Author(s): Schrader A
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Abstract Prompted by a classroom discussion on knowledge politics in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, this article offers a reading of Hugh Raffles' Insectopedia entry on Chernobyl. In that entry, Raffles describes how Swiss science-artist and environmental activist Cornelia Hesse-Honegger collects, studies, and paints morphologically deformed leaf bugs that she finds in the proximity of nuclear power plants. In exploring how to begin to care about beings, such as leaf bugs, this article proposes a notion of care that combines an intimate knowledge practice with an ethical relationship to more-than-human others. Jacques Derrida's notion of 'abyssal intimacy' is central to such a combination. Hesse-Honegger's research practices enact and her paintings depict an 'abyssal intimacy' that deconstructs the oppositions between concerns about human suffering and compassion for seemingly irrelevant insects and between knowledge politics and ethics. At the heart of such a careful knowledge production is a fundamental passivity, based on a shared vulnerability. An abyssal intimacy is not something we ought to recognize; rather, it issues from particular practices of care that do not identify their subjects of care in advance. Caring or becoming affected thus entails the dissociation of affection not only from the humanist subject, but also from movements in time: from direct helping action and from the assumption that advocacy necessarily means speaking for an other, usually assumed to be inferior.
This article was published in Soc Stud Sci
and referenced in Business and Economics Journal