Other: History/Philosophy - Relationship Human/Non-Human
Fear of the Familiar
By Tanasa Slovin (04/22/10 00:16:23)
Related animal: Cat

While Steve Baker’s article in The Postmodern Animal, Fear of the Familiar was a bit dense and a little difficult to comprehend, however I do understand his main points on the subject of postmodernism within relation to animals. Baker defines his view of postmodernism “as the scourge of anthropomorphism, anthropocentrism and all other tendencies to reduce difference to sameness, the impure to the pure, the inhuman to the human and the strange to the meaningful” (p. 100). I also found the three different categories of animals to be an interesting view as opposed to Berger’s view. Baker references Deleuze and Guattari’s categories of animals that include: those that admire, those who are known as ‘State animals’ who have fixed symbolic meanings that serve towards human interests, and then there is the individuated animals, such as family pets, etc. It was also interesting that even the name of your animal, such as a dog, can be relatively detrimental to the owner and the pet itself. “You don’t want dogs called Spot or Pooch. You don’t want dogs called Nigel or Keith. The names of dogs should salute the mystical drama of the animal life” (p. 169). My dogs name is Bradley Baxter III, I don’t think Baker would necessarily approve…
When our class was introduced to the Carolee Schneemann, Infinity Kisses, one word automatically came to my mind: bestiality. As I read on with Baker’s text, he referenced Barbara Schnieder as identifying actual “art bestiality”. This is rather disturbing to me, as it should be to, well, everyone! Sure, I give my dog kisses and hugs but this has gone too far. What I find more disturbing is the title that Schneemann called her video, “Vesper’s Stampede to My Holy Mouth”. Personally, this type of “interspecies erotic imagery” is not considered art in my point of view. Baker states, “The threat of pets to the postmodern individual’s self-image can be seen in the cynical view that a sympathy for pets represents’ a “gratuitous perversion” of natural beaviour….” (p. 172).
When discussing the relationship between sentimentality and postmodernism, James Serpell states that, “…people who express concern for animal suffering or affection of sentimentality, as if having sentiments or feelings for other species were a sign of weakness, intellectual flabbiness or mental disturbance” (p. 176). I find this statement completely bizarre and false, especially with Singer’s symbolism that sentimentality makes someone ‘womanish’. This is not only sexist, it is naïve and to be honest a bit homophobic.

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