Skin/ned Politics: Species Discourse and the Limits of “The Human” in Nandipha Mntambo's Art
Article first published online: 8 MAR 2012
© by Hypatia, Inc.
Special Issue: Animal Others
Volume 27, Issue 3, pages 546–566, August 2012
How to Cite
Lipschitz, R. (2012), Skin/ned Politics: Species Discourse and the Limits of “The Human” in Nandipha Mntambo's Art. Hypatia, 27: 546–566. doi: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2012.01273.x
- Issue published online: 2 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 8 MAR 2012
In this paper I focus on recent artworks by South African artist Nandipha Mntambo. I read these for the ways in which the discourse of species works within and against the humanist sacrificial economy of the subject that Jacques Derrida calls “carno-phallogocentric” (Derrida 1991). Drawing on Derrida's “metonymy of ‘eating well,'” Achille Mbembe's analysis of colonial violence, and Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection, I argue that these works inscribe and disturb a speciesist, sexual, and racial politics of animalization, and do so by figuring a transgressive animality that stalks the “origins” of “the human” and troubles its carnivorous and colonial relations of “eating the other.” The works render ambiguous the humanist border that separates “man” from what he calls “the animal” and thicken the singular division between edible and inedible bodies, and literal and figurative eating. I suggest that this figures what Haraway might call an “eccentric subject” (Haraway 1992), one that not only holds open the possibility of a nonanthropocentrism but, as Haraway would say, “nourishes indigestion” at the heart of “carno-phallogocentric” power (Haraway 2008). But this is risky practice, as a recent controversy about reading Mntambo's work shows.