• “Beyond “the” Animal: The Naturecultural Assemblages of Migrations and Miscegenations” – Banu Subramaniam and Karen Cardozo
In this paper, we interrogate the terms of both feminist and animal studies – the ontological purity of animals, species, sex, or gender as objects of inquiry. Feminist studies, especially feminist science studies, has elucidated the social constructedness of the concepts of sex, sexuality, and gender while biology has wrestled with the problems of identifying or defining species, i.e. the “species problem.” Yet what of the stubborn materiality of the biological body amidst this work of social construction? Where in such postmodern critiques is there a biological accounting for DNA, cells, organs, organisms, collectives and ecosystems? Since its inception, feminist science studies has exposed the limitations of ontological binaries of nature/culture, science/humanism, human/nonhuman, male/female, plant/animal. Rather than deploying as given the terms sex, gender, species or animals, our presentation will explore assemblages as instantiations of what Donna Haraway has called naturecultures.
Drawing on biological theories of “units of selection,” “coevolution,” and the literature on “individuals/self” and “speciation” as well as cultural theories of “assemblages” (Deleuze/Guattari) and hybridity, we ask whether some of the framing rubrics of animal studies represent a “nostalgia” (Boym) for categorical purity that inadvertently reinforces the familiar binary divisions mentioned above. As an interdisciplinary team (in)formed by genealogies of both biology and cultural studies, we wish to queer the very idea of “individuals” and species as ontologically pure, viewing biological organisms as multivocal, multi-affiliated naturecultural assemblages. Qualities that categorize individuals/species (e.g. sex, gender, race, class) have particular histories and geographies that help explicate the ethical valences of various assemblages which are therefore, for us, both wholly material and deeply politicized naturecultural entities. Human beings are, for example, assemblages both in the literal sense of being constituted by multiple biological beings (e.g. co-existing bacteria, insects, worms, and “artificial” prosthetics) and in the relational sense of living with companion species (such as horses, dogs, cats, birds and other pets), as well as in various cultural and institutional assemblages that reveal complex links between racism, sexism and speciesism (Adams and Donovan).
To explore the concept of “assemblages” in greater depth and detail, we draw on the rich histories of Asian migrations and miscegenations in the United States (including human and non-human, animate and inanimate). Such a reading of history of our diverse eco-social assemblages calls forth new moral obligations to the naturecultural worlds in which we are embedded. As such, we seek to identify instantiations of heterogeneity, hybridity or multiplicity that are socially (re)productive rather than “sterile” within the naturecultural paradigm.
Just as experimental or open literary/cultural forms illuminate genre boundaries and transgressions, so the concept of assemblages fundamentally queers normative discourses on sex, species, and “life” in general. It moves us beyond privileging “sentience” and the life-histories of individual organisms towards an ecological rubric of global interdependence, responsibility, moral obligation, and accountability. Personal, professional and institutional transformation begins in part with loosening our attachment to analytic categories that reinforce a sense of singularity, primacy or mastery and opening instead to assemblages of thought and embodied action that are impure or messy and yet, we hope, generative.
• “Odd Couples: A Case for Interspecies Empathy and Ethical Relations” – Traci Warkentin
An orangutan and a dog lounge in a friendly embrace. Both appear at ease. A crow is shown gently feeding an abandoned kitten. An orphaned baby hippopotamus nuzzles an ancient giant tortoise. Fantastic stories and images of such unlikely pairings have inundated online news sources in recent years, delighting and baffling the public and biologists alike. While many commentators have marveled at the compassion and trust that developed between each pair, these cases remain largely untapped of their potential for deeper thought on interspecies interaction. In response, this paper examines what these examples suggest in terms of communication, empathy and morality between individuals of different species. While skeptics may dismiss these extraordinary relationships as resulting from mere instinct, maternal or otherwise, I find that there is far too much compelling evidence that suggests otherwise.
Exciting new research in ethology, the study of animal behavior, for instance, has provided empirical evidence for morality among nonhuman animals, with empathy playing a key role. Bonobos, argues Frans de Waal, have evolved social relations akin to kindness and morality in humans in order to survive and flourish. In a similar vein, cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff and philosopher Jessica Pierce have found that dogs and wolves live according to a kind of “wild justice,” citing many examples in which rules of propriety are mutually recognized and obeyed. While de Waal, Bekoff and Pierce focus their attention on relations between conspecifics, individuals belonging to the same species, their work has much to offer regarding questions of how individuals from different species engage, interact, and negotiate relationships.
Long critical of the stereotyping of empathy and emotion as female traits that are inferior to a masculinzed reason in Western thought, feminist environmental philosophy also offers generative avenues for exploring relationships between species. Nonverbal communication and empathy have figured largely in the work of eco/feminist scholars who have, in unique but complementary ways, championed the pivotal roles of embodiment, sensory experience and situated relationships in ethical praxis. For instance, Donna Haraway (1991, 2008) has exposed the myth of pure ontological categories of human, animal, and machine, and painted a far more complex, unsettling and promising picture of our animal-cyborg bodies and of interspecies relations. The late Val Plumwood (1993, 2002) argued that we must shed rationalist assumptions of human superiority and radical separation from animals and (re)cognize a world of multiple intelligences and communicative beings. Josephine Donovan (2006) has highlighted possibilities for communication across species, citing empathy as a nongendered means to a dialogical ethics of care. Lori Gruen (2009) has further argued that an engaged empathy is vital to practices of animal ethics.
