Parting Bites

The Plant-Based Recipe Cookbook

The Benefits Of Veganism For You And The Planet

Get Instant Access

Nourishing Indigestion

Knowing is a direct material engagement, a practice of intra-acting with the world as part of the world in its dynamic material configuring, its ongoing articulation Ethics is about mattering, about taking account of the entangled materializations of which we are a part, including new configurations, new subjectivities, new possibilities—even the smallest cuts matter.

—Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway

One never eats entirely on one's own: this constitutes the rule underlying the statement, "One must eat well." ... I repeat, responsibility is excessive or it is not a responsibility. —Jacques Derrida, "Eating Well, or the Calculation of the Subject"

Consider a northern hairy-nosed wombat, sometimes called the bulldozer of the bush, as she burrows intently in the dry woodland floor of the Ebbing Forest National Park in central Queensland, Australia. Keeping the dirt out, the female's backward-facing pouch shelters a young joey attached to a teat on her belly. Including perhaps only twenty-five breeding females in the early years of the twenty-first century, with adults weighing between fifty-five and ninety pounds, these roguish but vulnerable marsupials are among the world's rarest large mammals.1 Consider also the cobbled together microscopic critter, Mixotricha paradoxa, literally, "the paradoxical one with mixed up hairs." At about five hundred microns in diameter, the motley of critters going by the name Mixotricha paradoxa can just be discerned by the naked human eye. Not among the charismatic macro-fauna in anybody's national park but nonetheless critical to recycling nutrients in forests, these hard-working, cellulose-processing pro-tists live in the hind gut of a south Australian termite named Mas-totermes darwiniensis.2 So much in Australia carries Darwin's name and legacy.

It might seem tragically easy to count the Queensland wombats, if only these nocturnal and crepuscular, generally solitary, and secretive critters would show themselves to the census takers.3 Accounting for Mixotricha raises another kind of numerical dilemma. Mixotricha, incited by a scanning electron microscope, visibly bristles with its resistance to enumeration. The bristles—mistaken, at lower magnifications, for cilia on a comprehensible single cell—show themselves under the EM to be hundreds of thousands of hairlike Treponema spirochetes, whose motion propels their cohabiting messmates through life, steered by four flagella poking out of the cone-shaped anterior end of the protist. Made up of a nucleated cell and four sorts of bacterial microbes (whose different kinds number from about 200 to 250,000 cells), with its five entangled genomes, "Mixotricha paradoxa is an extreme example of how all plants and animals—including ourselves—have evolved to contain multitudes."4 Thus, my conclusion begins with companion species nourished in the cavities, crevices, and interdigitations of gestation, ingestion, and digestion among critters indigenous to the southern continent.

Mechanism Cellulolysis
Mixotricha paradoxa. Scanning electron micrograph, 750x magnification, by Dean Soulia and Lynn Margulis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Courtesy of Lynn Margulis.

Instructed by Eva Hayward's fingery eyes,5 I remember that "becoming with" is " becoming worldly." When Species Meet strives to build attachment sites and tie sticky knots to bind intra-acting critters, including people, together in the kinds of response and regard that change the subject—and the object. Encounterings do not produce harmonious wholes, and smoothly preconstituted entities do not ever meet in the first place. Such things cannot touch, much less attach; there is no first place; and species, neither singular nor plural, demand another practice of reck-oning.6 In the fashion of turtles (with their epibionts) on turtles all the way down, meetings make us who and what we are in the avid contact zones that are the world. Once ""we" have met, we can never be ""the same" again. Propelled by the tasty but risky obligation of curiosity among companion species, once we know, we cannot not know. If we know well, searching with fingery eyes, we care. That is how responsibility grows.

Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan suggested that the myriads of living organisms owe their evolved diversity and complexity to acts of sym-biogenesis, through which promiscuous genomes and living consortia are the potent progeny of ingestion and subsequent indigestion among messmates at table, when everyone is on the menu. Sex, infection, and eating are old relatives, hardly deterred by the niceties of immune discrimination, whose material and syntactic intra-actions make the cuts that birth kin and kind. Let me suggest, then, parting bites that might nourish mortal companion species who cannot and must not assimilate one another but who must learn to eat well, or at least well enough that care, respect, and difference can flourish in the open.

