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Responsive attentiveness

We will make a short foray into the need for value, care and responsibility in worlds of the future.
© UNSW Australia 2016
Welcome to the final week of the course.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed engaging in conversations about environmental issues and have gained an appreciation for how Environmental Humanities is responding to the environmental challenges of our time.
For our final week we will make a short foray into the need for value, care and responsibility in worlds of the future. We start by looking at artworks by the Australian artist Patricia Piccinini.


Check out Piccinini’s artworks on the Multispecies Salon and read this short text by Donna Haraway.
As Haraway explains, Piccinini’s creations are “genetically modified extraterrestrials” created by humans to protect Australian animals on the edge of extinction. Piccinini’s artistic worlds of the future provokes discussion about humans’ duty of care towards their technocultural creations and provides an interesting opportunity to discuss the potential impacts of science and technology on our everyday lives.
In describing Piccinini’s work, Haraway writes:
[Piccinini is] committed to taking ‘naturecultures’ seriously without the soporific seductions of a return to Eden or the palpitating frisson of a jeremiad warning of the coming technological Apocalypse….
Instead, Piccinini’s worlds incorporate ideas of hope, care, and “responsive attentiveness” [1]. As Donna Haraway explains,
Piccinini insists in word and object that the people of technoculture have a familial, generational duty to their failures, as well as their accomplishments. Natural or not, good or not, safe or not, the critters of technoculture make a body- and soul-changing claim on their “creators” that is rooted in the generational obligation of and capacity for responsive attentiveness. To care is to know how to nurture quiet country through the often unexpected generations, not to point toward future utopia or dystopia. To care is wet, emotional, messy, and demanding of the best thinking one has ever done. That is one reason we need speculative fabulation. [2]
The concept of “responsive attentiveness,” quoted above, is drawn from Deborah Bird Rose’s scholarship on the violence of white “settler” histories in Australia and reflects on decolonising practices. Deb proposes replacing violence with an attentiveness and obligation to relationships among people and between people, other species and place (p. 5).
  • Discuss Haraway’s question, “How might a speculatively fabulated SF [Science Fiction] art object help morph eroded and disowned no-places into flourishing and cared-for places?”
  • What notions of responsibility and obligation do you think Piccinini’s sculptural creatures raise?
  • How do the notions raised by Haraway and Piccinini relate to the ideas of care discussed in Week 5?
  • What role do you think care and responsibility play in responding to environmental crises?
If you would like to read more about this artwork check out this longer article by Haraway.
In the next steps, we’ll further investigate what it means to move beyond utopian and apocalypic environmental futures.


  1. Deborah Bird Rose, Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2004).
  2. Donna Haraway, Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture’s Generations: Taking Care of Unexpected Country (2007).
  3. Donna Haraway, Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture’s Generations.
  4. Deborah Bird Rose, “Taking Notice,” Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology 3, no. 2: 97-103.
  5. Bruno Latour, “Love Your Monsters: Why We Must Care for Our Technologies As We Do Our Children”, The Breakthrough Institute (2012).
© UNSW Australia 2016
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