Eating Well Together: Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto
It was a rainy fall day in Pennsylvania farm country. I was assisting the farmhand and the extension service veterinarian in separating the calves from a herd of some eighty Angus cows. The process involved herding the cattle into a pen and sending them one at a time through a shoot, where a vet inspection was performed and the bull calves castrated. On the other end of the shoot, the cows were put into one pen and the calves into another, later to be sent to separate grazing fields. For the following week the bucolic countryside was filled with the mournful moans of mothers and calves, calling out for each other, grieving over this forced separation. In time, the female calves would be reunited with the herd for breeding and the male calves sent off for slaughter.
I was no stranger to farm work, livestock, and slaughterhouses, but on this occasion, I was having flash backs to the previous year in Germany and Poland, where I had worked with a German-church organization teaching German university students about the Holocaust.1 This involved two weeks spent at Auschwitz and numerous field trips to other former concentration camps. The scene in Pennsylvania that day was filled with noise, filth, stench, power, brutality, fear, moans, mud, and routinized efficiency. I was participating in a selection and a separation leading to slaughter. Vivid images of Auschwitz came back to meâ€”the books read, seminars attended, documentaries viewed, photographs seen, museums visited, survivors interviewed, tragedies witnessed. It was a visceral epiphany. So this is what it felt like. My stomach contracted into a knot. I turned my back, vomited on the ground, and went dutifully back to work.
If it is not moral to treat humans like animals, was it any more moral to treat animals like â€œanimalsâ€? If I could do this to these cows, then I might also be capable of doing it to humans? Was cruelty to animals a massive failure in moral imagination? Was it really possible to eat animals without also participating in the outsourcing of just such cruelty? Why and how do humans create different moral codes for animals and other humans? Was it appropriate to extend a natural rights discourse into the domain of domestic animals? How about wild animals? Is it possible to develop a coherent utilitarian ethic that included animals, minimizing their suffering, maximizing their values for the benefit of the greatest number of who exactly and how? Is there a relevant cognitive hierarchy that orders natural kinds through some calculus of differential value and rights? When is not anthropomorphizing actually denying the subjective experiences of animals and ourselves? And when does anthropomorphizing lead to confusing significant ontological differences and philosophical distinctions between humans and other-than-human animals? What does science teach us about our animal kin and our animal selves? What do our religions teach us? What do our actual experiences with animals teach us? What is at stake in this long list of questions are the practices of hunting, killing, breeding, feeding, petting, healing, selling, enslaving, aborting, euthanizing, sterilizing, imprisoning, drugging, vivisecting, torturing, terrorizing, and eating animals.
In her latest and most accessible book, Donna Haraway steps into my barnyard muddle. Trained in biology and philosophy, Haraway is a professor in the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.2 When Species Meet (2008) is a continuation and enlargement of her previous book The Companion Species Manifesto (2003). Both are efforts to do philosophy on the boundaries where species interact and to explore the complex relations between humans and animals in our technoscientific, global civilization.
Donna Haraway has slaughtered her own share of sacred cows, on the right and the left, among the religious and the scientistic.3 She is also an omnivore, eating and thinking opportunistically, taking nourishment from multiple disciplines and natural kinds. Haraway has earned quite a cult following among rebellious graduate students and faculty throughout the humanities and social sciences. No education is quite complete without struggling through her ironic refutation of 1980â€™s era â€œfeminist epistemologyâ€ in her now classic essay, â€œThe Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Centuryâ€. No primatologist or anthropologist today can ignore her 1989 book Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science. No bioethics course has dealt with the profound multileveled complexities of modern medicine without delving into her perversely titled 1996 book Modest Witness@Second Millennium.The FemaleManÂ© meets OncoMouseâ„¢.
One of the reasons that Haraway is fun to read is that she is in conversation with so many different academic fields and scholars. She brings to bear competencies in biology and the history of science, continental philosophy, feminist and Marxist theory, structuralism, semiotics, science fiction, and popular culture. The 300-page text is supplement by almost 100 pages of footnote citations and annotations, which are every bit as interesting as the twelve chapters. When Species Meet also includes a scrapbook of cartoons and photographs to entertain and illuminate the prose discussions. And yet her fearsome transdisciplinary intellect combined with sometimes biting irony and inside jokes can leave the uninitiated feeling put-off and left-out. Liberation and enlightenment a la Donna Haraway might just be too dense for the masses. But for those that love the interplay of words and ideas, the skillful use of evidence, the turning of metaphors inside out, critique mixed with humor, the telling of stories, all informed by excellent science and a passion for right living, you will be well rewarded in reading her books.