Building upon their work, I suggest that we fleshy humans should engage our bodies to get a sense of how other animals experience us and the places in which we meet. This requires exercising an embodied, empathic imagination to be attentive to, and informed by, the other and our immediate sensations as we viscerally respond. It is as much a feminist epistemological practice as an ethical stance. It avoids abstract moral judgments of who is worthy of moral consideration and who is not based upon secondary information, necessitating, rather, that we encounter any being as a potentially moral subject and work out for ourselves appropriate ways of interacting with them within the ethical moment of meeting. An empathic imagination also enables us to consider the potential consequences of our actions on beings not immediately present, who may be directly or indirectly impacted. Empathy in these terms occupies a nebulous position between affect and agency, catalyzing sensations that move us to act. This empathy in no way resembles one merely feeling sorry for an other, or sharing their emotions….Empathy remains a highly contested topic among biologists, philosophers, psychologists and other scholars of human-animal studies, which is why I have been so enthralled with the prolific news reports of these odd couples. I see their surprising relationships as an invitation to think about empathy, nonverbal communication and morality in novel ways… By paying close attention to the specifics, the utterly unique and original circumstances of these relationships, I hope to flesh out a common phenomenon that unravels the notion that significant otherness presents insurmountable barriers to getting to know and negotiating relations with individuals of different species and that reveals a shared potential for interspecies empathy inherent in our very bodies and earthly existence.
• “What’s Love Got to Do With It? Partiality, Human Interests, and Inter-animal Conflicts” – Karen Emmerman
Theorists in feminist ethics have argued that relationships of dependence, care, and love must play a role in deliberations regarding our moral obligations to others. In his work on global poverty, Peter Singer has recognized the criticisms that stem from such viewpoints and has made what some call a “partialist concession,” allowing us to consider the interests of our nearest and dearest over those of strangers in certain, very constrained, circumstances. He makes no mention, however, of this partialist concession in his work on animals.
Singer’s system for adjudicating inter-animal conflicts of interests relies on a brute distinction between basic and nonbasic interests. If the interests at stake on the human side of the conflict are not basic (e.g., relating to subsistence conditions) then the animals’ interests trump. This view has considerable appeal to those of us who take seriously the significant and ubiquitous animal suffering that exists in the world in service of seemingly trivial human interests. If, for example, one considers my grandmother’s chicken soup and whether or not I should eat it when I visit her next month it seems clear that my desire to eat delicious soup pales in comparison with the chicken’s interest in not suffering horrifically in intensive farming conditions. Put this way, it is hard to see how my interest in the soup could possibly trump the chicken’s interest.
Yet, Singer’s description of my interest is impoverished in exactly the ways cautioned against by feminist care ethicists. My interest is not merely in tasting delicious soup. My interest is also in showing respect and love to my grandmother from within a culture that prizes a matriarch’s chicken soup recipe. In shunning her soup I am taken as shunning her and all the grandmothers who came before her. In siding with the chicken over my grandmother I risk harming my relationship with her and with my family more generally, perhaps even being guilty of a kind of moral failure, despite my efforts to minimize suffering.
I agree with Singer that the chicken’s interests have more weight than mine in this conflict and I agree that I should forego the chicken soup as a result. My concern with his view is that his description of my interest decontextualizes it in a way that fails to do it justice. Surely, issues of partiality and love must be part of the discussion of human basic interests, and so of inter-animal conflicts of interest, even if ultimately we will often side with the animals.
Lori Gruen has written that Singer’s theoretical framework cannot sustain his partialist concession to bonds of love and friendship in the sphere of inter-human conflicts. She further claims that Singer’s concession to partiality in the human moral sphere will weaken animals’ case in the inter-animal moral sphere. In my paper I take a different position. I argue that he has to make such a concession, because describing human interests without pointing to the ways in which human lives are deeply enmeshed with one another fails to accurately capture what is at stake in a conflict between human and animal interests. I will further argue that a concession to partiality in the realm of inter-animal conflicts may well be a good thing. For, when we contextualize human interests properly, when we take seriously what is at stake when people are asked to make significant changes to their lifestyles and relationships, we are better equipped to answer worries about overdemandingness.
•“Feminist Transnationalism and the Question of the Animal” – Sushmita Chatterjee
Feminism has been centrally concerned with questions of the animal “other,” whether in encountering “real” animals in ecofeminist or vegetarian movements, or in critiquing the ploy which depicts the “other” gender, race, class, sexual affinity etc. as animals. Feminist transnational politics works towards de-animalizing the other in the pursuit of forging global solidarity based on humanitarian ethics. Further, the process of de-animalization becomes important not simply to humanize the animal other, but, also in helping unravel a framed State and politics which is very much a prerequisite for transnational politics. It is surprising that feminist critiques of patriarchal politics have not really paid sufficient attention to studying the very definitional status of “man as a political animal” in unraveling man’s State/politics. In my paper, I work towards theorizing vibrant feminist transnationalism by working through the binary of man/animal. In pursuit of this aim, I work with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s “becoming animal” and seek to draw out its implications for feminist politics. I emphasize Deleuze and Guattari’s “becoming-animal” as providing the theoretical energy for vibrant transnational politics. The movement from Aristotle’s “man as a political animal” to Deleuze and Guattari’s “becoming-animal” is a movement from the establishment of the polis, to the questioning of its rationale. Deleuze and Guattari help us move towards unscripting ourselves from a fixed, stable identity towards multiple becomings. Transgressing the man/animal binary is tantamount to transgressing a framing of politics and the State which keeps us within the status-quo of the present. However, Deleuze and Guattari’s social theory has met with vehement criticism by feminists who see in the theory a masculine, first world indulgence. What can feminists working with/in alliances in the contemporary world gather from the “politics” of becoming-animal? In pursuit of this answer, I move to an artist working in the “third-world” and study her images to unravel the potentials for becoming-animal for feminist transnational politics.
