Thoughts on ‘Staying with the trouble: Making kin the Chthulucene’

I have been holding onto Staying with the trouble: Making kin the Chthulucene for a few months now, anstayingwithtroubled found the most perfect time to read it, on my way to Boston to the AAG 2017. There were a series of sessions organized around ‘Staying with the trouble’ and/or several abstracts with the phrase noted. This book is riddled with felicitous phrases and clarity in her hurricane-consuming writing, as always. A timely intervention in the endless narratives of the Anthropocene, as she says the Anthropocene is merely “a simple word” (2). If you read this text as a manifesto, she is asking many things from us, for us, to begin to enact living more promisingly in our damaged earth.

What does it mean to stay with the trouble in the Chthulucene? What is the Chthulucene? From my reading, I was able to grasp it means a“timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth” (2). To live in the Chthulucene is to be called upon to be enact worldly relations and encounters that acknowledge inheritances whilst attending to the ruins of our earth, the damaged landscapes (in a very Anna Tsing-esque way). I appreciate this, and as Haraway notes, this avoids the “game over” cynicism and too joins hands with indigenous folks like Leanne Simpson who poignantly says indigenous people have been witnessing and attending to the processes of exterminations (I want to throw out and make irrelevant the apolitical term extinction, a later post?) (read interview here ). This moves away from the master narratives of environmental degradation and destruction as a recent phenomena, related to climate change exclusively. Colonizers have benefited time and time again from ruination and intentional-extermination, take for example the Dine, the churro sheep, the Navajo, and the colonizers as storied on page 93. So I like this term. I like what it renders at the table.

Which brings me to the most excitable points of Haraway’s text, extended from Marilyn Strathern an anthropologist who stated “it matters what ideas we use to think other ideas with” to then be embellished by Haraway, “it matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions; what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories (12). This is the largest take away for me. I have been deeply moved by thinking all-things surrounding: it matters who you love, who you care, for, who you chose to bring up-up-up! Especially in the arena of citation politics, you are explicitly drawing alliances with those you hold hands with when thinking through things, or as Haraway later states, “it matters what knowledges know knowledges it matters what relations relate relations. It matters what worlds world worlds. It matters what stories tell stories” (35). If anything I think this is incredibly affective and serves as a reminder for all things ‘relational’.

One thing I was less than excited about what the other dominant phrase she weaves through her science fiction/string figure narrations which is, ‘Make kin not baby’. Moreso, this particular phrase has been picked up way less than then the sexy “staying with the trouble”. Haraway conjures up this phrase of “make kin not babies” because even acknowledging the fear of feminists to “slide into scandal” for the years-and-years-and-continual accumulation of violent population control, feminists “have not been willing to seriously to address the Great Acceleration of human numbers, fearing that to do so would be to slide once again into the muck of racism, classism, nationalism, modernism and imperialism”… BUT, “fear is not good enough” (6.) Pressing next into asking: what is a decolonial feminist reproductive freedom in a dangerously troubled multispecies world?” (6). In the Camille stories, the last chapter, Haraway offers something tangible to this, in the caveat of this science-fiction universe that the “wealthiest and high-consuming human populations reduced new births the most, with the support of the communities of compost; but human births everywhere were deliberately below replacement rates “(159). I still remain unsettled, deeply, that Haraway feels comfortable enough in her celebrated academic position to bring-back this conversation. I don’t think there is a good way to have this conversation. To speak of relations, why did she not press into conversations about general consumptive habits? Or how we use spaces singularly? I really do hope more conversations come out of this; as Haraway is like every settler-colonial breathing critter speaking of population control. Our inheritances do not allow for a “space beyond” to articulate ‘decolonial feminist reproductive’ conversations. Even Haraway herself claims, ”Perhaps the fact that all of us inherent the trouble of colonialism and imperialism in densely related, mostly white, Anglophone webs makes us need eachother even more as we learn to rethink and refeel with situated earth critters and their people” (xiiii). So shh? Step away from this, and please oh please people who hold hands with Haraway in their own thinking, hold her accountable for this. I am hopeful that there will be criticisms centred on this that arrive soon. I am fully on board with “make kin” especially as someone who does not have tight connections with biological family, and have had to create my own kin circles, that are far beyond the human barrier. However, I wish Haraway chose a different route to advocting radical kin-making practices, as she does with composting collectives. Maybe something’s do not need to be ‘stirred up’?