In When Species Meet, Haraway frequently rails against the doctrines of human exceptionalism in both its religious and secular forms. Her trope of â€œcompanion speciesâ€ is her way of deconstructing the boundaries between human and animal, self and other. Humans and domesticated animals are coevolved, significant others to each other in complex and asymmetrical ways. The dogmas of human exceptionalism render our significant and troubled relationships with animals invisible, one-dimensional, and deceivingly simplistic.
Ironically, I will argue, Haraway has humanized herself in many exceptional ways in the writing of this book. To realize her implied and explicit visions of â€œeating wellâ€”togetherâ€, we would also have to become some pretty exceptional humans. Harawayâ€™s exceptional humaneness is grounded in a much more productive metaphysics than all of the other leading brands. In place of antiquated sets of philosophical binaries, Haraway offers us nuanced complexities based on better readings of science, society, and self. And her metaphysics, like all others, has theological content and import. Haraway, a lapsed Catholic, seems to be doing twenty-first century natural law philosophy, in keeping with the best of the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition. All of this may come as a surprise to the postmodern socialist-feminist, scientist-philosopher and her many fans, who do not truck in God-talk or theological reasoning. â€œThe posthumanites,â€ writes Haraway â€œis another word for â€˜after monotheismâ€™â€(2008, 245).
In When Species Meet, we meet a humanized Donna Haraway, thanks especially to the presences of her dogs, Cayenne and Roland, but also thanks to the presence of her father, her husband, her colleagues, and the glimpses of her childhood growing up in Denver. Critical autobiography is a necessary part of every epistemology. All of our lived, embodied, subjective experiences are important data sets in doing science and ethics. That relevant data includes Harawayâ€™s love for her own pets and their reciprocation. This mutual love is a happy point of departure to which she returns throughout the book. Cayenne, Roland, and Donna share a passion for agility training competitions at which they seem to excel. And while Haraway writes about a lot of other animal critters in this bookâ€”sheep, pigs, chickens, cows, primates, whales, and Mixotricha paradoxaâ€”the primary trope in this book is Manâ€™s Best Friend, Canis lupus familiaris, the dog, in all shapes and sizes. Dogs are presumed to be the first species domesticated by humans. They have been our evolutionary companion species for tens of thousands of years. Today, there are some 400 million dogs in the world, many are pets and working dogs, many more are feral dogs living on the fringe and trash of poorer human communities. We are both coevolved creatures, reciprocally domesticated in specific ways, along with all of the other barnyard animals.
If you love dogs, you will enjoy reading about Harawayâ€™s own love of Cayenne and Roland and their mutual love of sport. The book delves into the history of her breed, the Australian Shepherd Dog, which was created out of mongrel immigrant ranch dogs in 1957. She explores many of the genetic and medical problems created by the inbreeding of these and other â€œpure bredâ€ canines. Dogs know a lot about eugenics. Two chapters are more or less devoted to exploring the dynamics of dog agility obstacle courses. Much of this story is told in a contemporary epistolary styleâ€”reproduced email correspondences with other dog trainers, competitors, and breeder. Behind this playful dialogue over copied email, and in her prose, lies an important philosophical argument about human-animal relations. While arguing for more humane treatment of animals, she is fundamentally opposed to the discourse of animal rights. She eats meat and supports vivisection, but does so with philosophical â€œindigestionâ€:
Many critical thinkers who are concerned with the subjugation of animals to the purposes of people regard the domestication of other sentient organisms as an ancient historical disaster that has only grown worse with time. Taking themselves to be the only actors, people reduce other organisms to the lived status of being merely raw material or tools. The domestication of animals is, within this analysis, a kind of original sin separating human beings from nature, ending in atrocities like the meat-industrial complex of transnational factory farming and the frivolities of pet animals as indulged but unfree fashion accessories in a boundless commodity culture. Or, if not fashion accessories, pets are taken to be living engines for churning out unconditional loveâ€”affectional slaves, in short… [T]he human assumes rights in the instrument that the animal never has in â€œitâ€self… To be animal is exactly not to be human and vice versa (206).