In my paper, I use Mithu Sen’s visual politics to theorize on the possibilities for “becoming-animal” in a transnational and post-colonial context. Mithu Sen, an artist working in India, uses various media to showcase her play with identity. As Sen writes, “Don’t we all have a dream and desire of becoming somebody/something else than our framed/authorised/ given identity?” As a transnational artist working in/through multiple locations, Sen uses her work to provide subtle and scathing social commentary on the scripted nature of being an identity. Sen uses animal imagery to comment on the unrealized potentials of women in India and what it means to be human. She draws herself constantly metamorphosing into different animals, drawing on stereotypes of woman-hood and sexuality through animal imagery to showcase the potentialities in women everywhere. The play between human/animal serves as the central trope in her work. My paper critically reads Deleuze and Guattari’s becoming–animal in Mithu Sen’s imagery to theorize on the potentials of becoming-animal in feminist transnational politics.
• “Consuming Females: Gender, Animals and Development in the Andes” – Maria Elena Garcia
In recent years, traditional Andean animals like guinea pigs, alpacas and llamas have been seen as offering new commercial opportunities across the Americas. While the industrialization of agriculture and the exportation of animals (as commodities) are not new in Latin America, there is now an interest in traditional Andean animals that were previously not considered to be globally marketable. Andean countries are experiencing a political economic moment in which “tradition” has become an economic asset within the contexts of a boom in nouveau-Andean cuisine, and the ethno-scapes advertised by tourist and development agencies. In fine restaurants in Peru, it is increasingly common to find alpaca meat, something that would have been inconceivable as recently as a decade ago, when alpaca meat was only found in remote highland indigenous communities and towns. Similarly, in Bolivia, filet mignon de llama is a popular entrée in exclusive restaurants, despite the fact that only a few years ago the idea of selling the meat of this pack animal was unthinkable, and until recently even illegal.
While this phenomenon is beginning to attract some scholarly attention, little attention has been paid to the ways in which gender works across species lines to organize labor, production, and violence. Taking examples from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, this paper examines how ideas about sex and gender shape the practices of consumption and development. As traditional indigenous modes of animal management and care give way to tourist- and export-oriented activities involved in the commercializing and commodifying of animals, indigenous women find themselves occupying different and often less central roles in economic activities. What counts as “women’s work,” for instance, is changed by the introduction of new development plans that provide incentives for men to take a new interest in raising animals. In a different way, the techniques and practices of so-called “modern” agriculture assign specific roles to female animals, especially with regards to artificial (and constant) insemination. Additionally, other kinds of animal consumption, like the sale of llama fetuses in the famous “witches market” of La Paz, Bolivia, raise questions about the “harvesting” of unborn llamas and the nature of tourist demand for these animal bodies. While I do not argue that there is something universal and trans-species about gender hierarchies, I explore in this paper how gender is central to understanding the foundational concepts of “culture” and “nature” which undergird these and other forms of economic practices in the Andes.
• “Chickens v. Cattle: Feminist Geographical Insights on Species Positionality” – Alice Hovorka
This paper features a case study of women and chickens, men and cattle in Botswana, revealing the intricate connections between interspecies ‘othering’ and mutual daily interdependence that occurs through socio-spatial practice. Broadly speaking, men and women in Botswana are positioned within social, economic and political realms on different and unequal terms. Batswana culture is patrilineal and powerful conventions restrict women’s domain to the household and women’s autonomy under male guardianship; women are disadvantaged in terms of access to education, employment, resource allocation, and decision-making. Cattle and chickens similarly occupy different and unequal positionality in Botswana. Cattle are admired and respected, reflecting high social status and economic wealth of individuals and the nation; they drive the economy, feature in government development programs, reside in reserved, privileged physical spaces of cattle posts and ranches, and mark important social occasions through their exchange. Chickens garner much less attention, wield much less status and power, and feature in less-valued domestic subsistence or impersonal industrial agriculture realms. That women’s lives and circumstances are necessarily intertwined with chickens, and likewise men with cattle, is not coincidental but rather a result of shared species positionality within dominant hierarchies that shape the material realities and daily existence of both humans and animals. Traditionally, this interspecies positionality meant consistent reification of men and cattle and marginalization of women and chickens. Contemporary urbanization and globalization trends, however, have generated opportunities for women and chickens to renegotiate their shared status through commercial urban agriculture production. Their success has prompted men to associate with chickens in efforts to extend their own agricultural identity into urban areas. Further, social trends enhancing women’s autonomy and reconfigurations of households have prompted increased women-cattle interactions in the context of continued importance of cattle to the nation. While traditional, essentialized categories of men/cattle and women/chickens remain prevalent, increasingly dynamic interspecies relations generate new possibilities for human and animal circumstances and everyday life in Botswana.
