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Brian Massumi: What animals teach us about politics (2014, Duke University Press Books) 4 stars

Thinking through animal play

4 stars

Brian Massumi presents a theory on how play works as language and as a substitute for violent action in animal and human actions. It's a fun treatise, well presented in a longer first section before three other supplements that look at praxis of the ideas presented. The first of these is a pure joy to read.

This book is very dense philosophy, and at times it feels preposterously filled with jargon even if Massumi felt that language was necessary for accuracy. Yet it is also full of wonderful moments and deep thoughts that challenge human exceptionalism and create ways to consider other-than-human engagement from a nonhuman frame. It draws heavily from Deleuze and Guattari and often the writing feels like their more playful style, pushing the boundaries of what language can do. This is best illustrated in the supplementary chapter 'To Write Like a Rat Flicks Its Tail', which thinks with Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis to explore being-animal through art.