Encountering Para-Human Species

June 11th, 2021

Non-human species sometimes mediate societal processes of marginalization, but they can also play a role in solidarity. What might we learn from other species?

In conversation: Sarah Lewison, Lynn Peemoeller, Andrew S. Yang

What effect might the re-working of our relation to another species have on human cultural and political affairs? And does it still make sense to draw this boundary? In this conversation, three contributors to The Current reflect on practices centered on non-human inhabitants of the Mississippi River Basin—the Asian Carp, which is deemed an “invasive” species, and the seeds of traditional crop and medicinal plants that are now at the center of attention in new seed banks and networks. Seed swaps, a form of stewardship for biodiversity, represent a social practice that re-invigorates forms of knowledge once passed down from one generation to the next. Bringing this practice to life cannot happen without communication and the principles of commoning, which often invalidate the market-driven capitalist principles of exchange. The Asian Carp, on the other hand, seems to have already established a place in society, albeit one of marginalisation, with its “invasive” status positioning it as a species apparently unworthy of solidarity. Intervening in narratives on invasiveness allows for the questioning of concepts of belonging more generally. When described as a “para-human” species, the carp is understood as not alien, but a species that lives alongside us.