Abstract

In the wake of genetic and tissue engineering, two concepts which are deeply intertwined have acquired new connotations, not only in the field of science but also in the thick fabric of cultural beliefs and expectations which stem from the former and vice-versa; namely hybridity and purification. Discourses around the purity of the human species abound, and they help to maintain the separation between humans and between humans and nonhuman animals. Birke and Michael,1 following Latour,2 call this process of keeping separate the human and nonhuman ‘purification’. This artificial separation perpetuates discourses and practices of colonialism, racism and sexism, which extend to nonhuman animals through the process I call ‘othering’, which is a desperate attempt at keeping the boundaries between ‘the self‘ and ‘the other’, intact. However, this constant policing of boundaries, which Latour sees as obsessive in modernity, covers up increasing anxieties over hybridity -- because, as Birke and Michael note: ‘[T]he notion of hybridity implies boundary -- crossing and mixing -- if not literally, then certainly at a conceptual level’.3 This would confuse, they suggest, issues of humanity, animality and even of individuality. We fear becoming part animal (a good example is fears expressed in debates around xenotransplantation) which would make us lose our ‘humanity’, our individuality, our sense of ‘self’.

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