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Reconfiguring Human and Nonhuman Animals in a Guiding Assemblage

Hana Porkertová

Chapter examines how the relationships between humans and nonhuman animals can affect the experience and the notion of disability. The chapter is based on ethnographic observations of and interviews with a visually impaired woman called Eva and her guide dog Nessie, whose experiences are discussed within the framework of the Deleuzo-Guattarian theory of assemblage. In the traditional humanist paradigm, conceptualizations of nonhumanity and disability are built on assumptions of human superiority as well as on negative dialectics of identity, opposition, analogy, and resemblance. These conceptual constructs are challenged by the guide team/assemblage formed by Eva and Nessie, since an assemblage is always created through dynamic mutual processes, which have no beginning and no end, no leaders nor followers. In other words, the “guide team” is effective only when the humanist perspective, and its dichotomic view on the relationships between humans and nonhuman animals, is disrupted. Unlike dichotomies, assemblages only ever acquire temporary contours, which always allow other equally ephemeral connections or assemblages to emerge. Therefore, employing the notion of assemblage in conceptual thinking entails the subversion of the modern concept of borders as well as of such related concepts as body, autonomy, and independence. In this framework, subjectivity is not delimited by the distinction from others; instead, subjectivity is created in and through the relations and combinations with others, including animal and nonhuman others.