In dog agility competitions, Haraway tries to imagine and understand the sport from the animalsâ€™ perspective and to appreciate the joy, exhilaration, and sometimes disappointment that Cayenne, Roland, and the other dogs exhibit in their training and competition. The animal is not an â€œItâ€, but rather a subject, an actor in a relationship with a human. She agrees with the English utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Of course, animals suffer and therefore must receive moral regard. Do what we can to minimize the unnecessary suffering of domesticated animals on the farm, in our homes, and in laboratories. Of more philosophical and practical import, however, is that animals can also play with, work with, enjoy with, and relate with humans. They are not other kinds; they are intimate relations, companion species.
We (Cayenne, Roland, and Donna Haraway) have forbidden conversation; we have had oral intercourse; we are bound in telling story on story with nothing but the facts. We are training each other in acts of communication we barely understand. We are, constitutively, companion species. We make each other up, in the flesh. Significantly other to each other, in specific difference, we signify in the flesh a nasty developmental infection called love. This love is a historical aberration and a naturalcultural legacy (16).
The humanized Haraway also comes through in a touching chapter about her father, the late Frank Haraway (1916-2005), a sportswriter for the Denver Post. Her father contracted tuberculosis as a child which settled in an injured leg. From ages eight to eleven, he was confined to a full body cast. Though he survived, his joints were calcified and he could not bend at the hip. The young â€œcrippledâ€ Frank Haraway, however, had a passion for sports. Among the many photographs and cartoons that Haraway uses to illustrate her book, there is a photograph of her father as a teenager swinging a baseball bat from his wheelchair. Eventually, Frank Haraway was able to get around quite proficiently on crutches, more proficient than most people were on their feet. He could even play a mean game of table tennis standing stationary unassisted by his crutches. He went on to pursue a successful career as sportswriter and imparted upon his daughter a love of words, storytelling, work, and a passion for sports, which she now pursues with her dogs, Cayenne and Roland.
In her earlier writings, Donna Haraway refers to this postmodern mixture of â€œman and machineâ€â€”wheelchair, crutches, eyeglasses, automobiles, computers, telescopes, MRIs, space stations, and the likeâ€”as what makes us cyborgs and no longer mere humans.4 In her recent writings, she now prefers the term â€œcompanion species,â€ of which inanimate wheel chairs and crutches, computers and electron microscopes, are also part of â€œthe ontics and antics of significant othernessâ€ (165).
These cyborg hybrids and companion species relationships are asymmetrical and multivalent. They include complex economic interests and power disparities. As of 2006, for instance, sixty-three percent of all households in the United States had â€œcompanion speciesâ€ for a total of some 74 million dogs, about 90 million cats, 16 million birds, and many other creatures (47). In that year, pet owners spent some $38 billion on their pets, including about $9 billion for veterinary care (48). Companion species are not just family pets, but commodities and goods in a sprawling economic system. Haraway wonders about $1400 MRI-bills for the family dog, high-end cancer treatment and kidney transplants for the family cat, expensive joint-replacement surgeries, not to mention designer clothing and furniture for upscale lapdogs and boutique pet hotels which offer massages, facials, and swimming pools for the discriminating pooch. She is distressed by the puppy-mills churning out â€œpurebredâ€ pedigrees with increasing frequency of inbred genetic diseases. Is this allocation of resources all that healthy in a world where so many humans lack access to health care, food, shelter, and education? Haraway is troubled about these questions, but confesses that she also pays for regular animal chiropratic adjustments for her own Australian shepherds. She writes:
No one could convince me that this practice reflects bourgeois decadence at the expense of my other obligations. Some relationships are zero sum games, and some are not. But a central fact shapes the whole question: rights to health an family-making practices are heavily capitalized and stratified, for dogs as well as for humans (51).
