Im Angesicht der Gesichter: Technologien des Gesichtsverlusts in der Tierforschung
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Pavlo has such a beautifully lithe body, small and wonderfully furry. Every morning when I wake up he jumps in the bed and starts his morning facials, licking into nostrils and eyeballs and all the wrong places –with great care. I take it for granted that humans can and do form close bonds with (some) other animals. Instead I am interested in how this type of communication can get blocked during the performance of animal research and in the normative challenges this creates for humans in animal research. The key concept I use for my analysis is that of the face. I argue that knowing through animal research is inextricably tied up with the possibility of knowing animals through their face. Following David Morris, Peter Atterton and Emmanuel Levinas, I understand a face as a surface that communicates, in part through its sensed aspects, something beyond the sensed, an invisible depth: the being of an Other. My understanding extends the ordinary idea of a face, as a “head-face”, to other bodily surfaces or aspects that can express the inner being of an Other: e.g. bodies –their moves, skin and touch, voices, or body smells. So how does human-animal communication get blocked? Instead of analysing this as a process of objectification (happening to animals) or of distancing (happening to researchers), I articulate it as a process of effacement happening to both animals and humans during research. I claim that animal research is populated with technologies which support performative (affective and cognitive) strategies for coming to be an analyst , seeing an animal as what Michael Lynch calls an “analytic” object, which have moral dimensions. I identify five types of what I call technologies of effacement operating to structure these encounters: 1. Built architectures, 2. Entering and exiting procedures, 3. Protective garments and equipment, 4. Identification and labelling techniques, 5. Experimental protocols. I propose that these technologies operate to block animal and human faces (and often add a new one): They transform physical appearances, sonic-, tactile-, smell or other sense-scapes, structuring encounters in the lab in ways that help perform and establish research participants’ received professional roles and responsibilities.