POST #10 :: Occupy Okapi; or, Foucault at the Menagerie

If anyone involved in the Occupy movements happens to be looking for a détournement of nature in the process of constructing the movements’ visual assemblage, may I humbly submit the okapi as one of its unofficial spirit animals? This has nothing to do with alliteration, of course; responsible mainstream political discourse would surely consider such a thing to be a playful surface-level distraction from the real business of governance.

Consider: the evolution of the okapi’s hooves has allowed it to evolve into a cursorial creature, whose speed and agility make it harder for it to be penned in or devoured by predators. This also contributes to its durability, its ability to persevere and survive despite catastrophic threats. Its low taxonomic diversity also makes it a “living fossil,” as they say, meaning that it has no close living relatives, being taxonomically distinct. It is thus more distant from its seeming relatives (the giraffe or horse, and certainly the donkey) than it may first appear to the casual or careless observer.

Conspiracy theorists take note: We must chalk up the name of the Zuccotti Park managers (Brookfield) and the birth of the first okapi in North American captivity in Brookfield Zoo to mere coincidence and nothing more. Its natural habitat, however, is confined to that area of the globe that we recognize as the very cradle of human civilization, and this fact seems somehow noteworthy. Most importantly, the body of the okapi is inscribed with what Foucault (had he attended more to ungulates and less to Velásquez) would certainly have recognized as the bodying forth of the sign of horizontal sovereignty. Against the zebra’s classical and simplistic embodiment of the verticality of relations of power, the okapi’s horizontal stripes offer a different line of flight.

There are also an array of other threatened species one could consider.

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