Hypatia Symposium: Speaking of Animal Bodies by GRETA GAARD

In Hypatia 27.3, a special issue on “Animal Others”, leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) present exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species. As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil invited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. Join the discussion.

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Title:  Speaking of Animal Bodies

 By: GRETA GAARD

Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Has the growth of animal studies been good for animals?

The capacity to ask this question—indeed, to make it central to one’s intellectual, scholarly, and pedagogical work—is the hallmark of feminism. Not merely an academic endeavor or a “way of seeing,” feminism emerged through women who recognized their own lived experiences of marginalization, oppression, and inequality (whether via race, gender, class, sexuality, age, ability—and usually some nexus thereof) not as personal deficits or biological necessities to be accepted and endured, but rather as socially produced political problems to be challenged. As political and material circumstances allowed (and often when they didn’t), feminist women stepped forward to work with other women and feminist men to challenge social hierarchies and create social change. From the start, feminism has been a Continue reading “Hypatia Symposium: Speaking of Animal Bodies by GRETA GAARD”

Hypatia Symposium: “The Animal” and “The Feminist” by EMILY CLARK

In Hypatia 27.3, a special issue on “Animal Others”, leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) present exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species. As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil invited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. Join the discussion.

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Title: “The Animal” and “The Feminist”

By: EMILY CLARK

PhD Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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In the Fall of 2011, I attended a day-long animal studies symposium at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. One of the presenters, an anthropologist, began his talk by projecting onto the screen behind him a black-and-white photograph of a kitten. The kitten was hanging crucified from a wire, completely disemboweled, with a cigarette butt sticking jauntily out of its very dead mouth. The presenter proceeded to speak for more than twenty minutes without mentioning a single word about the image. Instead, it loomed from the screen behind him, silently willing us audience members to look at it, and to look away from it. In the final minutes of the panel’s Q and A, in what I can only describe as the tone of someone “willing herself to be calm,” a female graduate student asked the presenter what I am certain was on all of our minds: why that image? His response was to nod knowingly, and state that Continue reading “Hypatia Symposium: “The Animal” and “The Feminist” by EMILY CLARK”

Hypatia Symposium: Disciplinary Becomings: Horizons of Knowledge in Animal Studies by CARRIE ROHMAN

In Hypatia 27.3, a special issue on “Animal Others”, leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) present exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species. As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil invited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. Join the discussion.

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Title: Disciplinary Becomings: Horizons of Knowledge in Animal Studies

By: CARRIE ROHMAN

Assistant Professor, dept. of English, Lafayette College

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Recent work in animal studies and animal theory has sometimes coalesced around a kind of “primal scene” in which subjectivities that we call human and animal confront each other, retreat, respond, or otherwise intermingle. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Derrida’s naked-in-front-of-cat scene and, subsequently, Donna Haraway’s insightful reading of its limitations. I have been reminded of both my own scholarly “primal scene”— as a young scholar en route to a career in feminist theory who then turned to the animal—and of the disciplinary “primal scenes” of animal studies itself.1

The present moment in animal studies brings to mind the quite similar disciplinary “disputes” that went on within feminist theoretical circles in the late 1990s. Anyone interested in the way that high theory is regularly coming under suspicion in animal studies right now would do well to revisit the exchange between Susan Gubar Continue reading “Hypatia Symposium: Disciplinary Becomings: Horizons of Knowledge in Animal Studies by CARRIE ROHMAN”

Hypatia Symposium: Returning the Ethical and Political to Animal Studies by STEPHANIE JENKINS

In Hypatia 27.3, a special issue on “Animal Others”, leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) present exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species. As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil invited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. Join the discussion.

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Title: Returning the Ethical and Political to Animal Studies

By: STEPHANIE JENKINS

Assistant Professor, Oregon State University, School of History, Philosophy and Religion

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[T]here is an undeclared war being waged everyday against countless millions of nonhuman animals. (Regan 1989, para. 9)

[Humans] do all they can in order to dissimulate this cruelty or to hide it from themselves; in order to organize on a global scale the forgetting or misunderstanding of this violence, which some would compare to the worst cases of genocide. (Derrida 2008, 26)

At the same time that animals have increasingly become objects of philosophical investigation, the commodification and exploitation of those animals for food, entertainment, research, and sport are intensifying to historically “unprecedented proportions” (Derrida 2008, 25). Each year in the United States, 10 billion land animals are killed, which means that, in the time it takes you to read this paper, 250,000 birds, pigs, Continue reading “Hypatia Symposium: Returning the Ethical and Political to Animal Studies by STEPHANIE JENKINS”

Hypatia Symposium: Must Every Animal Studies Scholar Be Vegan? by TRACI WARKENTIN

In Hypatia 27.3, a special issue on “Animal Others”, leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) present exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species. As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil invited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. Join the discussion.

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Title: Must Every Animal Studies Scholar Be Vegan?

