This quotation is excerpted from Cuvier’s “Elegy of Lamarck.” The first paragraph of Cuvier’s Lectures on Comparative Anatomy (1802) is revealing: “The idea of Life is one of those general and obscure ideas produced in us by observing a certain series of phaenomena possessing mutual relations, and succeeding each other in a constant order. We know not indeed the nature of the link that unites these phaenomena, but we are sensible that a connexion must exist; and this conviction is sufficient to induce us to give it a name, which the vulgar are apt to regard as the sign of a particular principle, though in fact that name can only indicate the totality of the phaenomena which have occasioned its formation” (1). On the seismic transformation of the natural sciences after the invention of life, see Foucault, Order of Things, 287–304.
Foucault argues that despite his fixism, Cuvier anticipates Darwin. In contrast with classical taxonomy, in which individual variations are not worthy of a scientist’s attention, Cuvier argues that the species is no longer the “minimal element” of scientific knowledge (Foucault, “Cuvier’s Position in the History of Biology,” 211). But if the individual is seen as carrying in itself all its specific determinations (and thus in theory contains within itself the entire history of its species)—if it acquires a reality hitherto denied by classical science—it now runs the risk of being mechanically abolished as individual in an “anatomo-physiological” structure that binds the infra-individual (the organ, the molecule) to the supra-individual (the species, genus, order . . .): “The individual in its real existence, in its life, is nothing other than the totality of both taxonomic and anatomo-physiological structures, and this totality is also present in some way in the individual, within a given milieu” (214).
Foucault, Order of Things, 291.
Rancière, Dissensus, 19. Already in The Order of Things, Foucault shows that modern grammar and biology have in common a nonrepresentational paradigm (Order of Things, 305).
Ritvo, Platypus and the Mermaid, 178–86.
Bernard Heuvelmans, the founder of cryptozoology, berates Cuvier for declaring in 1812 that there remained “little hope of discovering new species of large quadrupeds” (On the Tracks of Unknown Animals, 18). As his title indicates, Heuvelmans rejects Cuvier’s proclamation that the hunt was over.
L. R. Brown, Emerson Museum, 102–3.
In his 1861 history The Sea, Jules Michelet conjectures that we will be able to find “whole, or even partial, skeletons of these creatures” when “the Museums of Europe shall throw open to our view the whole of their immense collections” (245). Michelet hints that the siren’s disappearance is not the result of scientific demystification but of a calculated attempt to hide (and thus continue) the sirens’ extermination. He imputes this intentional extinction to the human’s repugnance at recognizing his own “form” in an animal and (more importantly) to the idea that sirens were evolving toward humanity: “In such horror and hate were they held in the eyes of the middle ages that their appearance was considered a prodigy, an omen that God permitted to terrify sinners. People scarcely dared to name them, and made haste to get rid of them. Even the bold sixteenth century still believed them to be men and women in shape, but Devils in reality, and not even to be touched, excepting with the harpoon. They had become very rare when miscreants made a profit of keeping and exhibiting them” (245). Michelet implies that the newly dominant scientific tradition led by the tyrannical Cuvier, “the great descriptor,” was complicit with this programmed extermination (Histoire du dix-neuvième siècle, 79–81). We also remember that Foucault opens The Order of Things with the irrepressible laughter caused by a Borges story in which sirens are impossibly juxtaposed with stray dogs in “a certain Chinese encyclopaedia.” “It is not the ‘fabulous’ animals that are impossible” in Borges’s tale, Foucault notes, “but the narrowness of the distance separating them from (and juxtaposing them to) the stray dogs.” Some of the categories “do certainly involve fantastic entities—fabulous animals or sirens—but, precisely because it puts them into categories of their own, the Chinese encyclopedia localizes their powers of contagion. . . . The possibility of dangerous mixtures has been exorcized, heraldry and fable have been relegated to their own exalted peaks: no inconceivable amphibious maidens, no clawed wings, no disgusting, squamous epidermis” (xvi–xvii).
Cuvier precipitates the Classical Age’s “old flat world of animals and plants” into “history” by accounting for the extinction of species and by “substituting anatomy for classification” (Foucault, Order of Things, 150), thereby laying the foundations for the theory of evolution. In that respect, his fixism seems paradoxical, but for Foucault it could “arise only against a historical background” incompatible with the general stability of classical taxonomy (301).
Foucault, “Cuvier’s Position in the History of Biology,” 210.
The Lepidosiren is also the specimen chosen by Richard Owen as the exemplary “archetype” of all vertebrates. For Owen, archetypes account for the unity of diverse life-forms without assuming (as Cuvier does) that organisms obey immutable laws of composition determined by a principle of functionality.
Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 100.
