Abstract for SLSAeu Conference, Empathies, Basel 21-24 June 2017

Posthuman Ecologies of Sensation: Reproductive Imaginations in With Animal

In Carol Guess and Kelly Magee’s collection of short stories (With Animal 2015), human parents of various sexes are pregnant with and give birth to animal babies; they hatch them, raise them, lick them, care for them, let them go, and thereby re-imagine their own desires and fears in the face of (un)controlled procreation. The queer human-animal imaginations of reproduction in these literary narratives urge us to scrutinize and re-imagine the “existentially disabled” (Shildrick 1997) reproductive subjects in the sphere of biomedicalized conceptions of life. Animality and disability are new concerns with respect to the reproductive body, which have been explored in bioethical as well as critical posthuman theories. The task of this paper is to reshape traditional representations of the biomedicalized body by re-imagining bodily relations between parent and child. With the help of literary posthuman tales, I aim to identify alternative sensory ecologies for reproductive bodies which acknowledge forms of love and life that are often projected as “unlovable” or unlivable” in biomedical and bioethical discourse. Expanding on “moral imagination” (J.L. Scully & C. Mackenzie, 2007), which compels us to imaginatively ‘put ourselves in the place of others’, With Animal imagines maternal/parental empathies differently: it invites us to formulate an “aesthetics of sensation” (Hickey-Moody, 2015) that allows us to conceptualize empathy as not only embodied and social, but also as an inventive projection. Under this premise, such posthuman-animal-reproductive imagination of empathy might allow us to differently love and let live so-called aberrant bodies, even within what Neimanis termed “a neoliberal, individualistic reproductive imaginary of commodification and amnesiac bioscientific progress” (Neimanis 2014).