the sorcerer's anomaly, is both pack and Ahab's leviathan in Moby Dick, the exceptional, not in the sense of a competent and skillful animal webbed in the open with others, but in the sense of what is without characteristics and without tenderness (244). From the point of view of the animal worlds I inhabit, this is not about a good run but about a bad trip. Along with the Beatles, I need a little more help than that from my friends.

Little house dogs and the people who love them are the ultimate figure of abjection for D&G, especially if those people are elderly women, the very type of the sentimental. "Ahab's Moby Dick is not like the little cat or dog owned by an elderly woman who honors and cherishes it. Lawrence's becoming-tortoise has nothing to do with a sentimental or domestic relation. . . . But the objection is raised against Lawrence: 'Your tortoises are not real!' And he answers: 'Possibly, but my becoming is, . . . even and especially if you have no way of judging it, because you're just little house dogs'" (244). "My becoming" seems awfully important in a theory opposed to the strictures of individuation and subject. The old, female, small, dog- and cat-loving: these are who and what must be vomited out by those who will become-animal. Despite the keen competition, I am not sure I can find in philosophy a clearer display of misogyny, fear of aging, incuriosity about animals, and horror at the ordinariness of flesh, here covered by the alibi of an anti-Oedipal and anticapitalist project. It took some nerve for D&G to write about becoming-woman just a few pages later! (291-309).39 It is almost enough to make me go out and get a toy poodle for my next agility dog; I know a remarkable one playing with her human for the World Cup these days. That is exceptional.

It is a relief to return from my own flights of fancy of becoming-intense in the agility World Cup competitions to the mud and the slime of my proper home world, where my biological soul travels with that wolf found near the edge of the forest who was raised by scientists. At least as many nonarboreal shapes of relatedness can be found in these not-always-salubrious viscous fluids as among Deleuze and Guat-tari's rhizomatic anomalies. Playing in the mud, I can even appreciate a great deal of A Thousand Plateaus. Companion species are familiar with oddly shaped figures of kin and kind, in which arboreal descent is both a latecomer to the play of bodies and never uniquely in charge of the material-semiotic action. In their controversial theory of Acquiring Genomes, Lynn Margulis and her son and collaborator, Dorion Sagan, give me the flesh and figures that companion species need to understand their messmates.40

Reading Margulis over the years, I get the idea that she believes everything interesting on earth happened among the bacteria, and all the rest is just elaboration, most certainly including wolf packs. Bacteria pass genes back and forth all the time and do not resolve into well-bounded species, giving the taxonomist either an ecstatic moment or a headache. "The creative force of symbiosis produced eukaryotic cells from bacteria. Hence all larger organisms—protests, fungi, animals, and plants—originated symbiogenetically. But creation of novelty by symbiosis did not end with the evolution of the earliest nucleated cells. Symbiosis still is everywhere" (55-56). Margulis and Sagan give examples from Pacific coral reefs, squid and their luminescent symbionts, New England lichens, milk cows, and New Guinea ant plants, among others. The basic story is simple: ever more complex life forms are the continual result of ever more intricate and multidirectional acts of association of and with other life forms. Trying to make a living, critters eat critters but can only partly digest one another. Quite a lot of indigestion, not to mention excretion, is the natural result, some of which is the vehicle for new sorts of complex patternings of ones and manys in entangled association. And some of that indigestion and voiding are just acidic reminders of mortality made vivid in the experience of pain and systemic breakdown, from the lowliest among us to the most eminent. Organisms are ecosystems of genomes, consortia, communities, partly digested dinners, mortal boundary formations. Even toy dogs and fat old ladies on city streets are such boundary formations; studying them "ecologically" would show it.

