Becoming a chimaera and rethinking hybridity: An auto-ethnographic journey

Sarah Pini (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation


In Greek mythology the Chimaera was a fearful fire-breathing hybrid creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, one of the offspring of monsters Typhon and Echidna. The Chimaera is usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat protruding from its back, and a tail that might end with a snake or a dragon head. The term 'chimera' has come to describe anything composed of different parts, anything that is perceived as wildly imaginative, implausible, or unattainable. In medicine and genetics this term indicates an organism containing a mixture of genetically different tissues. How does it feel to incorporate such dreadful hybridity? What does it mean to become a 'chimaera'? Inspired by a feminist post-humanist approach that recognises a continuity between all living creatures including plants, animals, microorganisms and humans (Haraway 1991), and based on a phenomenological and auto-ethnographic approach to illness (Carel 2016), this exploration investigates how embracing the concept of hybridity (Latour, 1991) can help us overcome dualistic thinking and reshape our relationship to the world. By looking at 'other' ways of being-toward-the-world (Merleau-Ponty, 1945), and how can we reorient, act, think, move, and feel differently, this work suggests a reconsideration of the relationship to our lived environment and its inhabitants. This work shows how drawing on embodied knowledge can challenge dominant perspectives and help us explore ways to engage with transformative and uncertain times. It shows how monsters and chimeras can help us rethink our categories and cope with impending threats and radical transformations.

Panel 20: Life and death, sacred and secular: thinking with and beyond species in a more-than-human world. AAS Annual Conference 2-5 December 2019, Australian National University, Canberra.
Period4 Dec 2019
Held atAustralian Anthropological Society Annual Conference - AAS 2019
Event typeConference
LocationCanberra, Australia, Australian Capital Territory
Degree of RecognitionNational