Creature Cameos: Filming Who or What

O' Dwyer, Killian. 2024. 'Creature Cameos: Filming Who or What'. In: Forms and Feelings of Kinship in the Contemporary World. University of Warwick, United Kingdom 27 April 2024. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

In When Species Meet, cameras and critters converge around questions of other-worldly spectatorship; how moving images shape acts of looking and how we might necessarily return the animal gaze with Haraway’s particular brand of respect. ‘Response and respect,’ Haraway tells us, are possible only in the knotted cat’s cradle of cosmopolitical relations where ‘actual animals and people’ look back at each other, ‘sticky with all their muddled histories.’ This seemingly non-negotiable dictate is born from her earlier criticism of Jacques Derrida in The Animal That Therefore I Am, where the former laments the latter’s uncharacteristic lack of curiosity as the recipient of an unfathomable gaze by a little cat, catching him in a state of undress. While Haraway recognizes that Derrida engages with literary and mythological figures of animals that render them as ‘machines,’ she criticizes his failure to consider how we should or could look back to animals in a way that invite the possibility of other-worldly interactions.

Yet Haraway seems to fall victim to the specificity of her own argument later on in the text when the question of the film camera, specifically, Crittercams, are introduced. Cittercams, for Donna Haraway, are film technologies flooded with the articulated lenses of many kinds of coordinated, agential zoons: beings whose historically situated infoldings are the flesh of contemporary naturecultures. While Haraway recognizes that the material-semotic exchange of Crittercams is asymmetrical, she fails to recognize that these film technologies, rather than examining how to look back to animals, invite humans to scrutinize an unwavering, unblinking gaze that is ironically made more disembodied and machine-like. In this paper, I propose to return to a familiar ontological question that invite animal difference over the threshold: ‘who’ or ‘what.’ Asking ‘who’ or ‘what’ is critical, in both senses of the word. Questioning ‘who or what’ appears in film is a deliberate exercise in besmudging the binary, of smearing any prerequisite for fixed categorization from the start. It introduces the notion of secrecy to the relationship between animals and moving images. By turning to The Beast and the Sovereign and Derrida’s connection of ‘a scene’ that moves as ‘stealthy as a wolf’ [a pas de loup] and the question of ‘who or what,’ I foreground film as a medium that not only conceals the multiplicity of animal difference in the here and now, but also protects the possibility of future kinship in times to-come.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


27 April 2024Completed

Event Location:

University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Date range:

27 April 2024

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

29 Apr 2024 12:10

Last Modified:

30 Apr 2024 06:46


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