Abstract for Risking the Future Conference – Durham, 12-13 July, 2016

Risky Imaginations of Posthuman Reproductive Futures

When we moved in, there was caution tape around the exterior of the building. The floors were destroyed, but the doors all shut tightly. The toilet flushing sounded like a baby. I was so heavy then, my body always becoming something else, a house or a weapon or a gamble or a gift. Warning: pregnant women should not. (C. Guess & K. Magee, 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. This paper will aim to speculate on new kinds of embodied matter and understandings of birth, inspired by the fractured, furred, nebulous, finned and winged offspring of With Animal’s posthuman tales. The reproductive body has historically been shaped by practices of restraint and regulation. Against this background of biomedicalized control over future life, I will take the posthuman (future) body as the starting point for a critique of what Neimanis termed “a neoliberal, individualistic reproductive imaginary of commodification and amnesiac bioscientific progress” (Neimanis 2014). The unruly imaginations of maternal “deformative powers” in With Animal will be explored as a form of “aesthetics of risk”, which embodies the potential of uncalculated carnal pleasures and fears. Critical disability studies (Shildrick, Ettorre) and animal theories (Haraway, Livingston & Puar) will help me examine the sphere of human reproductive futures in the frame of posthuman imagination.