The first bite returns us to the hairy-nosed wombat, this time with some unexpected companions. Melbourne-based artist Patricia Piccinini has fabulated plausible companion species—her term—to protect the southern continent's endangered species, including the northern hairy-nosed wombat. She is suspiciously inquisitive rather than sanguine about her introduced critters, even if their principal habitat is the art exhibition, Web site, and catalog.7 Alerting viewers to both danger and possibility, her drawings, installations, and sculptures palpably argue that she has fallen in love with her sf-like progeny; she has certainly made me do so. Piccinini remembers Australia's and Aotearoa New Zealand's natural-cultural history of introduced species, human and nonhuman alike, with modern examples such as the South and Central American cane toad, shipped from Hawaii to northern Queensland in 1935 to munch repres-sively on the cane beetle that eats the sugar cane that gobbles up laboring people, who need the money from sugar to feed their children.8 She remembers the exterminist consequences of well-intentioned introductions of companion species—in this example, for the unintended meal, that is, the endemic amphibians gobbled up by voracious, prolific, mobile cane toads. She knows that the African buffel grass planted for European cattle in the white settler colony outcompetes the native grasses on which the hairy-nosed wombats depend and that the threatened wombats contend for food and habitat with cattle, sheep, and rabbits. These marsupials also endure predation by dingoes, mammals dating from much earlier introductions, who have achieved ecological charismatic macrofauna status today after a long career as vermin to Europeans and a longer history as companion species to Aboriginals. Yet the modern rehabilitated nationalist dingoes, even after the cattle have been evicted and the buffel grass discouraged in the work of ecological restoration, have to be fenced out of the patch of Queensland's semiarid grassland and woodland that is the only place left for northern hairy-nosed wombats to burrow and dine.

But then, Piccinini knows, living beings in knotted and dynamic ecologies are opportunistic, not idealistic, and it is not surprising to find many native species flourishing in both new and old places because of the resources provided by interlopers from other lands and waters. Think of the kookaburras, displaced from their own former ranges, eating introduced pest snails and slugs alongside European starlings. Piccinini knows, in short, that introducing species (from another watershed, another continent, or another imagination) is often a world-destroying cut, as well as sometimes an opening to healing or even to new kinds of flourishing.9 Piccinini's fabulated companion species to endangered species may be one more handy newcomer, among many, rather than a destructive invader, among many, or they may be both, the more usual course of things. The crucial question is not, Are they original and pure (natural in that sense)? but rather has to be, What do they contribute to the flourishing and health of the land and its critters (naturalcultural in that sense)? That question does not invite a disengaged "liberal" ethics or politics but requires examined lives that take risks to help the flourishing of some ways of getting on together and not others. Generally positive to animals Europeans have disparagingly called ""feral," Australian Aboriginal peoples have tended to evaluate what Westerners call""species assemblages," new and old, in terms of what sustains the human and nonhuman, storied, changing, cared-for, and lived world called "country," as Anglophones hear the word.10 As Barad put it for ears tuned to Western philosophy and science: "Embodiment is a matter not of being specifically situated in the world, but rather of being of the world in its dynamic specificity. . . . Ethics is therefore not about right response to a radically exterior/ized other, but about responsibility and accountability for the lively relationalities of becoming of which we are a part."11 Curiosity should nourish situated knowledges and their ramifying obligations in that sense.12

Piccinini is also working explicitly in response to and in dialogue with technoculture and its biotechnologies. Her series called Nature's Little Helpers queries the tangled naturalcultural life forms central to conservation practices and to assisted reproductive practices. Both of these technocultural apparatuses have been central to When Species Meet, in which the categories of "endangered species" have repeatedly overflowed with the pain and hopes of their ill-contained actors, even when the vulnerable ones are ""merely" kinds of dogs and their multispecies, historically dynamic, situated ways of life.