And another concern, or unsettling. In her conversations with pigeons, she speaks of their fecundity in a problematic sense as that “feral pigeon fecundity is itself a material urban force, and also a potent signifier of the overfilling of the land with settlers and immigrants and depriving the land of endemic wetland birds and aboriginal peoples” (28). This framing presents pigeons, and other nonhuman animals as colonizers rather than as colonized subjects. It is strange to read, especially with so many scholars and activists doing decolonial work, are pushing for more radical conceptualizations and ethical stances towards nonhuman animals. But maybe this makes sense, Haraway does not really care for animal liberation!

I will say that I really enjoyed this text. It was wondrous and peppered with accessible understandings, repletion, and imaginative provocations. Haraway and many others are tending to the possible/on-going ways of living of the feral. This is an ontological existence I am falling more and more in-love with everyday. The ultimate anarchists, or the “chthonic ones”. Long quote, but beautifully radical:

“Chthonic ones are beings of the earth, both ancient and up-to-the-minute. I imagine chthonic ones as replete with tentackles, feelers, digits, cords, whiptails, spider legs and very unruly hair. Chthonic ones romp in multicritter humus.…are monsters in the best sense, they demonstrate and perform the material meaningfulness of earth processes and critters. …they demonstrate consequences. Chthonic ones are not safe; they have no truck with ideologies; they belong to no one; they writhe and luxuriate in manifold forms and manifold names in all the airs, waters, and places of earth. They make and unmake; they are made and unmade. They are who are. No wonder the world’s great monotheisms in both religious and secular guises have tried again and again to exterminate the chthonic ones. The scandals of times called the anthropocene and the capitalocene are the latest and most dangerous of these exterminating forces. Living with and dying with each other potently in the Chthulucene can be a fierce reply to the dictates of both Anthropos and Capital” (2). What a homage to our greatest teachers.

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Haraway, D. 2016. Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Cthulucene. London: Duke University Press.

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Project: What is it like to live with a pitbull in the face of BSL?

I am really excited to include this poster on this blog. I have decided to do a research project on the affects of BSL in Montreal after having so many conversations with people, and my personal involvement with working, breathing and living for pitbull-type dogs. I feel like this is something I can contribute to the literature and awareness on pitbull-type dogs considering my current position as a graduate student.  I am really hammering in on the criminizalization of us and our dogs in this study  such as the required annual RCMP police check and reading today that the recruitment poster for the spring-summer 2017 by-law officers targeted people currently in the police academy who will be granted the authority to use both medication to sedate animals and a tranquilizer.

Feeling very grateful for all the support, encouragement and trust being put on me by all those who are interested in contributing to this research.

#endbsl
#dontbullymybreed
#saferkindercommunities
#montrealpitbulls

 

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a shady re-imagination of world(s)

I have been left uncomfortably, with a lingering pit in my stomach, after attending a panel at McGill on “Social and the Environment: Multidisciplinary Perspectives”. The panel was asked to talk about growth/ degrowth/ sustainability/ change/ activism/ society and the environment and more, so the panelists had a range of interesting points, concerns and perspectives on working in the margins of society and the environment. What united them was the commitment to thinking about building more hospitable, prosperous, caring, relational worlds because. Throughout the conversations, nonhuman animals were reduced to their commodified forms yet the united theme was more livable worlds for humans + nature. Okay, so something to go off. I asked a question near the end, that was something around the idea of: recognizing the only nonhuman animal mentioned through the course of the conversations were fish in their commodified, roles-as-edibles and if the panelists have made any gestures in their own research, their own re-imaginings how non-human animal roles would be re-made, and if they would also be invited into living more beautiful, intimate lives? The answers were pretty disappointing. The first came from an engimatic character, that reminded us: anthropocentrism is bad, we cannot “think like animals” and the impossibility of knowing if they do have intrinsic value and also something about, not just animal life but look what we do to our crops! The second response was from a seasoned activist, very brilliant women who conjured up indigenous consumption of nonhuman animals whilst being in kinship, in loving and respectful relationships with the nonhuman world. And the third reminded me of the a creative performance that I will have to crawl into the depths of google to find again, but something I want to do for my thesis!

