A Menagerie (Conjunctions, Book 61) by Benjamin Hale, Bradford Morrow

By Benjamin Hale, Bradford Morrow

Conjunctions: sixty one, A Menagerie gathers essays, fiction, and poetry that think the realm of our fellow beings, animals. Cultural mythologies and pantheons are populated with snakes, monkeys, cats, jackals, whales: a forged of characters whose tales demonstrate how complicated and wildly contradictory our species' dating with different animals is. They're neighbors, enemies, instruments, foodstuff. Descartes deliberated approximately even if animals have souls, identifying they didn't. Linnaeus cataloged them. Darwin attached us to them. Wild or tame, sinless or soulless, the animal is a chimera of moving identities, either mundane and mysterious. that includes interviews with William S. Burroughs and Temple Grandin, essays via animal experimenters Vint Virga and Dale Peterson, fiction by way of Russell Banks and Joyce Carol Oates, and paintings through many others, this number of imaginitive new writing deals uncaged entry to the lives of the nonhuman creatures that encompass us.

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Yet, it is precisely exploring these threads and interconnections that makes SSK such a rich resource. As is evident in many of the chapters in this volume, SSK has begun to reshape how we talk about the social constitution of nature. There are many advantages to SSK approaches, but here we want to highlight four. First, with its emphasis on knowledge production as “worldly,” SSK scholars trace nature’s “emergence” in specific, historical practices (fieldwork, the laboratory, writing), not in order to dismiss or minimize science, but in order show how these world-changing knowledges are made in social and institutional contexts saturated with relations of power.

The social production of nature occurs within wider discursive fields in and through which “things” are rendered visible and available to forms of calculation. In other words—to follow Haraway’s (1997) reworking of Ian Hacking’s (1983) phrase—representation is intervening. Third, post-structuralist accounts of nature’s construction place attention firmly on the operation of power and widen what is taken to be the domain of politics. Power—as Foucault (1977) so brilliantly showed—is not only, or even primarily, something “held,” as in models of sovereign power.

But it is precisely the ways in which society is constructed through, or in relation to, things (microbes, door closers, machines, and so on) along with the various ways that science is the cause rather than medium of nature’s representation that, as moderns, we are unable to see, since we live within a modern “constitution” that assigns “nature” and “culture” to two distinct realms, and similarly situates “knowledge” in one (nature) and “politics” in another (culture). This modern constitution, Latour argues, allows technoscience to build both nature and society simultaneously, but in ways that remain relatively unexamined.

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