Consent, representation, and intent- Queering the Non/Human Post #2- Alexandra Cardinale


Is an image human? Is it even a image of what it is?

No. N’est pas une pipe.

Giffney and Hird’s reading on Queering the Non/Human most vividly sparked images of artists like Magritte, and their absolute determination to challenge the art of looking, often beyond convention, and often beyond the anthrocentrism that can plague the average looker.

In fact, is there violence in naming? In boxing? In observing something only with the language we have available to us? The authors argue there might be, and further question us to think about “what it might mean to respond as opposed to react” (2), a concept I only really began to grasp after I took the Anthropology of Violence class here at NYU.

One of the relevant examples in our local academic community has been the boxes on forms- for example when a student fills out an application for housing. It wasn’t until recently that NYU- one of few schools- updated the gender portion to include those beyond “male,” “female,” and “no answer;” by default meaning that those options were the only ones worth noting, or even in cultural existence. I particularly appreciated the idea of response as opposed to reaction because it gives objects, both animate and otherwise, agency, which even we highly educated few are not accustomed to practicing regularly.

Taken to the extreme, the authors further complicated, “Cohen is puzzled that ‘a critical movement predicated upon the smashing of boundary should limit itself to the small contours of human form, as if the whole of the body could be contained in the porous embrace of the skin’. For him, ‘The body is not human (or at least, is not only human)’; neither, he insists ‘is it inhabited by an identity or sexuality that is unique to or even contained fully within the flesh.’ (6)

These “matters pertaining to ethics and representation” (1) reminded me of the viscously controversial international Bodies exhibit where Chinese medical schools would supply unclaimed bodies for the plastination process, which would then be sold back to universities.

“Five years ago, customs officers intercepted 56 bodies and hundreds of brain samples sent from the Novosibirsk Medical Academy to [a] lab in Heidelberg, Germany. The cadavers were traced to a Russian medical examiner who was convicted last year of illegally selling the bodies of homeless people, prisoners and indigent hospital patients.” It sounds very animal farm, where “all animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Consent, intent, and representation. The government and the free market have yet to settle the debate and I certainly have yet to settle the relationship with the three in my own mind.


~ by asc463 on October 5, 2014.

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