Carlo Ginzburg notes that “Thomas Huxley, on a lecture tour to publicize Darwin’s discoveries, defined as ‘Zadig’s method’ that procedure which combined history, archaeology, geology, physical astronomy, and paleontology: namely, the ability to forecast retrospectively” (Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, 117).
Darwin, Descent of Man, 155; emphasis added.
On the influence of anatomists on Western art, see Kuriyama, Expressiveness of the Body, 118. On the anatomists who inspired the Pre-Raphaelites in particular, see Hartley, Physiognomy and the Meaning of Expression, 80–81.
Darwin, Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, 183.
Darwin, Descent of Man, 17.
Darwin specifies that these “points not only project inwards towards the center of the ear, but often a little outwards from its plane, so as to be visible when the ear is viewed from directly in front or behind” (Darwin, 31).
Hawthorne, French and Italian Notebooks, 179.
Agamben, Open, 37.
Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, 255.
For a succinct account of Lombroso’s “criminal anthropology,” its racist motivations and colonialist implications, and its twentieth-century legacies, see Gould, “The Criminal as Nature’s Mistake, or the Ape in Some of Us,” in Ever Since Darwin, 222–28.
Sims, Adam’s Navel, 87.
In anthropometric studies, Allan Sekula shows that ears occupy a unique position as both insignificant and determinant details: “In his search for a type, Galton did not believe that anything significant was lost in underexposure. This required an unacknowledged presupposition: only the gross features of the head mattered. Ears, for example, which were highly marked as signs in other physiognomic systems, both as individuating and as typical features, were not registered at all by the composite process. (Later Galton sought to ‘recapture’ small differences or ‘unimportant details’ by means of a technique he called ‘analytical photography,’ which superimposed positive and negative images, thereby isolating their unshared elements)” (“Body and the Archive,” 48).
Ginzburg, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, 123. Galton was inspired by the discovery of the British officer Sir William Herschel, who used fingerprinting to manage and control the Bengali population under his supervision. “As Galton observed retrospectively,” Ginzburg notes, “there was a real need for an efficient method of identification in the British colonies, and not in India alone: natives were illiterate, quarrelsome, cunning, deceitful, and, in the eyes of a European, indistinguishable” (122). On the invention of fingerprinting, see Sengoopta, Imprint of the Raj.
Nietzsche, Gay Science, 109–10.
Agamben describes “the anthropological machine” as a dispositif that is simultaneously inclusionary and exclusionary: “Insofar as the production of man through the opposition man/animal, human/inhuman, is at stake here, the machine necessarily functions by means of an exclusion (which is also always already a capturing) and an inclusion (which is also always already an exclusion). Indeed, precisely because the human is already presupposed every time, the machine actually produces a kind of state of exception, a zone of indeterminacy in which the outside is nothing but the exclusion of an inside and the inside is in turn only the inclusion of an outside” (Open, 37). At issue for Agamben is the exposure of the “irony” of the self-perpetuating mechanisms that define the ontological status of the human. In fact, Agamben seems to say, it is the chase and not the arrest—the capturing and not the capture—that determines who deserves to be labeled human and what is left over. The Open insists on the interminability, from the point of view of anthropogenesis, of the twofold movement of capture and exclusion at work in the co-constitutive making of Man and of “the animal” but also tells us that this interminability operates according to historically differentiated modalities.
Mel Y. Chen perfectly sums up the way in which certain “kinds of animality are racialized not through nature’s or modernity’s melancholy but through another temporalized map: that of pseudo-Darwinian evolutionary discourses tied to colonialist strategy and pedagogy that superimposed phylogenetic maps onto synchronic human racial typologies, yielding simplistic promulgating equations of ‘primitive’ people with prehuman stages of evolution” (Animacies, 101–2).
Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 82.
In a section titled “Monsters and Fossils,” Foucault explains that aberrant forms simultaneously condition and belie the concept of life as unified and continuous that we inherit from Cuvier’s paleontological studies: “Just as the geological catastrophe was necessary to enable us to work back from the taxonomic table to the continuum, through a blurred, chaotic, and fragmented experience, so the proliferation of monsters without a future is necessary to enable us to work down again from the continuum, through a temporal series, to the table. . . . The monster ensures in time, and for our theoretical knowledge, a continuity that, for our everyday experience, floods, volcanoes, and subsiding continents confuse in space. . . . How . . . are we to recognize that nature, starting from a primitive prototype, has never ceased to work towards the provisionally terminal form that is man? By the fact that it has abandoned on the way thousands of forms that provide us with a picture of the rudimentary model. How many fossils are there, for man’s ear, or skull, or sexual parts, like so many plaster statues, fashioned one day and dropped the next in favour of a more perfected form?” (Order of Things, 170; emphasis added). “Rather than indicating the triumph of life in man,” Lynne Huffer explains, “Foucault’s rendering of this part-animal, part-mineral, fragmented evidence of the spatial disruption of temporal continuity returns evolutionary human parts to another space-time as other-than-human characters in a taxonomic table we cannot fully know” (“Foucault’s Fossils,” 82).