Haraway tries to envision a modern day Karl Marx writing Biocaptial Volume I and despairs at the challenges of specifying differences, continuities, similarities between humans and the other-than-humans animals, plants, technologies with whom we share our â€œmaterial semiosisâ€ (163). Haraway writes:
None of this is innocent, bloodless, or unfit for serious critical investigation. But none of it can be approached if the fleshly historical reality of face-to-face, body-to-body subject making across species is denied or forgotten in the humanist doctrine that holds only humans to be true subjects with real histories. But what does subject or history mean when the rules are changed like this? We do not get very far with the categories generally used by animal rights discourses, in which animals end up permanent dependents (â€œlesser humansâ€), utterly natural (â€œnonhumanâ€), or exactly the same (â€œhumans in fur suitsâ€) (66-67).
The earlier Haraway was brilliant, but polemical in her postmodern socialist-feminist ironic way. The humanized Haraway is willing to skewer some of her own sacred cows. â€œThroughout my academic life,â€ writes Haraway, â€œwhether as a biologist or a scholar in the humanities and the social sciences, I had looked down on behaviorism as a vapid science at best, hardly real biology at all, and an ideological, determinist discourse at heartâ€ (223). As a handler of two dogs in agility competitions, however, Haraway finds herself in need of the expertise of skilled behaviorists. She concludes that training (i.e., education) is interesting for both animals and people, regardless of whether or not it fits the curriculum of reproductive fitness or utilitarian seeking and avoiding. Animals, some more than others, like to learn and like to play. Family pets like to learn and play with their human companions; indeed they can teach us old dog humans a few new tricks in a reciprocal behavioral modification program in which they domesticate and humanize us.
I opened this essay with personal reflections down on the farm mixed with flashbacks to Nazi extermination camps. How have any of Donna Harawayâ€™s musings helped me sleep better at night and eat better by day with a less guilty conscience? How does Donna Haraway help me better digest the cows and chickens that I have known and killed and the many more unknown critters who have entered my life through plastic wrapped purchases at the local Whole Foods and transitory dining experiences at the McDonalds of the world. Haraway writes:
In eating we are most inside the differential relationalities that make us who and what we are . . . 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 (295).
A chapter on the chicken illustrates this point. â€œChicken is no coward,â€ she begins. â€œAnxious if brave, Chicken Little has long worried that the sky is falling… has been witness to and participant in all the big events of Civilization…. Technoscience is no stranger eitherâ€ (265). We learn that over ten billion chickens are slaughtered in the United States alone each year. Perhaps half as many more also serve as laying hens for egg production. Seventy-five percent of these birds live in cramped factory-farm conditions (266). Broiler chickens have now been bred and engineered to have megabreasts so large that they can no long walk on their feet. Agro-business laboratories may soon yield factory-cultured chicken breasts without the need of also growing the heads, feathers, feet, organs, and squawks of living birds.
Contrary to the views of her pesky friends in the transnational animal rights movement, our Opportunistic Bird is not against surrendering a pound of flesh in exchange for pecking rights in the naturalcultural contractual arrangements that domesticated both bipedal hominids and winged gallinaceous avians. But something is seriously foul in current versions of multispecies global contract theory (267).
Chicken factory production has now become a major source of water pollution throughout the world. The humans who work in these chicken factories are themselves alienated laborers, in the U.S. typically also undocumented workers, who toil in dangerous conditions for low wages. And chicken production is growing at unsustainable rates. The chicken industry now stands at the center of a growing public health danger in the threat of a cross-species jumping Avian flu pandemic. â€œFollow the chicken,â€ writes Haraway, â€œand find the world.â€ She concludes like Chicken Little: â€œThe sky has not fallen, not yet.â€ (274)
Harawayâ€™s answer to my barnyard indigestion and terrible flashbacks turns out to be something like â€œpay attentionâ€. Pay attention especially to what you eat. Pay attention to the suffering and joys of all your relations. Suffer with the lab rats and mice. Honor the victims of vivisection for the sacrifices that they make may someday cure you or a loved one of disease. Above all, be grateful for the food you are about to receive. And the moment we really start paying attention, we will improve the lives of our companion species and ourselves by minimizing their suffering and improving the quality of life for farm animals, family pets, feral neighbors, laboratory animals, and wild co-inhabitants on planet earth. Haraway does not give us any easy answers in the barnyard or at the dinner table. To the vegan PETA activist and the corporate executive at Purdue Chicken, she offers the same counsel:
… one must actively cast oneself with some ways of life and not others without making any of three tempting moves: (1) 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 â€“ together (295).
