- Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene by Donna J. Haraway
Though waving a new banner with a fresh slogan, the aim of Donna Haraway's scholarship has always been to "Stay with the Trouble!" Here, in her most recent book, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Haraway, accompanied with string figures, sheep, science fiction, storytelling, scientists, [End Page 236] racing pigeons, horse urine, artists, and countless other multispecies entanglements, persists and stays with the trouble of climate change, capitalism, mass extinctions, overpopulation, and all the other disastrous, human-made troubles of which many have come to call the Anthropocene.
Named for the destructive impact of human-driven development, industrialization, resource extraction, and animal extinctions of the current geological era, the Anthropocene has generated much debate, not least of which has been concerned with its recentering of the human. In particular, these debates have spawned two seemingly opposed but equally problematic future-oriented perspectives: techno-optimism and abject defeatism. Haraway takes aim at these alternately utopian and dystopian outlooks, and the Anthropocene that spawned them, in order to propose an alternate, more generative, "thick" time scale of dangerous but necessary "response-ability." Instead of the Anthropocene and its centering of the human, Haraway centers the multispecies entanglements of which humans are a part and offers a new name for our current era: the Chthulucene. To stay with the trouble in the Chthulucene means to resist the dangers of defeatism and optimism by situating ourselves squarely in the messy material present and to seek better ways to live and die well for humans and more-than-human beings and worlds. Haraway calls this project of mutual, multispecies world-making, of more than survival but less than utopia, "ongoingness" (132).
Staying with the Trouble is comprised of a collection of eight essays, largely republished, which make independent yet overlapping feminist interventions concerning the Anthropocene and other posthuman discourses. The first three lengthy chapters of the book provide historical context and debates concerning the Anthropocene and Capitalocene (i.e., a geologic era shaped by capitalism rather than humans), descriptions of Haraway's key terms (e.g., Chthulucene, SF, and sympoiesis), and applications and the methodological relevance of these concepts.
In chapter 1, Haraway advances in detail her concept of "SF," which variously stands for "science fiction, speculative fabulation, string figures, speculative feminism, science fact, so far" (2), a "risky game of worlding and storying; [SF] is staying with the trouble" (13). The core argument of this chapter claims that "[n]atures, cultures, subjects, and objects do not pre-exist their intertwined worldings" (13) and that we must be conscious of how our stories (e.g., "technology will save us" or, worse, "it's already too late") influence our relationships with nonhuman worlds and limit or expand our options in the face of global struggle. Chapter 2 unpacks the history and uptake of the Anthropocene and Capitalocene and details Haraway's formulation of the Chthulucene: "a name for an elsewhere and elsewhen that was, still is, and might yet be" (31), which "unlike either the Anthropocene or the Capitalocene . . . is made of ongoing multispecies stories and practises of becoming-with in times that remain at stake" (55). The Chthulucene demands that we understand that "human beings [End Page 237] are with and of the earth, and the biotic and abiotic powers of the earth are the main story" (55). Haraway emphasizes here the importance of "sympoiesis" to her approach, that is, that the worlding humans undertake is never done alone (i.e., "autopoiesis" or self-making) but is instead a "making with" or "becoming-with" multispecies actors. Chapter 3, taking up the many threads and tentacles of the first chapters, engages in four contemporary examples of such "becoming-with," actively engaging multispecies entanglements and histories across four distinct geographies and peoples. Remaining chapters offer further illustrations of Haraway's "tentacular thinking" and pursuit of string figurations, emphasizing the need to sustain open curiosity and imagination toward...