This paper draws on feminist geographies, specifically feminist political ecology and feminist spatial theory to illuminate the intersections of both human and animal ‘othering’ within hierarchical arrangements, and how these relationships and positionalities are produced and reproduced through dynamic socio-spatial practices in particular contexts. Feminist geographies, broadly speaking, explore how social groups are placed by humans in physical spaces, as well as numerous imaginary and symbolic spaces. How humans think, feel and talk about particular social groups, be they gender- or species-based, shape the extent to which and how exactly different groups are included in or excluded from sites of activity and status. There exist particular ideas about where different people and species belong, where they should go, what they should do, how they should behave, and what use or value they have. These ideas not only take shape through everyday discourse but also take on a spatial expression that in turn reproduces dominant conceptualizations of social groups, reaffirming their positionality and shaping their everyday life choices and circumstances. Feminist geographies can help unravel complex conceptual and material placements based on gender and species, illustrating through in-depth empirical research how these socio-spatial practices generate shared interspecies positionality. The paper thus contributes feminist geographical perspectives to critical animal studies through a case study of the real conditions and stakes of human-animal relations. It explicitly examines issues central to feminism and critical animal studies, namely identity, difference and power. By doing so it re-establishes linkages between these realms of scholarship and brings further attention to oppressive power relations, invisible and marginalized ‘others’, and shared positionalities in social hierarchies.
• “Female Author/ity and the Ethics of ‘Speaking For'” – Emily Clark
In this paper I consider two of J.M. Coetzee’s texts, Foe (1987) and Elizabeth Costello (2003), alongside feminist theory and critical animal theory and with specific attention to the significance of the female voice, in order to explore the problems and possibilities of “speaking for” unintelligible others. I argue that Coetzee’s work here is in line with recent calls to theorize silence and unintelligibility, not along some language/languageless, human/nonhuman binary, but instead by focusing on the problems of language, speech and representation and the possibilities of that which lies outside of or adjacent to them; the possibilities of silence.
The linguistic has long been recognized and used as a tool to mark the human and what lies outside it; its necessary cohort, representation, is also a strategic device in the making and mapping of the human and nonhuman, both in the sense of bodies’ access to representation as well as how they are represented. Writ large, representation and the ability to speak for one’s self and others has been and continues to be understood as a political good and indeed necessity. To be unheard or unrepresented is to be absent from political discourse and therefore vulnerable to abuse. Gayatri Spivak has famously illuminated the representational conflation of “speaking for” and “portraying,” showing how the aesthetic sphere infiltrates and informs the political. In even earlier work, Simone Weil posits the relation between those who most often have evil done to them and those who are “least trained in the art of speech” (Weil 53) and writes that political parties hear the cries of those untrained as “noise”; indeed, we can connect the idea of this linguistic noise with the noise of those bodies without human language, be they animal or other. This problematic relation to language, speech and representation, both artistic and political, has profound material consequences.
Feminist theorists have raised important ethical and epistemological questions regarding the acts of speaking, speaking as, speaking for, and speaking to; these conceptual concerns are a product of the historical problem of women’s access to both political and literary speech. Women’s disenfranchisement based upon their sexual difference created the conditions for heightened awareness of the politics and power of representation. Yet representation and speech are not uncritically accepted as goods in this discourse; for example, while Audre Lorde declares that women’s speaking is a political necessity, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has argued that silence itself functions as an important speech act. Kari Weil has written recently on the limits of language and considers what may be lost in our dedication to it. Still others (Judith Butler, Joan Retallack) argue that there are both linguistic and nonlinguistic speech acts that we fail to hear or make sense of, and that reception or our ability to hear is what deserves further attention, rather than the act of articulation.
The feminist theoretical tension between the desire and demand to speak and the move towards frameworks that are uneasy with speech and unconvinced of its absolute political necessity is a productive starting point for considering the problem of linguistic difference and the ethics of “speaking for,” and in particular, speaking for nonhuman animals. …Ultimately I argue that it is the uninhabitability of female author/ity which allows for Coetzee’s exploration of an ethical “speaking for” or what I will define as “unspeak/ability.” …
• “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch: Autobiographical Criticism, Feminist Theory, and Dog Writing” – Susan McHugh
In his 1953 bestseller Man Meets Dog, ethologist Konrad Lorenz reflects on his own extensive experience with canines to conclude that bitches are more faithful, intelligent, and perceptive than male dogs, even as he registers a queer sort of backlash: “Strange that in English her name has become a term of abuse.” By the turn of the twenty-first century, women writing about electing to share their lives with female dogs more directly confront this problem, and in so doing reveal its roots in interlocking structures of oppression. What is more, often they use personal writing strategically to create critical distance, modeling an effective means of resistance to speciesism as well as sexism in popular as well as academic writing. Looking closely at discussions of form in and around Caroline Knapp’s Pack of Two (1998), Alice Kuzniar’s Melancholia’s Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship (2006), and Donna Haraway’s When Species Meet (2007), this paper aims to contextualize these expressions and contestations of bitchiness, broadly writ, amid broader challenges to thinking about gender, sex, and species in the context of autobiography.
