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When Species Meet (Posthumanities) Paperback – November 26, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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Donna Haraway’s latest book, When Species Meet, is a stunning meditation on the ordinary. Tying together questions of interspecies encounters and alternative practices of world building, Haraway explores how contemporary human beings interact with various critters to form meanings, experiences, and worlds. The text effortlessly slides between theory and autobiography; one of the driving connections in this regard is Ms. Cayenne Pepper, an Australian sheepdog whose “darter-tongue kisses” compel Haraway to look closely at what biologist Lynn Margulis calls “symbiogenesis,” a process that explains how life forms continually intermingle, leading to ever more “intricate and multidirectional acts of association of and with other life forms.” From lab animals to interspecies love to breeding purebreds, Haraway ensures that her readers will never look at human-animal encounters of any sort in the same way again.

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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Product Details

  • Series: Posthumanities (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (November 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816650462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816650460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I agree with the previous reviewer: this book is not intended for a general reader. It is intended for a specialized academic audience. It seems silly to critique it based on not fulfilling the needs of a general reader. It's like buying a sports car and then complaining that it doesn't have enough room or hugs the road too much. If you didn't want those things, why buy a sports car? Similarly, if you didn't want an academic press book, don't buy one.

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.
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Donna J. Haraway's _When Species Meet_ is a great resource for anyone interested in animal/human relations in the context of posthumanism. Haraway has always been an astute observer of social/political/natural interactions, and this book follows in the same tradition. No ideology is safe from her questioning mind as she explores the science and ethics behind industrial food animal farming, the use of animals in biomedical research, and pedigreed animal breeding.
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Although the topic (pets) seems a specialized interest--although of course Haraway makes the obvious point that household companion species are enormously important in the US--this is a major treatise by one of the foundational thinkers in a major transformation taking place in the social sciences and humanities, "the animal turn" "new materialities" "posthumanities" etc. Essential reading to anyone interested in the future of environmentalism and feminism.
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Reading the last chapter, and when I encountered the phrase of Haraway, "I had found my nourishing community at last," my heart pit-a-patted. And I was reminded my own community, how delightful it is to eat with them. Reading Haraway, I learn too much, with never settled stomach. Touching it is.
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Donna Haraway has become something of a rock star-legend among certain academic circles and it is clear to see why - she writes (perhaps unintentionally, and yet unmistakably) only for other academic readers (an exclusivity that always gratifies insecure academic types).

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.
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