Wynter shows how, in the transition from sovereign to biopolitical power and the attendant mutation from what she calls Man1 (rational political subject) to Man2 (bioeconomic subject), colonized populations were conceptualized as “fossil Others,” thus “dysselected by Evolution until proven otherwise” (“Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom,” 266–67). Here Wynter enables us to think together the lots of enslaved individuals declared unfit to be full humans and of indigenous populations calculatedly destined to extinction. Critics have traditionally seen in Donatello a figure of the African, but Clayton Zuba shows that the racialized tropes that Hawthorne uses to describe Donatello can also position him “as a descendant of an indigenous people colonized by settler-invaders” (“Hawthorne’s Empire,” 161).
Hawthorne, House of the Seven Gables, 2.
Agamben, Open, 2.
LaCapra, History and Its Limits, 166.
Agamben, Open, 80.
Arsić, Bird Relics, 164.
“The ‘general outline’ of Cuvier’s science,” Arsić explains, “concerned the nature of life. What life is, Cuvier claimed, will be revealed only once we learn how to read the structure of fossils. The centrality of fossils for disclosing the secret of life lay in the fact that they never include contemporaneous living forms . . . but are instead relics of a life form now completely extinct” (164).
Jennifer Mason quotes this passage to establish a link between the sculptor’s “fossilizing” art and Cuvier’s paleontology, showing that Kenyon finally breaks the rigid mold of ideality that defines his aesthetics when he finds himself, in the Carnival, surrounded by “absurd figures” that “embody the kind of permeability between species against which Cuvier inveighed” (Civilized Creatures, 200).
Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand Plateaus, 47.
5. The Stock Image
When a virus attacks bacteria, the latter release an enzyme that breaks down and memorizes the virus’s genetic makeup to prepare for future infections. The Harvard team hacked the immunitary system of E. coli bacteria to force them to integrate into their genome a manufactured DNA sequence with the pixel values of a short movie.
Ledford, “Lights, Camera, CRISPR.”
Kolata, “Living Hard Drive.”
Kolata, “Living Hard Drive.”
Muybridge, Descriptive Zoopraxography, 2.
“In the writings of Soviet filmmaker and theorist Sergei Eisenstein,” Akira Mizuta Lippit observes, “the process of editing, or montage, is frequently likened to a genetic code in which dominant as well as recessive links are made between convergent strings of information” (Electric Animal, 23–24).
On the relationship between cinematic recording techniques and genetics, see Thurtle, Emergence of Genetic Rationality. Phillip Thurtle uses Deleuze’s transition from the movement-image to the time-image to account for a change in biology: “the use of recording technologies [enabled] researchers [to] juxtapose data from disparate times and places, allowing them to gain a more straightforward glimpse at the workings of time itself as it informed the workings of the body.” The study of genetics, he explains, used its “ability to fold different times to ‘plunge’ into the body and literally find a space within the cellular nucleus that acted much like these recording technologies” (13–14).
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Doane observes, time becomes divisible, rationalized, and thus rendered valuable by capitalist standards: “This rationalized time is a time in complicity with notions of the inevitability of a technologically induced historical progress. It is Benjamin’s ‘homogeneous, empty time.’ It is also time’s abstraction—its transformation into discrete units, its consolidation as a value, its crucial link to processes of pure differentiation and measurability. No longer a medium in which the human subject is situated (it is no longer lived or experienced in quite the same way), time is externalized and must be consulted. . . . Karl Marx, more thoroughly than anyone, delineated the precise way in which time, in capitalism, has become the measure of value. A commodity has value because it is the objectification of abstract human labor. . . . Qualityless, the labor can be measured only by its duration” (Emergence of Cinematic Time, 7).
On Muybridge and the “melancholy of horsepower,” see Ravindranathan, Behold an Animal, 13–54.
Uexküll, Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, 41.
Sebeok, Signs, 122.
When Foucault develops the concept of “milieu” in Security, Territory, Population, as we saw in chapter 3, he refers to Canguilhem’s “The Living and Its Milieu,” in which Canguilhem extols the milieu as a capital contribution to the modern understanding of life: “The notion of the milieu,” he writes, “is in the process of becoming a universal and obligatory mode to capture the experience and existence of living beings” (quoted in Buchanan, Onto-ethologies, 7).
Canguilhem, Knowledge of Life, 103–6.