Haraway grounds her companion species natural law ethics in a short riff on the etymology of the word species, which derives from the Latin word specere, meaning to look at or gaze upon. Companion species ethics is about respecere or looking back, i.e., respect:
… I am trying to think and feel as part of something not proper to either humanism or posthumanism. Companion speciesâ€”coshapings all the way down, in all sorts of temporalities and corporealitiesâ€”is my awkward term for a not-humanism in which species of all sorts are in question. For me, even when we speak only of people, the animal/ human/ living/ nonliving category separations fray inside the kind of encountering worthy of regard. The ethical regard that I am trying to speak and write can be experienced across many sorts of species differences. The lovely part is that we can know only by looking and by looking back. Respecere. (164).
In When Species Meet, we learn that the humanized Donna Haraway was raised Roman Catholic. In a letter to her father reprinted in the book, Haraway confesses to her childhood aspirations to be a theologian as a young girl:
I regretted not being able to be a Jesuit, so I heard my dollsâ€™ confessions in my closet with the sliding doors and said Mass for them on my dresser. I have changed since then from a junior Catholic theologian to a much less innocent feminist scribblerâ€¦ (162)
And yet what Haraway is doing is really in keeping with Catholic natural law philosophy. Her companion species ethic is based on a descriptive and normative reading of nature. She builds her natural law philosophy (global postmodern ethics) upon natural philosophy (contemporary post-positivist science). The only category missing is revelation (comparative religion and the hermeneutics thereof). The latter she rejects with a touch of Oedipal rage towards God the Father and his dysfunctional churches. Haraway has a problem with people presuming to access a â€œGodâ€™s-eye-viewâ€ of the universe, a view from nowhere. Haraway is troubled by the monocular perspective of monotheism. She advocates multiocular epistemologies of seeing from as many different perspectives as possible. She fears those who claim to speak for God or like gods with certainty about right and wrong, of absolute truths and essential natures. In our complex and evolving naturecultures, there are no simple binaries, no black and white answers. We are all situationally-biased. God-talk blinds us to these realities.
And yet When Species Meet is a theologically significant book. We get some indication of where Haraway might go in developing a constructive theology of companion species in the role that A. N. Whitehead (1861-1947) plays in her intellectual apparatus. Whiteheadâ€™s process philosophy is a comprehensive metaphysical system for understanding science, society, and self. What is fundamentally real, says Whitehead, are not things, but events. All events are relational. They have causal antecedents and causal consequences in webs of varying complexity and significance. God is a category that Whitehead feels compelled to invoke in his process philosophy of every â€œactual occasion,â€ but it is God of all past realities and all future possibilities. Whiteheadâ€™s God is also a persuasive telos that draws the universe towards greater complexity, greater integration of these complexities in communion, and greater co-creative freedom within those relational webs. For Whitehead, the one become many and the many one as the universe and God evolve together. Whiteheadean process metaphysics has given rise to various schools of process theology that have found devotees in numerous seminaries and departments of religion.5
If Haraway could be said to have a â€œGodâ€, it would have to be a god of relationships and processes. In the Companion Species Manifesto, Haraway writes that â€œthe relation is the smallest unit of analysisâ€ (2003, 20). God then is the largest unit of analysis, the set of all relations. That would also be an extremely transcendent â€œGod,â€ at least as judged through our epistemological finitude and perspectival limitations. In When Species Meet, Haraway modifies her maxim to say that â€œthe relation [is] the smallest unit of being and of analysisâ€ (italics added, 165). She does this to remind us that everything in our experience and universe is both ontologically relational and epistemologically relational. All being is becoming through asymmetrical, multivariable, layered, and valued relationships. All being is causally related being. All knowing is knowing through asymmetrical, multivariable, layered, and valued relationship. All knowing is causally related knowing. God would be continually â€œgoddingâ€ the entire set of interactions that includes and transcends all natural kinds and all events.
