“Fire in the North American West has a complicated multispecies history; fire is an essential element for ongoing, as well as an agent of double death, the killing of ongoingness. The material semiotics of fire in our times are at stake.” Donna Haraway, Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene.11 – Donna Haraway, ‘Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene’ in e-flux journal #75, (September 2016), p.4. The total finality of fire is discussed in abdomen
“The myth system associated with the Anthropos is a setup, and the stories end badly. More to the point, they end in double death; they are not about ongoingness. It is hard to tell a good story with such a bad actor. Bad actors need a story, but not the whole story.” Ibid.22 – Ibid, p.7
“Specifically, unlike either the Anthropocene or the Capitalocene, the Chthulucene is made up of ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming-with in times that remain at stake, in precarious times, in which the world is not finished and the sky has not fallen – yet.” Ibid.33 – Ibid, p.11
Ever-present and murmuring under the surface of Donna Haraway’s interspecies rethinking of era is a certain notion of ‘ongoingness’, which arises as an essential quality when demonstrating the fatally damaging nature of the Anthropocene or Capitalocene, both of which are ultimately rejected in favour of the newly termed ‘Chthulucene’. In short, the current eras (and thinking of eras) are a constant threat to the ongoing of more or less everything, and, being the subject of threat, it becomes clear that ongoingness is the quality to be strived for, for in its ending is a real finality. Haraway does not define ongoingness directly, but lets it give a sense of itself.
Ongoingness seems to be both a property – some thing’s ongoingness – as well as a larger movement that builds beyond the thing itself, in which minor changes are always ongoing, but something bigger nevertheless persists. Rather than pointing to some kind of essence, the ongoing is a webbed and tentacular movement; it traverses across species, combines and mutates with them. This ongoing is a multispecies one, situated in the specifics of place, navigating a constant present. It stresses the reliance aspect of being; that individuals - of whatever species - do not precede their relatings.44 – Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2016), p.59 Haraway emphasises growth through ‘making kin’, along with a number of other strategies such as “sympoiesis, symbiosis, symbiogenesis, development, webbed ecologies…”55 – Donna Haraway, ‘Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene’, p.8 (‘sympoiesis’ means a making-together; ‘symbiogenesis’ is when two organisms combine genetically to be less than two but more than one, a partial digestion66 – Donna Haraway and Martha Kenney, ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene’ in Art in the Anthropocene, ed. Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin (London: Open Humanities Press, 2015), p.262 ) – interactions that are complex, and seemingly always on the move, strategically omnidirectional.77 – It is interesting to revisit John Donne’s 1633 poem The Flea in this way, where instead of seeing the flea as a conceit, a mingling of the two lovers’ bloods; “Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare, / Where we almost, nay more than married are. / This flea is you and I, and this / Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is”, to instead see it really as this material combination, a new thing that hints at symbiogenesis, the lovers’ blood remaining there undigested – a more than one but a less than three.
John Donne, The Flea. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46467/the-flea (accessed 11 June 2019). Donne's The Flea also appears in leg 2 These are the possibilities of the Chthulucene, in which end of world thinking (and real threat) can be countered, a generative space of multispecies assemblages that includes people.88 – Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, p.101 Ongoingness seems only a possibility when these sorts of ever-evolving networks are allowed, or encouraged to occur – the ongoing is necessarily centreless.
Like Haraway, Rosi Braidotti shares this anti-humanist shift away from the “grain of the European master-narrative of rational progress”99 – Rosi Braidotti, Transpositions (Cambridge, UK and Malden, Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2006), p.99 to one of mixity and intercontaminations, an outlook that rejects a distinction between human and non-human and looks to the kinship system as opposed to conventional ways of continuing. Braidotti’s concept of ‘transpositions’ indicates “an intertextual, cross-boundary or transversal transfer in the sense of a leap from one code, field or axis into another, not merely in the quantitative mode of plural multiplications, but rather in the qualitative sense of complex multiplicities”;1010 – Ibid, p.5 they are non-linear, weblike, centreless, non-dogmatic, and therefore, being unbound from dogma, are capable of multiple strategies of resistance. Read this way, Haraway’s multispecies thinking is a transpositional enactment, and hopefully it is clear that this collection of writings (mine), aims to operate as such – distrustful of distinction and boundary, but in favour of the complexity that is a networked coming-together of/on/with ongoingness.
Louse is not a metaphor or allegory, nor simply (as word) a stand-in for movements of language, but better thought as a characterisation, an is as much as the rest of this. For Haraway, the tentacular is figural, avoiding the “deadly fantasy of the literal”1111 – Donna Haraway and Martha Kenney, ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene’, p.257 that holds onto ideas of “one true meaning”. Figures are visual, mathematical, sensual; louse as multi-genre figure. In a breakdown of the human and non-human distinction, Braidotti, as “post-industrial subject of so-called advanced capitalism” sees a closer familiarity as female human to the Oncomouse – a genetically modified mouse that is more susceptible to cancer – “than with humanistic ideals of the uniqueness of my species”.1212 – Rosi Braidotti, Transpositions, p.100 As well as a distancing from certain philosophies, and a closeness to the genetically and technologically changeable, this suggests that, in the contemporary climate, there is a link in actuality rather than along the metaphor. This for Braidotti takes the form of embodiment: “Something less sophisticated and more material is occurring in the contemporary, processes of becoming-animal, which has nothing to do with metaphors of animality. Nor does it proceed as an argument by analogy. It is rather the case that it requires a shift of the ontological grounds of embodiment.”1313 – Ibid, p.102
Though I share this dismissal of metaphors of animality and arguments by analogy, it is with hesitancy that I approach louse in terms of embodiment: for one it seems that louse and myself are individually disjointed across various interconnected planes such as parasite, language, historical reference; in multiversal, multispecies thinking, how does embodiment occur whilst trying to do away with the body? It seems that there is an option of the partial, moments of embodiment where the material of body and place meets the figural in as much as it is a horizontal (non-dogmatised) engagement, with awareness of the multiplicitous mutations that inevitably occur out of sight. A total embodiment would be a claim to wholeness that ultimately falls short, the louse and the self escaping as bit-parts elsewhere, avoiding a blanket muffling that would stifle ongoingness.