Uexküll’s introduction of the notion of subject in biology owes a debt to Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason he read and discussed with Rainer Maria Rilke: “Without a living subject,” he writes, “there can be neither space nor time. With this observation, biology has once and for all connected with Kant’s philosophy, which biology will now utilize through the natural sciences by emphasizing the decisive role of the subject” (Uexküll, Foray into the Worlds of Humans and Animals, 52). Uexküll shares Kant’s view that what is experienced as objective reality is conditioned by the subject’s perceptual dispositions. But he expands Kant’s foundational gesture by insisting on the embodied dimension of subjectivity and by focusing on the role played by sensory organs in the construction of this reality. He thus logically extends subjectivity to all living beings, where Kant had made it a human prerogative. If time and space constitute a priori forms of sensation, they are nonetheless experienced differently depending on the perceptual capacities of different bodies, human and nonhuman (the difference is operative at the level of the species but also of the individual). On Kant’s influence on Uexküll, see Buchanan, Onto-Ethologies, 12–15; and Gens, Jakob von Uexküll, 15–17, 64–70. On Uexküll’s “shaky” understanding of Kant’s epistemology, see Geoffrey Winthrop-Young’s afterword to Uexküll, Foray into the Worlds of Humans and Animals, 230–31.
Benjamin, “Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” 254. For a perceptive analysis of Uexküll’s use of chronophotography and his influence on Benjamin’s concept of “optical unconscious,” see Pollmann, “Invisible Worlds, Visible.”
For Deleuze, cinema operates its Kantian revolution after the Second World War, when the movement-image gives way to the time-image—that is, when time emancipates itself from sensorimotor schemas, when movement is subordinated to time and no longer to a moving body. In the first volume of his study of cinema, Deleuze chooses Muybridge’s galloping mare as paradigmatic of the movement-image in that movement appears “dissected” into instants, all equal to one another, “which relate to the whole of the [horse’s] canter to any-point-whatever” (Cinema 1, 5). These sections of time make visible “remarkable or singular points that belong to movement”—a movement inextricable from the moving bodies that produce it. Remembering that Muybridge’s first apparatuses were activated by the horses themselves, there is perhaps a history of the movement-image that can itself be said to operate a Kantian revolution, one that reveals movement to be subjectively experienced.
Like Audubon—born Jean Rabin, then renamed Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon before migrating to the United States—Eadweard Muybridge is a man of many avatars. Born Edward James Muggeridge, he changed his surname on several occasions, first to Muggridge, then Muygridge, before adopting the spelling by which he is now remembered. He also used the pseudonym Helios when he worked as a photographer in California and briefly changed his first name to Eduardo Santiago when he traveled to Central America. Quite appropriately, on his headstone his name is misspelled as Maybridge.
On Stanford and eugenics, see Thurtle, Emergence of Genetic Rationality, 29–72.
Stanford, quoted in Ott, “Iron Horses,” 414.
Stillman, Horse in Motion, 16.
Muybridge, Animals in Motion, 13.
The zoetrope differs from the thaumatrope mentioned in the introduction precisely because, like cinema, it creates movement from still images; the thaumatrope, in contrast, blends two still images into one still image (as when the bird and the cage blended to show the bird inside the cage).
This new system was put in place to avoid accidents such as what happened to Sallie Gardner, a mare that Muybridge photographed on June 15, 1878, in front of a large press contingent invited by Stanford. “Rather than triggering the shutters electrically,” Marta Braun writes, “‘Sallie Gardner’ tripped them manually by breaking strings that had been stretched across her path. Spooked by her repeated bumping into the strings as she ran, after breaking the eighth or ninth, she ‘gave a wild bound in the air, breaking the saddle girth she left the ground.’ The accident was caught in the negatives, soon viewed by the invited guests” (Picturing Time, 142).
Muybridge, Descriptive Zoopraxography, 14.
Rabinbach, Human Motor, 107.
Doane, Emergence of Cinematic Time, 60.
“For the velocity of the horse not being quite uniform,” Marey writes, “the equidistant wires were not reached at equal intervals of time. Besides, the wire was more or less stretched before rupture took place. From these causes there was a certain inequality in the rates of succession which Muybridge did not succeed in satisfactorily overcoming by letting off the shutters independently of the horse’s motion” (quoted in Rabinbach, Human Motor, 330–31n107; emphasis added). Likewise, John Ott notes that when Muybridge “could not initially synchronize the animals and the arsenal of cameras, the railroad executive [Stanford] complained that ‘the horse would not keep the correct time’” (“Iron Horses,” 415).
Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 140.
Quoted in Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 142. “Muybridge seems to present the semblance of a classical tabular organization,” Crary elaborates, “but what is arrayed in his rows and columns has none of the immutable identities on which the intelligibility of a table depends. The Horse in Motion has to be understood as an uprooting of perception from any stable space-time coordinates. Muybridge’s work is a significant instance of what Deleuze and Guattari described as processes of capitalist deterritorialization and decoding—infelicitous terms perhaps, but they suggest how anything with a permanent stable location in space is incapable of being inserted into a system of exchange and circulation and how anything that is part of a code (a traditional or established pattern of behavior or representation) will resist being deployed in networks of abstract relations” (143–44).
