Conference presentation
Open access

Hybrids, Companions, and Siblings: The Posthuman(ist) Family of Oryx and Crake

ContributorsSkibo-Birney, Bryn
Presented atApproaching Posthumanism and the Posthuman, University of Geneva, 4-6 June, p. 1-7
Publication date2015

Recent research has shown that children who have suffered traumatic experiences, such as divorce, illness, or grief – are more likely to confide in their companion animals than in their siblings. Moreover, though these children may suffer later from poor academic performance and mental-health disorders in comparison to non-traumatized children, the study demonstrates that “children with stronger relationships with their pets had a higher level of prosocial behaviour–such as helping, sharing, and co-operating–than their peers” (University of Cambridge, np). While the research has been deemed “new” in terms of its empirical approach to studying human-animal relationships, the argument itself should not be particularly surprising to many lay dog-people: popular culture depictions of children and their companion animals make common currency of the tightly knit and secretive relationship between the child and the “pet.” Donna Haraway has argued, however, that as domestic-animal terminology has shifted over the past several decades – from “pet” to “companion animal”– so too have the dynamics of the human-animal relationship: “‘[n]ew names mark changes in power, symbolically and materially remaking kin and kind” (emphasis added; When Species Meet 135). This presentation works through the potential of this “remaking of kin and kind,” using Margaret Atwood's novel, Oryx and Crake, to consider the possibility and nature of a “posthuman family.” The protagonist, Jimmy, is caught in tension between the traumatic dissolution of his humanist, nuclear family structure and the emotionally-altering relationships he has with different companion species (per Haraway). Like the real subjects of the above-cited research, Jimmy not only confides in his companion animals, but importantly, they are companion species, in Harawayian terminology, partners in a individual-forming, affective relationship. Specifically, in the formative vacuum left by the personal isolation and emotional estrangement Jimmy feels towards his parents, these animals – the pigoons, the rakunk Killer, and the parrot Alex – become Jimmy's “posthuman family.”

  • Posthumanism
  • Posthuman
  • Atwood
  • Oryx and crake
  • Family
  • Pets
  • Animals
  • Human-animal relationship
  • Animal studies
  • Haraway
  • Becoming-with
Citation (ISO format)
SKIBO-BIRNEY, Bryn. Hybrids, Companions, and Siblings: The Posthuman(ist) Family of Oryx and Crake. In: Approaching Posthumanism and the Posthuman. University of Geneva. 2015. 1–7 p.
Main files (1)
  • PID : unige:100793

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