Made of silicone, fiberglass, hair, leather, and the goddess knows what else, a fabulated critter titled Surrogate (for the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat), 2004 is one of Nature's Little Helpers. In the drawing James (sitting), 2006, a surrogate and a human baby sit face-to-face.13 Intensely curious and just maybe slightly apprehensive, little James looks ready to reach out (left-handed). I know that babies often hurt the animals they grab. I trained with my dogs and children on loan from my graduate students, so that the canids might tolerate such exploratory excesses by badly coordinated, unaccountable, tiny hominids unwisely endowed too early in their development with grasping hands. Is the surrogate also well instructed? Why should s/he be? Surrogate and baby are close, maybe too close for a human child and an alien guardian species, who looks vaguely benign or maybe just pensive; who can read such a half-seen countenance? The appealing, full-frontal surrogate in color on the cover of the exhibition catalog In Another World does not answer my doubts or Piccinini's. The creature's ventral surface does sport a proper navel, indicating some kind of mammalian kinship, however reconfigured in technochimeras and however foreign to the gestational needs of marsupial wombats. The surrogate was not fabulated to be a protector of Homo sapiens, after all, but of Lasiorhinus kreftii, whose habitats and associates have been blasted by the very species introduced by James's kin. I am not sure what Queensland's indigenous peoples call or called northern hairy-nosed wombats, although "Yaminon" is an Aboriginal name (whose?) for these animals, a name that appears in conservation contexts today without discussion of the human or nonhuman historical naturecultures that generated it. I am even less sure what names different Aboriginal peoples might give the dorsally armored surrogate.14 But whatever the proper names, the surrogate could reasonably decide that James and his kind do not fall under her (his?) writ of protection.

Handsome dorsal plates are the least of the interesting structures rippling down the backside of the surrogate. Three pairs of gestational

Patricia Piccinini With Her Work Babies
Patricia Piccinini, James (sitting), 2006. Graphite on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

pouches run down the spine of the protector companion species, nurturing three stages of wombat development. Aligned with that of other marsupials such as the red kangaroo, surrogate wombat reproduction seems to be run on "just-in-time" principles for stocking embryos on the gestating body. Just out of the birth canal (whose?) and barely able to crawl up the surrogate's fur to wait its turn to finish making a wombat, a barely formed embryo surely inhabits the top pouch. Attached to a teat? Does the surrogate have teats in those odd sphincter-ringed, draw-string pouches? How not? Normal northern hairy-nosed wombats have only two teats in their single, backward-facing pouch, so they can't handle three young out of the body at once, and they give birth to only one young at a time, once a year. Joeys stay in the pouch eight to nine months. But if they are like kangaroos, these wombats could have arrested embryos ready to speed up their life course if the senior joey dies—or is disappeared by aliens. Northern hairy-nosed wombats like to have their babies in the rainy season, and getting a replacement joey into the pouch too late, when the succulent grasses are drying out, would not bode well for that reproductive cycle anyway. Maybe the surrogates take just-emerged joeys from wombat females and put them in their own pouches, thus forcing the wombats to birth another embryo from their body sooner and multiplying the number of young who can be raised in a season. This would not be the first time that forced reproduction was employed as an evolutionary and ecological rescue technology! Ask any tiger in a Species Survival Plan database. No wonder Piccinini is suspicious as well as open to another world.

The middle rung of surrogate pouches houses more developed but still hairless baby wombats; they are far from ready to explore the outside world. A teat, a pouch, and a vigilant surrogate's armored spine are all that are required for now. The third rung of pouches holds mature furry baby wombats, and one is crawling out of the pocket to begin its risky encounters in a wider world. For a few months, this joey can leap back into the pouch when things get too scary and supplement grass with milk, but even the best wombs or pouches, alien or native, give time-limited protection.

Again, I wonder if the surrogate is a male or female maternal creature; my imperializing gender categories will not let the matter rest. Of course, this query is rooted in my historically situated neurosis (and its biological and reproductive discourses), not the surrogate's. I am reminded that only about twenty-five breeding female northern hairy-nosed wombats live on planet Earth to gestate the young of their species. Being female in such a world never comes without paying the price of value. No wonder Piccinini felt called on to introduce her surrogates. I'd love to call the surrogate "queer" and let it go with a celebratory frisson that comes so cost-free to those usually identified as heterosexual, but I am sure Piccinini would withdraw her permission to use her image if I tried to get away with that. The surrogate remains a creature that nourishes indigestion, that is, a kind of dyspepsia with regard to proper place and function that queer theory is really all about. The surrogate is nothing if not the mutter/matter of gestation out of place, a necessary if not sufficient cut into the female-defining function called reproduction. To be out of place is often to be in danger and sometimes also to be free, in the open, not yet nailed by value and purpose.

