This is just for grins: I don’t know whether the journal Qualitative Inquiry, where this travesty was published, is taken seriously (it is, however, a SAGE journal); but I am pretty sure this article is NOT a joke or a hoax. The article is free, and may not even require the legal unpaywall app; click on screenshot below to see itL:
Susan Naomi Nordstrom is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Memphis in Tennessee, and Amelie and Nordstrom are her cats; or rather Amelie, whose illness and euthanasia dominates the article, was her cat. It’s not clear why the cats are coauthors given that they didn’t actually write the article.
The article is simply the story of how Amelie got sick and, after some extensive medical interventions, Dr. Nordstrom decided to have the cat euthanized, which was of course devastating. That is all there is to the story, but it’s couched in postmodern gibberish, supposedly embedding the story in “the theories of Haraway and Rautio”, which actually add nothing to the narrative. Here’s the abstract, which gives you a flavor of a publication for which the author got professional credit:
All the wordplay doesn’t obscure the fact that is is simply what many of us have gone through: bonding with a beloved pet and being devastated when it becomes terminally ill and has to be “put down”.
You can read the article for yourself; here are just a few ways that Dr. Nordstrom tricked out her personal story with postmodern academic-y trappings that, in the end, fail to transform her drayhorse into a Thoroughbred:
When Amelie, Susan’s cat companion of 15 years, recently died, a friend asked her, “Can you imagine the past 15 years of your life without her?” Susan quickly responded, “No. I cannot think my life without her” as she petted her other cat companion, Coonan. The following Haraway (2008) quote resonated in their mourning bodies: “I am who I become with companion species, who and which make a mess out of categories in the making of kin and kind. Queer messmates in mortal play indeed” (p. 19). Our mortal play of subtle tunings and tendings—tuning toward and tending to affective dimensions between species (Rautio, 2017)—dominates our multispecies life together, or kin-making. A narrative of our multispecies living together moves beyond the confines of the narrative inquiry literature that is centered on humans, those “storytelling organisms who, individually and socially lead storied lives” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990, p. 2)
Had enough? Wait! There’s more! (emphases are mine):
Coonan (a much younger cat) frequently tried to play with Amelie (a more mature cat). Amelie loudly hissed and growled when Coonan tried to play with her without her consent. Susan reprimanded Coonan by saying “Consensual Play, Coonan. Consensual Play.” Coonan meowed apologies after such incidents. Gazes, sleep-dreaming together, time spent relaxing on the couch together, and so on created different affects within the system and created a sense of equilibrium in our communication system. We moved to Nebraska together and then later to Tennessee with each place shifting our system. New homes, different climates, different human schedules, and other humans shifted our system. These shifts provided ways of knowing our multispecies equilibrium.
Consensual play! Apologies! But wait! There’s still more:
We tune and tend each other in our rhythmic practices of living–dying together. We have come to realize that we are never fully cat or fully human. We are both cat and human moving between constructs in assemblages together. We move through tunings and tendings. No singular being is centered in our multispecies life. We are multiple.
What is the sweating professor trying to say? Or does she just like alliteration? Does the meaning go beyond “I have two cats whom I love”? If so, I don’t know what it is. Later Dr., Nordstrom says she didn’t intend to write the story of the death of her cat, and of her life with both cats, but was urged to do so by her friends and colleagues. They should have known better! And so she justifies her stories with the thinnest of rationales:
Why do we take the risk of authoring our life together? Why does Susan not take sole authorship as she should in a neoliberal human-centered academy? Why do we write evocatively rather than argumentatively? Why do we refuse domestication? We write our kin story to infect narrative inquiry. Our kin story, our becoming with, suggests that “companion species infect each other all time” Haraway 2016, (p. 115). We are concerned that human-centered narratives forget the response-abilities we have to each other, humans and nonhumans alike. We worry what that does for our living and dying together. In a world in which we must stay with the trouble, where we must live and die together better, stories matter a lot and how we tell those stories matters. Haraway wrote,
It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories. (p. 12)
We must write our living–dying together, our becoming with, to create different ties that may very well create a better and just world for both humans and nonhumans. For as Haraway wrote, “We become-with each other or not at all” (p. 4). It is for this reason that a human and two cats author together—our becoming with happens together and, consequently, so does the writing of our life together.
Now I don’t want to be churlish here: I, too, have lived with and loved cats, and held a beloved cat in my arms as the vet put him to sleep. It was so devastating that, for only the second time in my life, I fainted. (The other is when I dropped a 500-pound oak desk on my big toe, completely severing the bone.) But I don’t gussy up that that story with academic theory and cringe-making wordplay and try to publish it, pretending that it has some significance larger than the already significant lesson that we can love our animals so hard that their deaths are as devastating as the loss of a friend or family member. I don’t try to “infect narrative inqury,” whatever that means.
Journals like Qualitative Inquiry, which are willing to publish stuff like this as a serious contribution to intellectual discourse, are seriously damaging the humanities, if they haven’t aren’t already irreparably damaged by this kind of lunacy.
And I still want to know why the two cats are authors.