ASA11: Vital powers and politics: human interactions with living things

University of Wales Trinity Saint David, 13/09/2011 – 16/09/2011

(P26)

Humans and non-human animals: different moral worlds?

Location Room 4
Date and Start Time 14 Sep, 2011 at 14:30

Convenors

David Cockburn (University of Wales, Trinity St David)  email
Adrian Davis (University of Wales Trinity Saint David)  email
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Short Abstract

This panel will explore whether, and to what extent, there are cogent and useful analogies to be made between the ways that humans relate to non-human animals and the prejudice, discrimination and violence that they perpetrate against one another.

Long Abstract

Developments in cognitive ethology and other disciplines have shed light on fundamental questions pertaining to animal subjectivities, human nature, and the subjugation of non-human animals. Scholars have questioned whether our culture fosters violence and prejudice against women, animals, and people of colour etc, and have argued that we must wrestle with the common roots of these falsely isolated subjugations. As we reflect on the long history of slavery, colonialism, genocide, racism, and sexual subordination, and expose the conditions of possibility for genocide and ethnic cleansing, we can question whether certain acculturated tendencies in human-animal relations are implicated in crucial ways. How might the usefulness of these analogies best be worked out? Or are such analogies fallacious and / or morally obnoxious, as other 'humanistic' critics contend?

Possible questions for contributors:

* How have social practices contributed to constructions of human and non-human subjectivity through, for instance, the spatial segregation of the natural world, the taming of nature and 'animality', and bringing animals into the home?

* As we historicise animal domestication alongside shifting ideas of human uniqueness, are there lessons to be learnt about the relevance of the human-animal binary for phenomena such as slavery, racism, and colonialism?

* How can a critical deconstruction of conventional human-animal relations draw upon lessons learnt from the study of slavery, racism, colonialism, genocide and the study social movements that have sprung up in opposition to these practices and how does this call into question our humanist and anthropocentric conceptions of subjectivity and superiority?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The animals are breaking out! Animals, agencies and TV advertising

Author: Louise Squire (University of Exeter) email
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Short Abstract

Recent portrayals of animals as "free agents" in television advertising are explored as a phenomenon of new ways of conceiving animals within a world of "environmental crisis".

Long Abstract

Television advertisements have recently begun to portray animals in new ways. Gone are cosy images of chimpanzees playing house, wearing flat-caps and frocks, and pouring cups of tea. The animals are breaking out! Mary, the cow (Muller yoghurt), is 'set free' on a beach to fulfil her dream of becoming a horse. An elephant (LG) climbs a tree, breaking through the forest canopy to view the world from a new perspective, and a car is given magnificent new tyres (Michelin) so that it can screech to a halt and allow creatures to cross 'the sad stretch of road' unharmed. In each of these cases, the quality of agency assigned to the animals portrayed is located in the very act of portraying them as freed, in turn contesting embedded notions of animal subjectivity. This paper asks what is behind this sudden need to consent to the freedom of animals, locating it in today's world of 'environmental crisis'. Taking a post-structuralist approach based on qualitative research I argue that what is portended in this bid to situate animals as 'actors' in a world of 'environmental crisis' is a desire to rematerialise the disappearing natural world.

A better breed of bee

Author: Melanie Long (Trinity St David.) email
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Short Abstract

Sudden eradication of most of Britain’s indigenous honey bees, due to beekeepers importing disease and parasites on ‘foreign’ bees, has left today’s beekeepers trying to redress this damage by pursuing the true ‘British Black Bee’ and eradicating all other ‘foreigners’.

Long Abstract

As Western preoccupation with environmental concerns become more enthusiastically and politically pursued, the 'post-colonialist' emerges and the need to 'nurture' and 'control' becomes the focus for the 'protecting' of 'original' species and 'natural' environments.

Recently British beekeepers have found their occupation fraught with uncertainty as indigenous honey bees are presented with a multitude of threats (caused primarily by humans and specifically beekeepers) to the survival of the bees within their care. They initially appear to have responded to this with some degree of panic, often exacerbated by extraneous focus upon a myriad of other possible dangers and have attempted to resolve all problems using a collection of random techniques, medications and tools, culminating in a coping strategy which flits between a fervent pursuit of scientific intervention and resignation as to 'what will 'bee', will be'. However as time has passed, and science has shown itself to be as much a problem, as a cure, the focus has shifted towards 'eradication' of the 'yellow' bee, the 'foreigner', and towards the exclusive 'breeding' of the indigenous 'British Black Bee' (referred to by Welsh informants as the 'Welsh' Black Bee). She may be more aggressive and produce less honey, but the previous opinion of production and easiness for the beekeeper being of primary importance, is beginning to give way to a combination of nationalistic pride and renewed hope which is embodied in the feisty, survivor who has been attributed with the power to overcome the obstacles which have been put before her.

Imperfect equations: historical precedents and the moral status of fur in Tierra del Fuego

Author: Penelope Dransart (University of Wales) email
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Short Abstract

This paper addresses the characterisation of moral failings in the exploitation in Tierra del Fuego of fur seals for garments against a background of historical change in which the population of local human groups was extinguished and that of sea mammals severely threatened.

Long Abstract

Moral choices are often made in the light of experience gained from historical precedent. As the hunting of seals changed from the self-sufficient localism practised by the Yamana and Selknam of Tierra del Fuego to the full-scale exploitation by whalers and sealers from northern countries, different moral equations pitted local humans, outsiders and non-human animals against each other. This paper addresses some of the moral implications involved in changing attitudes toward the clothing of human bodies with the fur of non-human animals in a process in which the population of local human groups was extinguished and that of sea mammals severely threatened.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.