My thoughts as I walked home:
-why can’t we re-work our value systems to be more life-promoting? instead of dismissive because “we cannot think like them”. would it really be so out-of-this world just to hold nonhuman animal life in that regard?
-why do white folks call-upon indigenous stories of relationality when addressing consuming non-human animals? I know it is radically important to centre indigenous stories and worldviews, but is this a strategy to derail or somehow give them permission to keep casting nonhuman animals in edible-roles? it can’t be that being in solidarity with the first peoples, allows you to absorb yourself and forget your social location?

Being an animal person, I asked an animal question to a panel dedicated to more livable, and breathable worlds. Why are we pressing on however, while not questioning the roles in which nonhuman animals are subjected to. Do these roles not get questioned in our re-imagined world-ings? If so, how radical are a lot of these conversations if we uncritically keep a pool of living, breathing life to a category of exploitation, oppression and consumption?

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a murmur

I want to start blogging again. Not only that, I want to start feeling myself. I feel myself moving out of a two-year mourning period. Indications are: I am asking questions, I am excitable!?, I am being more open and receptive to the world around me, and I am ultimately not drinking everyday/too much; I have began to make food for myself and I have begun to make commitments to relationships, and feel a sense of sustainment and desire to nourish the life around me. I have missed the capacity in which you see beautiful, sweet life. January 19th marks the day my mum died and left me on my own two-feet, and it has been almost too much for me, shaky and lonely and blurry.  But here I am, so I am going to celebrate this and not be mad at myself.

But most importantly for this blog, it means I am going to start posting more, which means writing…and thinking…and feeling myself.

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Kim Tallbear on an indigenous logic of relationality

I just walked home from a talk at ConcordiaU entitled Distrupting settlement, sex, and nature: An indigenous logic of relationality by Kim Tallbear (PhD). This was a talk where your heart explodes exponentially and you cannot stop nodding your head and jotting down the messiest, but most connected notes of your life. This talk invigorated me in the best and worst of ways, having me face some of my own contemptuous thoughts, mostly in regards to nonhuman animal ethics. It was a special talk in that Tallbear is in the crux of playing around and thinking about what she spoke about tonight so the question period was as enlightening to us as it was to her. It is notable that she sat uncomfortable with a lot of the key words on her poster-ad such as “sustainable”, ‘are we going back or forth’ and also her taking up sci-fi. As someone who is really into relationality, she was surely supportive of collaborating on thoughts with her audience (there must be a better word).

 

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Where do I begin, to boil down her talk into a few key words which by no means, intend to be deflating, circling conversations around intimacy and the erotic (in a good Audre Lord fashion). Tallbear touched on the most prominent themes in my life: intimacy and the question of kin. She takes both of these concepts and throws them into the realm of contemplating relationality, meaning, to see oneself as partial and always co-constituted by other(s). To see the world in terms of this, as I am learning more and more, is to ‘not have faith in scarcity’ but to not hoard to paraphrase Tallbear.