Haraway is fond of collapsing certain terms, like naturehuman, naturalcultural, and technoscience. She does this to remind us that it always both, in causally significant ways that are both mundane and profound, simple and complex. It is all nature and all nurture; there is no dichotomy, this is true of tadpoles and toddlers. Harawayâ€™s â€œGodâ€ cannot be separated from the Universe of becoming. This gerunding God is also a fusion of categories, the word and the flesh joined in semiotic materiality. Better that we use the term â€œuniverseingodâ€ or â€œgodinuniverseâ€ to describe Harawayâ€™s implied concept of God and Universe, remembering that â€œuniverseingodâ€ is a gerund, a verb appearing to be a thing. The awkward hybrids â€œgodding-universeâ€ or â€œuniversing-godâ€ are perhaps more to the point. And in an act of ontic and epistemic humility we will leave the term un-capitalized. Harawayâ€™s godinuniverse is both semiotic and material. There is logos and materiality to be sure, as these are the preconditions of science. But science is not enough, because the universe is also filled with eros, filia, agape, salus, ethos, thumos, and pathos. The technical term in theology for â€œuniverseingodâ€ is panentheism (to be distinguished from pantheism).
godinuniverse is storytelling that we discover, invent, and share. godinuniverse includes stories about physical and biological relations, social and psychological relations, gender, class, and ethnic relations, family relations, sexual relations, economic relations, power relations, love relations, aesthetic relations, animal, plant and mineral relations. godinuniverse is a story about embodied semiotic relations that are causally significant in our thoughts and doings in ways both intimate and global. The different kinds of god-and-universe stories humans tell have profound affects on our humanity and the wellbeing of our planet. Harawayâ€™s godinuniverse story is more wholesome and more scientific than all of the other leading brands.
godinuniverse can be known in part through our companion species. â€œEvery species is a multispecies crowdâ€ writes Haraway. godinuniverse is a multispecies crowd, a complex-distributed system, radically incarnated and radically transcendent. This godinuniverse suffers with the world because it is the world, marvels at its complexity, plays with us, loves with us, relates with us. godinuniverse is a presence all the way up and down the cosmic unfolding of time and scales of emergence.
Although Haraway has maintained that she is steadfastly against the Christian salvation narrative, I find there is an implied salvation story in Harawayâ€™s writings, as well as a prophetic warning. Naturehuman will need to evolve in a manner less destructive and more just, or else! We humans will have to all be a lot smarter, trained to inhabit multiple disciplines in the sciences and the humanities. We are going to have to cultivate permanent moral and intellectual indigestion. We must not become complacent or self-assured. We must pay attention to embodied relationships, always situated, always critical of self and other, always open. In other words, we are all going to have to become pretty exceptional humans.
Harawayâ€™s is a modest salvation story. We will still have occasions to shake our fists at godinuniverse, because we cannot escape death and taxes, pain and suffering, stupidities and evil. But we may hope for a future with less of the human generated injustices and more naturehuman generated goodness. With the new found awareness of our intimate relations with all manner of species and natural kinds comes also new found joy and reverence for godinuniverse. Indeed, we will often be overwhelmed with feelings of involuntary gratitude towards godinuniverse, especially for the food we are about to receive (and eventually become). godinuniverse is embodied and real, casual and emergent, elegant and complex all the way up and down.
We see the humanized Donna Haraway and glimpse of her process eschatology, when she discusses the experience of being at her fatherâ€™s deathbed in 2005. She writes:
The corpse is not the body. Rather, the body is always in-the-making; it is always a vital entanglement of heterogeneous scales, times, and kinds of beings webbed into fleshy presence, always a becoming, always constituted in relating. The corpseâ€™s consignment to the earth as ashes is, I think, a recognition that, in death, it is not simply the person or the soul who goes. That knotted thing we call the body has left; it is undone. My father is undone, and that is why I must re-member him. I and all those who lived entangled with him become his flesh; we are kin to the dead because their bodies have touched us. The body of my father is the body that I knew as his daughter. I inherit in the flesh, in material troping, tripping, that joins text and body in what I call material semiosis and semiotic materiality.â€ (163).