There is no fourth rung of guarded gestation. James may be facing the surrogate, but I wager that the baby wombat and the baby human will find each other quickly in this narrative tableau. Then, what the world of companion species might become is open. The past has not laid enough ground for optimism for relations between white settler humans and wombats. Yet the past is far from absent or lacking in rich offerings for reworlding. Katie King offers a theoretical tool she calls pastpresents to think about the work of reenactment. She writes, "I think of pastpresents as quite palpable evidences that the past and the present cannot be purified each from the other; they confront me with interruptions, obstacles, new/old forms of organization, bridges, shifts in direction, spinning dynamics."15 With this kind of material-semiotic tool as companion, the past, present, and future are all very much knotted into one another, full of what we need for the work and play of habitat restoration, less deadly curiosity, materially entangled ethics and politics, and openness to alien and native kinds symbiogenetically linked. In Barad's terms, we have here the world-making processes of intra-action and agential realism.

Nibbling on the material-semiotic joint linking gestation and indigestion—a connection well known to any marsupial, mammalian, or extraterrestrial critter of whatever gender who has ever been pregnant or just sympathetic—I offer a second parting bite. In 1980 I applied for a tenured position in feminist theory in the History of Consciousness program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Actually, Nancy Hartsock and I applied to share the job, but Nancy withdrew to stay in Baltimore, and I pressed on, avid for the job. For years, people assumed Nancy and I were lovers because we took action to share a job; that way of surmising sexuality is surely interesting! But lamentably, it is outside the scope of this already too promiscuous book. The day of my job talk, I was picked up at the airport and delivered to the Dream Inn (where else?) by two HistCon graduate students, Katie King and Mischa Adams. They were in a hurry to get to a birth celebration in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A feminist lay midwife had assisted the birth, and there was to be a feast to share a meal of the placenta. Coming from The Johns Hopkins University and its technoscientific and biomedical excesses, I was enthralled, altogether ready to celebrate the bloody materiality of community affirmation in welcoming a baby human. Then I learned that the husband (of the placenta? of the mother? kin relations blurred) was to cook the placenta before serving it. This seemed to bring the feast into a yuppie orbit somehow, away from the mortal sacrament my Catholic formation respected. Would there be a tangy sauce? Things were out of kilter, at least in my East Coast prepped imagination. But I did not have time to worry; the job talk was pressing. Katie and Mischa took off for the feminist, anarchist, pagan cyberwitch mountains, whose waters fed the history of consciousness in those years.16

After the talk, my hosts took me out to dinner, and Katie and Mischa joined us from their previous meal. As everybody savored an elaborately eclectic ensemble of colorful, geographically fabulated foods at India Joze, no one discussed my passionately crafted lecture and its images. All attention, including mine, was focused on deciding who could, should, must, or must not eat the placenta. No one agreed; everyone made worlds grow from their figure of the meal. Philosophy, the history of religion, folklore, science, politics, popular dietary doctrines, aesthetics: all were in play. One person insisted that proteins were proteins, and it did not matter what the source was; the placenta was just biochemical food. Someone asked if Catholics before Vatican II could eat the placenta on Friday. The protein reductionist found herself in deep water fast. Those who cited an ancient matriarchy or some indigenous oneness with nature as warrant for eating afterbirth material got repressive looks from those attentive to the primitivizing moves of well-intentioned descendants of white settler colonies.

Katie and Mischa reported a solemn, rather than festive, sharing of bits of placenta—cooked with onions—in which friends shared nutrients needed by mother and baby at this moment of beginnings. That's my idea of a terran sacramental feast. Our informants reported the event as a potluck, eaten separately from the placental ceremony. The world here was not yuppie but hippie. Katie had brought soy milk that she had made in her kitchen. Health-conscious vegetarians at India Joze had some trouble with the low-fiber fare of the placenta, but the radical feminist vegan at table decided that the only people who must eat the placenta were fellow vegans, because they sought meals from life and not from death. In that sense, the placenta was not food from killed or exploited animals. Some worried whether accumulated toxins were especially high in human placentas, especially if the mother were known to eat high on the food chain. No one suggested placental zoonoses as a danger, because somehow no one saw cross-species connection in eating this flesh that controls the relations between self and other in pregnancy's commerce between mother and infant. Fresh from Marxist-feminist Baltimore habitats and sated on structuralism, I was still having trouble with the class play between the raw and the cooked.

One thing was clear: I had found my nourishing community at last, even as its members began to look a little green around the gills while they contemplated their comestibles. This community was composed of people who used their considerable intellectual skill and privilege to play, to tell serious jokes, to refuse to assimilate to each other even as they drew nourishment from one another, to riffon attachment sites, and to explore the obligations of emergent worlds where untidy species meet. These people let me join them, and my stomach has never settled.