That is it- that hits the point. Most of our relationships with the world are enclosed by some sort of normative and acceptable politics of how to orient and operate oneself in the world. A deep seated fear is to blur what is ‘reality’. But many of us cannot handle this reality that the status quo report on time and time again. It is exhausting, it is restrictive, it is full of shame and it is constantly asking us to ‘take-away’ from ourselves in order to behave accordingly. This singular reality that is asked of us is one that is stressed and created continuously resulting in the naturalized settler  heteropatriarchal monogamy that both Tallbear and David Delgado Shorter speak to. Tallbear offered the term ethical non-monogamy as the best place holder she had at this time to counter the master narratives of heteropatriachal monogamy. I cannot exclaim how beautiful it was to encounter these words. Heterosexual monogamy has made no sense in my life, and it has been about promiscuity but in line with her definition that speaks to plurality, not excess, not randomness, but openness to multiple, partial connections. This carries throughout my relationships with a point to demystify the spaces and scripts we create that differentiate lovers and friends, to create hierarchies were you dispense love and care.

Moving a few steps in a different, but relatable direction, I was particularly struck and excited about conversations of kinship. As somebody whose biological family has become non-existent, and incredibly minute where it remains, defining my understanding of kinship has been incredulous to remaining a capacious person. Tallbear speaks to this language we lack, that we are slowly developing… This feeds into us appointing particular arrangements in order to define what we are experiencing, however, from a simple understanding of performativity- this is followed by an effect- and when/where does this effect be decided up? The heteropatriarchal capitalist white settler society has been defining these effects for far too long.

Leaving us with no choice to move towards creating new languages, new arrangements that do not have embedded obligations but prioritize responsibilities that surpass the nuclear family. We need to collect our communities and that includes nonhuman lives.

This brings me to the most impactful aspect of Tallbear’s talk, my nonhuman animal ethics. What are my nonhuman animal ethics based on? An inclusion into the human? Is this why I study hated nonhuman animals, to further amend the inclusion? Is this the right pathway? Is inclusion the right framework? Inclusion seems mighty different than thinking in relationality terms. The more and more I think on this, and relocate moments were my position was challenged (ie. a rereading of kinship with monkeys: the guaja foragers of easter amazonia by loretta a cormier and some eduardo kuhn are necessary) I find myself embace a relational position towards nonhman animal life. However, as both Tallbear’s talk and even Val Plumwood’s work on troubling the edibleness of humans suggest, there is the potential for consumption of each other, in some sort of endocannibalistic act. I am arriving at this point but require more, something to build upon this relational ethic with nonhuman animals that in an attempt to create a multispecies worldview, still renders them as consumable. I am more than excited over Val Plumwood’s attempt at designating humans as also consumable, but the conditions of today would never, ever permit that (however, human cheese and breast milk tasting parties are indespensible in challenging these designations).

I will continue from these thoughts shortly in upcoming posts, especially after having some needed conversations with radicals in my life about troubling our animal ethics as nonhuman animal scholars and because as I am learning to be a geographer spatial emancipation is becoming my compass in understanding what tools I want to pick from this discipline and Tallbear’s words fit into the world I am striving for.

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Public declarations of pitbull love

Clementine and myself attended a march yesterday organized by “Protection Pitbull” in Montreal, a gathering to recognize the importance of coming together, nonhuman and human animals, to publicly demonstrate the love and solidarity shared between pitbull-tytpe dog’s and humans.

The next gathering is set for September 26th, the same day that the mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre a true maverick in his thinking, will inform us about the “dangerous dog” legislation that is in fact coded for pitbull-type dogs, breed specific legislation.

The more and more we learn about this legislation it becomes painfully obvious that this is as much about proliferating the stereotype of pitbull-type/looking dogs as it is about “cleansing” the image of those who own pitbull’s. A lot of people are questioning why Quebec is mirroring Ontario’s BSL law’s, however, there are important distinctions that are being hushed. Through all of this I am being made incredibly conscious of my social location as a companion and as a lover to “pitbull-type” dogs.

The proposed legislation is a classist and racist in that it is making it incredibly challenging for people of lower economical status, for folks with criminal records (significantly people of colour are criminalized for literally commonplace ‘crimes’ white folks get away with all the time…), for folks who rent who will have to face: move or get rid of their companion animal, for folks who cannot have their mobility restricted to the extent that they are about to impose. For street folks who will have their companions ripped from their arms, regardless of how much love and care they provide. There is so much going on here.

