Haraway Walks With Thee

by Rumen Rachev

Haraway was walking in the forest. Stop. Haraway writing was walking in a Linkoping forest. Stop. A person was walking while reading Haraway in a Linkoping forest. Stop.

I decide to breathe in the writing of Haraway, to gain its trust and knowledge, and to engage in a worldly becomings with the forest entanglements. I try to listen to the text. Try to observe how my gaze moves along the pages while feeling the presence of the trees and the trees-in-becoming-with-me. I wanted to take Haraway for forest walk. To do the forest walking while walking through her text.  Her writing. My walk. Our becoming.

Through smooth and striated forest paths we start to establish companion relation—I was doing the walking while the text was performing the talking. The body inside me came in contact with the body of the text. Different terrains, different intensities, different synergies.  Becoming alongiside, not only becoming with.

Haraway spoke during our walk about something related to primate visions. I gaze at my feet rapped in hiking boots, wondering what my vision is and by what is being informed.  How other primates experienced my gaze and if my cat could see me naked does this mean that I could see the cat naked too?

  • “A diorama is eminently a story, a part of natural history. The story is told in the pages of nature, read by the naked eye. The animals in the habitat groups are captured in a photographer’s and sculptor’s vision. They are actors in a morality play on the stage of nature, and the eye is the critical organ. Each diorama contains a small group of animals in the foreground, in the midst of exact reproductions of plants, insects, rocks, soil. Paintings reminiscent of Hollywood movie set art curve in back of the group and up to the ceiling, creating a great panoramic vision of a scene of the African continent. Each painting is minutely appropriate to the particular animals in the foreground. Among the 28 dioramas in the Hall, all the major geographic areas of the African continent and most of the large mammals are represented.”  (p.29-30)
  • Well, indeed I would agree that a diorama is an interesting culturo-historical apparatus- I replied to her comment, which was spoken out fast as if read from a paper. Perhaps we are all living now inside a diorama—I continue my thought—while above us satellites are orbiting and creating global panoramic visions, not only of the African continent, but of the whole Earth. Can you imagine that? – I asked Haraway, as if she would answer me.  Perhaps I was a modest witness to the world inside an intra-acting diorama.
  • “Dioramas are meaning-machines”- continued Hawaray. Machines are maps of power, arrested moments of social relations that in turn threaten to govern the living” (p.54)
  • Define ‘the living’- I added. Bios and zoe. If our machines are disturbingly lively, how lively are we, being governed by them? Our best machines are made by invisible gazes.

The Invisible Masculine Gaze is Gazing

According to Haraway (1989) the man is not part of nature (p.54). He is the unseen, invisible primate who is the guardian of the “primate order” (p.54). The man is the eye (I), who not only gazes at the world, but it is actively (re)arranging how to world is seen, while the same masculine gaze naturalizes its absence and unseen position. The eye (I) is all seeing, but cannot be perceived by other naked eyes. This touches upon the writing of Michael Kimmel (1993) and his essay Invisible Masculinity. Focusing on the American men, Kimmel describes how they have no history as gendered selves, since “no work describes historical events in terms of what these events meant to the men who participated in them as men” (p.2). For Kimmel men are the “invisible” gender.  As Haraway writes that the men are not the spectacle, Kimmel asserts too that “ubiquitous in positions of power everywhere, men are invisible to themselves” (p.29). Power relations, capitalism, all imbedded in the historical construction of masculinities, which makes those relations an invisible floating entity, avoiding direct eye contact with the ones perpetuated in the cycle of power struggles. Indeed, the fish are the last to discover the ocean.  Naturalizing nature, naturalizing masculinities and the masculine gaze, the road to deconstruct the “naked eye science” is still far from finished. Keep in mind that in this deconstruction what is most important for Haraway is not simply to replace one troubled category simple with another one. As Margret Grebowics and Helen Merrick (2013) summarize it: “…her concern is not so much with form, as with relation—not the fact of re-creating the human or creating a new posthuman, but rethinking the categories themselves, reimagining ways of being, becoming with, and relating to all our companion species. (p.102).