There is a third and last parting bite necessary to explore how to proceed when species meet. No community works without food, without eating together. This is not a moral point, but a factual, semiotic, and material one that has consequences. As Derrida put it, "One never eats entirely on one's own."17 That is a deeply unsettling fact if one wants a pure diet. Driven by such a fantastic desire, a diner's only permitted food would be oneself, ingesting, digesting, and gestating the same without end. Maybe God can have a solitary meal, but terran critters cannot. In eating we are most inside the differential relationalities that make us who and what we are and that materialize what we must do if response and regard are to have any meaning personally and politically. There is no way to eat and not to kill, no way to eat and not to become with other mortal beings to whom we are accountable, no way to pretend innocence and transcendence or a final peace. Because eating and killing cannot be hygienically separated does not mean that just any way of eating and killing is fine, merely a matter of taste and culture. Multispecies human and nonhuman ways of living and dying are at stake in practices of eating. As Barad said about world-making relationalities, "Even the smallest cuts matter."18 Derrida argued that any real responsibility must be excessive. The practice of regard and response has no preset limits, but giving up human exceptionalism has consequences that require one to know more at the end of the day than at the beginning and to cast oneself with some ways of life and not others in the never settled biopolitics of entangled species. Further, one must actively cast oneself with some ways of life and not others without making any of three tempting moves: (i) being self-certain; (2) relegating those who eat differently to a subclass of vermin, the underprivileged, or the unenlightened; and (3) giving up on knowing more, including scientifically, and feeling more, including scientifically, about how to eat well—together.

In reference to the necessary, hard, ethical and political questions posed by those deeply committed to joint human and nonhuman animal well-being, among whom I number animal rights workers, I have touched in this book on the struggle for a viable modern agropastoralism and against the meat-industrial complex. Much of my conversation takes place in the intertextual play between writing above and below the line, between endnotes and foretext. But I have had too little to say about contemporary hunting in technocultural societies, an activity in which killing and eating are especially close. This is a huge and complicated topic, and I do not intend to enter it deeply. But I do want to recall a meal in my own academic community in order to say why every time I am confronted by passionate positions that configure opponents as benighted, I find practices of truth in the supposedly benighted camp, practices that I need, that we need. This is a biographical fact that has become more than that; this fact is why I experience becoming worldly as a process of nurturing attachment sites and sticky knots that emerge from the mundane and the ordinary. In my story here, the ordinary takes the form of our annual departmental party for faculty and graduate students. Fittingly, dogs come back into the picture in this story as agents of multispecies kinship formation as well as hunting companions, friends, and sports partners.

My colleague and friend Gary Lease is a religion studies scholar with exemplary allergies to dogmatic theologies of all kinds, even in tiny doses. Lease also has a keen scholarly knowledge of the history of ritual in the fleshly details of various practices of animal sacrifice, which intersect in a Venn diagram with hunting practices but are not the same thing. Understanding the aggregations and disaggregations of animal sacrifice and hunting is important for many reasons, including gaining some distance from assertions of identity made by both opponents and supporters, even philosophically sophisticated ones such as a number of ecofeminists, a community long dear to my heart, and Derrida, a more recent messmate. Histories are complex and dynamic in the human-nonhuman animal relations called hunting and do not lend themselves to typological reduction, except for purposes of hostile polemic, dogmatic purity, and hackneyed origin stories, usually of the Man-the-Hunter genre. That does not mean we are reduced to the god trick of an easy relativism about situated hunting practices, any more than an easy relativism about any other practice in the quest to eat well together, to refuse to make classes of beings kill-able, and to inhabit the consequences of what we know and do, including killing. To repeat myself, outside Eden, eating means also killing, directly or indirectly, and killing well is an obligation akin to eating well. This applies to a vegan as much as to a human carnivore. The devil is, as usual, in the details.

Lease is a consummate hunter, cook, host, and environmentalist with enviable public and private credentials of acting on his knowledgeable, affective commitments. He knows a great deal about those he kills, how they live and die, and what threatens their kind and their resources. His approach is resolutely tuned to ecological discourses, and he seems tone deaf to the demands individual animals might make as ventriloquized in rights idioms. My sleep is more haunted by these murmurings. But Lease is far from deaf to the profoundly (and diversely) emotional and cognitive demands individual animals and hunters make on each other. Lease acknowledges and cares about nonhuman animals as sentient beings in the ordinary sense of that term, even if technical knowledge of sentience remains hotly contested. He certainly understands that the kinds of animals he hunts feel pain and have rich emotions. He hunts all over the world; he hunts regionally as often as he can; his home is full of what he kills; and his generous table never offers industrially produced meat. Small wonder that his practices would generate orgies of both pleasure and indigestion at our annual departmental feasts!

