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When Species Meet....

When Species Meet....

Anne Dalke's picture

Over twenty years ago, Mary Pratt coined the term “contact zone” to call attention to the interactive, improvisational dimensions of encounters among subjects within radically asymmetrical relations of power.  A few years ago, in a book called When Species Meet, Donna Haraway applied this idea to the interactions among us and our “companion species.” In a chapter called “Training in the Contact Zone,” she talked about how she and her dog learned to be responsive to one another in agility training…and then went on from there to think about varied webs of interspecies dependence: the complex interactions in ecotones, tidal marshes, our own guts…

Inspired by Haraway, I want to highlight my experience of living on our farm in Virginia this summer, what it felt like to walk out each morning among other species, so placid and self-contained.

They looked @ me, silently chewing…who were they, and what did they call me to be?
What did our encounter mean?






Anne Dalke references Donna Haraway's idea of a"companion species." Though we evolved from animals and continue to interact with them, it seems that the gap between humans and the "other" is expanding. I question the idea that we have a "companion species" because even in the example Anne Dalke gave relating to how Haraway communicated with her dog; one cannot ignore the fact that dogs were domesticated by humans. Dogs have been trained for years to be friendly, obedient, constantly search for human attention, to love, and to care.




Relating to the concept Anne explored in her post, I have seen dogs intereact with and understand humans in the way that Donna Haraway described, and my interactoions with my dog seem to have fashioned a more two-wayed communication than your confusing interaction with the cows.  Back home I have a 120 pound Golden Retriever named Max.  So many poeple harp on him for being a big, doofy dog but in truth, he is quite sentient.


In a room of 20 she sat semi growling and barking behind this metal cage. Her paws swept under attempting to pat my feet. She'd pounce against the fence almost within range of my eyes. But as my gaze drew towards her moist nose and glassy brown eyes, I noticed a yellow sign in the corner. A list of characteristics describing her aggressive manners and unability to fully be trusted among other dogs or people. So here I was at the Houston ASPCA staring at this beautiful German Shepherd Lab mix staring back at me.