The word become flesh, indeed! But the flesh also becomes words. Matter matters. In Harawayâ€™s godinuniverse, there are consequences, choices to be made. Harawayâ€™s companion species natural law ethic is something like the Great Eucharistic lawâ€”eat and be eaten. Share in the suffering and joys of others. Eat of the body and blood with a touch of guilt and a lot of gratitude. Suddenly, the Christian idea of a God who suffers with the Universe seems prescient. Once a Catholic, always, even in the cassock of a postmodern feminist-socialist, scientist-philosopher.6
All of this points to some pretty remarkable humans in our godinuniverse. We might even call them exceptional humans, rigorously trained like the Jesuit priestess that Donna Haraway has become after all. Like all great stories, including scientific stories, Harawayâ€™s godinuniverse is both descriptive and normative. As Haraway has so brilliantly explicated throughout her career, the question is not whether we are going to commit the naturalistic fallacy, only how. Metaphysics is politics by other means. In Harawayâ€™s twenty-first century natural law theology, we are created/evolved in the image of godinuniverse, â€œmultispecies crowdsâ€ all the way down, but we must also recreate/evolve ourselves more in the image of godinuniverse, if we are to eat well and live better with each other all the way up.
A common theme in most religious traditions is that we humans are too self-centered and selfish. We need to deconstruct the self, in order to find the real self and true fulfillment. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells us “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save itâ€ (Mark 8:35 RSV). The good news from Donna Haraway is that we humans are most authentically humanized, when we, individually and collectively, are not overly species-self-regarding. When we focus our intellect, our passions, and our energies on the myriad complexities of godinuniverse, we become exceptional humans who are respectful of our many relations and significant others. godinuniverse has given us many companion species to help show us the way. Companion species relations are beautiful; they are also a bloody mess. The many, differentiated loves shared between Donna, her dogs, her family, her friends, and her colleagues are intimations of a transcendent-incarnate love that animates godinuniverse and that desires better eating and better living for all her companion species.
By the end of When Species Meet, Donna Haraway has inadvertently convinced me of a reconstructed doctrine of human exceptionalism, but also that the term â€œcompanion speciesâ€ no longer captures the reality and the relationship of the angus cattle back on the farm with which I began this essay. Perhaps â€œcommunion speciesâ€ expresses the appropriate adjustment in attitudes towards the now dead meat on my dinner table. Communion species wear a crown of thorns, are sacrificed to sustain us bodies and souls, and are resurrected in our continued lives. Communion species are transubstantiations, both liturgical and real. And the Great Eucharistic Law means that we too will some day â€œbe eatenâ€ and recycled in the evolving godinuniverse. At the dinner table tonight we pray over the communion species host with a lot of gratitude, a touch of guilt, and the knowledge of our own inevitable death:
Ecce Agnus Dei,
ecce qui tollit peccata mundi,
Behold the meat of godinuniverse,
that takes away the sickness of the world,
have mercy upon us.
2 It is worth noting that the History of Consciousness Program at UCSC was created to replace a dysfunctional Religion Department in the early 1980s.
3 â€œScientisticâ€ is the adjectival form of â€œscientismâ€. Scientism is not science. Scientism is an ideology, a philosophy, and a faith in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques to eventually explain all phenomena. No other mode of knowing exists outside of science.
4 See especially Harawayâ€™s essay â€œA Cyborg Manifestoâ€ in her book (1991). Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York, Routledge and available online at http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Haraway/CyborgManifesto.html .
5 Alfred North Whitehead developed this metaphysical system in his book (1978). Process and Reality. New York, Free Press. This is a very difficult text to read, so it is advised to start with an introductory book. See for instance, C. Robert Mesle, (2008). Process-Relational Philosophy. West Conshohocken, Templeton Foundation Press. Whiteheadâ€™s process philosophy has been very influential in theology. Claremont School of Theology, for instance, is host to the Center for Process Studies http://www.ctr4process.org/ . For an overview of process theology, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_theology .
6 Haraway knows this about herself. In How Like A Leaf, Haraway (2000) describes her methodology of combining the literal and the figurative as being â€œan example of my Catholic sacramentalismâ€ (24) and even states that â€œMy inability to separate the figural and the literal comes straight out of a Catholic relationship to the Eucharistâ€¦I told you I have a very Catholic sensibility as a theorist even though I am opposed to Catholicismâ€¦â€ (141).