Having decided not to share any further "direct" and scattered work with Puar's texts until Annotated Bibliography #2, I'd like instead to do a close reading of a bit of J. Jack Halberstam's chapter "Animating Revolt/Revolting Animation: Penguin Love, Doll Sex and the Spectacle of the Queer Nonhuman"-- especially as there was no group to do diablog work on it (and it does put forth some lovely openings for exploration)! To top it off, JHalb (new nickname?) is somewhat of an idol of mine, as well as one of the top reasons I'm looking into graduate school at USC.
For me there's so much feeling built up in even the digital encounter with an image of Halberstam's face (especially eyes), and this is not simply to counter images of the disembodied theorist. I wonder what it would (will?) be like to engage face to face and tell this person about my passions and why they merit support. I've developed complicated relations to Halberstam's theories which mean, as well as I can describe, that at times I feel both intimately connected to and distinctly distanced from work such as that in Female Masculinity or In a Queer Time and Place.
"Animating Revolt"-- which, aside from blogs, must be some of the most recent Halberstam theory I've read-- struck me in the ways that it intertwines with assemblage theory. As Puar tends to but with a different flair, this text looks to queer(ing) practices askew from a basis in any stagnant queer conceptions of sexuality and/or gender. It's not the Halberstam I'm used to, and I like that. The focus in this chapter is on queer(ing) in/of "kinship, relationality and love" (266). As in the book In a Queer Time and Place, Halberstam turns to artifacts of pop culture in order to explore questions such as:
- What's queer about animals/ non/humans?
- What's human about animals/ non/humans?
- How can we understand love in relation to non/humans?
- And what's with humans using non/humans in the service of heteronormativity?
A passage that keeps me returning is this wonderfully charged moment, when Halberstam describes how
The porous boundary between the biological and the cultural is quickly traversed without any sense of rupture whatsoever, and the biological, the animal and the nonhuman are simply recruited for the continuing reinforcement of the human, the heteronormative and the familial. In other words, while it is true that reproduction and kinship relations become more and more obviously artificial, the concept of the 'human' tends to absorb the critique that inevitably follows from the natural and it does so because we reinvest so vigorously and so frequently in the scaffolding that props up our flailing humanity. (266)
This helps me to summarize at least some of the thoughts key to our work in queer/ing the non/human (oh slashes):
- As nature does for culture, animal or non/human figures are often working to reify conceptions of human, heteronormative, monogamous union.
- This, as Halberstam notes, is aimed to calm the threats of "our flailing humanity." Meaning: confusion as to what human is or does or "why we're here" is easily evaded by gestures to the non/human which shapes and defines the human as that which it is not.
- What counts as human is often connected/confused/conflated with what counts as natural.
Do I invest energy in myself as human? Am I attached to the idea of my humanity? What is my relation to non/humans? To nature?
I'm reminded of the line that came up in class questioning whether any human behavior could ever be unnatural. I'd like to close by relating to this direction of thinking. I tend to think, according to Buddhist teachings, that I was not born into this world but rather out of it. So while we may draw lines that say trees, clouds, or bodies are natural while sky scrapers, computers, or pollution are not-- I do believe that all existence is intricately connected and comes from the one energy of this world. I am deeply connected to all other forms of life because we all interare (see: interbeing), we do not existence individually but rather our lives (not just human) literally depend on one another. It is in thinking through these relations that I can see how the divide of human / non/human is dangerously troubling.
Then, how might Halberstam's flailing humanity be connected to failing humanity?
...[after talking about South Park with Lauren Berlant] I realized that those kinds of references actually really work for me. Partly because it is so much pleasure involved engaging in texts that you think are fun and funny, and partly because they are just unexpected. Therefore in my formulation they are open texts*, in the sense that they do not come with a readymade theory already embedded within them.
*What's the difference between (or balance within) honoring authorial intent and metaphorical creation (ahem, Dracula), and free range fun time with an open text?