Eating one another and developing indigestion are only one kind of transformative merger practice; living critters form consortia in a baroque medley of inter- and intra-actions. Margulis and Sagan put it more eloquently when they write that to be an organism is to be the fruit of "the co-opting of strangers, the involvement and infolding of others into ever more complex and miscegenous genomes. . . . The acquisition of the reproducing other, of the microbe and the genome, is no mere sideshow. Attraction, merger, fusion, incorporation, co-habitation, recombination— both permanent and cyclical—and other forms of forbidden couplings, are the main sources of Darwin's missing variation" (205). Yoking together all the way down is what sym-bio-genesis means. The shape and temporality of life on earth are more like a liquid-crystal consortium folding on itself again and again than a well-branched tree. Ordinary identities emerge and are rightly cherished, but they remain always a relational web opening to non-Euclidean pasts, presents, and futures. The ordinary is a multipartner mud dance issuing from and in entangled species. It is turtles all the way down; the partners do not preexist their constitutive intra-action at every folded layer of time and space.41 These are the contagions and infections that wound the primary narcissism of those who still dream of human exceptionalism. These are also the cob-blings together that give meaning to the "becoming with" of companion species in naturecultures. Cum panis, messmates, to look and to look back, to have truck with: those are the names of my game.

One aspect of Margulis and Sagan's exposition seems unnecessarily hard for companion species to digest, however, and a more easily assimilated theory is cooking. In opposition to various mechanistic theories of the organism, Margulis has long been committed to the notion of autopoie-sis. Autopoiesis is self-making, in which self-maintaining entities (the smallest biological unit of which is a living cell) develop and sustain their own form, drawing on the enveloping flows of matter and energy.42 In this case, I think Margulis would do better with Deleuze and Guattari, whose world did not build on complex self-referential units of differentiation or on Gaian systems, cybernetic or otherwise, but built on a different kind of "turtles all the way down," figuring relentless otherness knotted into never fully bounded or fully self-referential entities. I am instructed by developmental biologist Scott Gilbert's critique of autopoiesis for its emphasis on self-building and self-maintaining systems, closed except for nourishing flows of matter and energy. Gilbert stresses that nothing makes itself in the biological world, but rather reciprocal induction within and between always-in-process critters ramifies through space and time on both large and small scales in cascades of inter- and intra-action. In embryology, Gilbert calls this "interspecies epigenesis."43 Gilbert writes: "I think that the ideas that Lynn [Margulis] and I have are very similar; it's just that she was focusing on adults and I want to extend the concept (as I think the science allows it to be fully extended) to embryos. I believe that the embryonic co-construction of the physical bodies has many more implications because it means that we were 'never' individuals." Like Margulis and Sagan, Gilbert stresses that the cell (not the genome) is the smallest unit of structure and function in the biological world, and he argues that "the morphogenetic field can be seen as a major unit of ontogenetic and evolutionary change."44

As I read him, Gilbert's approach is not a holistic systems theory in the sense that Margulis and Sagan lean toward, and his fractal "turtles all the way down" arguments do not posit a self-referential unit of differentiation. Such a unit cheats on the turtles pile, whether up or down. Software engineer Rusten Hogness suggests the term turtling all the way down might better express Gilbert's kind of recursivity.451 think that for Gilbert the noun differentiation is permanently a verb, within which mortal knots of partly structured difference are in play. In my view, Margulis and Sagan's symbiogenesis is not really compatible with their theory of autopoiesis, and the alternative is not an additive mechanistic theory but a going even more deeply into differentiation.46 A nice touch is that Gilbert and his students literally work on turtle embryogeny, studying the inductions and cell migrations that result in the turtle's plastron on its belly surface. Layers of turtling, indeed.

All of that takes us to the ethologist Thelma Rowell's practice of setting out a twenty-third bowl in her farmyard in Lancashire when she has only twenty-two sheep to feed. Her Soay sheep crunch grass on the hillsides most of the day, forming their own social groups without a lot of interference. Such restraint is a revolutionary act among most sheep farmers, who rob sheep of virtually every decision until whole breeds may well have lost the capacity to find their way in life without overweening human supervision. Rowell's empowered sheep, belonging to a so-called primitive breed recalcitrant to meat-industrial standardization and behavioral ruination, have addressed many of her questions, not least telling her that even domesticated sheep have social lives and abilities as complex as those of the baboons and other monkeys she studied for decades. Probably descended from a population of feral sheep thought to have been deposited on the island of Soay in the St. Kilda archipelago sometime in the Bronze Age, Soay sheep are today the subject of attention by rare breed societies in the United Kingdom and the United States.47

