A Cyborg Feminist Analysis of Corpse Whale

Donna Haraway’s “Manifesto for Cyborgs” is a seminal 20th century re-reading of the necessity of the human category in response to the rising tide of social/military technological development. She uses the category of the cyborg to name and theorize the liminal edge of the category, human. Although for Haraway, cyborg’s are born of the specific interplay between modernity, technology, and the social constructs that enforce non-humanity, they ultimately function as an analytic category through which to examine the liminal space of humanity and to interrogate the role of speciation as a pillar of society. One possible reading of Haraway’s arguments in “Manifesto for Cyborgs” concerns the possibility of a somehow-integrated human/non-human society (I understand that she explores this idea more fully in other texts specifically on animals). Arguably, Dg Nanouk Okpik’s Corpse Whale demonstrates a particular vision for that sort of integration The denizen’s of Okpik’s Corpse Whale world are multi-species; the conditions of possibility for life in that context seem to be set by the presence of that diversity. The world Okpik writes is constituted by animals, specific people, types of people, meteorology, geography – each as substantive contributors. A notable example of the animal/human liminal dynamic is Raven, as a recurring theme. It is possible to read Raven across speciation, or perhaps embodying multiple species components or dynamics. In “Bess and Raven,” Raven although receives no gender pronouns – which might be read as indicative of humanness – Raven is described as speaking and using tools in a way which seems uniquely human. In “The Sun, Moon, and the Dead Raven,” the Raven’s trans-speciation is explicitly stated. Okpik writes, “The Raven/man came alive, his body, severed into seven stars, became the dipper in the night skies” (76). The Raven is at once human, animal, and divine or cosmic. There is, of course, as well, the recurring raven image, which appears to mark the beginning of each month in the text. The Raven is operating, as an influencer, simultaneously across species and almost paratextually.

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