I will focus on a whole feral pig roasting in Lease's back yard in Santa Cruz, California, one spring evening a few years ago. Too easy, my reader might cry; feral pigs are pests, known environmental thugs ripping up the hillsides where proper native organisms ought to be living. People regularly call feral pigs "rototillers"; if burrowing wombats were as numerous (and as alien?), their moniker of "bulldozers of the bush" might win them fewer fans in the ecological community. Feral pigs are "introduced species," politely put, and invaders deserving what they get, in the xenophobic idiom of the immigration shy. I tracked some of that in a popular Web site article called "Alien Invaders."19 Feral pigs lack sufficient predatory pressure that needs to be supplied by human hunters, even if extermination is not the goal. All true.20

But feral pigs are not an easy case. They are a highly intelligent, opportunistic, socially adept, well armed, and emotionally talented lot, who have demonstrably strong feelings about one another and about their hunters, both human and canine. Would you kill and eat a feral dog or a pet pooch eating more than his or her share of the world's resources? Who determines such shares? Pigs have just as much claim on life as a dog (and what about humans?), if social, emotional, and cognitive complexity is the criterion. Derrida got it right: There is no rational or natural dividing line that will settle the life-and-death relations between human and nonhuman animals; such lines are alibis if they are imagined to settle the matter "technically."

Whether posed in idioms of ecology or animal rights, right-to-life discourses are not going to solve the questions posed by that savory dead pig in Lease's yard. Pigs do less damage to hillsides, watersheds, and species diversity than the industrial California wine industry, much less the real estate industry. The factory-farmed pork industry treats pigs (and people) like calculable production units. That industry is infamous for polluting whole watersheds and damaging literally thousands of species as a result, including people. Adept hunters such as Lease treat pigs like wily animals with lives of their own. Lease has excellent ecological warrant for hunting pigs, but he hunts lots of other kinds of animals who are not considered raving environmental serial killers. However, he hunts only in accord with strict conservation practices (often in relation to projects that provide local, sustainable, skilled jobs for "endangered" people as well) and with testable, revisable, fallible knowledge. He is fierce about killing with as little terror and pain as his skill makes possible, certainly much less than any raccoon I have witnessed pulling a cat apart or any cougar I envision killing a pig. Nonetheless, most people do not have to eat meat, and felines generally do; more peaceful alternatives exist for people. But the calculus of suffering and choice won't solve the dilemma of the departmental party either, and not only because all the alternatives carry their own burden of assigning who lives and who dies and how. The crisis the party faced was a cosmopolitical one, where neither human exceptionalism nor the oneness of all things could come to the rescue. Reasons were well developed on all sides; commitments to very different ways of living and dying were what needed to be examined together, without any god tricks and with consequences.

Hunting, killing, cooking, serving, and eating (or not) a pig is a very intimate personal and public act at every stage of the process, with major consequences for a community that cannot be—and should not be— composed along the lines of organic holism. Several diners in Lease's yard that spring not only refused to eat the succulent pork he served but also argued passionately that he was out of line to serve hunted meat. They argued that his kind of hospitality was an act of aggression not only to the animals but also to the students and faculty. The department should adopt a vegan practice, they maintained, or at least a practice that did not include the community's facing the body of a whole animal for collective consumption. But feral pigs, hunters, eaters, and resisters are companion species, entangled in a messy meal with no sweet dessert to settle everybody's digestion. In any case, sugar hardly seems the proper historical antacid to hunting! What is to be done, if neither liberal relativism nor the fiat of the self-certain of any stripe is a legitimate option?

What actually happened is that Lease did not again hunt and cook a pig for the department. We all avoided conflict. Sliced deli meats seemed tolerable, if barely, and no real collective engagement on the ways of life and death at stake took place. Obligatory "good manners" foreclosed cos-mopolitics, with its kind of polite meetings. I think that was a great loss, much worse than ongoing acid indigestion, because the different approaches could not all be assimilated, even while they all made truth claims that could not be evaded. Or at least I felt them all pulling at my innards, and I was not alone. Remembering the dinner at India Joze, I longed for the kind of serious play that the cooked placenta evoked. But the placenta was in the mountains, confronted by others, and the pig was in Lease's yard, confronted by the departmental diners. Besides, there aren't many emotionally demanding, sentient placentas in the hills stalked by hunters.