Feminist theorists have long claimed memoir as a form that defers abstract, universalizing arguments, but within autobiographical writing the displacement of liberal humanist subjectivity has been tempered by the emergence of “a new, postmodern, self-help-driven subject who coheres around any story she is able to cobble together.”Consequently, women who use dog writing to map the intersections of sex, gender, and species court criticism as “indulgent,” and their work risks dismissal as merely symptomatic of the influence of feminist theory on the contemporary vogue for autobiographical criticism. Yet autobiographical writing about dogs also opens spaces for examining intimacies as embodied and shared, confusing and compelling, which I argue elsewhere enables the genre at its best to foster the emergence of queer languages of selfhood, agency, even life itself. Looking more specifically here at female bonding across species lines, I ask how these approaches to narrative, as Haraway says, are not only “doing theory in the vernacular” but also crafting “the most advanced theory that I’ve done.” By comparing the ways in which she and other women write about how living with and learning through writing about their female canines leads to questions about authority—including those of academic disciplines, “dog mom” stereotypes, and reproductively silenced bodies—this essay elaborates more generally the relevance of poststructuralist feminist theory to pet-projects in animal studies, and in particular the connections shared by canine, human, and critical bitches
• “Intersubjective Science: Ape Language Research and Ethics of Care” – Mary Trachsel
As a field of scientific investigation famously dominated by women, primatology is a popular arena for investigating intersections of feminist and scientific views of animal others (e.g. Jahme 2000; Haraway, 1989). Chosen by Louis Leakey who believed women were better observers of apes because their female identity posed little threat to primate social orders, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas (sometimes known as “Leakey’s Ladies” or “Leakey’s Angels” or as “ape women”) pioneered long-term field observations of chimpanzees, mountain gorillas and orangutans, respectively. As the first to begin publishing her findings, Goodall described the conflict between scientific objectivity and what we now recognize as the intersubjective gaze at the heart of a feminist ethics of care. She wrote, for instance, of journal editors’ disapproval of both her practice of naming her chimpanzee subjects rather than referring to them as letters or numbers and her anecdotal speculations about the social and psychological motivations for the chimpanzee behaviors she observed.
Since Goodall first began her fieldwork in the 1960s, the self-reflective, intersubjective stance of the participant observer that now dominates field studies in anthropology has taken hold in animal field studies as well. Initiated by research on animal social behavior conducted by Nikolaas Tinbergen, Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz and developed by Donald Griffin’s studies of animal minds, the growing field of ethology now openly embraces the concept of nonhuman animal subjectivity as a moral as well as an emotional phenomenon (Outside of primatology, witness, for example, Marian Stamp Dawkins’ Through Our Eyes Only? And Marc Bekoff’s The Emotional Lives of Animals, Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues, and Wild Justice.).
Acceptance of the interspecies, intersubjective gaze comes much more slowly to animal laboratory science than to animal field studies. The rigid methodological constraints of scientific experimentation and observation construct the science lab as a socially sterile site where subjectivity is an unwelcome contaminant. Laboratory studies of nonhuman animal language and communication, however, challenge the asocial assumptions of animal laboratory science. My presentation examines the cases of American primatologist, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, and her Japanese counterpart, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, both of whom describe the ape language research (ALR) laboratory as a social and cultural site where the results of experiments are the “joint accomplishments” of scientists and their subjects. Describing her ALR lab as a site of Pan/Homo culture, Savage Rumbaugh has recently (and controversially) asserted the intersubjective nature of scientific knowledge by naming three bonobo research subjects as co-authors of an article on captive ape welfare. While Matsuzawa has never publicly recognized his chimpanzee subjects as co-authors, he describes his research methodology as a triangulation of “friendship” relationships that introduce the scientist as a third party to the maternal bonding process in which infant chimpanzees develop as social agents.
The gradual spread of this intersubjective model of laboratory science within and beyond primatology has prompted concern that anthropomorphism is becoming an accepted scientific trope (See, for instance, John S. Kennedy’s The New Anthropomorphism, 1992). I conclude my presentation by considering how the research studies of Savage Rumbaugh and Matsuzawa call into question the human-subject/animal-object model that regards anthropomorphism as a one-way act of attribution. Both scientists offer an alternative, intersubjective model of mutual recognition that has much in common with feminist care-based ethical theory. This model finds interspecies commonality in social impulses more profoundly rooted than either human language or species divides.
Formulated in the 1980s and gaining prominence in the early 1990s, by the end of the millennium ecofeminism was portrayed as irredeemably essentialist, and effectively discarded….two kinds of critiques were advanced: one against conflating categories of sex and gender, and homogenizing women’s experiences, and another, against the inclusion of species and nature as analytical categories crucial for feminist thought. Only the first critique was legitimately grounded….
Criticisms of ecofeminism came from both mainstream feminists and formerly-ecofeminist philosophers. Few scholars point out the feminist resistance to seeing feminists as themselves oppressors of other female animals, which was the “inconvenient truth” animal ecofeminists articulated: it is the female’s reproductive capacities that are exploited in the production of cows’ milk, and the female’s egg-laying capacity that is exploited in chickens (Adams 1990; Gruen 1993). Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and into the new millennium, animal ecofeminists foregrounded species as they addressed the intersections of feminism, ecology, race, class, gender, sexuality, and nation, through a variety of issues: animal experimentation and the myth of the animal’s willing sacrifice, industrialized animal food production and its reliance on undocumented immigrant workers (who risk deportation if they report their hazardous workplace conditions), vegan and vegetarian diets in relation to social and environmental justice as well as human and animal health, contextual moral vegetarianism, hunting and the social construction of masculinity, the sexism and racism of PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign, mad cow disease in terms of social/ecological/interspecies ethics, rBGH and its effects on female humans/cows/calves as well as small farmers and the environment, the essentialism of the gendered “Mother Earth” metaphor, and the uses of restoring truncated narratives and contextualizing ethical decisions in analyzing what might appear to be competing issues among various oppressed groups (women, indigenous communities, nonhuman animals, workers, immigrants, the environment).