Quoted in Solnit, River of Shadows, 58.
Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, in Collected Novels, 802. “There are forces in operation,” Douglass writes, “which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. . . . Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. . . . Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. . . . Space is comparatively annihilated” (“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” 220).
Adams, Education of Henry Adams, quoted in L. Marx, Machine in the Garden, 345.
Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 144.
Ott, “Iron Horses,” 414.
M. Lawrence, “Muybridgean Motion/Materialist Film,” 75.
Lawrence rightfully notes that it is crucial to recognize how patterns of domination are perpetuated by technological innovations, but it is equally critical to discern the qualitative thresholds that punctuate this larger history of exploitation. I see technological reproducibility as one such threshold insofar as it introduces a new stage in which animals are not merely exploited as livestock; in this period, animality itself becomes a stocking technology (as the genes in the introduction were). In Animals as Biotechnology, Richard Twine recognizes that breeding is an “old” animal technology, but he warns against dismissing biotechnology as a transhistorical phenomenon. In fact, he shows that the Biotechnology Innovation Organization has a vested interest in claiming that modern biotechnology at the molecular level is but the continuation of older practices like domestication. Presenting modern genetic operations as “enhancements” of older techniques makes it possible to disavow any substantial transformation in the treatment of animal life. Twine marks a stronger break when it comes to how contemporary biology assists breeding and genetic selection. He identifies the past century’s transition from a breeding mostly based on animals’ appearance and performance toward a modern concern for invisible genetic attributes, echoing the break identified by Foucault in The Order of Things.
M. Lawrence, “Muybridgean Motion/Materialist Film,” 79.
M. Lawrence, 81.
In fact, the concept of “livingness” that Lawrence borrows from film scholar Jonathan Burt invites precisely this reading. Burt defines livingness as “the mode of active coexistence whereby an individual’s ability to live (or die) depends on the nature of its interaction with others” (“Morbidity and Vitalism,” 169). He argues that the invisibilization of killing in industrial farming and the fragmentation of the living wrought by modern biosciences demand an analysis that is not centered on questions of death and (self-)identity—in which he finds Derrida helplessly mired—but based on a renewed “attention to life.” Arguing via Deleuze that film makes livingness apparent, Burt sees in cinema the possibility to conceive living beings as co-constituted organisms rather than autonomous individuals.
Shukin, Animal Capital, 72–73.
In a more recent essay titled “Netted Together,” Ott considers the contribution to the nascent ecological consciousness made by Muybridge, as well as what Ott sees as his animal collaborators (he lists pigeons, horses, and kangaroos as “coauthors” of Animal Locomotion).
Agre, “Surveillance and Capture,” 101.
Agre, 121; emphasis added.
Muybridge and Marey are commonly perceived as reducing animals to mere data (see, for instance, Corkin, Realism and the Birth of the Modern United States, 57). But the verb reducing is misleading, as it suggests a simple minimization of something instead of its transformation. It would be more accurate to say these photographers made animals susceptible to capture. Johanna Drucker invites us to “reconceive all data as capta”—i.e., to adopt a constructivist approach that recognizes that knowledge is “taken, not simply given as a natural representation of pre-existing fact” (“Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display”).
Braun, Eadweard Muybridge, 193.
On the anthropometric grid in Muybridge’s work, see E. Brown, “Racialising the Virile Body.”
Muybridge, Animal Locomotion, plates 537–40.
Finn, Capturing the Criminal Image, 42.
Lawrie, Forging a Laboring Race, 2–3, 6–7.
Lawrie, 2–3, 6–7.
Solnit, River of Shadows, 194.
Solnit, 194–95. Ott, likewise, situates Muybridge’s grids “in the context of the growing bureaucratization of urban America” (“Netted Together,” 90).
Marta Braun disputes the scientificity of Muybridge’s grids, lamenting that they “give us no way to measure anything real.” She insists that Muybridge’s photographs have been “misread” as scientific and that they are instead only “fictions” (Eadweard Muybridge, xvi). Such strict partition between art and science is untenable, of course, and Braun’s judgment endorses a dominant but limited idea of science, even if she lucidly contrasts Muybridge’s unsystematic experiments with the rigorous protocols observed by Marey.