By: TRACI WARKENTIN

 Assistant Professor, Hunter College of the City University of New York

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Perhaps I have become too skeptical as an academic, but I am never comfortable when someone presents me with “the answer,” regardless of the question. I experienced this unsettling phenomenon recently at an animal studies conference, and it catalyzed my thoughts on related issues regarding feminism and animal studies that I’ve been aware of for some time and have been noticing at various academic events. In particular, it helped me recognize connections between a problematically uncritical promotion of veganism and a seeming lack of presence of environmental/eco/feminist praxis in animal studies generally, along with a corresponding amnesia about what it has already contributed to the field.

The catalyst was the 2011 New York University Animal Studies Initiative, cosponsored with Minding Animals International, symposium titled “Animal Studies: Changing the Subject?” Gary Steiner, the first speaker of the day, presented an incisive critique of the dominant bias Continue reading “Hypatia Symposium: Must Every Animal Studies Scholar Be Vegan? by TRACI WARKENTIN”

Hypatia Symposium: Ambivalence toward Animals and the Moral Community by KELLY OLIVER

In Hypatia 27.3, a special issue on “Animal Others”, leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) present exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species. As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil invited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. Join the discussion.

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Title:  Ambivalence toward Animals and the Moral Community

By: KELLY OLIVER

 W. Alton Jones Chair of Philosophy with appointments in African-American and Diaspora Studies, Film Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies, Vanderbilt University

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I recently attended an excellent session on Animality and Race at which two young feminist philosophers, Erin Tarver and Alison Suen, presented their research. Tarver presented an insightful analysis of football fans’ reactions to Michael Vick’s criminal sentence for fighting pit bulls (Tarver 2011). She argued that in the media, pit bulls are associated with gangs and ghettos, rounded up without due process, and killed because they are seen as dangerous and spreading danger like contagion. Suen presented a fascinating account of the film The Cove, in which Japanese fishermen are figured as cruel because of their treatment of dolphins (Suen 2011). She argued that the fishermen are seen as dumb beasts whereas the dolphins are seen as innocent victims, intelligent and sensitive in ways that the fishermen are not. With the pit bull, the animal is imagined as dangerous and threatening, whereas with the dolphin the animal is imagined as innocent and victimized. Continue reading “Hypatia Symposium: Ambivalence toward Animals and the Moral Community by KELLY OLIVER”

Hypatia Symposium: Introduction: Feminists Encountering Animals by LORI GRUEN and KARI WEIL

In Hypatia 27.3, a special issue on “Animal Others”, leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now) present exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species. As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil invited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. Join the discussion.

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Feminists Encountering Animals

By:LORI GRUEN
Professor, Wesleyan University

and KARI WEIL
Professor, Wesleyan University

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In response to the growth of animal studies in the academy, an increasing number of conferences and panels have focused on “the question of the animal” whether from a disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective. Participating in these conferences over the course of many years we have heard probing comments and contentious murmurs that we thought deserved to be more formally articulated and aired. When we began to read similar comments in some of the referee reports on submissions for this special issue, we were convinced we wanted to encourage these rumblings to be written up so that discussion and debate surrounding the history and reception of feminist animal studies could become more focused and more public. The comments, in some ways, reminded us of old battlegrounds among feminists—debates about just how personal the political should be, conflicts over erotic desire and political commitment, as well as those over strategies for alliance. So we thought it would be informative and productive to invite a number of feminist scholars working in animal studies—those who have been in the field for quite a while and those who have only recently begun to work in it—to voice their thoughts, concerns, and hopes. We prompted them with a set of questions:

  • Is animal studies gendered, and if so, to what effect?
  • Is so-called animal “theory” at odds with affective and/or feminist political engagement? Do you see a gap between the personal and the political (or theoretical) in animal studies and, if so, how is it manifesting?
  • Have the insights of feminists/ecofeminists been overlooked/unacknowledged in animal studies, and if so, what is lost and what should be done to acknowledge and reclaim their insights?

We told those who agreed to have their musings included here that we were not necessarily looking for direct responses to these questions, but rather were hoping they might use these questions to provoke written reflection. As you will see in the essays that follow, the authors may not have needed much prompting.

Not surprisingly, there is contention among the views expressed in this symposium, but there are also common themes. One clear commonality is the need to maintain feminist, ethical, and political commitments within animal studies—commitments to reflexivity, responsibility, engagement with the experiences of other animals, and sensitivity to the intersectional contexts in which we encounter them. Such commitments are at the core of a second, related area of common concern, that of the relationship between theory and practice. Animal bodies, we can all agree, must not be “absent referents” in animal studies (Adams 1990/2010). But what is the role of theory produced by those whose personal practices might be challenged on ethical or political grounds, even as it helps us to articulate important ideas? Throughout this symposium, as in this special issue as a whole, the importance of affect in feminist animal studies is noted. We know that we touch the lives of other animals and that they touch ours in a myriad of ways, but there remains disagreement about the positive and negative effects of these encounters.

Of course, the conclusions drawn in the musings that follow are by no means the last words on these complex topics. Our hope is that constructive discussion and debate will follow from them.

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(links will be updated when the posts go live)