An Ethical Reader in a Posthuman World
Publication Year: 2008
Although Cultural Studies has directed sustained attacks against sexism and racism, the question of the animal has lagged behind developments in broader society with regard to animal suffering in factory farming, product testing, and laboratory experimentation, as well in zoos, rodeos, circuses, and public aquariums. The contributors to Animal Subjects are scholars and writers from diverse perspectives whose work calls into question the boundaries that divide the animal kingdom from humanity, focusing on the medical, biological, cultural, philosophical, and ethical concerns between non-human animals and ourselves. The first of its kind to feature the work of Canadian scholars and writers in this emergent field, this collection aims to include the non-human-animal question as part of the ethical purview of Cultural Studies and to explore the question in interdisciplinary terms.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Cultural Studies
This collection was conceived in Ontario while I was a member of the English and Film Studies Department at Wilfrid Laurier University and came to completion three years and three thousand miles later in British Columbia, my native province, where I returned to become a member of the Critical Studies Department at the University of British Columbia in...
1. Introduction: Animal Subjects in a Posthuman World
In an interview in Topia: A Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, cultural theorist Cary Wolfe—author of Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory and editor of Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal 1 —argues that in spite of the amount of work being done over the last twenty years in field ecology, animal behaviour, cognition and...
Chicken is no coward. Indeed, this warrior bird has plied his trade as a fighting cock around the world since the earliest days such fowl consented to work for people, somewhere in south and southeast Asia. Anxious if brave, Chicken Little has long worried that the sky is falling. He has a good vantage point from which to assess this matter; for Chicken, right along with his over-reaching companion, Homo sapiens, has been...
3. Selfish Genes, Sociobiology and Animal Respect
Selfish gene theory is perhaps currently the most popular general theory in the life sciences. It constitutes the philosophical postulates of, and justification for, the gene’s-eye view of animal behaviour as expounded by the devotees of sociobiology. “We are survival machines,” proclaims Richard Dawkins, “robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known...
4. Anatomy as Speech Act: Vesalius, Descartes, Rembrandt or, The Question of “the animal” in the Early Modern Anatomy Lesson
Since, in early modern Europe, dissections are affairs of the night, our story opens under cover of darkness: late in the evening, long into January 1544, as, through rain now turning to sleet, two figures edge down an unlit Arno River embankment. Despite the cumbersomeness of their cargo and the precariousness of foothold on the slick riverbank, our figures...
5. A Missed Opportunity: Humanism, Anti-humanism and the Animal Question
In 1993, in a book entitled The Great Ape Project,1 many authors from different disciplines argued for the extension of basic human rights to the nonhuman great apes, gaining substantial support in many countries, but not in France—that is, in the country which has recently generated, within the strand of postmodern thought, the powerful attack on the traditional...
6. Thinking Other-Wise: Cognitive Science, Deconstruction and the (Non) Speaking (Non) Human Animal Subject
I want to begin with a story—a dog story, in fact. It’s a story about a recent experiment on a canine’s signifying abilities that appeared on 11 June 2004 in my hometown newspaper, The Houston Chronicle, which was a reprint of an article that appeared that same day in The Washington Post, which in turn was courtesy of the Associated Press, which in turn was about the lead article in the magazine Science for the...
7. Animals in Moral Space
The idea that nonhuman animals have some kind of moral status has hovered on the fringes of philosophical discourse for quite some time. Since the beginnings of both Western and Eastern thought, there have been voices willing to affirm that animals are unique beings that should be treated with decency and respect. Apart from the edicts of emperors and...
8. Electric Sheep and the New Argument from Nature
During the past three decades, as part of the burgeoning field of environmental ethics, there has been a remarkable upsurge of interest among philosophers in the moral status of (nonhuman) animals. The dominant perception of animals as fundamentally other than humans has been strongly challenged by those who would admit many nonhumans into the moral...
9. Monsters: The Case of Marineland
In 1861, P.T. Barnum was the first to put a captive whale on public display for profit. As an ambitious and crafty entrepreneur who became famous for his promotion of carnival sideshows and for his ability to dupe the public, Barnum was always on the lookout for new “curiosities” that would attract paying customers. Barnum made his start by purchasing an enslaved...
10. “I sympathize in their pains and pleasures”: Women and Animals in Mary Wollstonecraft
In the Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman, William Godwin describes his wife’s childhood in a violent home: The conduct ... [her father] held toward the members of his family, was of the same kind as that he observed towards animals. He was for the most part extravagantly fond of them; but, when he was displeased, and this...
11. Animals as Persons
Can nonhuman animals legitimately be construed as persons? Extending personhood to all sentient beings may seem absurd at first. For example, The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “person” in human-centred terms as “a man or a woman,” or “a human being in general,” and the term can also be used “emphatically” to distinguish a person from a thing “or from..
12. Power and Irony: One Tortured Cat and Many Twisted Angles to Our Moral Schizophrenia about Animals
Our relationship with the others in the animal kingdom is confused indeed. On the one hand, there are some animals whom we love quite personally: we give them names, bring them into our homes and spend billions of dollars treating them to such luxuries as booties, yoga and daycare. On the other hand, there are many more animals to whom, instead of giving...
13. Blame and Shame? How Can We Reduce Unproductive Animal Experimentation?
Biomedical scientists continue to insist that animal experimentation is essential to progress in combating illness.1 Yet each year, as many millions of animals suffer and die around the world in biomedical experimentation,2 there are only a few important medical discoveries: most experiments have minimal effect in improving human health. It is, therefore,...
14. On Animal Immortality: An Argument for the Possibility of Animal Immortality in Light of the History of Philosophy
Broadly speaking, the collection of essays in this volume deals with the moral and ethical treatment of nonhuman animals as a cultural studies issue. “To my mind,” writes the editor of the series in a call for papers, “these concerns [of the ethical treatment of animals] are germane to cultural studies with its focus on other aspects of culture such as racism, sexism...