But the essentialist backlash gained more publicity (and more readings) than the actual scholarship of ecofeminists, and feminists working on the intersections of feminism and environmentalism thought it better to rename their approach to distinguish it from essentialism and thereby gain a wider audience: hence, the proliferation of terms such as ‘ecological feminism’ (Warren 1991, 1994), ‘feminist environmentalism’ (Agarwal 1992; Seager 1993), ‘social ecofeminism’ (King 1989; Heller 1999), ‘critical feminist eco-socialism’ (Plumwood 2002), or simply ‘gender and the environment.’ Thirty years later, current developments in allegedly new fields such as Animal Studies and Naturalized Epistemology are ‘discovering’ theoretical perspectives on interspecies relations and standpoint theory that were developed by feminists and ecofeminists decades ago.
By examining ecofeminist theory and activisms from the 1980s forward, this presentation uncovers the anthropocentric roots of the mischaracterization of ecofeminism in the 1990s: beneath the layers of feminist and environmentalist resistance to ecofeminism’s analyses of the connections among racism, sexism, classism, colonialism, speciesism and the environment, lies a fundamental antipathy to animal bodies. Recuperating ecofeminist insights of the past thirty years provides feminist foundations for current liberatory theories and activisms in Animal Studies, Feminism, and Environmental Studies alike.
• “Black Sexualized Politics of PETA” – Jenny Grubbs
In the struggle for animal liberation, the sexualization of women’s bodies lives on. In the most recent video put out by PETA, a Black woman provides the “State of the Union Undress.” The video provides a ‘year-end’ summary of achievements for the organization, while the woman cheerfully removes each article of clothing. The striptease reminds the audience that it’s women’s bodies at stake in the struggle, relying on the Black female body as spectacle. This paper deconstructs the enmeshed embodiment of animal slavery through the consumption of the female body. In addition, the paper examines the specific ways in which race and sexuality constructed on this particular woman’s body.
Bridging the work of Critical Race Theory with Vegan Ecological Feminist Theory, this paper places speciesism in the indices of intersectionality. Two main theorists that frame the analysis are Carol Adams and Patricia Hill-Collins, as they draw on different sexual politics. The PETA video demonstrates the raced and classed politics of sexuality, animal liberation discourse, mediated representations of women of color. It also examines the implications of using Black female sexuality in context of the (white) male gaze. The paper concludes with a discussion about inclusive ways to advocate for animal liberation without reinscribing raced, classed, and sexualized representations of women.
This paper looks at selected artworks by contemporary South African artist, Nandipha Mntambo, and reads the ways in which the discourse of species works within and against the speciesist, racial and gendered vectors of power that underpin what Derrida calls the problematic of the subject. It takes as its starting point the idea that speciesism (what Cary Wolfe summarises as the institutionalised discrimination against and refusal of nonhuman subjectivity) is the ground on which all other discriminatory practices operate, since what is called ‘the animal’ is caught in a loaded and deadly anthropocentric relation of power that grounds, as Derrida argues, “western sociality and subjectivity as such”. As he notes in “Eating Well,” the human subject emerges (both in Judeo-Christian tradition and in western philosophical thought) through an opening up of a space for the “noncriminal putting to death” of the other, paradigmatically, the animal. This sacrificial logic establishes an economy in which the non-criminality of the death of the animal can be transposed onto animalised others whether human or nonhuman. The humanized subject thus anchors its relations of power along an axis in which violence, privilege, authority and autonomy are both carnivorous and virile and in a phallic turn the sacrificed and edible body of the animal is metaphorically transposed onto the gendered, sexed (and racialised) bodies of its others – what Derrida termed carnophallogocentrism and Carol Adams, “the sexual politics of meat”….
Starting with the use of cowhide as a medium, Mntambo’s sculptural installations address the consumable body of woman and animal literally. I argue that her use of skin operates both as a metaphor and a metonym for our always-having-been animal. But such coimplication has a different inflection within the politics of race and in this context I read the deployment of the dead matter of the animal as a literalisation of the violence of racism. Speciesism is explicit in the racist formation of Africa in the western imaginary and skin is the primary fetish of the racist, as its hyperbolic fixation under apartheid testifies. Achille Mbembe writes that the western imaginary produces Africa through the “meta-text of the animal” – the African is relegated to the nonhuman, the beastly, the primitive, the nonsubject. However, rather than simply repeat these discursive regimes, I argue that the works present an opportunity to reclaim animality disruptively, deconstructively, from within the fetishised and stereotypical western conceptual structures and fictional representations that were used, as Mbembe writes, precisely to deny African subjectivity. In foregrounding a species-centred reading strategy that also draws on ecofeminism, postcolonial theory and psychoanalysis, I argue that these works not only refuse to erase the suffering of the animal from the framing of the human but present a reconfiguration of the human animal – one that troubles the anthropocentric architecture of the white masculinist discourse of western subjectivity. My reading brings together ecofeminist, postcolonial and psychoanalytic approaches but simultaneously refuses to occupy a stable ground. The works are provocative and open to other readings, and their utilisation of the black-woman-as-animal trope is deliberately confrontational. It both maps the violence of carnivorous virility and white racism onto the unacknowledged death of the animal as well as signals a return of an un-devourable, unassimilable female body, or at least one that, in Donna Haraway’s words, “nourishes indigestion” at the heart of carnophallogocentric power.