Focused on weighty matters such as feed conversion rates, scandalized sheep scientists with an agribusiness emphasis rejected Rowell's first papers on feral ram groups when she submitted them (the manuscripts, not the sheep) for publication. But good scientists have a way of nibbling away at prejudice with mutated questions and lovely data, which works at least sometimes.48 Scottish blackface hill sheep, Rowell's numerically dominant ovine neighbors in Lancashire, and the lowland Dorset white-faced breed, mostly on the English Downs, seem to have forgotten how to testify to a great deal of sheep competence. They and their equivalents around the world are the sorts of ovids most familiar to the sheep experts reviewing papers for the journals—at least for the journals in which sheep usually show up, that is, not the behavioral ecology, integrative biology, and evolution journals in which nondomestic species seem the "natural" subjects of attention. But in the context of the ranching and farming practices that led to today's global agribusiness, maybe those "domestic" ovine eating machines are rarely asked an interesting question. Not brought into the open with their people, and so with no experience of jointly becoming available, these sheep do not "become with" a curious scientist.

There is a disarmingly literal quality to having truck with Rowell and her critters. Rowell brings her competent sheep into the yard most days so that she can ask them some more questions while they snack. There, the twenty-two sheep find twenty-three bowls spaced around the yard. That homely twenty-third bowl is the open,49 the space of what is not yet and may or may not ever be; it is a making available to events; it is asking the sheep and the scientists to be smart in their exchanges by making it possible for something unexpected to happen. Rowell practices the virtue of worldly politeness—not a particularly gentle art—with her colleagues and her sheep, just as she used to do with her primate subjects. "Interesting research is research on the conditions that make something interesting."50 Always having a bowl that is not occupied provides an extra place to go for any sheep displaced by his or her socially assertive fellow ovid. Rowell's approach is deceptively simple. Competition is so easy to see; eating is so readily observed and of such consuming interest to farmers. What else might be happening? Might what is not so easy to learn to see be what is of the utmost importance to the sheep in their daily doings and their evolutionary history? Might it be that thinking again about the history of predation and the smart predilections of prey will tell us something surprising and important about ovine worlds even on Lancashire hillsides, or on islands off the coast of Scotland, where a wolf has not been seen for centuries?

Always a maverick alert to complexity in its details rather than in grand pronouncements, Rowell regularly discomfited her human colleagues when she studied monkeys, beginning with her 1960s accounts of forest baboons in Uganda who did not act according to their supposed species script.51 Rowell is among the most satisfyingly opinionated, empirically grounded, theoretically savvy, unself-impressed, and unsparingly anti-ideological people I have ever met. Forgetting her head-over-heels interest in her sheep, seeing her patent love for her obstreperous male adolescent turkeys on her Lancashire farm in 2003, whom she uncon-vincingly threatened with untimely slaughter for their misdeeds,52 told me a great deal about how she treats both unwary human colleagues and the opinionated animals whom she has studied over a lifetime. As Vinciane Despret emphasizes in her study, Rowell poses the question of the collective in relation to both sheep and people: "Do we prefer living with predictable sheep or with sheep that surprise us and that add to our definitions of what 'being social' means?"53 This is a fundamental worldly question, or what Despret's colleague Isabelle Stengers might call a cosmo-political query, in which "the cosmos refers to the unknown constituted by these multiple divergent worlds, and to the articulations of which they could eventually be capable, as opposed to the temptation of a peace intended to be final."54 Eating lunch with the circa sixty-five-year-old Rowell and her elderly, cherished, nonherding, pet dog in her farmhouse kitchen strewn with scientific papers and heterogeneous books, my would-be ethnographic self had the distinct sense that Oedipal regression was not on the menu among these companion species. Woolf!

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