The idea originally came from the invention of an “astronomical revolver” by Jules Janssen, an astrophysicist director of the observatory at Meudon (Dagognet, Etienne-Jules Marey, 91–93). As I mentioned in the introduction, Marey’s photographic gun is exemplary of the desire to capture the animal image with as little interference as possible. Marey wished to be rid of the contingency of living bodies even as he sought to understand them in action. He was looking for “the most ‘immaterial,’ the most self-effacing, link between the body and the recording instrument,” Doane explains, hence he initially idealized photography as a medium that promised to eliminate the “corruptive effects of mediation” (Emergence of Cinematic Time, 48). He would ultimately be disappointed by chronophotography, however, because it is predicated on intermittency; the interval of the exposure was, for him, “lost time” (68).
Blum, Picturing Nature, 113. “In principle,” Blum comments, “professional naturalists—the new ‘zoologists’—described observations that others should be able to reproduce; an observation that could not be repeated had little scientific credibility” (133–14).
Muybridge deplored that he was not able “to have photographed many of the animals while they were enjoying more freedom of movement than that afforded by the Gardens of the Zoological Society,” admitting that “the difficulties attending a satisfactory investigation under their natural conditions of life were, at the time, too great to be surmounted” (Animals in Motion, 67).
Doane, Emergence of Cinematic Time, 60.
Snyder, “Visualization and Visibility,” 387.
Braun, Picturing Time, 12.
Burt, Animals in Film, 112.
Dagognet, Etienne-Jules Marey, 102.
Braun, Picturing Time, 155.
The influence of Muybridge’s work on modern perception is often described (first by Muybridge himself) in terms of the correction of human senses, which are thus retroactively conceived as innately defective, or at least limited. On the one hand, envisioning technology as a prosthetic compensation for our perceptual limitations compels us to draw new frontiers beyond which lies a nonhuman “real” that is (as yet) unapproachable. On the other hand, the enhanced perception promised by Muybridge’s stop-motion apparatuses presents this infravisible real as infinitely atomizable and susceptible to manipulation.
Krauss, Grids, 50.
Lippit, Electric Animal, 185.
To be fair, Muybridge did complain about having to work with domesticated or zoo animals with limited “freedom of movement” (Animals in Motion, 67). In that sense, he was aware that his experiments were contingent on the profound “marginalization” of animals described by Berger.
The phrase is Burt’s (Animals in Film, 43).
Bousé, Wildlife Films, 42.
The animal, for Shukin, is the repressed substrate or “stock” of industrial capitalism (Animal Capital, 45). Gelatin is a perfect example of animal rendering, in the double sense of contributing materially to the carnal and semiotic powering of capitalism while at the same time disappearing—being reproduced in order to disappear—at an unprecedented scale and speed. Gelatin, interestingly, is the forgotten analogy used by Marx to designate the abstraction of human labor; Keston Sutherland shows that the two most influential translations of Das Kapital mistranslate the term Gallerte into “congelation,” which implies that labor appears to be merely “frozen” in commodities. However, Gallerte “is not an abstract noun [but the name] of a specific commodity. Marx’s German readers will not only have bought Gallerte, they will have eaten it” (“Marx in Jargon,” 7). Sutherland claims that Marx intended to disgust his readers by reminding them that what they consumed was a quivering substance made of undifferentiated animal remains. This figure created an innuendo of cannibalism, for workers, too, became an undifferentiated mass. Gallerte, for Sutherland, “is the paradigmatic commodity” because it does not just index the occultation of production but also shows that the process of occultation is inherently disgusting and irreversible (9). When we combine Marx’s use of the term with Shukin’s analysis of the transformation of livestock into film stock, we see how enriched a reading of Marx is when it is attuned to the (animal) material that constitutes capital’s technological and ideological mechanisms. If we take seriously Sutherland’s foray into Marxist lexicon, however, we must not make animals mere stand-ins for the figure of the worker; workers might just as well stand in for the figure of the animal, for their lot criticizes the process by which animals come to us as commodities.
This insight is already true of capital, as Marx observes that the “conditions of production are at the same time the conditions of reproduction” (Capital, 711).
Shukin, Animal Capital, 20.
Shukin, 20, 51.
Lippit, Electric Animal, 195.
Shukin, Animal Capital, 41.
Menely, Animal Claim, 215n41.
On the selection of reproducible animals, the attendant dysselection of feral or “wandering” animals, and their consequences for indigenous farmers, see Anderson, Creatures of Empire.
On the mechanisms put in place to justify and perpetuate the killing of animals on an industrial scale, see Vialles, Animal to Edible. Mass slaughter, Vialles explains, involves not only a major overhaul of slaughter techniques (sanitization and standardization of the handling and slaughter of animals and hyperfragmentation of unskilled tasks so that it becomes virtually impossible to identify the person responsible for the killing) but also a profound reconceptualization of the slaughtered animals, turning them from feeling beings into unfeeling objects. This is accomplished, in part, on a semantic level; death is euphemized and the animals are anonymized. Interestingly for us, Vialles turns to hunting to elucidate the symbolic and material transformations undergone by animals in her discussion of the “trap” (piège in French, “stunning pen” in English), a mechanism that she sees as paradigmatic of a new type of human/animal relation that obtains in modern abattoirs. She frames this transformation as a shift from cynegetics (the art of hunting) to ceptology (the logic of capture) (111–21).
