I sincerely thank you for inviting me to exchange with you throughout the duration of your overall challenging Hybrid Family project, and I am much looking forward to visit you and your currently extending family soon in your Berlin trans-species performativity nest. I hope to be able to accompany your multi-layered becoming and to mutually un-domesticate, while you are reporting on what you describe as the “emotional, physiological, psychological, biomedical, biotechnological, bio-political, sociological and ethical transformations” throughout this period during which you are adopting, nursing, breast-feeding and raising ‘your’ puppy. When does he-she-it arrive, and have you already ‘agreed’ on a name (and if, with whom)?
Your whole K-9_topology philosophically and physiologically materializes and condenses such a wide range of both historical and contemporary concerns with regards to the role that the construction of otherness plays in the oscillation between selfhood and kinship, borders and membranes, majorities and minorities, ‘we’ and ‘them’. It seems to stage and carnally enact the collapse of the very dialectic potential of binary wor/l/d-making as such, while, as you rightly state, “Nature-Culture ends up being one word.” Its hyphenation disappears in its outspoken action to become pregnant with meaning, the hyphen itself melting down into an ontologically grey zone of what Scottish anthropologist Victor Witter Turner has described as “betwixt and between”, as liminality.
You, in spe surrogate mother in company of your also Scottish (what does that mean, by the way?) Border Collie (did you chose him-her-it because of his-her-its Anglo-Scottish border ‘origin’?) Lord Byron, are obviously not pregnant, and therefore employing techniques to stimulate breast milk production beyond existing natural and supposedly gendered limitations, implying as well hormonal changes prone to trigger shifts in emotions and empathy. ‘Dog as medium’, as you write a propos your own family history, “an appreciative medium (…) for unspoken affections” through its interpersonal middle position? But how is the microperformatity of hormones and fluids then related to ecological and social macropolitics? Beyond narcissism, is ‘the dog’ a mirror? And, beyond the semantics embedded in the narratives of our bios, how much zoe is there in a dog?
I cannot help but need to start with a quite sinister episode related to this week’s disgusting Islamist terror attacks in my very neighborhood in Paris – where my own (extended hybrid, but indeed human) family luckily survived safely. When French police started their anti-terror raid in the suburb of Saint-Denis to capture the assumed mastermind behind the shootings, the seven-year-old Malinois Belgian Shepherd police dog named Diesel was killed by the terrorists, in addition to the other 130 human victims that are to be deplored until now. According to the first announcements made by the French Police, the she-dog has been reported to having been killed precisely when an allegedly female suicide bomber activated her explosive vest. Photos with Diesel looking into the camera among many anonymous uniformed legs and boots were tweeted, and the hashtag Je suis chien, following Je suis Charlie from the attacks in January, showcased many of ‘patriotic’ dogs, including with French flags and standing on their hind paws. Whatever will be the final version of the police report, how did the double feminization – ‘Diesel against Hasna’ the presumed suicide bomber – impact on the commentators’ sympathy? May have Diesel also served to supersede our horror to see now even female kamikaze possibly acting in the very heart of our societies against ‘Western’ values, whereas ‘Westerners’ precisely claim to keep women free from Islamic patriarchy? Many commentators sympathize with Diesel-the-dog, astonishingly ennobled to accompany the list of victims, condemning Hasna-the-human, while the terrorists themselves do not account for the list at all. Is supposed post-anthropocentric empathy then prone to confront inhuman terrorist fantasies – or may this be a dead end when recalling how much nazi protagonists favored dogs over ‘other’ people… ? Which ingredients are needed to produce victims / heroes, and which feature ‘dog as medium’ then needs to fulfill to become operational?
The seven-year-old Malinois Belgian Shepherd police dog named Diesel – Source: https://twitter.com/PNationale
I am thinking here of one paragraph in Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Becoming Animal, which obviously has been profoundly inspirational for your K-9_topology. In opposition to animal ‘packs’ formed by ‘contagion’, we may have a tendency to look for the outstanding representative of minor otherness: “Wherever there is multiplicity, you will also find an exceptional individual, and it is with that individual that an alliance must be made in order to become-animal.” Among animality, “there is a leader of the pack, a master of the pack, or else the old deposed head of the pack now living alone” – and why not as an exceptionally talented police dog for the sake of protecting humans from other human othernesses? Very often, the very act of naming then becomes the sign of attributing and recognizing agency, Moby-Dick, Diesel. And are naming politics then not only related to what Deleuze and Guattari call “Oedipal animals” – individuated animals that can ‘become’ my cat or my dog – but also vectors of selective empowerment?
Instead of becoming-minor, aren’t named animals becoming major by the very fact of naming? Maja, what will be the name of your dog? Will it be a bios or a zoe puppy? I am referring here to a quote from Rosi Braidotti’s feminist appropriation of the concept of Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Becoming Animal:
The structural link between women, ‘native others’ and animals has a dense and complex unity; women and ‘others’ personify the animal-human continuity, while men embody its discontinuity. In my language, the former are structurally closer to zoe, men to bios. The structural link between woman and zoe is also a matter of sharing a second-class status, as shown by the relative marginalization of animal life (zoe) in relation to discursive life (bios). Evolutionary theory supports this by attributing human development to white male skills, while woman and ‘others’ are considered mere objects of exchange. Similarly, motherhood has traditionally been considered as an automatic biological process, while fatherhood is seen as a social and cultural institution that rules over and governs biological relations.
In this sense, your K-9_topology project in general, and Hybrid Family in particular, add layers to an already rich history of artistic projects in which cohabitation of human and non-human animals – be they nameless or named – is supposed to stage and increase empathy. Among all these Kuliks, Albas, Jofis and Little Johns we will certainly have a closer look together on how you are dealing with all these imposing references, meanwhile you hunt nature and culture hunts you.