- Editor’s Note
Species/Race/Sex” is a special issue that taps into many intertwining theoretical and political trajectories in current American studies scholarship. The fields of animal studies and critical animal studies are profoundly interdisciplinary, and we have witnessed in the past decade a burgeoning and innovative body of scholarship that focuses on issues that cross the human/non-human animal divide. More aptly put, this volume addresses the co-constitutive formation of species of being in and through race, sex, and other social configurations. Yet, this special issue of AQ is not simply an important addition to the growing body of work. As the editors, Claire Jean Kim and Carla Freccero, point out in their introduction, this is a collection of work that disrupts, intervenes, and contributes to a truly intersectional understanding of (critical) animal studies. Because of the insistent intersectionalities, tensions, and contradictions between and within species, race, and sex, this volume represents a particular American studies take on these fields, and will work as a guide for emerging American studies scholarship in this area.
As the editors point out in the introduction, the discipline or field of “Animal Studies” is already one that resists definition; indeed, the co-editors of this volume approach the field in different ways, with their different personal and intellectual histories, methodological stakes, and investments. Scholarship that focuses on non-human animals can take a variety of shapes; it can lean toward activism, empiricism, interpretative analysis, comparative analysis, and so on. The editors don’t always agree with each other regarding the definitions of the field, but these disagreements, provocatively captured in the conversational-style introduction, depict what is so exciting and important about the deep interrelationships between species/race/sex. It is the refusal of a definition the resistance to categorization that is at the heart of this special issue and at the heart of an American studies engagement with animal studies.
In the introduction to this volume, Kim identifies the entanglements between and within species/race/sex as important “crossings” which shape our ways of being. These crossings, as she points out, “shake things up, test limits, expose fault lines, illuminate contradictions.” One thing is clear, however, as Kim points out, the animal, and her/his relationship to race and sex, is exciting to think with. As someone who’s new to the field of animal studies, I find [End Page v] that the authors of this volume raise fascinating questions: How do human relationships with non-human animals articulate both empire and the nationalisms formulated against it? How do non-human animals aid in the vision and revision of the (neo)liberal state?
The essays in this volume each approach the intersectionalities of species/race/sex in unique ways, but they all share the co-editors’ commitment to historical specificity; they retain political and ethical investments; they recognize overlaps in vectors of oppression. As Freccero states in the introduction, this volume is an exercise in thinking about social change, and in this way it is about: “the degree to which some [humans] have been harmed by their association with non-human species, and the ways thinking species alongside sex, gender, race and ability can effect analytical, social and political changes not only for the benefit of humans, but also for those non-humans most severely affected by the speciesisms that hierarchize suffering and injury.” In other words, species, and speciesisms, intimately organize our everyday lives. Our scholarly contributions must be attentive to these hierarchies of being if we wish to affect social and political discourse.
One of the great strengths of this special issue is the optimism embodied in the work, or what Freccero might describe as the “pragmatic-utopian” character of the essays. The essays are sharply analytical, but they also move beyond critique and engage in a project of imagination, the imagination of an alternative way of being and knowing. This process of imagining is also reflected in the refusal by the editors and authors to claim a righteous and universal politics or code of ethics in their analytical approaches to species/race/sex. Rather, the essays each insist, and to varying extents...