introduction
Animating Animacy
Recently, after reaching a threshold of “recovery” from a chronic ill-
ness—an illness that has affected me not only physically, but spatially,
familially, economically, and socially, and set me on a long road of
thinking about the marriage of bodies and chemicals—I found my-
self deeply suspicious of my own reassuring statements to my anxious
friends that I was feeling more alive again. Surely I had been no less
alive when I was more sick, except under the accountings of an intu-
itive and immediately problematic notion of “liveliness” and other
kinds of “freedom” and “agency.” I felt unsettled not only for reasons
of disability politics—for “lifely wellness” colludes with a logic that
troublingly naturalizes illness’s morbidity—but also because I realized
that in the most containing and altered moments of illness, as often
occurs with those who are severely ill, I came to know an incredible
wakefulness, one that I was now paradoxically losing and could only
try to commit to memory.1
In light of this observation, I began to reconsider the precise condi-
tions of the application of “life” and “death,” the working ontologies
and hierarchicalized bodies of interest. If the continued rethinking of
life and death’s proper boundaries yields surprising redefinitions, then
there are consequences for the “stuff,” the “matter,” of contemporary
biopolitics—including important and influential concepts such as
Achille Mbembe’s necropolitics, the “living dead,” and Giorgio Agam-
ben’s “bare life.”2 This book puts pressure on such biopolitical factors,
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