On the biopolitics of conservation, see Braverman, Wild Life, 226–32.
C. Wolfe, Before the Law, 53–54.
Writes Muybridge: “It is impressed on our minds in infancy that a certain arbitrary symbol indicates an existing fact; if this same association of emblem and reality is reiterated at the preparatory school, insisted upon at college, and pronounced correct at the university; symbol and fact—or supposed fact—becomes [sic] so intimately blended that it is extremely difficult to disassociate them, even when reason and personal observation teaches [sic] us they have no true relationship. So it is with the conventional galloping horse; . . . we think the representation to be unimpeachable, until we throw all our preconceived impressions on one side, and seek the truth by independent observations from Nature herself” (Animals in Motion, 57).
On the converging political, economic, and technological circumstances that brought about the near-extinction of the bison in 1860s and 1870s, see Solnit’s section “The Transubstantiation of the Bison” (River of Shadows, 62–66). Solnit highlights the perverse circularity with which bison hides were used for the belts operating the trains that contributed to the bison’s disappearance: they were shot for sport from the trains, and the same trains brought them to the Chicago slaughterhouses. Transubstantiation ultimately refers to the conversion of an overexploited nature into myth and imagery.
Brower, Developing Animals, xvii. Focusing on the “historical moment when photographic technology allowed photographing animals in nature to become a practice,” Brower contends that wildlife photography must be understood as altering the epistemic conditions in which animals are seen and, consequently, their very “conception” (xvii). Brower sees wildlife photography and its attendant rhetoric and technologies as a paradoxically artificial means of positing and “naturalizing” an unbridgeable divide between humans and animals (nostalgically construed as metonyms of a nature untouched by society).
Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, 5. On the affinities between death and photography, see Barthes, Camera Lucida.
The association of cinema with the stilling of life is but one—of three, according to Raymond Bellour—of the origin stories of cinema, to which Muybridge and Marey’s names are commonly attached. The singularity of cinema, according to this narrative, “is the principle of invisibility internal to the machines that capture life by producing its death, according to the interruption of movement upon which photography is premised” (Le Corps du cinéma, 40; my translation). In his work on cinema, Deleuze forcefully contests this association of cinema with death.
Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 144.
Agamben, “Notes on Gesture,” 55.
Benjamin, quoted in Pollmann, “Invisible Worlds, Visible,” 808.
Crary draws a parallel between the technologization of the observer and that of the worker in the nineteenth century. The worker becomes a tool among others in the factory, and man assumes a relation of contiguity to the machine—a relation that before had been merely metaphorical. Similarly, the observer is no longer the source or ideal standard for vision, as had been the case in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but a technology among others (Techniques of the Observer, 129).
Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 140.
Benjamin, “Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” 265.
Benjamin, 265; emphasis added.
Uexküll, Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, 63.
Pollmann, “Invisible Worlds, Visible,” 790.
“Time, which frames all events, seemed to us to be the only objectively consistent factor, compared to the variegated changes of its contents, but now we see that the subject controls the time of its environment. . . . ‘Without a living subject, there can be no time’” (Uexküll, Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, 52).
Pollmann, “Invisible Worlds, Visible,” 803.
On Spinoza’s ethics as ethology, see Deleuze, Spinoza. “Ethology,” writes Deleuze, “is first of all the study of the relations of speed and slowness, of the capacities for affecting and being affected that characterize each thing. For each thing these relations and capacities have an amplitude, thresholds (maximum and minimum), and variations or transformations that are peculiar to them” (125).
Nietzsches Werkes, quoted in Kofman, Nietzsche and Metaphor, 72. Nietzsche praises Spinoza’s philosophy for challenging the system of abstract causality that organizes Cartesian thought. Playing on the phonetic similarity between Spinoza and Spinne—“spider,” in German, the animal that spins webs by producing a viscous thread from its spinneret glands—Nietzsche compares the architecture of Spinoza’s philosophy to a spider web. “Spinoza’s geometrical order,” Sarah Kofman sums up, “is in the last resort an arachnidan one” (69).
Uexküll, Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, 53.
Uexküll, Theory of Meaning, in Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, 158–59.
Uexküll, 191; trans. modified.
Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 185.
Uexküll, Theory of Meaning, 193.
Merleau-Ponty, Nature, 183.
Doane, Emergence of Cinematic Time, 218.
Deleuze, Spinoza, 125.
Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand Plateaus, 275.