• “Precarious Life, Playful Life: The Ethics of Non-Violence” – Stephanie Jenkins
In her recent works Precarious Life and Frames of War, Judith Butler engages in the project of problematizing a normative notion of the human. For Butler, the human is not a neutral, obvious description of a species, but a “differential norm that continually produces who is human and inhuman. According to Butler, “It should not be surprising to find that there are racial and ethnic frames by which the recognizably human is currently constituted. One critical operation of any democratic culture is to contest these frames.” While Butler herself has only made preliminary statements concerning the animal, I argue that challenging the ethico-ontological division between the human and the animal is vital to the task of breaking these frames. So long as the concept of the animal exists in opposition to the human, it will be able to be deployed against those individuals who do not fit into the normative boundaries of humanity.
..Butler advocates a Levinasian ethics of non-violence This ethics “is wrought precisely from that experience of suffering, so that suffering itself might stop”. Such suffering “must be mobilized in the service of a politics that seeks to diminish suffering universally, that seeks to recognize the sanctity of life, of all lives”. However, a precarious life may not be recognized or experienced as such by another; the suffering of such a life will therefore not be seen as suffering. For this reason, following Butler, I argue that moral responsiveness is contingent on the capacity for affective response. Because we do not permit animals’ lives to really affect us and because we deny them reality by refusing to individuate or give faces to the animals who suffer in slaughterhouses, fur farms, and laboratories, “we will not be moved” or ethically outraged by their suffering. Because factory farms do not have glass walls, we are able to avoid the face-to-face relationship with an animal.
I argue that a non-violent ethic demands a set of practices that develop one’s affective and moral responsiveness. Moral responsibility, therefore, requires the cultivation of the capacity to respond to the call of the other which may not be recognized as such. How can one prepare oneself for the call that will not be recognizable as human, for which human language is ineffective, and which may be silent? How can one cultivate the a capacity for response to the ethical address of the animal? According to Butler, “To encounter the precariousness of another life, the senses have to be operative, which means that a struggle must be waged against those forces that seek to regulate affect in differential ways”.
I propose the consideration of creative playfulness with the other as an ethical practice that increases our capacity for responsiveness. In Maria Lugones’ notion of playfulness, play provides the necessary motivation for a white/Angla woman to travel to worlds other than her own. This attitude is characterized by “uncertainty…an openness to surprise…an openness to being a fool…and thus an openness to risk.” I read Lugones’ along with Barbara Smuts to demonstrate that play can be kindness, flexibility, and creativity towards the animal that allows us to move freely between worlds. Playfulness allows us to reshape the norms of social interaction so that we can be friends with animals on their own terms. Including its own internal motivation, play cultivates concern and attentiveness to the other, a process that expands responsive capacities necessary for a Butlerian ethics of non-violence.
• “Species Trouble: Judith Butler’s Non-Sovereign Subject and the Human-Animal Divide” – Eric Jonas
This paper lays the groundwork for a Butlerian critique of speciesist conceptions of the human, in particular those conceptions that deny or downplay the significance of humans’ ethical and political responsibilities toward nonhuman animals. In several recent works and interviews, Butler has stated that she is interested in theorizing the relationship between the human and the nonhuman in a manner that foregrounds the constitutive bonds that relate humans to their nonhuman others in ethically and politically significant ways. Nevertheless, her statements on this matter remain preliminary, circumspect and as yet underdeveloped. Thus, while Butler recognizes the theoretically and ethically problematic nature of prevailing, speciesist formulations of the human-nonhuman animal divide, she has not yet brought this critical project to fruition. In this paper I begin to fill this gap by arguing that the theories of alterity and subjectivization developed in Butler’s recent ethical and political works provide powerful ways of critiquing exclusionary speciesist violence.
More specifically, this paper provides readings of Butler’s Precarious Life and Giving an Account of Oneself that illustrate how her concept of the precarious, non-sovereign subject locates several features traditionally associated with nonhuman animals and animality at the heart of her theory of the human subject and of intersubjective ethical recognition and responsibility. Instead of arrogating a position of self-transparency and self-mastery for the human subject, Butler develops ethical and political views which call on us to consider what forms of responsibility might emerge out of an understanding of shared precariousness and partial opacity to ourselves. I argue that the ethical and ontological disavowal of the animal by speciesist anthropocentrism and the forms of subjugation and exploitation enabled by speciesism are homologous to the “ethical violence” critiqued by Butler, since they amount to a false disavowal of the ways in which nonhuman animals and animality are lodged in the human subject. Viewed through this Butlerian lens, I argue that speciesism and the violence against animals sanctioned by it can be critiqued as a violent repudiation of our ineluctable subjective entanglement with nonhuman others, including animals.
Unlike most philosophical defenses of animal rights or progressive animal welfare, my approach to animal ethics grounds humans’ ethical and political responsibilities toward nonhuman animals not in certain ethically-significant abilities or capacities shared by humans and nonhuman animals. Rather, following Butler, my approach motivates our ethical relationships with nonhuman animals by emphasizing our shared inabilities and a recognition of our common precariousness. Thus, this paper contributes to Butler’s project of envisioning and developing new, nonviolent relations with a greater range of others while simultaneously enriching philosophical inquiries into the ethical relationships between humans and nonhuman animals by conceiving of a new ethical framework through which one could critique violent and exploitative forms of treating nonhuman animals.
