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The scientific lab : sacrifice zones as contact zones

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

The scientific laboratory is often construed as a space in which laboratory animals are sacrificed on the altar of biomedical progress. However, this understanding of nonhuman animals raises significant ethical concerns and appears complicit in the anthropocentric and colonial violence that creates sacrifice zones in Naomi Klein's sense. In this article, we argue that contemporary literature can work towards an imaginative and affective reframing of the lab, which is no longer seen as a sacrifice zone but as a contact zone-a space of relationality and entanglement across the human-nonhuman divide. To explore this shift, we offer close readings of two contemporary narratives that centre on the lab: Tania Hershman's short story 'Grounded' and Jeff VanderMeer's The Strange Bird. In both of these texts, animals refuse to be made data through sacrifice and instead affirm, if in a limited sense, their own autonomy and vitality. Literary experimentation on a stylistic level plays a key role in this process: our readings highlight how both narratives evoke embodied (and more specifically haptic) connectedness with animals by deploying literary strategies that deconstruct the visual language associated with scientific objectivity.
ISSN: 1470-1308
Issue: 10
Volume: 37
Pages: 1568 - 1585
Publication year:2023