Purple Magazine
— The Island Issue #35

donna haraway

ESSAY

text by DONNA HARAWAY
artwork by GEORGE ROUY

donna haraway is a renowned american eco-feminist, anthropologist, and philosopher.

The Chthulucene needs at least one slogan (of course, more than one); still shouting “Cyborgs for Earthly Survival,” “Run Fast, Bite Hard,” and “Shut Up and Train,” I propose “Make Kin Not Babies!” Making kin is perhaps the hardest and most urgent part. Feminists of our time have been leaders in unraveling the supposed natural necessity of ties between sex and gender, race and sex, race and nation, class and race, gender and morphology, sex and reproduction, and reproduction and composing persons (our debts here are due especially to Melanesians, in alliance with Marilyn Strathern and her ethnographer kin). If there is to be multispecies ecojustice, which can also embrace diverse human people, it is high time that feminists exercise leadership in imagination, theory, and action to unravel the ties of both genealogy and kin, and kin and species.

Bacteria and fungi abound to give us metaphors; but, metaphors aside (good luck with that!), we have a mammalian job to do, with our biotic and abiotic sym-poietic collaborators, co-laborers. We need to make kin sym-chthonically, sym-poetically. Who and whatever we are, we need to make-with — become-with, compose-with — the earth-bound (thanks for that term, Bruno Latour-in-anglophone-mode).

We, human people everywhere, must address intense, systemic urgencies; yet, so far, as Kim Stanley Robinson put it in 2312, we are living in times of “The Dithering” (in this SF narrative, lasting from 2005 to 2060 — too optimistic?), a “state of indecisive agitation.” Perhaps the Dithering is a more apt name than either the Anthropocene or Capitalocene! The Dithering will be written into earth’s rocky strata, indeed already is written into earth’s mineralized layers. Sym-chthonic ones don’t dither; they compose and decompose, which are both dangerous and promising practices. To say the least, human hegemony is not a sym- chthonic affair. As ecosexual artists Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle say, composting is so hot!

My purpose is to make “kin” mean something other/more than entities tied by ancestry or genealogy. The gently defamiliarizing move might seem for a while to be just a mistake, but then (with luck) appear as correct all along. Kin-making is making persons, not necessarily as individuals or as humans. I was moved in college by Shakespeare’s punning between kin and kind — the kindest were not necessarily kin as family; making kin and making kind (as category, care, relatives without ties by birth, lateral relatives, lots of other echoes) stretch the imagination and can change the story. Marilyn Strathern taught me that relatives in British English were originally “logical relations” and only became “family members” in the 17th century — this is definitely among the factoids I love. Go outside English, and the wild multiplies.

I think that the stretch and recomposition of kin are allowed by the fact that all earthlings are kin in the deepest sense, and it is past time to practice better care of kinds-as- assemblages (not species one at a time). Kin is an assembling sort of word. All critters share a common “flesh,” laterally, semiotically, and genealogically. Ancestors turn out to be very interesting strangers; kin are unfamiliar (outside what we thought was family or gens), uncanny, haunting, active.

Too much for a tiny slogan, I know! Still, try. Over a couple hundred years from now, maybe the human people of this planet can again be numbered two or three billion or so, while all along the way being part of increasing well being for diverse human beings and other critters as means and not just ends.

So, make kin, not babies! It matters how kin generate kin.

END

GEORGE ROUY, FLATTENED NUDE, 2020, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS 88 1/5 X 70 9/10 INCHES, COPYRIGHT AND COURTESY OF PERES PROJECTS, BERLIN

Excerpt from her essay “anthropocene, capitalocene, plantationocene, chthulucene: making kin” in Environmental Humanities, Volume 6, no. 1, pp. 159-165. Copyright, 2015, Donna Haraway. All rights reserved. Published under Creative Commons, cc by-nc-nd 3.0. Also published in the Duke University Press title, Staying With the Trouble, copyright 2016. This excerpt is published by permission of the copyright holder and the publisher of all versions, Duke University Press.

[Table of contents]

The Island Issue #35

Subscribe to our newsletter