03/21/2024: Jennifer Huberman, “The Magic, Science, and Religion of Pet Cloning: An Homage to Malinowski”

On Thursday, March 21 at 7:00pm in Sussman Theater (Olmsted Center, Drake University) Jennifer Huberman, Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Missouri-Kansas City, will speak on “The Magic, Science, and Religion of Pet Cloning: An Homage to Malinowski.”

Jenny Huberman is a cultural anthropologist with wide-ranging research interests. Her first ethnography, Ambivalent Encounters: Childhood, Tourism and Social Change in Banaras, India (Rutgers University Press 2012), explored interactions between Western tourists and children working in the informal tourist economy in the city of Banaras, India.  Her second book, Transhumanism: From Ancestors to Avatars (Cambridge University Press 2020), examines the values and visions animating the Transhumanist Movement in the United States. It shows how transhumanist attempts to use science and technology to usher in an enhanced post-human species speak to long-standing concerns within the discipline of cultural anthropology. Jenny’s third book, The Spirit of Digital Capitalism (Polity Press Forthcoming 2022), explores the ideological transformations that have accompanied the rise of digital capitalism, and it asks, how are digital technologies making new forms of capital accumulation and domination possible? Jenny has also published numerous chapters and articles on death in the digital age, and in the future, she plans to explore how and why boredom has emerged as a central dis-ease of contemporary society. She likes to remind her students that the one of the great things about studying anthropology is that “the grist” for “the anthropological mill” is only as limited as their imaginations.  

This talk explores how Bronislaw Malinowski’s seminal essay, Magic, Science and Religion offers anthropologists new perspectives on the phenomenon of cloning. Taking ViaGen Pets as a case study, I show how cloning is conceived as a technology of immortalization that enables pet owners to secure continuing bonds with their deceased pets. I also argue that while making of clones may begin as a technoscientific endeavor, predicated upon cell cultivation technologies in a laboratory, it is only completed in and through “the magical thinking” that pet owners bring to the process. Pet cloning thus reminds us, that magic, science, and religion, as Malinowski famously proposed, can and do exist together because they each fulfill different needs.

Below, please find a recording of Prof. Huberman’s PPT and talk (audio).

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