Kafka, “Report to an Academy,” 253. Kari Weil fascinatingly connects Kafka’s insistence that Red Peter’s forced “evolution” into humanhood is nothing but a “way out [Ausweg]” with Foucault’s reminder that, for Kant, the Enlightenment is just that: a “way out [Ausgang]” thanks to which “humans will escape their former subjection to despotic rule or irrational authority and find their rightful status as autonomous subjects” (Thinking Animals, 13).
Doane, Emergence of Cinematic Time, 70.
In Hope Is the Thing with Feathers, Christopher Cokinos notes that the last wild passenger pigeon was sighted in 1900 by a young boy from Ohio, who killed it with a shotgun (228–57). Of course, it is impossible to know with certainty whether the boy’s victim (posthumously nicknamed “Buttons” because the amateur taxidermist who mounted it used shoe buttons instead of glass eyes) truly was the last wild passenger pigeon. Joel Greenberg has recently found evidence that a wild pigeon was sighted—and again, killed—in 1902 by a young boy in Indiana (Feathered River across the Sky, 166–77).
Audubon, Ornithological Biography, 268.
Cooper, The Pioneers, in Leatherstocking Tales, 1:251. Cooper explicitly links the organized massacre of the passenger pigeon to the programmed decimation of indigenous populations and, more broadly, to irreversible transformations of the land by new transportation and communication technologies. Historians have shown that the convergence of several technological innovations contributed to the pigeon’s erasure: the telegraph informed professional “pigeoners” when and where to expect the flocks; trains transported the pigeoners to these locations; refrigerated cars made it possible to conserve the meat and feed the more and more populous cities. But these increasingly automated ways to trap, harvest, and stock large quantities of pigeons only sped up the extinction process that had already become inevitable since the settlers began clearing the forests and transforming them into farmland. William Cronon provocatively ties the extinction of certain species to the overproduction of others in his analysis of the “new livestock economy” developed in the Chicago stockyards (via the shift from open range to feedlot and enclosure, the incursion of the railroad and the concomitant increase in access to previously nearly closed areas, and the systematic destruction of nonscalable habitats) (Nature’s Metropolis, 207–59).
Braverman, Wild Life, 158.
The Lacey Act, the first federal law to criminalize poaching and restrict interstate transportation of game, was signed into law by President William McKinley in 1900. When Congressman John F. Lacey introduced the bill on the floor, he mournfully hinted at the passenger pigeon’s fate: “It is late. It is too late as to the wild pigeon. The buffalo is almost a thing of the past, but there still remains much to preserve, and we must act earnestly if we would accomplish such things.” The passenger pigeon’s extinction, however, cannot be simply excused as ignorance. Beside Bumppo’s exhortation to kill with discernment and restraint in The Pioneers (“Use, but don’t waste”; Cooper, The Pioneers, in Leatherstocking Tales, 1:250), there had been numerous warnings about the consequences of overhunting pigeons. In 1847, after witnessing the massacre of a pigeon roost, the French writer Benedict Revoil predicted that the amateur ornithologist of the next century would “find no more wild pigeons, except those in the Museums of Natural History”; in 1869, Henry Bergh—the same Bergh of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals referenced in Kilburn’s ad for the gun camera—was campaigning against the wasteful carnage of pigeon-shooting matches; in his 1895 essay on “The Wild Pigeon of North America,” Chief Simon Pokagon of the Potawatomi tribe remembers rebuking white hunters for the brutal techniques they had invented for harvesting ever-larger quantities of birds (see Greenberg, Feathered River across the Sky, 210, 116–17).
The last pair of pigeons were named after the first First Couple, George and Martha Washington.
Shufeldt, “Published Figures and Plates of the Extinct Passenger Pigeon,” 465. “As a story filled with romance, prodigality, cruelty and short-sightedness,” Shufeldt writes of the passenger pigeon’s journey toward extinction, “it outranks the most unbelievable fables. . . . We can now only regretfully look back on the picture and systematize the data at hand” (458).
Haraway, “Teddy Bear Patriarchy,” 42.
Braverman, Wild Life, 81.
Twine, Animals as Biotechnology, 153; and C. Wolfe, Before the Law, 15.
Dickinson, “I Held It So Tight That I Lost It,” 1659. The youth of the poem’s subject denotes less innocence than male recklessness, as the manuscript shows that Dickinson hesitated between “Child” and “Boy,” and Sharon Cameron teaches us not to choose between Dickinson’s variants (Choosing Not Choosing, 63). In appearance grammatically secure, the subject becomes strangely tied to its object when we read the preposition “of” not as expressing intent (“said the child about the butterfly”) but indicating filiation (“the butterfly’s child”). If the butterfly engenders its captor, its disappearance at the child’s hands in turn threatens the child’s very existence.
Uexküll, Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, 69–70.