• “Frames of Life: Judith Butler and the Precarious Question of the Animal” – James K. Stanescu
Right now animal studies is being pulled apart from a subtle but on-going division. On the one hand are those that want to valorize other animals’ capabilities. Whether it is the language of birds, dolphins, and great apes, the creation of tools to make tools by chimpanzees, the paintings of elephants, the giant dams made by beavers, or the expansive notion of animal consciousness and morality that we find in cognitive ethology, we are told that we owe animals respect because they have more capacities than originally understood. On the other hand, there are a series of thinkers that are finding within the shared finitude of embodiment between humans and other animals an entirely new valorization. Thus, we see concepts like Cora Diamond’s notion of vulnerability and justice, Jacques Derrida’s notion of the power of powerlessness, Giorgio Agamben’s notion of bare life, and Cary Wolfe’s notion of vulnerability and exposure. And while the aforementioned philosophers, as disparate and similar as that list is, have received the lion’s share of attention with animal studies, Judith Butler work on precariousness as a grounding for a non-anthropocentric ontology, ethics, and politics has been virtually ignored. Yet, it is in this apparent contradiction and aporia between animal capacity and animal finitude that Judith Butler’s work becomes so important.
For Judith Butler precariousness is not a negation or a passivity, rather it is a properly productive power. At the heart of the shared finitude of embodiment is, for Butler, the reality of sociality, kinship, intelligibility, and community. Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a capacity for intersubjective relationships. Butler refers to her notion of precariousness as a type of social ontology, by which she means that our being is produced amid sociality, and that sociality comes from our vulnerability. Therefore, we see Butler talking about the politics of practices of survival, the bios of animals, and the importance of the simple act of mourning. In each case, lives and actions that have been traditionally seen outside of the political is reconfigured in her work as constitutive of the political as such. It is on this last point that we can understand Butler’s later work on precarious lives with her earliest work on issues of gender and sexuality.
The notion of precariousness is a relatively recent addition to Butler’s published work, coming out of a response to the War on Terror. However, the roots of this concept come from Butler’s initial works, where we see her concern for figuring out which are bodies that matter, and why. For example, in Bodies That Matter Butler is concerned about the norms and relations that dictate who gets to be considered human and which lives get abjected out from the human. In her more recent work, the question of who gets to be counted as a human, and therefore counted as a life that matters, does not lead us back into a naïve humanism, but opens us into a broader anti-anthropocentric politics and ethics. What Butler brings from her work on feminist and queer struggles is that determining intelligible life overlaps with lives that are grievable and mournable. If we are to rethink kinship, and extend it outside of the human, then we have to take seriously not just the precariousness of other animals, but that their lives are grievable and the implications of such an insight.
Despite Butler’s increasing concern for non-human animals, her work remains largely neglected within animal studies. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Butler’s commentary on other animals remains dispersed and fragmented throughout books, lectures, and interviews over the course of the last several years. My paper not only lays out Butler’s arguments on precariousness for animal studies, but also critically synthesizes her work on other animals to reveal that her work on mourning and precariousness has anti-anthropocentrism at their core. In this way, I contend that Butler’s work is not just central for animal studies, but that animal studies have also been central for Butler’s work. We have not a monologue from feminist and queer struggles to animal struggles, but a dialogic element between those struggles. And this dialogic element crystallizes in the ontological, ethical, and political reality of precariousness.
• “Intimate Bureaucracies: Roadkill, Policy, and Fieldwork in the Shoulder” – Alexandra Koelle
In the last several years, a smattering of critical and theoretical articles on the sad and mundane topic of roadkilled animals has appeared in the humanities and social sciences These works have tended to present wildlife carcasses as useful indexes to human/animal relations. The flattened badger or deer are already-abstractions, useful for theorizing about velocity and power, and ironically, about the unfortunate distance between “animal” and “human.” I argue that these approaches run over the animals a second time. More important still, they miss the awful experience of collision. When one hits a mule deer, or a black lab that comes out of nowhere, or a golden eagle that lifts off too slowly to miss the windshield, there is no category “animal” — just the irreducible specificity of the moment: surprise, fear, and shock at the impact, a response of our own animal nature. This paper “leans in” to the world of roadkill, rather than abstracting from it, to ask questions about species and gender, practice and representation.
Over the last twenty years, wildlife biologists and transportation planners have worked with environmental groups and state and tribal governments to mitigate the effects of human transportation arteries on animal habitats and movements. While science and policy are often understandably regarded by non-specialists as practices that distance the observer from their topic, in the world of roadkill prevention, I argue that the opposite is the case. Through extensive studies of a diverse and far ranging array of animal movements and habitat types, the opposite occurs. What I call “intimate bureaucracies” are formed — arrangements of papers, policies, and people that bring a world of counting — and accountability, into being. I look at the practices of field biologists and planners in one particular place: the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. Completed in 2010, the upgraded Highway 93 across the Reservation includes 42 new wildlife underpasses, an improvement insisted on by the Tribes as part of their sovereignty. I approach this topic through interdisciplinary methods: interviews with tribal and state wildlife biologists, fieldwork with biologists on a western painted turtle tagging project, and a personal background and relative fluency with regulatory documents (EIS, NEPA) and critical theory.
I take Donna Haraway’s advice to “stay with the trouble,” to promote indigestion and partake in a messy world where there are no easy solutions. In the male-dominated field of wildlife and conservation biology, the scientists who work on roadkill prevention and studies of impacted (and compromised) habitats are disproportionately female wildlife biologists. What is the relationship between gender, science, and the discourse of purity that circulates around intact wildlife habitats? This paper telescopes back and forth between such questions of gender and species in practice and representation in the conservation sciences — while always keeping our eyes on the road.