Haraway have written about the ‘conquering gaze from nowhere’ for a long time in multiple texts. Seeing requires a place from which to gaze. From Primate Visions (1989) to When Species Meet (2008), Haraway tries to destabilize the realist logic that makes it possible to naturalize the links between scientific texts of primatology and a natural world that is simply there to be discovered. Haraway argues that primatology has ‘constructed’ nature and human interaction with nature cannot be perceived as neutral or as a view from nowhere, as the naked eye of science wishes to construct a narrative clean of any human intervention. That is why Haraway accentuates so much on how vision is constructed and especially the white male dominating gaze. In her article The Persistence of Vision (2012), Haraway writes:

Vision can be good for avoiding binary oppositions. I would like to insist on the embodied nature of all vision, and so reclaim the sensory system that has been used to signify a leap out of the marked body and into a conquering gaze from nowhere. This is the gaze that mythically inscribes all the marked bodies, that makes the unmarked category claim the power to see and not be seen to represent while escaping representation. This gaze signifies the unmarked positions of Man and White, one of the many nasty tones of the word objectivity to feminist ears in scientific and technological, late industrial, militarized, racist, and male dominant societies, that is, there, in the belly of the monster, in the United States in the late 1980s. I would like a doctrine of embodied objectivity that accommodates paradoxical and critical feminist science projects: feminist objectivity means quite simply situated knowledges. (p.678)

Other scholars, such as Bruno Latour (Science in Action (1987), Laboratory Life (1979)), as well took upon the mission of destabilizing and rejecting the realist aesthetic common to science’s own stories and seeing science as a matter of collective action defined in terms of negotaion, strategic moves, inscription, and translation.

Quite non-ironically, in the novel by H.G.Well’s The Invisible Man (2005) and the following screen adaptations, the white male backed by science achieved (earned) quite literally his invisibility, by becoming the disembodied gaze, the invisible Man with a capital M, avoiding the social responsibility to be seen and punished. Again quite non-ironically, while the very first film adaptation was rated as ‘science fiction horror film’, the 1940 film continuation The Invisible Woman is described as ‘science fiction comedy film’, in which in the end of it  the invisible woman has married and become a mother. A sharp contrast with the male role of the Invisible Man, as well as due to the success of The Invisible Woman the successor was named Invisible Agent, going back to serious sci-fi thriller with leading male role. How un-modestly appropriate.

Dead Literal, Quite Literally

Literal reading leads to literal responses. Dead literal, as Haraway states.  This writing is a literal one too. The justification of the existence of this text is literal as well. It started as a walk; it turned to a text and perhaps will go back to forming a walk. Armed without an elephant gun or an Akeley camera, I tried to shape myself from a modest witness to active agent in relation to making invisibilities visible again and to become a good companion in relation to the readings of Haraway. Walk the walk, talk the talk. Quite Literally.

References:

Grebowicz, M., Merrick, H., & Haraway, D. J. (2013). Beyond the cyborg: Adventures with donna haraway. New York: Columbia University Press.

Haraway, D. (1989). Teddy bear patriarchy taxidermy in the garden of eden, new york city, 1908-1936. In Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science (pp. 26-58). New York: Routledge.

Haraway, D.  (2008). When species meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Haraway, D. (2012). The persistence of vision. In N. Mirzoeff (Ed.), The visual culture reader (3rd ed., pp. 678-684). New York: Routledge.

Kimmel, M. (1993). Invisible masculinity. Society, 30(6), 28-35.

Latour, B., & Woolgar, S. (1979). Laboratory life: The social construction of scientific facts. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sutherland, A. E. (Director). (1940). The invisible woman [Motion picture].

Wells, H. G., & Parrinder, P. (2005). The invisible man. London: Penguin.

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