Thoughts on Vint’s Article

I found Sherryl Vint’s article “Becoming Other: Animals, Kinship, And Butler’s ‘Clay’s Ark'” to be intriguing because I really wasn’t familiar with any of the ideas regarding the species boundary, thus I didn’t have the capacity to think about Clay’s Ark or judge Butler’s intentions using the terms and theories explained in the article while reading the book. Vint explains that Butler alters the human/animal boundary in order to explore new ways of being and organizing in the world, because as Cary Wolfe posits, “so long as the humanist discourse of species persists, it ‘will always be available for use by some humans against other humans’” as an exclusion mechanism (287). Vint also shows how Rane and Keira’s differing reactions to the disease are a result of Keira’s molecular identity and Rane’s molar identity and thus their level of openness to difference, which is symbolized by differences in skin tone. Rane is unable to transform because she can only think in terms of molar identity which renders any transformation a total loss of self, whereas Keira can “accept the Other as merely unactualized potential desire in herself, as part of her own multiplicity, rather than as evil because different” (292-3).

I was surprised that Blake’s character’s openness wasn’t referenced here because of his status as a heterosexual white male doctor and majority identity, especially as compared to Keira who is disadvantaged not only by her darker complexion but by her sickness too. As Vint expresses through the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari, society’s disadvantaged are more open to “alternative currents of desire and being,” which explains why Keira is more open than Rane, but which also could explain why Blake cannot accept that he is helpless or that he should trust Eli and his people’s obviously much more extensive knowledge of disease (294). To me, Blake’s privilege seems more focal than Rane’s because it’s what ultimately brings about not only his own demise but the demise of the world as it is.

Because nothing in Butler’s fiction is simple, though, it is not entirely clear whether a new world order is desirable and whether Blake can be considered a villain. It is implied by the descriptions of the current state of the world and Stephen’s comment, “It will be chaos. Then a new order,” that there is hope for improvement after the dust settles, despite what is learned in Patternmaster (694). Vint posits that Clay’s Ark illustrates the challenges one faces in going against the “current cultural formation” and that the novel addresses the complexities of changing societal structures. Vint explains that Clay’s Ark depicts the necessary pain involved in transforming a failing society (a theme we’ve seen repeated throughout Butler’s fiction) and that the clayark people represent hope for a less exploitative and more inclusive society (288). On the other hand, Blake’s status and his role in catalyzing the change seems to complicate this reading slightly. As Corey Lynn Wrenn states in an article published on the Feminist Wire (that fittingly describes the opposition she found men posed to her protestations against the “exploitation of other animals”) that the “shaping culture and advocating for social change remains very much a masculine endeavor.”

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