The Companion Species Manifesto

Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness

This academic pamphlet from Donna Haraway describes dog writing as “a branch of feminist theory, or the other way around” (3), and ranges from descriptions of training approaches, to explorations of co-evolution and species-thinking, and on to word play and the almost spiritual relationships between people and dogs.

Reading notes

Reciprocal possession

Discussing animal trainer and philosopher Vicki Hearne, Haraway writes:

Hearne asserts that in educating her dogs she “enfranchises” a relationship. The question turns out not to be what are animal rights, as if they existed preformed to be uncovered, but how may a human enter into a rights relationship with an animal? Such rights, rooted in reciprocal possession, turn out to be hard to dissolve; and the demands they make are life changing for all the partners.

Heare’s arguments about companion animal happiness, reciprocal possession, and the right to the pursuit of happiness are a far cry from the ascription of “slavery” to the state of domestic animals, including “pets.” Rather, for her the face-to-face relationships of companion species make something new and elegantly possible; and that new thing is not human guardianship in place of ownership, even as it is also not property relations as conventionally understood. Hearne sees not only the humans, but also the dogs, as beings with a species-specific capacity for moral understanding and serious achievement. Possession—property—is about reciprocity and rights of access. If I have a dog, my dog has a human; what that means concretely is at stake.

Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto, 53 </blockquote> Emphasis mine.