The state protecting it’s citizens may be one of the funniest things they try to uphold, but anyone with a political bone in their body should see how this legislation is MUCH MORE than “just the dogs”. Everything is intwined and feeds into eachother.

I have been trying to focus on all of these other angle’s to get people’s interests and to distract myself from all of the death sentences. Ultimately it is the dogs lives that are on the table – and their lives are based on their associations, whether belonging to families with the ability to spend this money and fit the “proper owner code”; belonging to families who desperately want to, but cannot “meet the requirements” or those who are in shelters. These dogs already have so many forces against them, deemed “trash” by many shelters and people, and now they are going to face even more challenges to the point where FEW will make it out alive. And that is what this legislation is about. Annihilating a “type-looking” dog, not even breed.

Yesterday by coming together in this march we “proudly procmaim[ed] [our] ownership and appearing with their dogs, these owners actively work to promote a different view of both ends of the leash”. This little tidbit comes from a MA thesis completed by Sarah Goss entitled Both ends of the leash: Pitbull ownership and activism in Atlanta, Georgia (2015). Yet I still feel uncomfortable about cleaning up the image of these dogs leash holders to somehow secure their lives. And propagating “acceptable” representations of animal companions; to love and care for them is all one needs to ask. It reminds me of the argument going around of how we need to get pitbull-type dogs into police canine programs. It seems antithetical in the long run. Their reputation’s are not as bad as we think, it is the media that holds the greatest leash in in driving this human-made hysteria. IMG_6244

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A children’s book, Free / Not Free

I am not entirely convinced this book should be categorized as a children’s book. Yes, it follows a simple text blurb + picture outline, but the depths it goes can be hard for older generations to grasp. The book is two-in-one, two perspectives on the same concept of “gift economies” or of a Kropotkin mutual aid. Geneviee Vaughan states “People need to learn from nature where everything is given free”. I believe it to be a bit more complicated than the environment and all the creatures constantly handing out their resources and affections without some sort of exchange, but that exchange can certainly take on different faces – one not defined by capital exchange.

Side Free: Trilly, the canary in a music store sings, sings, sings and influences the store owners granddaughter Sophie to recognize that within the store where music is being sold, exists a creature, singing for ‘no cost’. She carries ethic over and passes out free music to poor, young children. She thanks Trilly for this. She entertains the idea of ‘free’ to carry over to the very mobility of Trilly, asking her grandmother if they can open the cage and let Trilly “go where he is needed”, and he does just that. On his travels he spreads the sentiment of ‘free-ness’, to only use what you need, to share the rest, to redistribute the goods like the local shop owner does.

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Side Not Free: Trilly, the canary in a music store sings, sings, sings, until the day he recognizes the women whom owns the music store he is caged in exchanges music records for shiny, clattering coinage. He then withholds the songs he previously filled the store with until they ‘pay up’. This is where interspecies communications fails both parties, and Trilly is brought to the vet over night. That evening, Trilly joins in conversation with the other animals like the cat’s who just aren’t cuddling, and the parrot who just is not being a parrot. They all rejoice together they won’t perform their expectations unless shiny, clattering coinage is sent their way. This second half or beginning, depends how you read it, concludes that animals and the natural elements like sunshine and rain cease doing what we find most resourceful of them. The world is dark. The sun has the final word, “I won’t shine unless you pay me”.

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This book troubles the idea for young readers of how to get things, and offers a re-imaging of how to get these things, share resources and be in this world. I am going to take a step back however, and trouble the idea that nature just “gives for free”. I think it is worthwhile to see nature’s exchange systems, where the holistic gears run the scene. Bodies decompose, animals defecate, animals and elements disperse seedlings, and sometimes it really is not all that fair.

I will make sure whenever a friend come’s over, to sit with them for a few minutes and read this together. It offers so many points to talk about different issues, like animal liberation, human-animal communication, exchange, poverty, capitalism, and even how important this type of literature is in young readers purview. I am also thrilled to see animal’s making their way into a children’s book in such a way that grants them agency and wiggle-room outside of the confines we bind them to!

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