I think cosmopolitical questions arise when people respond to seriously different, felt and known, finite truths and must cohabit well without a final peace. If one knows hunting is theologically right or wrong, or that animal rights positions are dogmatically correct or incorrect, then there is no cosmopolitical engagement. Perhaps I project too much from my own personal and political experience in these areas, and I am too easily swayed by friendships and, face-to-face (or book-to-book), getting how the world is to someone else. But these qualities are among those that define the talents of social animals like us, and I think we ought to make more, not less, use of them when species meet. In the sense I have tried to develop in this book, I respect Lease's hunting practices in my bones, and I eat his food with gratitude. In the same sense, I respect friends and colleagues such as Carol Adams, Lynda Birke, and Marc Bekoff, all of whom are scholars and activists whose love of animals leads them to oppose meat eating and hunting of all sorts, not just factory farming.21 Bekoff, a behavioral biologist and tireless animal advocate, acknowledges that some hunters, like Lease, experience and practice love for the animals they kill, and he remarks that he is very glad such hunters do not love him. It is hard to imagine. But Lease and Bekoff are messmates in too many ways for that to be the last word. They are both deeply knowledgeable and active animal advocates, both alert to the nonanthropomorphic competences of many kinds of animals, both environmentalists with solid credentials in the world, both open to play and work with nonhuman animals, both committed to knowing well and eating well. That I feel them both in my gut is not relativism, I insist, but the kind of pain that simultaneously true and unharmonizable things cause. Dialectics is a powerful tool for addressing contradictions, but Bekoff and Lease do not embody contradictions. Rather, they embody finite, demanding, affective, and cognitive claims on me and the world, both sets of which require action and respect without resolution. That's my idea of nourishing indigestion, a necessary physiological state for eating well together.

It's late afternoon in December, time for my canine and human household to go running together and come home to cook dinner. It's time to return to the ordinary knots of daily multispecies living in a particular place and time. If I ignore this simple fact, a determined dog's paws will be on my keyboard typing strange codes I may not know how to delete. Throughout this book, I have tried to ask how taking such things seriously draws us into the world, makes us care, and opens up political imaginations and commitments. Almost eight years ago, I found myself in unexpected and out-of-bounds love with a hot red dog I named Cayenne. It is not surprising that she acted as a kin maker in a middle-class U.S. home in the early twenty-first century, but it has been an awakening to track how many sorts of kin and kind this love has materialized, how many sorts of consequences flow from her kiss. The sticky threads proliferating from this woman-dog tangle have led to Israeli settler ranches on the Golan Heights in Syria, French bulldogs in Paris, prison projects in the midwestern United States, investment analyses of canine commodity culture on the Internet, mouse labs and gene research projects, baseball and agility sports fields, departmental dinners, camera-toting whales off Alaska, industrial chicken-processing plants, history classrooms in a community college, art exhibitions in Wellington, and farm-supply participants in a feral cat trap-and-release program. Official and demotic philosophers, biologists of many kinds, photographers, cartoonists, cultural theorists, dog trainers, activists in technoculture, journalists, human family, students, friends, colleagues, anthropologists, literary scholars, and historians all enable me to track the consequences of love and play between Cayenne and me. Like Ian Wedde's Vincent, she enriches my ignorance.22

When Species Meet works by making connections, by trying to respond where curiosity and sometimes unexpected caring lead. No chapter has a bottom line, but they all have barely contained traffic between the lines and between the foretext and endnotes in an attempt to engage a cosmopolitical conversation. Animals are everywhere full partners in worlding, in becoming with. Human and nonhuman animals are companion species, messmates at table, eating together, whether we know how to eat well or not. Many pithy slogans might urge us on in trying to learn more about how to flourish together in difference without the telos of a final peace. A rough one from the dog world might be, "Shut up and train!" But I prefer to end with a longing that it might be said of me someday what good agility players say of those whose runs they admire, "She has met her dog."

This page intentionally left blank

Was this article helpful?

+1 0
Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook


Responses

  • james
    Why are wombats often called the bulldozer of the bush?
    9 years ago

Post a comment